In 1987 Ronald Reagan was president, a gallon of gas cost 89 cents and economist and author Robert Solow stated, “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”
Computer use was on the rise, yet, while U.S. companies had invested in information technology hoping to bolster productivity in the workforce, national growth accounts began showing a slow-down in productivity. This concept became known as the Solow computer paradox (also known as the productivity paradox). Nearly thirty years later we’re living in the Internet age and not much has changed. On Tuesday, the Labor Department said that productivity of nonfarm business workers increased at a 1.3% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the second quarter. That’s not much.
Worker productivity is a complex issue, and while I can’t offer a quick solution, I can say that if you use a computer daily and are socially connected (anyone whose reading this) these four apps can help you be more productive!
This isn’t a traditional productivity “app,” but your eyes will thank you. Computer screens are designed to be easy to see in the sun and bright office lights of the day, but what about early morning and night? Even when dimmed, the blue glow from your screen can put a strain on your precious pupils. There’s even evidence to suggest that exposure to artificial blue light before bed can mess with melatonin levels, a hormone essential to sleep.
With the rise of not only laptops, but smartphones and tablets, more people than ever are using devices that emit artificial blue light late in the day. But what if I told you taking the blue pill wasn’t your only option? f.lux is the red pill. The app works in the background to adjust your screen’s colors based on location and time of day. In daylight, it’s hardly noticeable, but as the sun sets, f.lux gradually removes blue light from your screen, leaving the red spectrum.
Staring into a warm screen may seem strange at first, but f.lux is easy to use and easy to get used to. It’s available free for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.
Calendar apps are nothing new. They’ve been integral to computers since the start of computers. However, most of them suck because they don’t play nice with each other. Sunrise is friendly. It doesn’t bombard you with surface level functionality, but rather works behind the scenes as your personal assistant.
Originally launched as an iPhone app, Sunrise is a now a cross-platform calendar packed with a bunch of cool features. It allows users to import their existing Google Calendar, iCloud Calendar and Microsoft Exchange Server profiles, without headache. Oh, and it connects with your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Asana and Meetup, just to name a few. Get a Facebook invite? Sunrise will notify you and add it to your schedule if you accept. It also comes with a built-in list of “Interesting Calendars” that users can subscribe to. This list includes everything from college football teams to obscure network TV show marathons.
The newest addition to Sunrise is Meet, a keyboard for iOS and Android that works within any app. Say you’re emailing a client or texting a friend and they ask when you’re free— simply tap the keyboard icon and choose a few times, without having to open a new app or window. The Meet keyboard will send along an invite that will be functionally compatible even if your buddy doesn’t use Sunrise. Once accepted, the event is automatically added to both calendars.
It’s the Death Star of note-taking. Any app that tries to compete gets filed away faster than inbox spam. You’re probably familiar with Evernote’s ability to store, share, annotate, present notes and add reminders. But that only scratches the surface of its functionality.
The Web Clipper plays Vader to Evernote’s Death Star, destroying every useless bookmark and lingering email in its path. Doyle Albee wrote about how to use Web Clipper to conquer inbox zero: https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2015/03/27/slaying-the-mythical-inbox-zero-beast-with-evernote/. Recently, Evernote has expanded Web Clipper’s functionality. Now users can screenshot a page to annotate before clipping. Annotation tools include an image highlighter, shape tool, marker, pixelator and text tool.
Evernote has a couple options for Premium membership (something I highly recommend purchasing). Premium members get a boost in storage and access to Evernote’s sleekest new features.
You need to post content and it has to be attention-grabbing because it’s all about the followers and the likes and you need more and you need something to feed them besides canned stock photos you didn’t create because they’ll know it’s not organic and they can’t know!
Introducing Canva: the design tool for millennials who never learned Illustrator. Jokes aside, I learned Illustrator long before Canva, and still use Canva to turn-up my social media post game. Its pre-sized content templates come loaded with layouts (both free and paid) along with background images and yes, stock photos. Did I mention fonts? Canva has lots of them.
If your social media team isn’t using Canva, they should be. It’s the quickest way to create clean eye-popping graphics that don’t need re-sizing. Don’t get me wrong, I still use Illustrator for the nitty-gritty, but hey, Canva’s free, so why not use it too?
We live in the Internet age, where Google can turn basement nerds into medical experts. Yet, even with an influx of information technology in recent decades, American worker productivity has been relatively stagnant since it began tapering off in the 1980s. What gives? Once again, I can’t possibly provide an easy answer. Instead, I encourage anyone with a computer and social media account to give the apps listed above a try—and others! There’s hundreds of apps out there designed to make your life easier. Maybe, with the help of apps like these and other up-and-coming technology, we can begin to break the cycle of slow-growth.