Do you feel like you need more hours in your day? Productivity is a skill that most people have to practice. You need to work on your efficiency consistently to make it a habit that fuels your success.
Even productivity experts can use a little help along the way, though. That’s where productivity tools come in. They can help you manage a business, keep track of your time, organize your notes, manage your emails, wipe out distractions, stay on top of your health and more.
Below are the top productivity tools that you can start using today to support your efficiency and optimize your path to success.
In this age of technology, you might be surprised that we’re including non-digital options for productivity tools. Going paperless is tempting because there is so much productivity software out there. However, good old pen and paper can still help you be more productive. There’s a reason that Apple calls its stylus a “Pencil,” and Microsoft calls theirs a “Pen.”
Here are some tools that you can use even when you’ve lost your charger, the electricity goes out or you don’t have access to Wi-Fi.
While there are several types of notebook productivity systems, one that has gained a great deal of popularity recently is the bullet journal. This tool has been referred to as “the analog method for the digital age.”
Basically, a bullet journal is a paper notebook in which you record everything that you need to do or remember. But it’s not just a novel of a to-do list; you categorize it using different symbols, colors or handwriting styles.
There are thousands of people who share how they use this method on social media. The best part is that you can adapt it to your own needs. There is a companion app if you can’t shake the idea of going completely non-digital.
How does a bullet journal make you more productive?
- It helps you practice setting productive habits.
- It has more than one function; it can be used as a vision board, time tracker, diary or goal-setting tool.
- See your tasks in a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly format.
- The transition from brainstorming ideas to carving out action steps and reflecting on what you’ve accomplished using one tool.
- It keeps you focused on your visions, ideas, tasks and goals if you find it fun to use.
- Following its rapid-logging system helps you take notes faster.
- It helps you develop a habit of planning for the future and reviewing what you’ve accomplished every day.
If learning how to create and manage a bullet journal seems like a waste of time, consider buying a fat notebook with no dividers. Keep the first two pages or so blank to use as a table of contents. As you use the notebook, number the pages. Then, add the categories to the table of contents that you’ll create in the front.
This is similar to the way that a bullet journal is set up, but you don’t have to worry about color-coding, creating layouts or thinking too much about different categories. It allows you to get started immediately and keeping track of the information as you go.
How does a traditional notebook make you more productive?
- All of the notes that you write, from your goal-setting practices to to-do lists and taking notes in class, are stored in one place.
- Spend less time looking for and filing your notes.
- Numbering the pages and creating a table of contents makes finding information quickly.
Even though Post-It Notes were invented in 1977, they’re still useful productivity tools. You can use them in a number of ways.
For example, if you’re brainstorming your yearly goals and breaking them down into action steps, write those individual tasks on sticky notes. Then, you can move them to your paper calendar or planner as necessary. If a task is a priority, put a sticky note where you’re bound to see it, such as on your bathroom mirror or steering wheel.
You may consider using the 1-3-5 rule. When you’re coming up with your to-do list, plan to achieve one large task, three medium-sized tasks, and five simple or small tasks. Use different sizes of sticky notes to organize these tasks.
How do sticky notes make you more productive?
- They’re small enough to keep with you to take notes.
- You can use them to color code and organize your life.
- They let you be flexible.
- You can toss them when you’re done, keeping your to-do list fresh and preventing you from getting overwhelmed.
Many people still rely on paper planners to keep track of their schedules. There are so many different types that you need to find the one that works for you.
The Productivity Planner lets you organize your to-dos based on their priority and duration. Doing this forces you to determine what’s most important and have a handle on how long it will take you. If you’re more of a dreamer and visionary, you might prefer the Passion Planner, which links your goals and to-dos with your desires and purpose.
There are many printable planners and Excel templates that you can use to plan and track your time. You can also purchase a dedicated planner for this purpose.
Some people choose to compartmentalize certain tasks in a planner. For example, appointments that require a reminder can be put in an online calendar that will notify you the day before. Other tasks, such as your daily to-do list or personal items that don’t have a set time, can be placed in your calendar.
If you choose to go this route, ask yourself what you want to use the planner for before you buy one.
How does a paper planner make you more productive?
- It’s easy to set up.
- You are more likely to remember what you write than what you enter into a digital format.
- You can tuck other papers or sticky notes in it.
- It multi-tasks as a memory keeper.
To-Do List Tools
Do you keep a to-do list? Is it on one piece of paper, a series of sticky notes, a smartphone or a digital app? Is it on the back of random receipts or in a treasured bullet journal?
Believe it or not, several to-do list systems let you strategize a little better and organize your daily tasks, making you more productive. These systems aren’t exactly apps or software. Instead, they’re methods of keeping track of your to-dos so that you actually accomplish them.
Many of these are similar to the bullet journal, but they’re a little more streamlined.
Strikethru is a to-do list system that was developed by Chris Kyle. It consists of four sections:
- The live list – Where you note the tasks that you need to do today
- The dump – Where you dump the to-dos that you don’t want to forget but don’t necessarily have a deadline and may not be urgent
- The vault – Where you keep categorized to-do lists for various projects
- The calendar – Where you plan when you’ll accomplish your to-dos
How does Strikethru make you more productive?
