Even though I’ve been out of high-school for almost ten years, and college for almost six, I still feel like September is the start of something. (It might also have something to do with working seasonal jobs, as September is the shoulder season before summer and winter jobs.)

Since it is back-to-school time, and many of you will start hitting the books soon, I wanted to share some of my favorite tools for online productivity. Between working full-time at the kayak shop, freelancing part-time, and running this blog, I’ve become kind of obsessed with productivity. I’m always on the lookout for ways to do things more efficiently online.

For those of you who are bloggers or freelancers, you’re probably familiar with most of these tools. That’s why I’ve never written this post before; I figured that everyone already knew this stuff.

But in talking to my friends who don’t spend a million hours on the internet each week, I’ve realized that many don’t. So, non-internet addicts, this post is for you.

(Not interested in online productivity? Here are a bunch of travel/work/volunteer abroad resources that should float your boat.)

Here’s to spending less time on the internet, and more time outside enjoying the wonders of fall!

All programs are free unless otherwise noted.

Online productivity tools
I wanna learn about online productivity, I swear!

Online Productivity

Get Pocket: This is one of my absolute favorite online tools. I bet you have a dozen tabs open right now with things you want to “read later.” Too much clutter, right? Enter, Get Pocket. With one click, you’ll be able to add sites to your “pocket,” which will later be easily accessible from any device.

Boomerang: Such a handy tool. You can schedule emails to be sent later, or emails to return to your inbox if they haven’t been answered in a certain amount of time. Alas, you only get 10 messages per month with the free version. The unlimited version costs $4.99/month.

RescueTime: I use this to see where I’m wasting my time online. Once you install it on your desktop, it tracks the sites you visit and records how much time you spend on them. You can mark the sites you use as “productive” (Google Drive) or “distracting” (Facebook). It’ll email you a weekly summary, so you can see where you need to improve.

StayFocusd: This browser app limits the amount of time you can spend on unproductive sites. You choose a daily number of minutes you’re allowed on distracting sites, then as soon as you start browsing Gawker, Pinterest, or whatever your favorite time-suckers are, the timer will start counting down.

Focus@Will: I recently discovered this website and am totes obsessed with it. The free version allows you to listen to 60 minutes of focus-producing music at a time. The tunes are specially curated to increase productivity. Don’t ask me how — it’s science. (Hat tip to Sean Ogle.)

Tomato Timer: If you work better in short spurts, The Pomodoro Technique might be for you. Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After four 25-minute sessions, you’ll get a 10-minute break. This free timer is an easy way to keep track of your pomodoros.


Gmail: Whether for business or personal use, this is the best email client there is. I don’t think I need to go into a detailed description of why. If you don’t have it yet, just switch already.

Google Calendar: I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do if my Google Calendar disappeared. It has all my important appointments and events. You can even make birthdays repeat themselves every year. I particularly love creating “tasks,” which you can then complete and check off.

Google Drive: This is where all of my documents live. It’s incredible that I can access it from anywhere and can share changes with others — without having to email documents back and forth.

Evernote: I just use this to record thoughts, ideas, and shopping lists, but if you took the time to really learn about it, it has much more potential than that. My favorite feature is that you can write a list and share it with others in real time.

Social Media

HootSuite: This is the best free tool for managing your social media. Though you can manage a variety of social media outlets with it, I use it mostly to schedule tweets. (Here’s an affiliate link to the Pro version.)

Rapportive: The greatest stalking app you’ve never heard of. (I found out about it from Alexis Grant.) It syncs with your Gmail to show you links to all the social media profiles of whomever you’re emailing.

Feedly: Since the demise of Google Reader, this is how I’ve been keeping up with all of the blogs and news sources that I (attempt to) follow. I like the easy share buttons at the top of each article.

PicMonkey: This simple and free photo editing software is what I use to create photo quotes, or anything else that I need to look pretty.

Tweet Adder: I purchased this program on the recommendation of Tom Ewer, and though I haven’t used it to its full potential yet, I think it’s going to be a great way for me to build my Twitter following and automate tweets. It costs $55 for a lifetime subscription.

BufferApp: I stalled on purchasing this app for a long time, but am glad I finally did. It allows you to tweet interesting pages with just one click — and at times that are optimal for your audience. It’s a bit pricey ($10/month), but is worth it to me for the time it saves.


Dropbox: The free version of this site is what I use to share photos, music, and documents with other people. Easy peasy.

Backblaze: Losing all of your stuff is no fun. Neither is remembering to do backups. Pay $5/month and get your shiz backed up — without having to think. I used this program to restore my stuff when I switched computers, and it worked seamlessly. Woohoo!

SmugMug: I’m psycho about backing up my photos. I back them up twice — once with Backblaze and once here. This is a great place to share and showcase your photos, as well as host photos for your blog. It costs $5/month.


FreshBooks: I use this for all of my invoicing and time-tracking. My favorite feature is the timer, where you can track time spent on a project, then bill that time to a particular client with one click. (I use the free version, and it’s been totally adequate for me!)

Mint: My one-stop shop for all my finances. Track your bank accounts, loans, credit card bills, and create budgets and savings goals. So fetch.

Are any of these new to you? Which online productivity tools did I miss?