4 Productivity Tools That Will Save You From You

Posted by   Annette on    August 6, 2013


Stop trusting your brain. It loses things. All the time.

You don't need a huge pile of productivity apps or a clunky-ass day planner. You need a core set of tools that you can count on to retain the details -- especially the distracting details that you throw in front of you to trip yourself up. (You know you do that. Urrybody does.)

Here's your arsenal:


#1. The Week-In-View

It's all about the Week-In-View, really. I can not live without this document, which I've developed over the course of several years and I lovingly refer to as "the WIV" (pronounced: wivvvvvv). Here's why I find it so vital:

  • It's designed to show you exactly what you need to do each day to stay on track. This has the added benefit of letting you stop working when you've done what you need to do that day. When you have a WIV, you've planned and spread the tasks out over a set period of time, you know that every necessary thing is in queue to be done and you don't have to spin your wheels to catch up.
  • The WIV tells you exactly what you're waiting for in order to move forward, so you don't have to keep "reminder emails" festering in your inbox until you forget why they're there.
  • The WIV reminds you of your clients and prospects so you can follow up with each of them in a timely manner. (Yes, you will get to the point where you have to see a list of your clients to remember them all.)
  • The WIV reminds you of things you have to do on a regular, permanent basis so you don't forget to do them.
  • The WIV reminds you of non-client projects so you can move steadily forward on them.
  • The WIV reminds you of what your vendors are supposed to be doing for you and when their deadlines are.
  • The WIV reminds you of next-week (and next-whenever/TBD) projects and followups.
  • An on-sheet calendar shows you what the month looks like (so you can be scared, because holy shit you have to go to Kuala Lumpur in two weeks). Just switch out the image links when the month changes.

The only rule: you have to update it every day. If you let it get away from you for three days in a row, you're hooped.

Here's my template. Save a copy to your own drive and customize away.

#2: Evernote Free

"Regular" Evernote, is awesome, but it costs. Free Evernote is, well, free -- and it's a super-agile repository for the little tidbits you need to collect along the wending path of your daily life.

Here's how it works:

  1. Download the app and the Chrome extension.
  2. As you're going about your day-to-day and notice things, use the app and the "web clipper" extension to snap photos and grab images of things that catch your eye.
  3. Organize the stuff weekly, entering to-dos on the WIV where necessary.

Evernote turbocharges your ideation process, because suddenly nothing in the world can escape your augmented, productivity-connected metamemory. I use it to organize everything from menus to movies I want to watch to yoga asanas I'm working towards -- and the to-do list functionality to calm myself down when I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. 


#3: Google Suite

You already use Gmail, natch -- and maybe some other stuff in the Suite -- but it behooves every digital nomad to be a Google power user. Much more reliable than the proprietary Mac apps and cloud-friendly as can be, Google's productivity tools win in every category, especially for mobile workers.

My LIP-specific tips: 

  • Install Offline for everything (Gmail, Calendar and Drive). I can't emphasize this enough. Offline means that you can get meaningful work done on intercontinental flights, at cafés with shoddy Wi-Fi, on park benches...it pretty much opens up the world to the act of getting things done.
  • Enable the World Clock and Tasks labs for your Google Calendar interface (top right corner: settings > labs).
  • Learn about and use canned responses in Gmail. You won't believe the time it'll save you.

#4: Instapaper

What if the time you spend idle and internetless could suddenly turn into the time you use to catch up on the hundreds of articles you've been meaning to read?
  1. Download the Instapaper app on your phone (iPhone, Android or Kindle).
  2. Download the Chrome extension, as well.
  3. Any time you run across an article you want to read but can't at the moment, clip it with the Chrome extension. A beautifully simplified version will magically appear in your phone and browser, readable while you're entirely offline.
Instapaper is how I read almost everything longform these days -- and how I've stopped interrupting my workday to read material I don't want to miss.