Visit our archive

Where do you find the time? It’s a question I’m asked weekly.

Three nights a week I attend a web professionals meeting, social media chat, or local networking event. I watch at least two webinars every week (my friends call me a “webinar-holic.”). As a volunteer leader for two professional groups, I help plan and market monthly events.

Oh, and yes, my days are spent designing and developing websites for small businesses and non-profits through my web consulting business.

I’m not a productivity expert. Working from home is a challenge. Staying focused takes a lot of work. And planning.

I’ve tried many strategies to improve my productivity. A lot of trial and error, and finally discovered some methods that work for me and allow me to feel productive gains in my life.

The Pomodoro Technique

My friend Meryl Evans clued me in on this time-management technique. I’ve been using it for a few months and it’s made a big difference in finishing my tasks and completing projects.

If you’re not familiar with the technique, the basic concept is:

1. Identify the tasks to complete.
2. Work for 25 minutes on a task (each 25 minute period is called a “pomodoro”).
3. Mark an X after each pomodoro.
3. Take a break for five minutes.
4. After four pomodoros take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.

It’s easy to start using the Pomodoro technique, all you need is paper, pencil, and a timer. With the short time period, it trains you to concentrate on one task. If you’re a multi-tasker, you’ll probably find it challenging at first.

Evernote

What could be better than a free application that synchronizes information on your mobile, desktop and web? And runs on Windows, Mac, Web, Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod, and more?

Evernote makes it easy for you to:

  • take notes
  • share information with others
  • capture screenshots
  • tag content
  • organize content into notebooks
  • find your information easily

I’ve used Evernote since it was a beta product. Once you start using it, you’ll find all kinds of ways to use it daily.

Don’t have your laptop with you when a client calls about an issue you resolved a few months ago? Check your notes in Evernote on your mobile.

Have unexpected behavior on a web application you’ve created? Capture screenshots with a quick one-key action on your desktop.

Share your research about mobile user experience by sending an email to people to access your notes. You can choose to share your information publicly or privately.

If you’ve used paper, post-it notes, or Microsoft Word for note taking and sketching in the past, you know you can’t always find the information months later. With Evernote, organize your information into notebooks, tag your notes, and search for your information quickly.

Evernote add-ons and built-in features make it simple to convert audio to text, send photos from your camera to your account, and email notes to your Evernote account.

A basic Evernote account is free, but limited in space. Upgrading to a premium account gives you more space, the ability to upload 1GB each month with files up to 50M in size, PDF searching, and more.

Dropbox

File sharing, backup and synchronization is critical for every developer. Talk to anyone whose system has crashed or has lost critical files, and you’ll hear stories of lost hours or days trying to recover files.

Enter Dropbox, a simple, easy to use, and free (initial account provides 2GB of space, but you can easily earn more by referring friends) cloud-based storage application.

Installing it on your computer creates a folder named Dropbox. Copy any file into the Dropbox folder, and the file is automatically copied to other shared computers and your Dropbox account in the cloud.

You don’t want to rely on Dropbox as your only backup solution. I strongly recommend your backup strategy includes local external backup (I use several external hard drives).

Dropbox allows you to easily increase your storage space by referring friends, which I somehow managed to increase to 88GB of my own storage. I’m using the Dropbox professional plan now, but depending on your needs, a free account may work well for you.

What about you? Have you had success with the Pomodoro technique, Evernote or Dropbox? Do you have any tips for improving productivity? Share your stories and comments below.

About the Author

deborah edwards onoro - lireo designs
Deborah Edwards-Onoro specializes in front-end web design, usability and accessibility through her company Lireo Designs. She’s an officer with the Michigan Usability Professionals and group leader of Refresh Detroit. When she’s not at her computer or planning events, you can find her bird watching, bicycling, or shooting photos. Deborah lives in Canton, Michigan. You can follow her @redcrew.