Let’s face it. The life of a freelancer is filled with productivity challenges. It’s the unfortunate cost of our freedom.
We can do whatever we like, whenever we like, which is wonderful… but it makes getting the things we actually need to get done difficult some days. Thankfully, there are a number of useful productivity tools hiding in the browser many of us use every day.
The following list details some of the best Chrome extensions I’ve found for limiting distractions, keeping tabs on all of your communications, and getting more done in your work time.
And installation is a breeze—when you find one you like you can start using it almost immediately.
Create a distraction-free zone with Focus
Focus allows you to block distracting websites for a period of time to help you focus on your work. It’s a minimalist implementation of the Pomodoro Technique. Give Focus a list of the sites you tend to frequent when you’re procrastinating and then start the timer. For 25 minutes your distractions will be blocked and unreachable. Focus also lets you organize your to-dos so that you can get the most out of your focus period.
Gentle productivity reminders with Timewarp
If you find working under a Pomodoro timer itself a distraction, Timewarp offers another way to rid yourself of distracting web destinations. Use their simple interface to set up what they call “Wormholes”. You can configure these to either redirect you to a more productive website of your choosing when you attempt to go a time-sucking site like Facebook or Youtube, pop up a motivational message instead of the offending site, or simply time how long you spend there so that you can guilt yourself about it later.
Easily track time with AND CO
This free extension makes it even quicker to track your time. Simply choose from your existing tasks or add a new one and start the timer. The extension remembers every task you’ve tracked before making it fast and easy to track them again in the future. Best of all, it integrates with the full AND CO web app to automatically generate invoices for your clients based on your tracked hours.
Block out environmental distractions with Noisli
Is the neighbor’s barking dog interrupting your focus? Block it out with one of the most elegant white noise generators we’ve ever used. Using a simple click interface you can choose from a number of sounds like White Noise, Rain, Forest, Train, Fireplace and more. You can play multiple sounds simultaneously, like Rain and Train and then save that custom soundscape for later playback. Right from the extension, you can choose your saved combo “Rainy Night Express” and play it indefinitely or on a timer.
Create a task portal with Taco
Depending on what you do for a living, you might interface with a number of services each day. Keeping tabs on all the tasks generated inside these applications can be challenging. Taco collects these from 40+ existing services as diverse as Bitbucket, Evernote, GitHub, Pocket, Slack and Trello and displays them all together in a Chrome tab. You can prioritize tasks across every service you use and act on them without having to open each application separately.
Minimalist notes extension with Papier
Sometimes there’s nothing better than that blank piece of paper and pen just within arm’s reach for jotting down a quick idea or note. Papier replicates this experience digitally in a Chrome browser tab. It’s about as simple a note-taking app as you’re ever likely to find. After installing the extension all you need to do is open a new tab and you have a notepad. You can type directly onto the browser window and anything you type is immediately saved. You’ll see all your previous notes together on one page. With Papier you’ll never lose a great idea again.*
*Just be certain to make a local copy of your notes before you delete your browser’s history as this action will wipe out all of your saved notes.
Powerful notes extension with Google Keep
Google Keep is an extremely robust note-taking web app with an elegant, lightweight interface. The Chrome extension extends its capabilities even further. You can generate a note instantly from your current web page, a web image or any text selection. You can add labels and comments to these notes and send them directly to your Google Keep archive. If you do a lot of research online this can be extremely useful. If you find a bit of text or an image you need to remember, the Google Keep extension lets you add it to Google Keep with just a few clicks.
Screenshot / Screencasting extension with Nimbus
It’s easy to waste a lot of time trying to explain something to a client that would take no time at all if only they were next to you, looking at your screen. Enter Nimbus. Not only can you take screenshots of web content, whole web pages, different applications or your entire desktop, you can also capture any of these as video. Your captures are easily shared with clients via YouTube, Google Drive or Dropbox. It’s even possible to draw and make comments right on the screenshots and videos.
Save content to read later with Pocket
Most of us freelancers are on the Internet constantly. It’s inevitable that as we try and stay productive we’ll find some web page or other piece of content that piques our interest and threatens to derail our flow. Pocket is an app designed to collect web content for later viewing. The Save to Pocket extension lets you send any web page you like to your Pocket account with one click. You can even send a link without ever clicking through. Save to Pocket is also great for research. Use it to compile collections of related content as you work so that you can refer back to them later.
Collect Chrome tabs with OneTab
If you’re someone that tends to accumulate a lot of open tabs in Chrome you know firsthand how much RAM that can use and how crippling the resulting slow down can be to your productivity. Not to mention the level of distraction that it adds when you accidentally click into the wrong tab. Well no more! With a click of the OneTab button all your open tabs will be compiled as links in a list occupying a sum total of one tab (hence the name). Need to reopen a page? Just click on its link in OneTab and the page pops back up as a new tab. OneTab says it saves 95% of your RAM compared with leaving all your tabs open. And I’d say it saves 30% worth of brainpower having a clean and clear browser.*
*Yeah, I picked a random number… But it does feel good.
Gmail interface extension with Checker Plus
There’s a good chance as a freelancer you have multiple email accounts and an even better chance that you get a lot of email in all of these. Instead of constantly toggling between your multiple accounts, you can use Checker Plus to keep tabs on all your email from one streamlined pop up interface. You get desktop ‘new mail’ notifications and the ability to check all your accounts simultaneously directly from your current browser window. If you need to respond to a given message you can launch the full Gmail app from inside the extension. Keeping tabs on your client communications has never been easier.
Schedule emails with Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang for Gmail lets you write an email then schedule it to be sent whenever you like, even when you’re offline. This is great for overseas clients and other recipients that aren’t likely to see your message when you’re available to send it. Boomerang makes sure your message arrives right when you think it’s most likely your client is sitting in front of their computer, which increases the chances of a speedy response. But in case they don’t get back to you, Boomerang also allows you to reminders to follow up with that person if Boomerang sense you don’t receive a response. Boomerang is the best Chrome extension for helping get your conversations done.
Time Chrome usage with Productivity Owl
Here’s one more interesting riff on the usage policing concepts we explored with Focus and Timewarp earlier. Productivity Owl’s unique approach to limiting distracting web surfing involves setting a timer on every page you visit. Each time you open a tab you’ll see the Productivity Owl sitting down in the bottom corner of the page counting down the amount of time you’re allowed to spend there. When the timer runs out the owl closes the page for you. Not only does this limit distracting sites it also disciplines you to get what you need from legitimate sites as quickly as possible. And we can all use a little more discipline. Of course, you have the ability to white list any sites that you need to stay open permanently.
Stay precise even when you’re rushed with Grammarly
Don’t waste time proofreading that email for the third time. Grammarly makes sure your emails, documents, and social media posts are easy to understand and error-free. If you’re writing on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, and nearly anywhere else, Grammarly will check your spelling so you remain looking professional even when you’re writing in a hurry.
Get your Chrome setup for productivity
Hopefully this overview has provided you with some actionable extensions you can add to Chrome right now to help with your productivity. And let’s hope you finished reading this article before the Productivity Owl shut you down. It’s probably a good idea to add AND CO to your whitelist right now.