My ultimate (Free) productivity system

How are those New Year’s Resolutions holding up for you? Hm, me too. One of my resolutions, that I chose not to blog about in my annual review of the year, was about maximising my personal productivity.

Productivity isn’t really about getting more done. Productivity, to me, is about using your time more effectively, cutting down on time spent doing things that you’d rather not do, and dedicating more of your life to doing what you love.

Just embodying that mindset in your day-to-day life can be a game changer in itself. The real game-changer, however, is when you really start to implement measures to supercharge your productivity. My own productivity app system is still evolving and changing, but I think that it’s got to a point where it’s now effective enough to share with the world.

All of these apps are totally free on iOS, which is where I tend to do the majority of my writing, though I’ve included any alternatives where possible in case you fancy spending a little cash for what others might prefer.

Google Drive

Just the entire Google ecosystem really. On the one hand, you could argue that it’s bad to rely exclusively on one set of apps in its entirety, in case it goes bust or obsolete one day, but it’s just so good. Having absolutely everything in the same place, without having to worry about syncing files with the Cloud or downloading, re uploading or emailing Word files to yourself not only saves times, it’s also great for peace of mind.

I know that, if I complete the first draft of this blog post on my phone, make a few changes on my iPad, and apply the finishing touches on desktop, there won’t be any file differences or discrepancies.

Paid alternative: Google One, £1.59/month. This will give you 100gb of storage, and it’s what I currently use, but the free option of 15gb had been fine for my files, photos and emails for years. OneDrive or Dropbox also offer free and premium options, at £1.99/month for 100gb and £7.99/month for 2tb respectively.

OneNote

What, a Microsoft product?! I know, shocking. You’d think I’d be sticking in the Google ecosystem where possible, since I’m attached at the hip to Drive, Docs and Gmail. Google does offer Keep, its own note taking app, but in my experience, it’s just not been that great. Images are difficult to save and I didn’t find it particularly intuitive to organise my notes.

OneNote, on the other hand, lets me organise all of my notes into specific notebooks, separated by sections, and I find it incredibly straightforward and simple to use. All of the changes that I make, regardless of where I make them, are synced everywhere. It’s super easy to trawl through my notes by using the keyword and tag search bar.

Paid alternative: Microsoft 365, £79.99/year. This comes with all of the Office apps, which you won’t need if you’re using Google Drive. OneNote is also free regardless of where you get it, which is great.

If you wanted a different note-taking app, I’ve heard good things about Notion (free-$15[£12]/month) and EverNote (£9.49/month), though I’ve not used either.

Adobe Express

This is a great little photo editing app. All of the thumbnails that you see on my blog have been procured from a stock images website, like Pexels, and edited within Adobe Express. I’ve not touched the deeper image manipulation tools, but it’s perfect for applying filters and text, before exporting as JPEGs.

My one gripe? As with any industry, it’s geared towards making money. So it was really disappointing when they made some critical ‘updates’ to the app and placed a few of the free features that I had been enjoying behind a paywall. Before this update, it had been really easy to make one image and alter it so that it was ready for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and Pinterest – but not any more. I stopped posting to my Pinterest account purely out of protest.

Still waiting for Adobe to take notice…

Paid alternative: Photoshop, £19.97/month.

Later

I use Later to schedule all of my Instagram posts. Yes, you could do this within the app itself, but as far as I’m aware, Instagram doesn’t let you setup posts to go live in advance. This isn’t great for me, since I don’t like spending a lot of time on social media – and using the apps lets you get sucked into doom scrolling pretty easily, especially if you don’t use app timers.

Later’s also great because it’s got an option called ‘linkinbio’. This lets me attach a link from each new post into a link in my bio, so that visitors can very easily, and quickly, access each new post – rather than just the landing page of my website.

Finally, you can save hashtag groups – so I can do the research on what tags to use once, and then quickly attach them to the caption when I’m sharing the post. This lets me do what I need to do in about one minute. Perfect.

Paid alternative: Later, $18-$80/month. Later offers a few different levels depending on what you from the app – the free version doesn’t let you post Reels, for instance. Annoyingly, it’s all priced in USD, but that’s going to cost you between roughly £14.50-£64.50/month.


Do you think that I’ve missed any? What apps do you use in your productivity system? I’m always looking to level up what I’m using, so let me know in the comments below.

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