5 Tech Tools to Increase Your Productivity in a Non-Tech Job

tech tools

Being a tech fanatic can be a bit disheartening if you’re not in a tech job.  You’re aware of all sorts of great tech tools, but have no reason to use them (hello, Google Wave).  Some tech apps, though, actually are useful in non-tech jobs.  Here’s our take on five of them.  Do you have some tech tools that you use in a job that isn’t tech-focused?  If so, let us know in the comments.



Texter is a free text expansion tool from one of the editors of Lifehacker.  The idea behind Texter is that, instead of typing certain words or phrases that you use with some regularity, you set a string of characters along with a trigger.  Typing those characters and the trigger will cause Texter to automatically type the full word or phrase.  For example, if I type the letters “thx”, followed by a space (my trigger), Texter will automatically type “Thanks.”  You could also use Texter to have easy access to multiple email signatures.

Anyone with a job that involves typing should check out Texter, to see if it helps.  Texter normally must be installed on your computer, but if that isn’t an option for you on a work PC, there is also a portable version that you can install on a thumb drive.  If you want to use the same keystrokes on all your computers, then install Texter into your Dropbox folder to keep it in sync.

Be warned that some users report problems with Texter on Windows 7.  I’m on Windows 7, though, and it works fine for me.



No list of useful apps would be complete without Evernote.  For the uninitiated, Evernote is a notetaking and archiving application.  That description really doesn’t do it justice, though.  Since you can dump almost any piece of information into Evernote via a wide variety of methods, Evernote can be your external brain.  Capture your info, and then access it on a variety of platforms.

How you use Evernote will depend on your job, but it is hard to imagine an office job that wouldn’t benefit from Evernote .  If you’re a lawyer, you can use it to archive information and research.  Find a case or article you might need in the future?  Clip it or forward it into Evernote, and then tag it for future reference.  Want to keep your expense reports somewhere that you can reach them with ease?  Use Evernote.  Do you have seminar notes cluttering your office or filing cabinet, but don’t want to get rid of them?  Scan them into Evernote, and they’ll be searchable thanks to Evernote’s OCR.  Are you a programmer?  Use Evernote to store code snippets.

These tips just scratch the surface.  If you use Evernote on the job, let us know how in the comments.

If you have restrictions on what you can install on your work computer, Evernote can be used via a web app.  For best results, though, you’ll want to install the Windows or Mac version.

Toodledo, Producteev, or Another Task Manager

toodledo vs producteev If you work for someone else, and aren’t required to use a particular piece of software, then there are a wide variety of task managers available out there.  Many of these are more versatile and feature-filled than the sometimes lame offering you might have at the office.

We’ve looked at several task managers here at 40Tech.  Two of our favorites are Toodledo and Producteev, but we’ve also liked Glasscubes, ReQall, and Action Method Online.  We’ve even written about how to use Evernote as a productivity tool.

Trust us on this – there is a task manager out there that will click with you, and give you that “aha!” moment.  If the one you’re using doesn’t do it for you, there are options.  All of the above-mentioned task managers are web apps, meaning that a strict computer policy at your office shouldn’t be a problem.

Google Voice

Google Voice The obvious use case for Google Voice is to make free calls, which any business would love.  But Google Voice can also be used to give you some separation from work and play, by avoiding the perils of caller ID.  If you ever work from home and need to make some calls, but don’t think your spouse would appreciate your clients discovering your home number, get a Google Voice account.  Tie your Voice number to your home number, but set it to “do not disturb,” or, better yet, set it to forward incoming calls to your office phone.  This, of course, is for those of you with jobs where 24/7 client service isn’t the norm, and where you also don’t want to give out your cell phone number.  Now you can call clients from home, and need not worry about your spouse answering the phone and having a friendly chat with a client who discovered your number via caller ID.

Google Docs

Google Docs Most workplaces require its employees to use a particular word processor.  This is understandable, from a security point of view – employers don’t want important documents floating out there, out of their control.  But you still may be able to use Google Docs, depending on your situation.

Do you use any outlines or other recurring documents that don’t contain confidential client data?  If so, consider using Google Docs for this.  You may want to keep your primary copy on your office network, but not all office networks are easily accessible outside of the office.  Since Google Docs can be accessed from any computer, you can be productive and access these documents from outside the office, with just a few clicks.

Before trying any of these tools, you should make sure that you are aware of your company’s computer policy.  We wouldn’t want you to cause any problems for yourself, or your employer.  But, if permitted, give these tools a try if you haven’t already.

Better yet, tell us – what tools do you use in your job?

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.


  1. Gotta love Google Voice and Docs. Killer products. Gmail is a pretty damn good email service as well.

  2. Great tools that I use every day myself. ToodleDo and Producteev are the xceptions as I just use my Google Calendar for Tasks.

    Anthony Russo
    Skype: anth.russo
    Twitter: @AnthonyRusso

    • I used to put tasks onto my calendar, but then when I got into “brain dump” mode it just got to be too cumbersome. I still put occassional tasks on the calendar, though, especially one that is time sensitive and I want starting me in the face.

      Mostly, though, I put everything and anything that I need to do into Toodeldo. I have it set up so it is mostly automated. I enter items with certain parameters, and then the important stuff each day gets picked up by a particular saved search that I’ve set up, and I just work off of that each day. I’m going to do a write-up here soon on my system.

  3. This is a nice list and I think I’ll try Evernote and a task manager. I don’t like the one I use now because it’s not easily available on my phone. I like the idea of having tasks at least visible on the calendar (Google for me) so both types of “to do” are in one place.
    I’ve had http://www.box.net suggested as a Google Wave replacement – have you thought about checking it out?

    • I’ve haven’t tried that one out yet. Would the free plan be suitable for a Wave-like use case? We did try Drop.io when we searched for options in our “Wave Replacement” series, but it was too cumbersome. I’d be curious to see if box.net is more usable.

  4. I get the impression from your other “Wave replacement” posts (which I’ve enjoyed a lot) that you try out these setups for a week or 2. I’m guessing the “free trial” of the business version would probably give you enough of a taste.
    As you’ve noted before, it’s hard to find “everything” bundled in one place and even Wave didn’t solve that. While box.net wouldn’t be free if it was used to replace Wave (I consider the Google Apps integration to be critical) it might be better than the “roll your own” method you tried. ;-)

  5. Another task manager that I recommend is SimpleGTD (http://simplegtd.com/). I’ll probably try the suggestion here about tying up the home phone with Google Voice. I haven’t really tried it yet. Let’s see. ;-)

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