A compendium of Recomendo




Time zone aid

I have difficulty with time zones. It’s easy enough to use the world clock on my smartphone to find out what time it is in another country right now, but I don’t trust myself to count forward or backward to figure out what time it will be in Edinburgh when it’s 10am in Los Angeles, for example. I have 24 Meetings bookmarked to do the math for me. A simple slider lets me see what time it will be in different cities. — MF

Wrist relief

I’ve been using the 18” version of this gel-filled wrist pad for five years (I’m on my second one — they last a few years). It goes behind my keyboard, giving me a soft-but-firm place to rest my wrists. This is essential equipment for me. — MF

400 free online tools

This list of 400 Awesome Free Resources You Can Use to Grow Your Business is useful for anyone. There are links to online image editors, extensions to enhance your email, design inspiration, and tools to help you focus — all free. — CD

Best seat

I was having some back pain and pinched nerves, so Kevin bought this Steelcase Gesture Chair for my work desk. Those issues are non-existent now. So many different ways to position and sit in it. It’s so comfortable I have to set reminders throughout the day to get up or else I never would. — CD

Favorite stapler

After watching 1999’s Office Space (directed by Silicon Valley creator Mike Judge), I wanted the red stapler belonging to the hapless cubicle worker. Soon after, Swingline started making a red model. I’ve had mine since 2008, use it daily, and it looks new. Amazon sells them for $11 . — MF

Laser printer toner

I gave up on color inkjet printers because they are slow and finicky. Years ago I bought a cheap Brother laser printer (here’s the latest model for $100) and am very happy with it. I get 3rd party toner cartridges in bulk, which are about $8 each when purchased as a 4-pack. — MF

Career advice

80,000 hours is the typical length of the average career. 80,000 Hours is a blog that dispense free career advice based on science, rather than on hunches. As much as possible this non-profit (Cambridge University) gives advice based on the latest academic and scientific research into the nature and economics of work, careers, happiness and the economy. When I am asked for career advice, I point candidates here to their Career Guide. — KK

How to bullet journal

A while back I reverted to using an analog to-do list because it forces me to be accountable when I have to carry over my tasks to the next day. Then, this YouTube video on How to Bullet Journal entered my life and took my notebook skills to the next level. — CD

Spam beater

10 Minute Mail is a disposable email address. Just go to the website, and you are presented with a newly-minted email address that self-destructs after ten minutes. Here’s a sample address: Use it when a web form requires an email address and you don’t want to end up on their list. From the FAQ: “If the website makes you verify the email address by sending you a link you have to click on, then you can read the email right here on and click on the link.” — MF

Thought organizer

I’ve been having a lot fun with Mindly, a mind-mapping app (iOS, Android) that helps me brainstorm and organize thoughts. I’ve been using it as a vision board, thought journal, and for my personal to-dos. There is a free version of the app available. — CD

Easy time tracking

Timelog is a free time tracker you can use in your browser. You don’t even need to sign up for an account. I like that it keeps going even if I accidentally close my window. — CD 

What's on that barcode?

If you’re curious about the information on barcode or QR code, take a photo or screengrab of it and upload it to this website. It will decode the contents and present it to you in human readable form. I used it recently to get a shipping tracking number I needed. — MF

Fast email finder

Hunter lets you quickly find personal and support email addresses from any company website. I have the chrome extension and it’s great for when I have a customer service or billing issue and want a response as soon as possible. I cc: all the relevant generic email addresses for the company and so far have gotten a response and issue resolved within hours. — CD 

Rent software

Setapp is like Netflix for Mac users. $10 a month gives you unlimited access to high-quality applications, like Flume, World Clock Pro, Chronicle, and Forecast Bar. New apps are introduced frequently. You can try it free for a month (no credit card needed). — MF


I’m productive because I outsource my detail work to global freelancers. If I can specify a job, it can be assigned to one of a million expert freelancers working somewhere in the world. Often for cheap, always fast, and securely. I use Upwork (which used to be called Elance and oDesk). It’s a reliable system. I can find programmers, web and graphic designers, artists, photoshop experts, transcribers, marketing mavens, and so on. Their work is a good as anyone you might hire. — KK

Free focus timer

The Tomato One is free focus timer for iOS, based on the Pomodoro technique. I use it when I have trouble focusing. The timer goes off every 25 minutes for a 5 minute break. I make sure the sound is turned down so that the timer ding is discreet, and allow notifications on a locked screen in case I don’t hear it. Most of the time, I end up working through the breaks and get more done. — CD

Better Gmail interface

For many years I’ve used Gmail’s web interface. I’ve tried lots of standalone apps, but they always fell short and I’d return to Gmail. Then I tried Spark (Mac OS X and iOS) and I’m hooked. It’s smart, snappy, and has lightning fast search. I have not used Gmail since installing Spark. — MF 

