Apps to Streamline Your Life

Quick poll: Raise your hand if you’re always looking for extra hours in a day. Yeah, us too. Luckily, we have access to gadgets, apps and resources that can help us manage our days and work even smarter. Having a mobile device and Wi-Fi connection lets us get stuff done anywhere, anytime.

We’ve rounded up the best apps, plug-ins and features that will streamline the time you spend on a computer, allowing you to get more tasks accomplished — and enjoy more downtime.

Get the Download

Get the Download

Quick poll: Raise your hand if you’re always looking for extra hours in a day. Yeah, us too. Luckily, we have access to gadgets, apps and resources that can help us manage our days and work even smarter. Having a mobile device and Wi-Fi connection lets us get stuff done anywhere, anytime.

We’ve rounded up the best apps, plug-ins and features that will streamline the time you spend on a computer, allowing you to get more tasks accomplished — and enjoy more downtime.

Multitask Faster

Multitask Faster

Alfred App
Like your own personal virtual assistant, this app for Mac OS allows you to search and browse everything — the web, documents on your computer, your Spotify playlists — as well as launch apps, jump to your Gmail or Google drive, all without navigating to the spotlight or opening and closing windows.

Since it allows you to navigate using keyboard shortcuts, this app is particularly helpful for those who need to continually jump between the web and their work interface. (For example, a journalist might flow between a word document and online research resources, as well as check his or her email frequently.) You can download the search component for free, but if you want to create custom workflows and access Alfred’s full capabilities, you’ll pay $27 for a one-time license and $51 for a lifetime of upgrades.

Fast Facts

Make Email Better

Make Email Better

Sidekick
Formerly called Signals, this plugin supercharges your email. First, it can track when recipients open your messages so you'll never have to wonder "Has my boss/interviewer/boyfriend/colleague read my email?" again. Each account gets up to 200 free tracking notifications a month, which you can upgrade to unlimited when you purchase the premium version for $10 a month per user.

Yes, it's a bit stalkerish, but it will help you determine when to nudge someone about an action item needing attention ASAP and when to give him or her a bit more time to respond. The plugin also attaches extra info to your contacts (showing work history and other details) and allows you to schedule emails; the program will automatically send them out at whatever designated time you set. This feature is particularly helpful when you’re writing emails to work people over the weekend or those in other timezones and you don’t want your messages to get buried.

Fast Facts 

Send and Archive Feature in Gmail
Keep your inbox tidy — and save yourself a step — by activating Gmail's "send and archive" function, located in your settings. This will do exactly what you think it will: Give you the option to send and archive an email at the same time (the button shows up in your email window so you don't have to switch settings back and forth), giving you a couple extra minutes each day to spend productively on another task.

This feature is particularly helpful if you’re on a bunch of group email chains (both personal and business) and want to be able to be able to easily add your two cents, then move on to the next task without having to clean up your inbox after.

Fast Facts

Gmail Offline
Ever have emails come in so fast that you feel like you can't keep up? Use this Gmail app to “halt” your inbox temporarily so you can respond to messages without getting distracted by new ones coming in. Rest assured that your emails are still coming in, but they will not show up in your inbox until you go back online.

This app is not only perfect for when you come back from vacation and want to attend solely to messages you received while away, it’s also perfect for writing emails when you don’t have Wi-Fi access. And there’s no need to set up a vacation message or notify senders that you’ve paused your inbox, so no one’s the wiser that you went offline for a bit.

Fast Facts

Disconnect Without the Worry

Disconnect Without the Worry

Unplug and Reconnect App
When you're working on a big project — or taking some much needed “me” time — and don't want any distractions, this free Android app allows you to schedule some designated offline time. For the duration you set, your phone will disconnect from surrounding networks, sending anyone who tries to call, email or text you a handy message like, “I’m unplugging right now — will contact you soon.” (You can customize this message.) This app also allows you to designate certain people whose messages and calls always go through, even when you’re using it.

Fast Facts

VIP Settings
If the thought of completely disconnecting scares you and you really just want the capability of selecting certain people who can always get in touch with you, use VIP settings to screen calls and messages. Using the VIP setting on iOS 6 or above or My VIP Calls on Android, you can determine special people — your boss, specific clients, your spouse, your kids’ school — whose emails, calls and texts can come through no matter what, ignoring all others, for however long you need.

Fast Facts

Panic Button Browser Add-On
A recent study from Kansas State University shows that taking quick breaks for mindless games can actually increase your productivity and make you happier at work. However, since your boss may not be aware of the upsides of playing around while on the clock, you can use this browser app (you can drag it into your toolbar) to clear your screen with just the click of a button when needed. You can re-access your tabs just as easily.

Fast Facts

Keep Notes in One Place

Keep Notes in One Place

Notes App
Rather than email yourself a grocery list or write to-dos in a notebook, capture all your disparate thoughts and tasks in one place, saving time and your sanity. All you have to do is sync this free Mac-based app with any and all notes with all of your devices, both computer and cellular. That way, you can access the notes from a report you read on your home laptop at work and the shopping list you made at the office on your iPhone. (For PC and Android folks, Microsoft’s OneNote — free — allows you to store photos, drawings and more across devices.)

Fast Facts

Stop Procrastinating

Stop Procrastinating

Anti-Social App
Procrastinators will have a love/hate relationship with this web application (for Mac and Windows) which lets you block certain distracting websites (like Facebook and your fantasy football portal) that keep you from being productive. You can determine any duration of time for the block to occur, from 15 minutes to eight hours, allowing you to focus on finishing that action item without being tempted to check your newsfeed.

Tip: For a similar effect on your phone, simply activate airplane mode to keep yourself from scrolling through Instagram when you should be completing a project.

Fast Facts

Streamline Social Media

Streamline Social Media

News Feed Organizer Feature
Sick of seeing the same people over and over (and over!) again in your Facebook news feed? Go to the friend organizer page and Facebook will highlight people you rarely interact with, prompting you to move them to your acquaintance list. This way, you'll be more likely to see the most important posts from the people you care about, not a bunch of random musings and links from those you don't.

In the end, it will not only save you frustration (do you really care what your high school acquaintance had for breakfast?) but it will save you a ton of time spent scrolling a seemingly endless feed of updates from those you rarely interact with in real life.

Fast Facts

Pocket App
Similar in format to Pinterest, this app (which works on basically every web browser and mobile platform, as well as syncs with a number of other apps) allows you to save articles and other media in one easy-to-access place. This way, you won't miss news stories or funny videos you're interested in and you won't waste time reading or watching them in the middle of your workday.

Pocket is perfect for those moments you’re scrolling through your newsfeed or Twitter feed and you don’t want to fall down a rabbit hole of links. You can also use it to keep up with work-related social media accounts, brands and people whose musings are useful in your line of work.

Fast Facts

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