Generally speaking, I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist. More accurately, I’m nothing even remotely close to a minimalist. I buy too many things, try too many things, love things bursting with features, and am a firm believer that more is more.
But the more I work, the more I realize that there’s enormous value in a tool that doesn’t do much, but excels at what it attempts to do. There’s no need for all the bells and whistles, and no matter how fun they might be, they can be more of a hindrance than a help. Bells and whistles are really loud, too.
Here are some of the best tools out there for just getting things done. They’ll do what you need them to do, and probably nothing more. But, in trying to use them as much as possible, I’ve found that having fewer options, and being forced to work with less, makes getting work done a lot easier.
Here are nine tools that will make you productive, and little else.
Simplenote is a note-taker’s best friend, and is perfect for anyone who forgets things immediately upon hearing or reading it. It’s designed particularly for the iPhone or iPod Touch, but also has a great Web interface that stays in sync with the iDevice of your choice. You can email notes, edit them offline using a few desktop apps, and instantly search through your notes, but that’s about it.
The app is totally minimalist, without any organization other than search, and with few extra features; it’s just for taking and syncing notes, and remembering everything.
Ommwriter (Mac Only)
Writing on a computer is tough. As I’m writing, I’m getting Twitter notifications, new emails, and seemingly eight million other things clamoring for my attention. Ommwriter, a gorgeous, full-screen writing application, ignores all of those, and just lets you write. There’s even some soothing music to keep you focused, which admittedly sounds cheesy, but works wonders on keeping you writing.
Teuxdeux is a brand new Web task list that has exactly what most people need, and nothing else. There’s a running list of days, and one click on a day lets you create a task there. Move tasks around by dragging and dropping, and click on a task to mark it as complete. No tagging, no nothing—just an immediate look at what I need to do, today.
Readability is a bookmarklet, which works in any browser, that in one click removes all the junk from a website. All the ads, links, toolbars, and everything else you don’t need goes away, leaving only the text and the images, presented in a much more readable way. It’s perfect for distraction-free reading, as well as simpler printing and more accessible bookmarking across all the pages and websites you read. If only it existed in real life!
Google Chrome is way behind the curve when it comes to Web browser features, a point that’s more to its credit than people give credit for. Chrome has few extensions, and the ones that exist only do a very basic thing. There’s no cluttered design or memory-hogging background applications, only a super-fast browser that lets you zip around the Internet—where you can be as unproductive and distracted as you darn well please.
Quietube is to videos what Readibility is to text. Quietube will remove the ads, the related videos, the comments, and all the things that might carry you down the YouTube rabbit hole, and just lets you watch the video in peace. It also presents you with a short link, for sharing the video with others.
I used to write my posts in Microsoft Word, but found myself getting bogged down by headings, styles, bold text, columns and tables, and all sorts of other tools. TextEdit (For Mac) and Notepad (for Windows) exist already on your machine, and don’t have any of those features. Writing the text, and editing and formatting later, is definitely the way to go, and notepad software definitely forces your hand.
I’ve written about Ta-Da List before, as a fantastically simple productivity tool. Here’s how to use Ta-Da List: type a task. Press enter. Type another task. When you’re done, do things. When you’ve finished a task, check it off and it disappears. There’s nothing else you could do even if you wanted to, and therein lies the beauty of Ta-Da List.
Twitter, Gmail, Google Reader: those three things account for the vast majority of my time spent online, and each represents untold rabbit holes and time-sinks for their users—in addition to all the awesome things they offer. Helvetimail for Gmail, Helvetwitter for Twitter, Helvetical for Google Calendar, and Helvetireader for Google Reader strip the various interfaces down to their basics, helping you navigate faster, making the sites prettier, and letting you focus on what you’re doing instead of checking every five seconds to see if the amount of space available to me on Gmail goes up. Been there.
Simple productivity tools, to me, involve two features: they do exactly what they need to do, and they don’t do anything else. These nine tools do at least one, and often both, of those things—helping you do what you need to do, better, and helping you ignore everything else.
What’s your favorite simple productivity tool?