Which tools can I use to better manage my personal time? Article #3 in a series exploring the big questions that entrepreneurs ask as they’re starting up and growing their businesses.
Managing personal productivity is a challenge on a good day. These days, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be especially challenging. Some days, it can be downright impossible.
Distractions to our business agenda abound, from the reality of our newly adopted workplaces (anybody else out there trying to work alongside their spouse and kids?) to worries about our health and very valid concerns about what we’re doing to address the inequities that have led to police brutality and other increasingly obvious signs of systemic racism.
Thanks to the new forcefully-imposed work-from-home culture, the use of productivity tools has increased. According to one survey, 48 percent of consumers report they are more productive working from home (compared to 29 percent who say they are less productive). Perhaps more importantly, 57 percent of respondents said they would prefer to work from home in the future.
But the reality is, as Dom Nicastro writes in CMSWire, that once we return to the office, as many have already begun to do, usage for many of the flashy productivity tools we’ve grown accustomed to will drop.
How do we maintain the productivity gains?
I believe the only way to truly see productivity gains is by adopting both the tools and the techniques. People who adopt only the tools are much more likely to revert back to old habits the moment that a “new normal” is established and old routines and habits creep back. So for this article, we are going to look at both the tools and the techniques. Let’s start with the techniques.
Personal Productivity Systems
What’s the right productivity system for you? Something that you can adopt now, and hold on to after things return to something resembling normalcy? The good (and the bad) news is that there are a lot of options for you! How do you get started?
You need to do a self-assessment before you begin any productivity enhancing activities. Most self-assessments take the form of “personality tests,” and there are dozens of tests you can take that will give you plenty of acronyms and abbreviations that you can rely on to understand yourself better. But most of these have little applicability to business. I’ve developed a very informal (at this point) business personality assessment that might give you some insights. I call it the eight aspects of your business personality. It’s still in its very early stages, but I hope to get a good sized group of people to take it so I can see how well it works for folks. I’ll update the link here as soon as there’s a few more questions and a proper survey form ready for you.
Very briefly, the personality areas are:
- Am I digital (D) or analog (A)?
- Am I focused (F) or more easily distracted (E)?
- Am I a visual learner (V), an auditory/oral learner (O), or a kinesthetic learner (K)?
- Am I an intuitive (I), rules-driven (R) or model-based (M) problem solver?
- Do I commit something to memory best through interaction (T), memorization/lists (L) or explanation (X)?
- Do I prefer specific, tangible “extrinsic” rewards (W), or am I easily satisfied with “intrinsic” rewards (N)?
- Am I a spontaneous creative (S), or a deliberate/planned creative (P)?
- Am I an analytical/divergent thinker (G) or a synthetic/convergent thinker (Y)?
Click here if you want to learn more about these. Your answer to these will, among many other things, inform the kinds of productivity tools and systems that will work best for you.
Picking the right system for you isn’t easy, but there are great online resources. Our own Allison Frieden outlined three of the simplest approaches in a recent blog post. One of my favorite online resources for finding the right productivity tool is Doist, which has created the “Ultimate Guide to Personal Productivity Methods” and the Productivity Methods Hub. They also have their own productivity assessment, which is worthwhile as well.
I’ve taken their list, and added a few from some other lists.
