Although I often think I’m doing my job as efficiently as possible, every so often I say to myself “there must be an app or program that can do this for me.” And whenever I say that, it usually turns out to be true.

At the moment, these are the top five tools that help make my work life easier:

I use the free version of Toggl to track the time I spend on consulting projects. When I’m ready to send invoices, I create a report totalling up the time that should be billed to each client. If you need more detail, the reports can show how much time you worked on specific days and, if you take the time to enter the information, what you did on each of those days. The paid versions start at $9/month if you want to add more customized reporting and analysis of how you spend your time, but so far the free version is meeting my needs. is my favorite new discovery. I’m working on an evaluation project that involves conducting interviews with 11 organizations over a period of about five weeks.  With vacations coming up, this task could have involved quite a few emails and phone calls. Instead, with my new friend, I blocked off some available blocks times in July and set the program to schedule up to two a day with at least one hour in between interviews. I sent out an introductory email to the interviewees with a link the scheduler tool, created some follow-up confirmation emails that were automatically sent, and get all the meetings scheduled within just a few days. I am using the paid version for two months only at a fee of $10 per month because it’s not something I need to do all the time. It’s $20 well spent.

The Noun Project is the place to go if you like icons and want to be able to choose from one million of them instead of foraging through the Internet for something you can use.  Icons are a handy embellishment for reports and presentations. Need an icon for a kangaroo?  You’re all set. I pay a yearly fee of $40 which allows me to use the icons royalty free and without attribution. They just announced a new option where you can add money to your account and purchase icons as you need them, which might work if you’re just an occasional icon user.

Canva is my go to program when I want a bit of graphic design without hiring a designer. I use it to create covers and narratives for proposals and reports as well as for short marketing pieces. The free version allows me to do everything I need. Paid versions start at $10/month and provide a greater selection of templates and designs as well as more technical capabilities.

My final favorite productivity tool is everyone’s new favorite tool:  Zoom. Before March, I got everything done with phone calls, emails, and an occasional conference call.  Now I find myself Zooming every day either for work meetings, chats with friends and family members, or virtual exercise classes.  It’s not just a work tool, it’s a life tool. The paid Pro account, at $146/year, is worth it for me because the meetings can last up to 24 hours, whereas the free version limits calls to 40 minutes. With the paid version, you can also record meetings and you get a custom ID that you can use multiple times.

The total cost for my five favorite apps and tools:  $206 per year.  The investment is well worth it.