- It forces you to prioritize and set deadlines.
- It gives you a chance to brain-dump the projects and tasks that are clogging up your mind.
- It allows you to find balance by creating to-do lists for different areas of your life.
A Wacky To-Do List System
Neville Medhora came up with this wacky system for keeping track of his days, and it’s not so zany. In fact, it’s a simple system that you can keep in any notebook or sheet of paper.
At the top of the page, write the date. Below that, on the left side of the page, write what you want to accomplish today. On the right side of the page, write any appointments that you have that day.
Below that, create a column and separate it into one line for every hour that you’re awake. This column is your time tracker. You’ll record what you did after you did it so that you can see if it aligns with your plans and record how long it took you.
At the bottom of the page, write a summary or recap of your day. You’ll do this before you go to bed. It just has to be a sentence or two that may include how you felt, how productive you were, your celebrations for the day and your challenges.
How does the wacky to-do list system make you more productive?
- It forces you to sit down at the end of the day to reflect and plan for the next day.
- It keeps everything in one place.
- It serves as a planner and time-tracker in one.
- You can cover up the whole page with a smaller piece of paper, leaving just one to-do showing, if you feel overwhelmed by everything you have to do.
- You get the psychological benefit of crossing items off the list.
Productivity Tools to Minimize Distractions
If productivity is the effectiveness of your efforts as calculated by the output per input, you need to take quality as well as quantity into account. If you worked in a factory and churned out hundreds of defective products one day, were you really productive?
Distractions affect the time that it takes you to complete a task. They also bring down the quality of the work. Having more time doesn’t matter—if you’re interrupted, your productivity is going to suffer.
If you had some tools to minimize distractions, you could get more done and do a better job.
You can use any timer for this, but some people sell tomato-shaped timers online to go with the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management method designed to boost productivity and minimize distractions. The idea is that you decide on a task that you need to complete, and you work on it in 25-minute chunks of time until it’s complete.
It’s a little more complicated than that. To follow the Pomodoro Technique exactly, follow the steps below:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on the task until the timer goes off.
- Make a check mark on a sheet of paper, and take a 5-minute break.
- Repeat the timed task again, taking breaks and making check marks on the paper.
- When you have four check marks on the paper, take a longer break before returning to the 25-minute tasks.
You can adapt this technique using different time frames. You don’t have to work on the same project for each session, either.
The most important takeaway is to minimize distractions during the timed periods. While the timer is ticking, you’re supposed to work diligently on your task. Save phone calls, bathroom breaks and other disruptions for the moments that you have between work sessions.
How does using a timer make you more productive?
- It helps you focus.
- It trains your brain to block distractions.
- It builds time-management skills.
- It lets you understand how much time a task or project will take.
- You work efficiently in short bursts.
- You are less likely to burn out.
Freewrite Smart Typewriter
Earlier, we discussed the benefits of using paper productivity tools. One advantage of avoiding your computer or mobile device is that you’re less likely to browse social media or click on an advertisement when you’re supposed to be getting down to business.
The Freewrite Smart Typewriter capitalizes on that idea. It’s like a typewriter, but it saves your work on the device and backs up your work to the cloud when it’s connected to the internet.
It’s only useful if you’re a writer, but you can certainly hammer out all of your ideas without being tempted to open a new tab when you’re using this mechanical keyboard that delivers your content to a small eInk display that looks like paper.
How does using a Freewrite Smart Typewriter make you more productive?
- It allows you to write digitally without digital distractions.
- It automatically saves drafts to common cloud storage services.
- It lets you write quickly even when you’re traveling.
- It’s faster than writing by hand.
Website and Application Blockers
If you are working online, you can use these tools to block websites or applications that might otherwise distract you. Some blockers, like RescueTime, don’t let you access distracting websites during the times that you’ve chosen to focus. RescueTime also runs in the background of your operating system, tracking how much time you spend on different websites. This can be a real eye opener if you’re trying to maximize your productivity and wondering where you’re wasting time.
Stayfocusd and Freedom are similar tools that work on different browsers and devices to stop you from accessing websites that impair your focus. With these, you can set a time limit on the websites that you visit. That way, you can stick to your plan to check social media for only 15 minutes a day.
How do website and application blockers make you more productive?
- They limit your access to distracting websites, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.
- Some track your time so that you know where you’re wasting it.
- They help you build a habit of focusing on your work even when you’re on an internet-accessible device.
Business-Management Productivity Tools
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a small business owner, or an employee who works for someone else, becoming more productive is a game-changer. Instead of sweating the small stuff, concentrate on the big picture. Let these productivity tools do the busy work for you.
Slack is a team collaboration tool that streamlines communication and file-sharing. It’s just a messaging platform, but it’s powerful.
As soon as you sign up, you can create teams. Then, you can send messages and files to people on the team with the push of a button without having to remember to CC the appropriate people.
You can have more than one team on one user account. One team can include multiple channels that help you refine your communication.
You can use it on Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android.
How does Slack make you more productive?
