When it comes to productivity, having the right toolbox is extremely important. Everybody has different needs and goals, so the tools will vary from one person to the other. But the functions of the tools are usually pretty universal.
Regardless of your project, you will most likely need the same basic functions as 99% of the people:
- Keeping track of events and deadlines
- Taking notes
- Being able to focus on your project(s)
- Being able to communicate
I put together a list of 20 productivity tools I use on a daily basis to get things done. I sorted them in 3 categories: Digital, Multimedia, and Others. Again, each tool has a lot of alternatives. We live in a world where for each simple thing we want to do, we can go to a store (online or physical) and get dozens of options that all do the same thing.
Take note taking for instance. Just google that term, and you will be presented with more options than you can choose from.
At the end of the day, it comes down to getting the job done. So make sure you don’t pick too many tools for the same task, and keep them simple and efficient.
I use Pocket like everyone else to save articles I want to read later. Like with a lot of “save for later” tools, the risk is to end up with a mountain of content that I will never have time to read. That’s part of the reason I don’t read the news, and that’s definitely why I only save articles I feel like can bring me value.
I almost only save content from Medium. My Pocket account is synced with my Kobo e-reader. I read the articles I save at night, on a e-ink screen, with no distractions in the way. I favourite amazing content, and I delete the rest as soon as I’m done reading it.
#2 Apple calendar
I like the Apple Calendar because it is simple to use and works offline, meaning I still get reminders even if I choose to turn off my wifi. I don’t use my phone so much, so I only need my calendar notifications on my computer.
Notion is an amazing tool to organize projects. My favourite thing about it is that everything is accessible by typing. There is no need for a mouse. You simply type the slash character “/”, input what you need, hit enter, and whatever you needed gets inserted in the document. I really recommend trying it out. Here is a non-exhaustive list of things you can embed:
- Kanban boards
- Google docs
I could keep track of my todos with Notion, but I’m a big advocate of the one tool=one use principle. I use Notion for keeping track of and organising my projects. Todoist is to keep track of my progress with those projects. Todoist is the leading tool in its field, and there’s a reason for that. It does one thing really well.
#5 Standard Notes
Standard Notes is a completely encrypted notes app. I use it for private content I want to store in a safe place, like a secret digital journal.
#6 Self Control
SelfControl is a Mac application that blocks access to certain websites. Simply set a period of time to block for, add sites to the blacklist, and click “Start”. Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites, even if you restart your computer or delete the application. I used to use it every single day to force myself to focus. I use it less and less, because I have gotten better at real-life self control.
#7 Webtime Tracker
I use this Chrome add-on to keep track of the time I spend on various websites. I originally installed it to track my Youtube consumption, but I now use it more as an informative tool, since I have gotten better at avoiding distractions. This tool has been a big part of taking back control of my time spent online.
Thunderbird is a simple email application from Mozilla. I use it to manage my different email accounts. It comes with a lot of other options I don’t use, again I’m a big believer of the one tool=one use principle.
Hemingway is the free equivalent of Grammarly. I use it to proofread all my articles before publishing them. It has a really simple interface and is super easy to use.
#10 Alarm Clock Xtreme
I have an old Android phone on my bedside table, which I only use as an alarm clock. I use Alarm Clock Xtreme because of 2 options the app offers:
- Choosing my own soundtrack (a gentle by-the-beach piano vibe)
- The crescendo mode
I really dislike being startled by a screaming alarm first thing in the morning, so this it is perfect for me.
#11 Philips Wakeup Light
Along with Alarm Clock Xtreme, I use a wake-up light that goes from 0% to 100% brightness in 30 minutes. It works wonders to avoid waking up groggy, especially in the winter when there is no sun in the morning. I sometimes wake up before my alarm goes off thanks to the artificial sunrise this light creates.
I use a Kobo e-reader instead of physical books. This way, I save a lot of space in my apartment, and I can access all of my books any time, any where. Technology has its downsides, but an e-reader makes your whole library fit in a carry-on, and that’s pretty neat. I also like that all my notes and highlights rom each book automatically get sorted and organised.
Although I prefer digital books to physical ones, I still like to print some content at home. Especially for final proofreads of my articles, or for taking notes on drafts, I find the physical A4 format more convenient to work with.
#14 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Whether I’m at the office with people talking everywhere, at my apartment with a noisy neighbour, or in a café with constant background chatting, I can get in the focus zone thanks to my noise cancelling headphones. I don’t usually listen to music when I work, but rather white noise and/or nature sounds.
#15 Wired Mouse
I don’t like to use the trackpad on my MacBook, and I really dislike the way the Magic Mouse from Apple feels. I have tried many times using a generic bluetooth mouse from another brand, but it always stops working a few days after I set it up for no apparent reason. For this reason, I have switched to a good old USB-wired mouse. It has never failed me, and it doesn’t even need batteries.
I like to tell myself I can function without coffee, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Just to make sure, I always have at least one cup in the morning, and then maybe 2, 3, or 6 throughout the day.
#17 Blue Light Filter Glasses
Reading on a e-ink device is great to avoid headaches while staring at a screen. But for most of my work I need to stare at a standard computer screen, which often gives me headaches. Blue light filter glasses have solved this problem for me. They reduce the amount of headaches, and I now wear them every time I have to work on a computer.
#18 A Cap
When I go to the café near my apartment to write and work, I like to put on a cap. I find it much easier to get in the focus zone with a black cap on. It’s a mental cue that works for me. If I have my cap on and I start typing on my laptop, I know I’m going to be productive 95% of the time.
#19 An Old Netbook
Back almost 10 years ago, the netbooks entered the market. Those small laptops were cheap, and they sucked for almost everything, except writing. I still use mine to this day, when I want to write and not do anything else. No research, no email, no notifications. I save my documents on an external SD Card. This way, if one day my netbook dies (which I expect to happen every time I turn it on), I won’t have any regrets.
#20 A Notepad
A must-have for everything. I use one A5 notebook that I carry in my backpack, one small notebook I carry in my pocket, and a bigger A4 notebook I keep at home. I use them to journal, jot down ideas, draw, write drafts, remember things… This is an absolute essential.