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Time management and productivity go hand in hand.
To manage your time, though, you’re going to need to utilize a set of tools.
These tools don’t necessarily need to be the latest, whiz-bang, sophisticated, THICC 3D mobile apps. Personally, I find simple is better.
What matters is that you experiment, pick the tools that make sense to you, and then stick with your processes. Constantly reinventing the wheel will tend to have the opposite effect of killing your productivity.
For some inspiration, here are the four productivity tools I rely on.
1. Yellow Legal Pad
I use a yellow legal pad to organize my to-do list.
I’ll usually start by writing down everything I know I need to do for the week, and then make note of which items to prioritize.
(I don’t mean to glance over it, but prioritizing is critical for a successful week – just so you know.)
Having gone about this process in a variety of ways, I usually find it best to make a new to-do list weekly.
After a while, it gets altogether too easy to miss unchecked items on your list, because they are surrounded by items that have been checked or crossed off. Best recycle your old list and make a new one weekly.
2. Desktop Calendar Pad
I started using a desktop calendar pad several years ago, and it so much a part of my ecosystem now that I feel naked without it.
The main way I use the calendar pad is to add upcoming podcast interviews, meetings, and events, whether they are business related, social, personal, or otherwise. I find it much easier to get a mile high overview of the month (or coming months) using the desktop calendar pad versus a digital calendar.
On my calendar pad, there is a “notes” section on the righthand side, and I use this to track income sources. And that’s how I’ve done it for years now.
I will also consciously black out the dates where I know I will be on break or vacation.
Best to plan your breaks well in advance so they become non-negotiables. We can all be guilted into working more, so schedule your off days and commit to them no matter what.
I’ve created my LifeSheet using Google Sheets, so it lives inside Google Drive.
I make it a point to create a new LifeSheet annually, since a lot of things can change in a year, and my LifeSheet can start to look like a complete mess after accumulating a year’s worth of data.
I have tabs for a variety of things, but the main ones I keep going back to are “Projects,” “Post Ideas,” and “Medium Publications.”
Projects is where I can get a bird’s eye view of everything I’m working on right now and mark projects complete once they’re finished.
Post Ideas is critical since I publish daily. This is where all my article ideas, as well as the ideas others have share with me, are stored.
Medium Publications is relatively self-explanatory. I use this register to match up my stories with the right publications.
Suffice it to say, these tabs (and others) save me a lot of time as I’m going about my daily tasks.
You can use your LifeSheet as a register for whatever matters to you – affiliate relationships, travel, book recommendations, and more.
4. iPad & Apple Pencil
The iPad and Apple Pencil have not been in my ecosystem for long. I literally bought them before leaving Calgary in fall 2019.
But I now use these tools weekly if not daily, to journal, to log ideas, and to track my #StrategySunday minutes.
I don’t use any fancy apps. I just use Notes and handwrite all my entries using the Apple Pencil.
I also do a lot of reading on my iPad, though. The Kindle app is great.
I’ve used a variety of other tools through the years, even to see if going fully digital would make more sense. Nothing stuck. My current system has become habit, and it works.
The only honorary mention here would be Google Calendar, which is perfect for time blocking (Apple’s Calendar app works just as well). But I’m not a rigorous time blocker, and the habit has never stuck with me long-term. Which is fine.
Again, the key would be to find what works for you and to keep doing it. After a point, you probably won’t need anymore productivity tools. But to get there, you’ve got to experiment and work out your processes.
For more inspiration, be sure to sign up for my email list.