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Free App Friday: 5 Painless Ways To Be More Productive At Work

Whether you’re already a highly effective person or merely aspire to be one, there’s a tool here for you.

As the old saying goes: Work smarter, not harder. Never has that been more possible than with modern technology.

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Here are a handful of ideas about how to handle messages, automate repetitive tasks, and get things done more quickly.

1. If your life revolves around email

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more fully featured free email app than CloudMagic Email (Android, iOS). It works with just about any email service you already use, including Microsoft Exchange, and connects to a wide range of third-party productivity apps. Turn specific emails into tasks, zipping them directly into Evernote or Todoist. Attach files directly from popular cloud-storage services. Integrate sales and support functions with Salesforce and Evernote. CloudMagic’s interface is slick-meets-familiar as well. The free version lets you unify up to five accounts, which should be plenty for most people.

2. If you don’t want your life to revolve around email

HipChat (Android, iOS, web) can help you cut intra-office emails down to almost zilch. It’s a fully featured group chat platform with web, desktop and mobile apps that let you keep in touch with your team in department-specific chatrooms. If someone’s not in your chatroom, you can @ mention them by name, which can be set up to alert them via email and text message, at which point they can pop into the chatroom or have a private one-on-one conversation with you. You get unlimited users, five gigabytes of storage, and the ability to search back over the past 25,000 messages using the free version.

3. If you’re sick of repeating the same tasks

Check to see if they can be automated with IFTTT (Android, iOS, web). The app works like a digital Rube Goldberg machine, connecting popular online services with one another. Let’s say your boss wants you to add every tweet you send out to a spreadsheet. Bo-ring! Using IFTTT–which stands for If This, Then That–can do that for you automatically so you don’t have to copy and paste tweets all day. And let’s say the same boss wants to get an email from you every time you add a new event to the company calendar. Yep, that can be automated too. It’s great for dealing with old-schoolers who always want to be “kept in the loop” without requiring a whole lot of effort on your part.

4. If you just want a dead-simple to-do list

Give Google Keep (Android, web) a whirl. The app lets you add quick notes and lists, set reminders for them, and share them with others. That’s about it–and that’s a good thing. Notes and lists can be added and updated from the web interface or from the Android app (there’s a serviceable mobile web version for iPhones and other smartphones), with changes synchronizing in near-real time between devices. Check items off or delete them, and they’ll disappear from your team’s to-do lists as well.

5. If you want to keep up with the news, but with far less noise

Spend some time each day with Feedly (Android, iOS, web). Twitter and Facebook each have their places, but if you just want to keep up with news that affects your industry, Feedly can serve as a fluff-free newsreader. You can browse news sources by topic, selecting publications that Feedly editors deem worthy, but you’ll probably find it worth your while to manually add the sites you peruse most often. You can then flip through your articles publication by publication or lump them all together and read the newest ones first, regardless of the source. There’s a handy save-for-later feature that lets you stash interesting articles for when you have more time, too.