|The 12 Week Year||Medium||Great for folks who need a sense of urgency|
|The Action Method||Medium||Gives structure to creativity|
|Agile Results||Medium||Very outcome-focused|
|Biological Prime Time||High||Perfect if you love data and self-reflection|
|Bullet Journaling||High||Designed by and for ADHD|
|The Daily Trifecta||Low||Simple day-to-day prioritization|
|Don’t Break the Chain||Low||Both checklists and blocking in one package|
|Eat the Frog||Low||Perfect for procrastinators|
|The Eisenhower Matrix||Medium||Visualize your priorities in an easy grid|
|Getting Things Done||Medium||Good for folks who are easily overwhelmed|
|Kanban||Low||Great for people who struggle with follow-through|
|The Medium Method||Medium||The best of both analog and digital|
|Must, Should, Want||Medium||Great for prioritizing lists|
|The Pomodoro Technique||Low||Another great one for procrastinators|
|The SMART Method||Medium||Turns big ideas into attainable goals|
|Systemist||Medium||A stripped down version of GTD|
|Time Blocking||Medium||Helps minimize your distractions and focus efforts|
|Zen to Done||Medium||Like GTD, but with a focus on habits and tasks|
Online Productivity Tools
Once you have a personal productivity system in place, you can start to think about the tools you can use to get the most out of your system. Here is a collection of tools, gleaned from a number of different lists:
|10to8||📅||E||Scheduling & appointment booking system|
|Any.do||✔ 📅||B||All-in-one mobile project management app|
|Apple Shortcuts||🤖||C||Automate your iOS experience|
|Asana||✔ 🎯||ACE||Popular, inexpensive, relatively easy|
|Basecamp||✔ 🎯||C||Collaborative project management|
|Beeminder||✔||B||Data-driven motivational iOS app|
|Blink||💬 🗞️||D||Collaborative project management|
|Brain.fm||🔎||E||Music focus tool|
|Buffer||👍 🗞️||D||Social media curation & management|
|Calendly||📅||A||Freemium model group calendaring|
|Canva||👍||E||Collaborative digital & print design|
|Celoxis||🎯||E||All-in-one project management & collaboration|
|Evernote||📓 🔖||BCE||Note taking & curation|
|Fleep||💬 📧||E||Team messaging and email|
|Freedom||🔎||B||Distraction-free computing/mobile tool|
|GoToMeeting||🎥||E||Video chat & webinar management|
|Harvest||⌛ 🎯 💰||E||Time tracking, project management, payments|
|Hive||🎯 💰||E||Business & collaboration management|
|Hubstaff||⌛||E||Remote time tracking|
|IFTTT||🤖||BC||Connects all your platforms together|
|Just Say No||🔎||D||Distraction-free computing|
|Missinglettr||👍 🗞️||D||Social media campaign management|
|Monday.com||✔ 🎯||DE||Collaborative project management|
|Noizio||🔎||B||Music/ambient noise focus tool|
|OneNote||📓||CE||Note taking & curation|
|Paymo||⌛ 🎯 💰||E||Time tracking, project management, payments|
|🗞️ 🔖||A||Great curation tool|
|PomoDone||⌛||E||Perfect for Pomodoro system|
|Productive||✔||A||iOS task management|
|ProofHub||🎯 💬||E||Project management & collaboration|
|QuuuPromote||👍||D||Social media campaign management|
|RescueTime||⌛||ABCE||iOS productivity app|
|StayFocusd||🔎||C||URL blocker focus tool|
|Slack||💬 📧||ADE||Team collaboration & chat platform|
|Spark||📧||B||Email management platform|
|Teams||💬||C||Team collaboration & chat platform|
|Time Doctor||⌛||E||Time tracking & accountability tool|
|Toggl||⌛||BE||Time tracking for freelancers & consultants|
|Todoist||🎯||BCD||Freemium project management platform|
|TomatoTimer||⌛||A||Perfect for Pomodoro system|
|Trello||💬 ✔ 🎯||ACE||Great visual task/project management tool|
|Troop Messenger||💬||E||Team messaging|
|Upflow||👍 🗞️||D||Social media curation & management|
|Zapier||🤖||ACD||Connects all your platforms together|
|Zoho Projects||🎯||C||Project management|
💰 Business finance, payment, invoicing, etc.
📧 Email management
🔎 Focus tools
📓 Journaling/Note taking/Curation
🗞️ News/Information filtering & aggregation
🎯 Project management
🔖 Social bookmarking
👍 Social media management
✔ Task management
⌛ Time management
🎥 Video chat & webinar management
Do you have any tools to add? Share them in the comments below.