The 4 Basic Apps You Will Only Ever Need To Be The Most Productive You Possible!

James Preston 2 6:21 PM
Following on from last week's Blog about Cloud Computing, here are the 4 most basic Apps you will ever need to be the most productive you possible! These apps listed in this post are all based "in the Cloud", in other words they are all online, so you are not limited to one single computer or device; no matter where you are in the world you can log into any one of these apps and access what you need.

These 4 apps are based on the 4 most basic things we all need to be productive in today's world:

1) Email/Communication.
2) A diary.
3) A To-Do List.
4) A Word Processor & Document Editor.

With these 4 things you can pretty much accomplish everything necessary to be as successful as possible! And with these 4 apps below, you can do it all without ever worrying if you "left your laptop behind" or "not being able to find an Email".

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Ok... so here goes! We start with Email...

1. Email: Gmail
There are 3.2 billion Email accounts in the world. It has become the most efficient way to communicate between corporate environments because it gets delivered straight to the workspace of an individual, especially a decision-making individual.

But it comes with its challenges. Most of which is spam. A terrifying 71% of all Emails sent are spam. (And I don't even think that counts the forwarded hoax mails from colleagues!) This could possibly be the most efficient thing about Gmail. Check out the Screenshot below of my Gmail:

Notice how few of my Emails are Spam Messages or from Social Network sites like "Facebook", "Twitter", "Groupon" etc. Every single one of those Emails are directly addressed to me and pretty important. That's how my inbox is.

Everything else goes into little folders on the left. See the folders in Bold with bracketed numbers next to them? Those are the folders with new mail in them. In this case it's "BlackBerry", "Quotes", "Computer Work", "Groupon Stuff" and "IT". Every single one of those skipped my inbox completely so when I log into my Email, only the ones addressed to me get through to my homescreen.

This happens because every time I get a new Email from an unrecognised Social Networking account or strange Spammer, I simply copy the Email address, click on Filters, and place that Email address in one of my filters and boom! I will never again get another Email from that address in my inbox. Meaning that my inbox remains clean with only Emails I want to and need to read!

I can even tell those really Spammy emails to either be "marked as read" or "deleted" so they don't even waste my time.

Microsoft Outlook and other Email Clients also have this Filter & Folder system, but none are as efficient, quick and easy as how Gmail have set it up.
Some people worry about having a Gmail address for work situations, and how unprofessional that is. Well don't worry! Gmail will let you send mail from any address you choose, and will even check those email accounts for you, so all email to those private addresses get sent to your Gmail inbox. It's like a portable work email. And the great thing is; I can choose which address I want to send from when sending an email. So, depending on my situation be it work, ministry, radio, personal, blogging, I can send an Email from the appropriate address at the click of a button. And you can even set each Email address to have its own signature! Genius.

More perks of Gmail include the search option. Google is the king of online searching, and no matter what you're looking for, just one very quick search and it will pull it up for you. I now no longer print out or save documents. It's all online ready to be searched and forwarded. (Obviously the security is important here. And it's important to note that Google has never been hacked by a major cyber-terrorist. Also their SMS security measures and others are really, really tight. Plus I change my password every couple of months).
And of course my favourite thing about Gmail is that it is online. (In the cloud). So no matter where I go or where I am, as long as I have internet access (through any computer) I can log in to my Email (even my work Email) and get back to people or search for documents and get important info. It is all so easy. And if my hard-drive ever crashes, no problem, my Emails are all online.

2. Diary: Google Calendar
Again, all online, and you never have to worry about leaving your diary behind. You can just borrow a friend's computer, log in to your Google Account, and check the time of an appointment. Or change it. Whatever.

Now, the great thing about Google Calendar is that it syncs with pretty much everything! It syncs with Microsoft Outlook (if you're still using it after point no. 1), it syncs with Apple's iCal, it syncs with my BlackBerry, it syncs with Nokia even! It syncs with anything and everything. And it is incredibly flexible. I messed up one of my Google Account (I have a few) calendars, due to a silly mistake on my part. So instead of reconfiguring all my synced devices, I simply made a new calendar and paired it with my main Google Account. It worked perfectly.

My BlackBerry is synced to my Google Cal, and all I do is enter an appointment and then when I next open my computer there it is in my iCal. Or vice versa.

And I can share any calendar I like with other people, and they can see appointments and events, or change events if I give them permission. We use this very effectively at our Church offices. We've never been more organised in the last 10 years!