- It integrates with other workplace productivity tools, like Trello, Zendesk and Google Drive
- Customizable notifications alert you so that you don’t need to constantly check the app (or even have it open).
- You can upload any type of file easily and share it with the right people.
- Search within messages, files and archives to quickly access your communication threads with certain people.
Do you work in a business that requires people to schedule meetings or appointments with you? You could hire an assistant or receptionist. Or you could save time and money (i.e., increase your productivity) by using a tool like Calendly.
Calendly is ideal for anyone who works in an office and needs to schedule meetings with other team members. It lets each user enter their available times, and if you’re coordinating with other members, you’ll quickly find the time that works for all of you.
But it’s also useful for freelancers, consultants and anyone else who needs to schedule appointments with people. After you set up your available times, blackout dates and other settings, publish the link on your website or send it to your customers.
When your clients click on the link, they’ll be able to set an appointment during your available times.
How does Calendly make you more productive?
- It puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your available time.
- It prevents you from having to get on the phone or send multiple back-and-forth emails to set appointments and meetings.
- You can easily assign meetings that involve other people on your team or in your department.
- It’s easy to integrate into websites or emails without using code.
Whereas Slack is a simple messaging tool that’s great for communicating, ProofHub allows you to manage complex projects whether that involves setting action steps, assigning tasks, editing documents or communicating with your team.
Even though it’s a formidable tool, it’s not complicated. It would be perfect for an independent freelancer or consultant to use. It’s hefty enough to be valuable for a large corporation, although the ideal number of users on each team is probably between 10 and 12.
Even if you don’t need ProofHub for your business, you can use it to plan your life. If you are in the practice of setting goals and breaking them down into smaller chunks, you can insert them into this tool, add deadlines and even track your time.
How does ProofHub make you more productive?
- It coordinates communication between long-distance team members.
- It helps you avoid time-sucking meetings and phone calls.
- It tracks your time, which is a key measure of productivity.
- It helps you manage multiple projects at once.
- It’s speedy, saves items quickly and lets you navigate easily from one section to another.
Personal Growth Productivity Tools
You shouldn’t just focus on productivity in your business. If you’re productive in your personal life, you’ll build solid habits that let you accomplish anything you desire, from learning a new hobby to mastering the art of meditation.
To be productive at work and beyond, you should eat healthfully, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and make time for leisure activities. The following tools can help you achieve those things so that you get the most out of life.
Healthy Eating Tools
There are many apps that you can use to track your calories and make sure that you’re getting the right nutrition. However, they can distract you from other important tasks. Stay off your phone so that you can get more accomplished.
Use the following kitchen gadgets to help you maintain a healthy diet:
- Spiralizer – Transform veggies into curly spirals that can substitute for pasta or just add a fun texture to your recipes.
- Portion-control containers – Ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet with healthy portions by using these perfectly sized storage containers.
- Air fryer – Minimize the amount of oil that you use, and cook foods faster so that you can get a healthy meal on the table in no time.
- Vitamix – Make smoothies with fresh fruits and veggies to pack a punch of nutrition with a powerful blender that includes a tamper that lets you push food into the blades without thawing or chopping it first.
Going to the gym isn’t always the best way to maximize your exercise productivity. In the time that you drive to and from the fitness center, you could have worked out or completed another task. Using the following tools at home can help you get a great workout in less time:
- Resistance bands – They’re portable, don’t take up much space and can be used for all kinds of aerobic and strength-building exercises.
- Sneakers – Just lace them up and head out the door.
- Heart rate monitor – Make sure that you’re working out at an optimal intensity so that you make the most of every workout.
- A great playlist – Listening to music can help your body recover faster. Put on a podcast for an added dose of inspiration and productivity.
According to Tuck, the primary factor that impairs productivity is lack of sleep. But almost 50 percent of Americans aren’t getting good-quality sleep.
You can make your sleep more productive by listening to your body and following cues for going to sleep and waking up. If you’ve pushed yourself out of your natural schedule, it may take some time to get back to it. Go to bed when you feel tired, and stop snoozing your alarm.
You might want to use a sleep tracker to see what’s happening overnight as you experiment with different schedules. Once you’ve decided on a routine that works for you, stick to it on the weekends and the weekdays.
Productivity Tools for Your Hobbies
If you work so hard that you have no idea what to do when you have some free time, you might want to be more productive with your hobbies. If you want to learn something new or get back into a groove with a pastime that you love, set some goals, such as:
- Learning a new song on an instrument that you play
- Mastering a new visual art medium
- Improving your singing skills
- Learning to knit, embroider or crochet
- Learning to hula hoop
- Building something useful for your home
- Getting better at meditating
You can use YouTube to learn just about anything these days. Find the perfect videos to go along with your goals. You can also search for online courses in your area of interest. There’s a tool for every goal that you set. You just have to find it.
Once you do, set some deadlines for accomplishing your goals. If you don’t, you might not place as much importance on your personal growth as you do on your productivity at work. Create an ideal balance in your life by using these productivity tools to improve your efficiency, but make sure that you’re taking time for yourself.
You don’t have to be pushing forward all the time. TV and movie streaming services are also wonderful tools when you need to relax and turn off your mind for a little while.