5 More Free Things I Use Every Day
Friday, October 26, 2012Tweet
About a year and a half ago, when only a handful of people read this blog, I posted 10 Free Things I Use Every Day. If you haven't read that post before, go check it out! It has 10 online resources that I use regularly that don't cost anything.
I decided it was time to add to the list some things I've discovered and started using since I wrote that post. Please add your own in comments -- I love learning about free resources!
Install this program and it will start tracking which window is active on your computer at any given time. Once a week, get an e-mail telling you how many hours you spent on the computer, how much of your time was spent productively, and what things you spent the most time doing. You can also go to your RescueTime Dashboard on their site at any time to see pretty graphs breaking down how your spent your time each day and telling you your most productive and least productive time or days.
A tip: Take the time to go to your Activity Summary and make sure the categories and productivity levels are correct, at least for the sites where you spend the most time. You can also add new categories, as their set is somewhat limited.
After RescueTime showed me how much time I was wasting, I wanted to do something about it. You may have heard of LeechBlock, which is for Firefox, but I mainly use Google Chrome, so I had to find something comparable. After another add-on failed to work properly, I switched to StayFocusd. I entered my main time-wasting sites and set a daily limit during weekdays, and StayFocusd warns me when I'm approaching the limit (at intervals I designated) and then blocks me from going on them once I've used up my time. It prevents you from cheating by only allowing you to change limits for future days, not the current day once you've reached your limit. I also use it to keep myself from staying up too late by using "Nuclear Mode," which blocks the entire Internet during the times I set. (I set it from 10pm to 10:30pm so I'd have a push to go to bed at 10, but would only have to wait half an hour if I seriously needed to finish something.)
A tip: Nuclear Mode allows you to exclude weekends, but those are Saturday and Sunday, so it still kicks me off at 10pm on Friday nights. I'm hoping the next version will allow you to pick individual days.
Simple but useful, this download changes the kind of light your computer screen gives off so you're not blinded by it if you start up your computer when it's still dark outside. During the day, your computer monitor gives off bright light like the sun, but after the sun sets, f.lux changes your computer settings to give off softer, warmer light, like indoor lighting.
A tip: Go into preferences and choose a slow transition if the sudden change in light color throws you off.
4. Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang offers the features I wish Gmail had. It allows you to schedule messages to send at a later time, which Gmail doesn't currently allow. It also lets you archive a message but return it to your inbox later (great for future travel itineraries) or return it only if the other recipient(s) don't respond by a certain time. Or you can have a message return to your inbox at a random time, which is a great way to send your future self surprise check-ins about habits you wanted to adopt or break. A free account gives you 10 credits (actions) per month -- technically 11 because it will warn you once if you've used up all your credits but still let you do it.
A tip: If you need a reminder message sent to your inbox at a specific time in the future and you know you won't need to cancel or change it, another option without using up a Boomerang credit is to use replylater.com.
I know, I know, everyone knows about Pinterest already. But when I started using it I was just pinning random things and not actually getting much use of it. I decided that I only wanted to use it as a tool for meal planning, so I unfollowed everyone, followed only food boards, and started pinning recipes to try. Now that I've focused how I use it, it's been a great, useful, free tool for meal planning. I created a separate board for recipes we tried and would make again, and I edit pins to move them over as needed, as a way to recommend the recipes to others as well as a reminder of which ones we liked. Then I created a Faith Permeating Life Pinterest account where you can find links to many of my posts as well as other blog posts I recommend (organized by topic).
A tip from a previous post: If you're concerned about properly sourcing your pins, or just want to find the original article, save the image to your desktop, then drag the file onto Google Image Search and it'll find all the pages that image is on. If there are a lot of hits, you can limit the search time frame to narrow it down to the earliest appearances of the image.
(EDIT: I've found a faster way. Here's a Chrome extension that will allow you to research any image on Google Images with a right-click menu.)
As with the previous list of recommendations, I'm not in any way affiliated with any of these companies -- I just really love their free tools!
What are some free things you use every day that not everyone knows about it?