3. To-Do List: ToDoist
If you don't work with a To-Do List, you should stop what you are doing and Google "the importance of a To-Do List". Millions, no... wait... BILLIONS of people will tell just how important having a To-Do List is. You need to know what needs to be done, remember it, and set goals to get those things done!

This was something school failed to teach me. And one that should have had an entire lesson devoted to and revisited once a year. Maybe I bunked those lessons. But this one thing would have been more valuable than most of what I learned at school.

I only started using To-Do Lists when I entered the working world. I quickly realised that if I didn't write things down I would forget them and get into trouble with the boss, clients, and myself. But even that didn't help too much, because I would lose the paper I wrote them down on and then be in even worse trouble because there may have been dozens of items on those lists!

Only recently have I discovered the power of online To-Do Lists. Jut like Gmail and Google Cal, I can't believe I worked without them in the past. (I worked for years as a pastor with one piece of paper each week - I had nailed it to a degree but my papers were messy and irritated me when I left them at home or the office and needed to write something in them quickly).

I started with Wunderlist, but they bumped into programming issues. After an entire day searching for alternatives, I came across ToDoist. I highly doubt there is much out there that is better.

ToDoist is a basic platform, it doesn't take up much internet, is neat and tidy, and yet is so functional and effective. I arrange all my tasks into separate "projects"; from "General" to "Meetings" to "business" to "Blogging" even to "Movies to Watch"! As you can see by the below pic...

As you can see, everything that I do is right there! And there's nothing better than clicking one of those boxes when you've completed a task and checking out your points go up! ToDoist has a really nifty little system called "Karma" whereby you earn points for completing tasks. It's a really clever motivational system to get you working hard, but can be disabled if you don't want to get distracted by silly shenanigans. I like them though.

Using the Google Chrome (my internet browser) Extension you can add Gmail tasks to it (hence the "Glenda" Email there to be done) and even add Websites to read. This way I can actually click on an item to get to where I need to go to get the job done.

And ToDoist too is all online! So I have a link on my phone and iPad which take me straight to a mobile version (meaning it's even quicker to load) of my To-Do list and I can add things as I remember them or check what needs to be done if I'm not near my computer. I can also log in from any computer in the world. (I hope you're noticing by now how important "Cloud Computing" really is!)

4. Note-taking: Google Drive
And finally. taking notes and writing journals! This is the most recent addition to my collection of Online Operation. And again, I can see this making my MS Office redundant. The features are absolutely brilliant. Everything you can think of in an Office Application. From Word Processing to PowerPoint Presentations to Excel and even PDF storage, editing and saving.

I store most of my important PDF documents and online books all in Google Drive. I also now keep most of my important documents like account details, database lists, email lists, quotes, articles, you name it! All completely online at the touch of a button. And you will also notice in the screenshots above that I have a button in my Browser called "QuickNotes" which I use when I need to make quicknotes about anything and everything. I find Google Drive's Word Processor is faster than my Mac's basic Text Editor, that's actually what made me change.

I have the Google Drive app installed on my iPad which means I don't need any fancy software on my iPad to edit Docs, all I do is use my free Google Drive, and the best part is that you can keep some Documents "offline" (meaning that you don't need an internet connection) on your iPad, and Google will sync back online when you have an internet connection again.

You may also be wondering why it's called "Google Drive". It used to be called "Google Docs", but they changed the name because it has expanded to become more than just a Document Editor, and is now a fully fledged online hard-drive, where you can store anything and everything. Including photos and pics!


These 4 apps are all you will ever need to be the most productive as possible across all platforms of devices, without ever risking losing your data to a hard-drive crash or device theft. There are all kinds of fancy apps out there that cost an arm and a leg, but with these simple apps you can do all you need without paying a cent!

That doesn't mean there is no space for other apps. Of course there are many, many more to tweak your repertoire of efficiency and productivity. But this is a fantastic start!

I hope this fairly lengthy series has helped you get started in making the most of the amazing invention that is the internet. And that you will never again have to rely on one single device for all you productivity needs.

Which of these Apps appeals to you the most?

How much of your work is online "in the cloud"?

What would you suggest I could do better?

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I have enjoyed walking the path of those four basic apps alongside you, Mr.Preston :^D^: Brilliant post, extremely practical!

It has indeed been fun! Thanks to you for all your IT help in making things even more productive! A true IT specialist!

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