3 Productivity Tools I Couldn’t Live Without

November 3, 2015

I'm a self confessed productivity monster. ALWAYS trying to be “better” and constantly “optimising” my workflow.

Being one of those people who like new things (argh, shiny shiny!), it's really hard to stay consistent with my productivity and scheduling, but I value the impact it has on my businesses so much that I put extra effort into being consistent.

And so, I maintain a process and build habits that complement and enhance those that I have already created to keep productivity to a maximum.

When I find myself slipping; dropping back into bad habits, I reassess, regroup and identify the weak points – plugging them by creating new habits to combat them.

It never, ever stops. And I hope that actually, it never does.

Often, when I Periscope about this or talk about it at a conference, I talk mentality; mindsets; processes and theory.

Yet often what people also want to know is: what actual tools do I use to help?

So, here're my top 3 tools for staying on top of productivity:

1. Trello

What is it? At it's core, Trello is a card-based list making tool that comes with extra functionality to allow you to manage any type of project effectively.

How do I use it? Wow. This could be a long one!

I use Trello for so many different things. By creating Trello Boards for each and every project, whether that's a new project at HACKSAW™, a new Podcast Websites roll out or getting my garden landscaped at home, I quickly and easily stay on top of each and every project I'm working on.

Often, I find my time being spent ‘steering' projects as opposed to working on the nuts and bolts myself.

Trello allows me to spend the minimum amount of time in managing these projects, by giving me a high level overview of each project at a glance; by allowing team members to work through the details of each task within a project and “loop me in” (urgh!) to anything that is pertinent.

It's amazing for removing the likelihood of micro managing everything to the nth degree, whilst also making for shorter, more productive and impactful team meetings – we simply work through the Trello boards, reporting by exception: where there's an issue, it is dealt with. If something isn't mentioned, then hey, it's not an issue.

2. Boomerang for Gmail

What is it? A plugin for Gmail that allows you to “throw” emails out of your inbox, only for them to return like a boomerang after a specified amount of time, with the added benefit of also being able to schedule new messages / replies to be sent to recipients at a certain time in the future.

How do I use it? Boomerang is my email lifeline. It completely ensures that the limited time I allocate to emailing is spent on the right emails, and I actually use it in two ways.

The first way is to clear down that overwhelming clutter that can crowd us and force us into spending too much time in our inboxes.

When I fire up my inbox, I simply “throw” out any emails that aren't important right now, asking them to return to my inbox “later today”, or “tomorrow at 7am” for example.

The real benefit here is that you can close your inbox having dealt with those emails that you know are important right now and never feel that you're going to miss one of the other emails.

This removes that burdening fear of accessing your inbox and being faced with a ton of “to do” items; emails that you feel compelled to reply to just because they're sat there looking at you.

The second way that I use Boomerang is to avoid long email conversations.

When I check my emails at 7:30am, I often schedule all of my replies to leave the outbox mid-afternoon.

This avoids that “always available” idea that can creep into your recipients minds, the very thing that often causes you to get drawn into long, low impact email conversations.

By using this method, you can still clear your inbox down of emails that need a reply and rest safe in the knowledge that you've set these replies to send, whilst the follow up response that you receive won't need your attention until, perhaps, the next day.

3. Slack

What is it? A communication tool for teams.

How do I use it? I try to stay out of my email inbox during the day. If I dip in throughout the day, I just end up replying to emails that don't need my attention right now in order to fulfil my compulsion to “clear my inbox” and feed my desire to feel “busy”.

This is dangerous when it comes to productivity.

Although, that does mean that emails from team mates which are pertinent to projects get missed – emails that often need attention quickly; a question here, an idea there.

Slack removes that issue completely.

I use it to create project specific teams, with each team having differing channels of communication within them.

I can then quickly dip in and out to chat with team members about specific things, even sometimes letting notifications run and remind me that someone needs my attention.

This means I can deal with the questions and queries that pop up “on the fly”; questions that if left unanswered, may jeopardise a deadline.

I can also quickly run through resolution plans, pre-empt issues and work on files with my team without breaking my flow of concentration by having a “quick meeting”.

And, just like Trello, Slack has a fantastic mobile app that allows me to remain privy to the progress of projects without being tied to my desk, “just in case we need to chat through anything”.

These three tools run my business life in terms of productivity.

Are you using them?

Don't forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel.

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of Captivate.fm, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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