In our interview series we asked a number of people the following:
What do you feel is your most important productivity tool?(1532)
The metaphorical axe – no bit of software or technology would help me if I didn’t know how to constantly remove anything from my life that is getting in the way of living in a balanced and productive manner.
The word “No”.
I am getting really good at establishing boundaries and saying “No”.
“No” is probably THE most difficult thing for anyone, like me, who is interested in everything, loves talking with people, and has no internal time clock. I love generating ideas and options. I truly do not naturally like to say no to any opportunity. But ultimately, the very definition of focus, productivity, discipline, and accomplishment is saying NO to everything that is not what is important right now.
Ariane Benefit from Neat & Simple Living (rss)
The most important productivity “tool” I use is really more of an idea. A long time ago, while working as an intern software engineer, I was told that whenever you have a task to perform more than once, build a tool to automate it. This one statement was ingrained in my mind over 10 years ago and has helped me to this very day. With the demanding lives we lead, anything that can improve efficiency is vital. For instance, in my business, I have to keep the books up to date. Even with powerful software like Quickbooks, there are many manual tasks. I’ve cobbled together a group of software packages, plug-ins, and even use some Excel scripts now. These let me complete monthly accounting tasks in an hour or two when they used to take days. So as I said, it’s not so much about a specific tool, but the mindset of using tools to increase productivity.
John Koontz from West Coast Shaving
Capture tool. A capture tool helps me:
1. clear my mind since I do not need to memorize anything, and
2. ensure that I never lose any idea, appointment, or task.
Mine is just a piece of paper I bring everywhere I go which content will then be copied to my computer.
Donald Latumahina from Life Optimizer (rss)
My three most important productivity tools are:
- The Trash Can
- The Delete Key
- The Word “No”
Trust me, by using these tools you will get far more “done” than anything you could buy.
Patrick Rhone from Patrick Rhone’s Journal (rss)
As low tech as it sounds, my most important productivity tool is a deadline. Whether it is my work, one of my employees or a client — we all seem to be much more efficient with our time when we have a deadline looming.
We use Basecamp (www.basecamphq.com) to create milestones for every project. Each milestone is a mini-deadline. No one wants to let someone else on the team down — so we push to meet or exceed all due dates.
On the flip side, when a project is left open-ended, it seems as though it can be a vortex for wasted time and as a result, lost revenue.
So bring on the deadlines!
Drew McLellan from Drew’s Marketing Minute
Pen and paper. I will never understand why people feel the need to search for all sorts of complicated productivity tools. Keep it simple: if your personal productivity level is currently not worth bragging about then it’s your attitude which needs to changed, the lack of productivity tools is an excuse and nothing more.
Alan Johnson from TheRatingBlog (rss)
My most important productivity tools are a pen and notepad. Anywhere I go, I’m always ready to jot down thoughts, ideas, tasks, reminders, etc.
Another significant tool is to determine your priorities. Then examine your daily activities to determine if whatever consumes your time is moving you toward your goals, priorities, etc., or away from the things you consider to be most valuable.
I also use “Remember the Milk” and “the journal” software daily.
Consistency, few have it, we all need it.
Miguel Wickert- Pineiro from The Pursuit Of Excellence (rss)
My index card. Or more specifically, 1/2 and index card. I don’t go anywhere without it in my back pocket. I have my daily tasks written on it and I write down anything I want to remember throughout the day on it. At the end of the day my Next Action list based on what I finished and wrote down on my index card throughout the day.
It has to be the dual monitors on my Mac at work.
I tend to work in 3 or 4 different programs at once and the dual screens really improve how I quickly I work, allowing me to swap between them easily. I reckon it must save me a minimum of thirty minutes a day.
Once you’ve gone dual screen you’ll never go back!
Katy Whitton from Productivity, Project Management & Motivation Blog (rss)
I keep a calendar. As soon as I see something coming up ahead, I enter it into the calendar, then forget about it. For work, I tend to keep a mental calendar as well.