Nifty email

I’m old school: email is my chief communication mode, and I primarily work on a laptop or desktop. While there are many things to recommend about Gmail on the web, it’s interface is not one of them. I use Postbox as my mail client to reach my Gmail (it runs on Mac or Windows). I’ve tried other clients now and then but keep coming back to Postbox for its intuitive (to me) design and interface. And I’m still uncovering new capabilities I didn’t know it had. — KK

Snail mail in your email

USPS’s Informed Delivery is free and available almost everywhere in the US now. Every morning, I get an email with scanned images of my mail before it’s delivered. Most of the time it’s junk, and those days I don’t even bother checking my mailbox, but this service is great if you’re expecting something important. — CD

Make better decisions

Upgrade your pros and cons list by assigning additional value. Rate how important each list item is to you from 1 to 5, and when you’re done add them up to find out which has more points. You might find that even if you listed more items in one column the other might affect your life more. — CD

One-stop career center

The Sokanu Career Test is like a supercharged version of the one I took in high school. A 20-minute test will give you your top matches out of 800+ careers based on your personal interests, personality characteristics and ideal work environment. You also get info on degree paths, salary and links to job listings. — CD 

One app for all your messages

I use a lot of different messaging services. It was a hassle to open them all and switch from app to app. I’m glad I found Franz, which consolidates all your chat & messaging services into one application. I use it for Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, and Telegram. It’s free. — MF

Cheatsheets for everything

I found a useful Photoshop keyboard shortcut cheatsheet at Cheatography. It has hundreds of cheatsheets for programmers, designers, students, photographers and other kinds of newbies. — MF

Cheap business cards

In most parts of the world business cards are still a cultural norm. I designed my business card in Photoshop, and every few years I update the info and send the file to PS Print online and they mail back a small box of 250 for $18. Easy, quick, cheap. — KK

Undo email send

How to unsend sent email. There are many reasons you might want to undo (or redo) an email you sent. A common reason for me is that I just remembered something I wanted to add. Gmail has a little known “undo” feature that you have to enable. (Official instructions.) On the web, click on the gear icon in the upper right corner, select “Settings.” About a third-way down the list check “Enable Undo Send.” Pick the 30-second maximum grace period. Be sure to “save changes.” Now when you send an email in Gmail you get a little box in the upper center just below the blue/white magnifying glass in the search box, that says “Your mail was sent”. For 30 seconds you have the chance to click on “Undo”. It reopens your message to give you the chance to edit or delete. — KK

Global Forever stamps

Occasionally I need to mail a letter in an envelope, with you know, paper inside. I hate going to the post office, so I buy Forever stamps online. These US stamps are good for domestic mail forever (no matter how many price increases there are) so I buy a wad of them. Now the US Post Office has released a Global Forever stamp ($1.15) for mailing anywhere in the world. Since they are good forever, I got a bunch of them as well. They are distinctly circular, so they look cool too. — KK

Easy brainstorming

I needed an easy way to organize categories in a hierarchical order. It would have been painful to use pen and paper, but thankfully Google led me to MindMeister. The free version was all I needed. There’s a lot of free mind-mapping software out there, but they can be clunky, MindMeister is smooth and intuitive. — CD

Disposable email

Mailinator offers free, disposable email addresses. When you visit a website that requires an email address (and sends you an email to confirm that the email is valid), you can give them any word followed by Then, visit Mailinator to access the email. It’s a great way to reduce spam. — MF

Free encrypted email

Proton Mail offers free end-to-end encrypted email in a clean and simple ad-free web interface (there’s also a smartphone app). The company is based in Switzerland, a country that offers strong privacy protection. In addition, the company says it doesn’t have access to the plaintext of your emails, so they couldn’t give it to a third party even if they wanted to. — MF

Multiple inboxes

I use Gmail in my browser, and what I find most helpful is the Multiple Inboxes lab. When I’m working on a project, I create a label for all relevant email and that label becomes an additional inbox. That way, I don’t lose sight of my to-dos by placing them in a folder, and it keeps my inbox from cluttering. Kind of hard to explain, but it simplifies your life once you do it. Here are instructions. — CD

Task Management

I learned about the the task manager, WorkFlowy from a Cool Tools review. It’s a hierarchical list maker with a couple of bells and whistles, but its power is in its simplicity and ease of use. I’ve tried more task managers than I’d care to admit, but this is the one I’m going to use from now on. I pay $5 a month just to support them, but the free version is all I really need. — MF

Google Dead Man Switch

If you suddenly die, your Google data — email, docs, contacts, tasks, wallet, etc. — will be inaccessible to loved ones who might need it. To make it easy for trusted people to access your account, use Google’s Inactive Account Manager. It will grant access to up to 10 trusted friends or family members after Google detects that you haven’t signed-in to your account for a specified number of months. — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson