I’ve recently been updating my business and organizational systems. I’m determined to be more organized than ever this year in order to make the most of my time and to be more productive.
I’ve decided to share with you some of the productivity tools that I’ve been using for a while, but intend to make better use of this year, and to share some new tools that I’ve recently began using, along with a few others that I’ve discovered. All but one of the tools are online software and/or phone apps, and they are some of the most popular productivity tools out there.
I’ve listed them in 3 categories:
- time management and focusing tools
- task or to-do list management tools
- notes and idea management tools
I’ve found the right productivity tools can definitely help you to be more organized and productive, as long as you use them effectively.
Time Management and Focusing Tools
I don’t know about you, but even though I try to have only 1-2 programs open on my computer at a time, before I know it, I find that I have 4-5 or more open, all pulling me away from the task I am attempting to focus on. This can be a real problem when I am writing, because writing, more than any other activity, requires focused attention.
Thus far my solution when I am writing has been to close all programs except for my word processing software, which seems to calm my brain and make my whole environment serene.
I’ve yet to try Rescuetime.com, a tool that runs in the background of your computer. It allows you to track the amount of time you spend both on and offline on specific activities and helps you see what you’ve accomplished each day.
You can also set it up so that it blocks any websites that you don’t want to be able to access for the amount of time that you specify. That’s right. It actually locks you out until the timer runs out.
Rescue Time also allows you to set goals for yourself and sends you reports on your activity. In addition, it includes an option that allows you to track the time you spend offline, such as client sessions, meetings, and other offline activities. Both free and paid versions are available.
GetPocket.com is a focusing tool that helps you maintain your attention by easily saving web pages that you find and want to read, but don’t want to get distracted by when you are working on something else. All you do is click on an icon and it saves a website for you to read later. It’s easy to use, and it’s free.
Focusatwill.com is a unique tool that helps you focus while at your computer. It uses music that is supposedly scientifically designed to engage your brain’s limbic system, helping you zone out distractions while increasing your attention span. I tried it briefly, but quickly decided it wasn’t for me. I like to work in absolute silence and often find music distracting. Many others seem to find it helpful, so if you like listening to music while you work at your computer, it may be worth a try.
Task or To-do List Management Tools
ToDoist.com is an excellent tool for managing tasks and projects and is the task management tool that I am using. All devices sync together so you can access your lists from wherever you are. You can set up numerous projects and tasks for each day, and you can color code your tasks as well. It has a web version, a computer app, as well as apps for both iPhone and Android. It has a good free version, however, the paid version, which is only $29 per year, allows you to send tasks to the app via email, include notes within your tasks, as well as attach a file to any task.
Rememberthemilk.com is another popular free list management tool that has apps for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. It also has a web version. It syncs with many other apps including Gmail, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook and Evernote (Evernote is described below).
Any.do is also a popular task management tool that has an app for iPhone and Android. With the Google Chrome extension (Google it to find it) you can easily sync your tasks from your phone to your computer. Any.do also has a Chrome extension that works with Gmail and a calendar app that allows you to see your tasks right in your calendar. The company is also working on an email program and a note app. When they add these features, I just may switch over and start using it.
If you prefer to use old-fashioned pen and paper to manage your projects and tasks, there is an interesting system described at www.bulletjournal.com. It shows you a technique called “rapid logging”, a coding system that allows you to capture and organize ideas, projects and notes. It looks like it could be useful if you would rather use paper than an app to keep track of your tasks.
Notes and Idea Management Tools
Evernote.com is one of the most robust note-taking systems out there and I absolutely love it! It allows you to set up online notebooks for as many topics as you like and then add notes to each notebook. You can tag your notes with keywords to make them easy to find later, as well as add checklists, attach documents and graphics.
It includes a reminder function and has many of the same features that a word processing editor has. It has a web version, apps for phones as well as a computer app that you can use even when you are offline. All information is synced across all of your devices. Both free and paid versions are available.
I also like the Google Chrome extension for Evernote, called the “EverNote Web Clipper”. The web clipper allows you to easily clip URL’s, pictures, and sections of text, and save them easily into EverNote.
Mind mapping is a great way to work out your ideas or plan a project. If you haven’t heard of a mind map before, it’s a visual picture that’s used to represent words, ideas, or anything else you want to include as a part of your map. While there are many mind mapping tools available, here’s a free tool that has good reviews: www.mind42.com.
If you are not already using some of the above tools, I hope you try some of them and let me know if they help you stay organized and be more productive. The key here is obvious: in order for them to be helpful to you, you have to actually use them –and in a way that works for you.
Please let me know if you’re using any of these tools in the comments section below. I’d love to hear how they’re working for you.
If you want help in being more organized and productive, find out when the the next Marketing Plan Mini Camp begins.