Be productive! B-E Productive! B-E-P-R-O-D…okay, I’ll stop.
The call to “be productive” sometimes feels like an elusive, hot-button, or even triggering action statement that we all want to grab hold of with our goals and tasks that seem just out of reach.
How does one be productive with work tasks when I just want to be on the beach?? Not sure I’ll ever get the answer to that one, but I definitely want to waste less time being unproductive in order to get to said beach.
I’m always on the lookout for something that makes my life easier, better, and more efficient. If you were to drop “top productivity tools” in a Google search, you would be inundated with ad after ad with the new app that is meant to make your life easier.
I can’t speak to the multitude of apps and websites that promise to keep your life together and not daydreaming about the beach, but I wanted to share my top productivity tools that have proven to make my life easier.
Productivity Tools Favs
Here are my favorite productivity tools that have helped me manage my communication, project management, file management, notes, content, goals, and much more:
- JIRA Board
- Google Apps
- Office 365
- Envato Elements
Slack is a communication tool that goes above and beyond a simple chat feature. I’ve used Slack in several workspaces before and it is so handy when communicating with a team or overall organization.
You can create groups or “channels,” subgroups, direct messages to one or more people, or even make calls to those connected to the workspace!
What I love most about Slack as a productivity tool is that you can quickly share files for download that are often too big to share over email. Large PowerPoint files, videos, pictures, documents, anything that you need to send quickly can be shared quickly through a Slack conversation.
There’s a phone app, which makes connecting easier even when we’re away from the computer. You can even make voice or video calls through Slack that connects to the users’ computer or phone!
And what makes Slack FUN is that you can send emojis and gif keyboards to any conversation.
In addition to Slack, I’ve used Zoom quite a bit for communicating via video conference or conference call.
It’s free and easy to install and use, and it also has a plug-in to use with Outlook to add a quick Zoom link for attendees to a virtual meeting.
In one quick meeting invite, attendees can add it to their Outlook calendar and have the link to automatically start the Zoom meeting. Attendees can share their screens for presentations or collaboration and drop-in documents to the Chatbox.
You can also record your own presentation with audio and download it to use again in the future! The quality is okay (not outstanding), but so worth it for something that is free.
If that’s not enough to sell you on Zoom, you can also set the video settings to touch up your appearance. Now, this is no Facetune, but it is a helpful little boost to your ego when you’re having a meeting in your pajamas.
I love crossing things off a list or moving things to a DONE pile. It’s so satisfying! I still do this, but I now use project management boards to track my projects and tasks.
Disclaimer: I still use a hefty amount of written lists and a whiteboard for my daily tasks. Still analog at heart.
Both of these productivity tools are great for tracking projects! JIRA is sort of like the fancy version of Trello. Both have “boards” to record projects and tasks. Both are able to set due dates for each task, but JIRA has a higher degree of functionality when it comes to pulling reports, tracking progress for teams, or submitting projects between teams.
I used JIRA at a previous organization to manage the projects of my Training and Development team and loved the ability to pull productivity reports for our Agile sprint cycles, so it can work really well for that purpose and the monthly fee is small.
Trello is the free version of all that. Little less fancy, but very user-friendly. You can share task cards between team members, upload documents, assign task cards to team members, and much more.
There’s also a handy mobile app that can help keep everyone connected.
File & Team Management
When keeping track of individual or team files, I use Google apps and Office 365. Google Drive keeps everything in one place and easily shared, while Office 365 keeps all your favorite Microsoft programs at your fingertips.
With the onset of Office 365, Microsoft programs are so much more user-friendly and updated so much more frequently. PowerPoint, in particular, has come a long way! If you missed my post about the new and powerful PowerPoint features, check it out here.
Also, these old enemies have actually started to translate files back and forth much more seamlessly. PowerPoint files can be converted to Google Slides, Google Docs can be converted to Word, Sheets to Excel, and the list goes on.
With all of these conversions, there used to be some weird quirks. But now, compatibility seems to be what everyone is embracing. As a user and designer, I’ve now embraced fewer headaches as a result.
TopTracker and Toggl
For freelancers and consultants like me, I have to be pretty meticulous when it comes to how much time I spend doing certain tasks. I used to use a really fancy time log in Excel to help me log my time, but sometimes I would forget to enter the start or end time and would have to guess about when I started and stopped working.
Then, I discovered TopTracker and Toggl.
What I love about TopTracker is that it is free. Another option for tracking your time is Toggl, which has a free 30-day trial and a low monthly fee. Both tools allow you to not only set a clock for when you start and stop working, but go a step beyond clocking in and out with assigning it to projects or clients and pull reports that you can use for billable hours!
You can add team members to help anyone gauge how long it takes to complete tasks and projects, or be able to give a better timetable for your own future projects.
With TopTracker and Toggl, I can start the clock when I start working and assign the time to a specific client and project. With TopTracker, the timer is visible in a pop-up and with Toggl, it is visible on my toolbar. Visibility into how I spend my time is so helpful in managing my time and tracking projects (currently at 2:04:28 for this post).
My preferred tool is TopTracker because it is free. Using this tool, I’ve been able to better manage my time and estimate client projects because I have a living diary of how long every activity takes me to complete.
For example, I kept trying to complete this one task in a 2-hour window on Sunday evenings. It always seemed to go over that and I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t focus and just get stuff done.
Once I started using TopTracker, I realized I was squeezing a 4-hour task into a 2-hour window. I had to change my time expectations to be more productive. Seems simple, but it was really helpful for me to see the data on the screen.
If you’re working with a team, either of these tools would be excellent options. They both allow you to pull reports, track contractor time, and evaluate productivity.
Toggl is free for the first 30 days and TopTracker is free all the time. Check them out and let me know what you think.
Evernote is a cool Chrome extension and app that can be used for note-taking, bookmarking web pages, and team collaboration.
When researching, I use the web clipper all the time. If I come across something cool or something I want to come back to, I just click the little green elephant and it automatically pulls the page for me to attack later.
This is sort of like Pinterest, but with anything on the web.
I can also find things on my phone and clip them to my Evernote account to pull up on my computer later.
For a monthly fee, you can have Evernote Business where you can add teams to collaborate and take notes together or have a project management tool. I’ve never used the Business feature, but it works like Trello or JIRA with cards and boards.
Graphics & Content
The last two genius productivity tools I want to share are the tools I use to source great graphics and build quick and easy content. One is Canva, which is a cloud-based authoring platform with all sorts of templates and graphics.
Canva is super user-friendly. If you’re dipping your toe in creating graphics, posts, documents, etc., Canva is a great place to start. There are pre-made examples for everything you want to make. Canva recently acquired Pexels, which means we have access to even more great images for our graphics!
If the Adobe suite seems too big to tackle, Canva is a great place to build your graphics. It can be totally free, but there are graphics and templates that are available for a low cost.
Canva also has a pro version called Canva for Work, where you get access to all their graphics library and can add team members for collaboration.
Now, the newest cool thing I’ve come across is Envato Elements, which is a GIANT library of presentations, icons, audio, video, stock photos, fonts, and a whole lot more!
If you purchase the annual membership, you can get the subscription for as low as $16.50 per month. There a THOUSANDS of items to grab with no limits when it comes to the amount you need. I use this tool A LOT. So worth it! And the items are very high quality.
All these tools are excellent and very easy to use. They’ve all helped me be more productive, use my time wisely, and track all my projects. If you are looking for some FREE instructional design tools, check these out.
Now that I’ve pushed this task to DONE, I’ll be at the beach. 🙂