The Personal Productivity StackScape™

Wijnand Meijerproductivity0 Comments

“Technology is a terrible master, but a wonderful servant.”

Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy got it right in his classic time management book “Eat that frog!” We all want technology to help us get things done faster and better, but way too often, it’s a time-consuming distraction.

How time-consuming? Let’s look at some stats:

That’s why you’ll find so many productivity tools aimed at increasing your focus, while reducing the most common productivity killers: emails, meetings and the time spent looking for information.

But before we dive into all those great time-saving tools, it’s important to realize that they will do you no good without the right mindset, the right priorities and an effective way of working.

To get that mindset (and a lot of practical tips as well), I’ve found these resources most useful, interesting and entertaining:

Books:

Articles:

Videos:

Two entertaining and painfully recognizable TED talks (15 minutes each):

  • Why work doesn’t happen at work by Jason Fried. According to the co-founder of 37signals there are two main reasons why work doesn’t happen at work: meetings & managers (see a trend here?). It’s especially fun to forward this video to any meeting-crazed manager.
  • Inside the mind of a master procrastinator by Tim Urban this is a must-watch that makes you recognize the 3 creatures in your brain involved with procrastination: the rational decision-maker, the instant gratification monkey and the panic monster.
    And after watching it, read Tim’s psychological analysis and advice in How to Beat Procrastination. In this post, he introduces new useful and powerful metaphors, such as the critical entrance, the dark woods, the mixed feelings park and the happy playground.

 

Once you have the right mindset, priorities and way of working, the tools in today’s StackScape™ can bring your productivity to the next level. Please note that the tools in this post are mostly about personal productivity.

If you’re looking for how your team or company can be more productive, stay tuned for the next StackScape™, which will be all about collaboration tools, including messaging, project management, process management and knowledge management tools.

As you can see from the overview above (click here for a pdf download with clickable logos), I’ve categorized today’s technology as follows:

Focus

If there’s one common thread concerning productivity, it’s how our lack of focused attention is killing our productivity. We interrupt ourselves by continuously checking our phone, email and the 20 other open browser tabs. Others interrupt us with phone calls, questions, gossip, messages, emails and meetings.

So the first thing we need to do is remove all possible distractions and interruptions. To quote Brian Tracy once again, the goal here is to  “concentrate single-mindedly on one thing, the most important thing and stay at it until it is 100% complete.

That may sound daunting, but if you define that ‘one thing’ as something you can finish in 30, 60 or 90 minutes, then it’s a matter of staying fully concentrated for that amount of time before taking a break or moving on to something else.

The tools and apps below will help you focus by letting you set timers to fully focus and by removing the most common digital distractions.

Free:

Freemium:

Paid:

Email add-ons

As you’ve seen in the stats above, reducing the time you spend in your email is something we should all strive for. The tools below will help you do just that.

Free:

  • Emails 2 RSS: you’d rather receive newsletters in your RSS reader rather than in your inbox? So do I! This great service makes it happen.

Freemium:

  • Boomerang for Gmail and Boomerang for Outlook. One of the best email add-ons out there, it even includes ‘Respondable’: an assistant that uses AI to help you write better emails.
  • Grammarly. A browser plug-in that helps you improve your writing. But as you probably write your emails in your browser, it also improves your emails.

Paid:

  • SaneBox. Reach inbox zero with the smart filtering, reminder and snooze options from SaneBox.

Calendar add-ons

Scheduling meetings or events with a group of people can quickly became a time-consuming chore that takes longer than the meeting itself. The tools below will assist you to make it much faster.

Free:

Freemium:

Paid:

Note Taking

Of course, you could still use pen and paper. And if you do, be sure to check out the Bullet Journal (BuJo) system if your hip friends haven’t told you about it already. But if you’re more interested in a digital notebook that never gets lost, these are your main options:

Free:

Freemium:

Paid:

Task Management

Or ‘to do lists on steroids’. You can use these just for yourself, or together with your team to gain visibility on who’s doing what. You’ll find more on the latter in the next StackScape™.

Free:

Freemium:

Paid:

RSS Readers

The best way to keep up with all those interesting blogs you want to follow is by having them neatly organized in your RSS reader. And if you have an iPhone, iPad or a Mac, I’d recommend the paid Reeder app to read your feeds. But you’ll need to subscribe to them first by using one of the services below.

Free:

Freemium:

Paid:

Read-it-later

How often do you stumble on an interesting article or video that you’d like to read or watch later? If this happens to you regularly, you’ll want to consider one of the 2 tools below to easily save stuff for later.

Free:

Freemium:

Screen capturing and recording

If you want to share what’s on your screen with customers and colleagues, the tools below can help you out.

Free:

Freemium:

Paid:

I hope you’ll get much more done in less time with your selection of the resources and tools above. If you feel there’s a category or tool missing, let me know in the comments below!

And as mentioned: stay tuned for the next StackScape™ about collaboration. It will contain over 70 solutions that your team can use to improve collaboration and workflow.

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