I have always tried to be a somewhat productive human. I may not have always succeeded, but at least I tried. It wasn’t until I got to my mid-20s, though, that I really started to try to take full advantage of productivity tools that could help me to stay organized and get things done. In a previous blog I talked about procrastinating responsibly. These tools certainly go hand-in-hand with that blog post, so I encourage you to check it out after reading this one. Without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite productivity tools.
1. A good project/task manager.
I would never be able to keep track of my day without a solid task manager. My manager of choice is an iPhone app called Things by Culture Code. If you are into the more old-school task managers/day-planners, I used a Planner Pad as a daily driver for over 7 years. Task managers are useful because you can organize all the things you need to do that day into one place that’s easy to read and understand.
Do some research on project/task managers that might suit you and then acquire one, whether it be an app for your phone, a physical day planner, or something cloud-based on your computer.
2. Something to write stuff down.
I’m an uber nerd and carry small moleskin notebooks and pens with me wherever I go. This provides me with a way to capture my thoughts and things that I take in during the course of normal life. Having something ubiquitous to capture those thoughts makes it easier to process those thoughts and ideas later.
There are plenty of good digital note taking apps, like your iPhone’s Notes app or Google’s Keep app for Androids. Microsoft’s OneNote program is also excellent. Getting in the habit of writing things down will really help your productivity.
3. Headphones. Seriously.
As a medical transcriptionist, headphones are a crucial staple to completing your work. You have to listen to the sound files with them. But headphones are also productivity tools in terms of getting a lot of things done in life. When I’m working on a blog post, answering student emails, or doing a creative project, I’ll often have headphones in and a bit of enjoyable music running on them in the background. You don’t want your music to be too interesting or invoke you to dance around your office, but you want something that inspires you to get your projects done. I use the same thing when getting chores done around the house. Headphones keep me focused on the project at hand instead of getting distracted by all the other things around me.
Another useful thing about headphones is people are less likely to interrupt you when you are wearing them, so even if you don’t have music serenading you, they can keep the interruptions to a minimum.
4. A calendar.
A calendar is really important to being productive because you need to know when your projects are due, right? Right. Planning out your week at the beginning of each week can really help you to be more productive. There are lots of great calendar tools available. The number of physical calendars and digital calendar apps is overwhelming. Just try doing some Google searches once you figure out whether you want to use a paper calendar or a digital one, and then start using it.
5. Boundaries and knowing when to say “no.”
This last tool is one that not everyone thinks about when thinking about productivity tools. Boundaries are like tiny moats around your castle, protecting you from being sucked dry at the end of the day of both your time and energy. Boundaries also help to define clear expectations for those around you. With boundaries, your coworkers, family, friends, etc. know when it’s okay to interrupt your flow and when to leave you alone.
Going along with that, knowing when to say “no” can mean the difference between completing a project and never finishing anything. I have a friend who is exceedingly agreeable and always says yes when asked to help out. He is the handiest go-to guy ever and we all love him for it. The only problem with that is it takes him forever to get anything done because he always has 10 projects he’s working on. His mind is often split up among those things and I know it takes a toll on him at the end of the day. Saying no to things from time to time when you are overwhelmed can really help to make sure you get things done efficiently and are able to take on more things in the future. Do a triage on the request. If it’s something that is important to complete before anything else, say yes and read just your stuff so that you get it done before focusing on something else. If it isn’t, let the person know that you can’t do it right now but suggest an alternative that works for you. Helping others on your terms is crucial to being productive.
Do you have some favorite productivity tools? Leave them in the comments below!