According to legend, computers were first invented to make life easier and reduce the time it took to complete tasks. As you’re probably aware, the advance of computers, smartphones and tablets seems to have only made us all more rushed with deadlines, notifications and pop-ups continually distracting us from the task at hand.

Here are a few useful pieces of software that support more efficient work practices to get things done faster or easier.

Timeboxing

Workflow doesn’t flow very well when you’re being interrupted over and over. Research has previously indicated that during an 8+ hour work day only approximately 3 hours of productive work gets completed. The rest of the time is filled with breaks, meetings, interruptions, and getting back up to speed following an interruption. What was found to be most productive were blocks of non-interrupted time to power through work in efficient chunks.

Timeboxing is the concept of using a calendar to block out chunks of time. The process works with Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook and any other daily agenda software where you can assign a task to a block of time in the same way you’d do for an appointment with your doctor. When removing the interruptions and time-wasting activities, it’s possible to be far more productive in much less time.

Separating Task Lists into Columns with Trello

Trello is a virtual index card app. You use it by placing index cards in labeled columns. The columns can be anything from Inbox to Doing to Done (many users keep it as simple as that). Rather than using a traditional To Do list manager, the visual index card approach helps turn a complex list of tasks into something organized once again.

Each card is color-coded for a type of activity allowing quick scans across the virtual board to see what types of activities are piling up. There’s also a sharing feature to share cards with other people in the organization to encourage collaboration on shared projects. The cross-platform Trello app is initially free to use, with additional storage space and multiple users being paid features.

Delaying Email with Boomerang

What if you could setup an email to deliver at a different time. Would that be useful? What if there was a way to take your email and bounce it back at a fixed time when it’s more convenient to read it? If you’re already timeboxing, then Boomerang for Gmail or Boomerang for Outlook could make your email activities more streamlined. The app will even remind you if you don’t hear from someone that you sent an email to previously. There’s also a “Respondable” feature which uses artificial intelligence to determine how smart your email reply is and suggests ways to improve it. Email just got easier.

Compressing Research Time

Conducting painstaking research to provide factual information in a timely manner eats time almost uncontrollably. Big data is great, but finding useful nuggets one can use in business out of the murky sea of data is the real issue. eDiscovery services have been designed to cut through the research headache by using AI to locate missing information and manage file information far more efficiently. For companies with busy teams, this lightens the load for the support staff and frees up high-level executives to focus on their most important tasks.

There are many ways to use software to become more efficient. You must be careful to determine the real benefits of using an app and choose your software tools wisely.