Anne from Writers Cabal Blog (rss)
One for my appointments and tasks (A5 sized 12 month weekly planner) and one for all my notes (A5 sized plain paper soft cover).
Lodewijk van den Broek from How to be an Original (rss)
My most important productivity tool is the Tickler File. This external memory device allows me to postpone thinking about tasks, events, or projects until I need to think about them.
I make careful notes, and include tags and links to other related resources so that I am able to instantly process or execute the item that is due.
Stephen Smith from Productivity in Context (rss)
Gmail, Google Calendar, and Remember the Milk have been invaluable in keeping my obligations, appointments, and tasks, both personal and professional, in check. Since I spend so much time in front of my computer, consolidating all my reminders, etc., to one or two online locations has helped focus my sometimes wandering attention.
As far as offline work (usually grading), I’ve found that removing temptation is far easier than fighting it, so I usually relocate to a room without a computer. At work, that usually means an empty conference room. Sounds silly, but I get astonishingly more done in an 85-minute block in an empty room with no distractions than I do in front of my computer.
Damian Bariexca from Apace of Change (rss)
I’m writing this from an elliptical machine! At the gym, I read my mailing lists and RSS feeds, respond to “light” emails that I’ve previously shunted to a folder called “Gym,” and take care of other tasks that I’ve added to a document called “Gym to do.” With this approach, not only do I avoid getting distracted by little tasks and emails during the day, but I also notice my workout less, so I can con myself into staying at the gym longer.
Eva Holtz from College Admissions Secrets (rss)
My 48 minute timer…
John Richardson from Success Begins Today (rss)
By far, OS X has become my most important productivity tool. The OS allows for the cleanest workflow of any operating system; and I have used them all over the years.
Features such as:
- Keyboard shortcuts across most applications
- Scripting through Applescript, bash Shell, and Automator
- Service to easily pass data between applicationsmake automation and productivity a snap.
M Nassal from Stress Free Productivity 101 (rss)
My MacBook Pro.
J.D. Meier says
Beautiful collection of insights and I like the range of responses.
My favorite productivity tool is techniques. I seek out the best of the best and find the patterns and practices that create exponential results. Some techniques are literally night and day over others.
The other secret is using time and energy. If you just throw time at a problem, you won’t get the impact. If you throw your power hours at a problem, now you can kick some arse and take names. The key then is putting in enough time (but not too much), using your best energy (for full engagement) and using the best technique (to amplify results.)
Priyanka Dalal says
That is really interesting read! it is amazing how many people attributed their productivity to intangible aspects like ideas, saying ‘no’ , clearing the mind!
Mark Shead says
I agree. I think sometimes we concentrate on in the wrong areas when it comes to our productivity.
Salma Jafri says
my notebook (the manual spiral bind kind)
a sharpened pencil
I just wrote an entire video script by hand and the ideas flowed more naturally than typing staring at a word processor’s screen.
Omar Frias says
Nowadays , the action method and mind maps, i hace both on my macbook pro and sync to mi iPhone .
Guðlaugur Egilsson says
My biggest productivity tool is to optimize for higest personal energy levels before worrying about time management, a la “The Power of Full Engagement”. I found that sustained energy was more of a bottleneck in getting things done, than lack of time. Tickler files, to do lists, etc, have little effect if there isnt enough energy to tend to them…
Ariane Benefit says
Mark, what a great collection of ideas!
I agree with all the comments about energy. The real power of saying no for me is in that it keeps me from wearing myself out by spreading myself too thin. So the word no is an energy management tool for me as well.
I love Patrick’s comment about the trash can and delete key. They both help a lot too. More ways to “just say NO”
I’m going to share this on Facebook!
p.s. Thanks for including me!
There are some great suggestions in this post. Finding the rhythm in productivity is a bit of a maneuver that I think is different for everyone. My personal favorite tool though is a Yearly Planner to manually write down appointments and then of course a Blackberry.