Who needs to be more productive? I wish I had 3 hands for that question. Let’s talk about 10 genius productivity tools to manage your work-life!
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
Google Apps & Office 365
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. 🙂
My Facebook Group is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.
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Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
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Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
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Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
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Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
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Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
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Vice President, Andy Frain Services
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“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
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Transformational Leadership Coach
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Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
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I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
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Owner, Certified Consulting Services
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I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
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