I don’t believe productivity is dependent on particular tools or apps, but we are fortunate to live in an age when there are many resources available to make our lives and work simpler and more efficient. Today I thought I would share a few of my favorite productivity tools.
Productivity tools I use and recommend for work and home
My most essential tools are my calendar and my task manager. I rely on them daily to stay productive. Many people like Google calendar, but I use Apple Calendar, which I access through an app called BusyCal. I use a separate calendar for personal life and for TPW related items. I share my personal calendar with my husband and he shares his with me.
I am a long time user of the task manager OmniFocus, which I use to keep track of projects and to-dos. I’ve tried some others, including Todoist, Things, and Nozbe. All of them are very good, but I keep coming back to OmniFocus because I’ve used it long enough to have it set up and customized to the way I work.
Aside from those two tools, which are my most used, I also want to talk about the tools I use for work, for my personal and home life, and what I use to be productive for podcasting and TPW.
Tools I use for productivity at work
The tools I use to manage my law practice reflect the fact that I spend about half my time drafting contracts of various types or reviewing contracts written by someone else, while the other half of my time is spent on the phone (or theses days on Zoom calls) with colleagues, opposing counsel, or clients getting our work done.
The tools I use to manage all this is my 27-inch iMac computer, which has lots of storage and a large, high-resolution screen, and is fast. I have a second 27-inch screen to the left of my main screen, which I keep positioned in a vertical orientation so I can look at multiple documents at the same time. This set-up makes it easy to keep everything I need right in front of me.
Another tool I use every day is my iPad Pro (12-inch) and Apple Pencil. I use these two tools to review and mark up documents that have been sent to me by clients or other lawyers. I can easily open the documents on my iPad and when I turn my iPad to the veridical position, it’s almost as big as a piece of paper. When I am finished reviewing, I can email the document back with my comments or share them in Dropbox.
Another tool I cannot function without (whether for work or in my personal life) is TextExpander. This is an app that lets you use “snippets” or abbreviations for a longer piece of text that you use frequently. Anything you type more than once can have an abbreviation that you can insert into all different kinds of documents: Word documents, Google Docs, calendars, and email platforms, whatever you might be using. I use it in emails, for labeling files, and in Word and other types of documents. It’s kind of a silly thing, but often when I’m working on something and need to insert a date, it just escapes me what the date is, so I have snippets for the date in various formats. I just type a couple of characters and it puts the date in, in the format I want. I do the same thing with my various email addresses (my law firm email address is long!), state bar numbers, etc. I also use it for longer formatted text for emails I send frequently, like transmitting drafts of documents, for example. I use TextExpander daily and it saves me hours of time every week.
Another tool I use for work is my scanner. I use it for converting documents to PDFs that I can save or send to others. Working from home, this is a big help; I don’t have to go to the post office to mail things. My specific model is the ScanSnap ix1500, and I especially love it because it’s wireless (connected via our internet network) so I can have it sitting across the room from my computer and scan things that go to my computer without cables running across the room.
I also use Teams regularly for my law practice. This is an app that is part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite of products. I use this to communicate with colleagues I’m working with on various client matters. It’s very convenient for quick check-ins with a colleague or questions about something we’re doing. Some of my clients use Teams for conferences, using its screen-sharing feature to share documents we’re working on together.
I use Zoom a lot as well. I don’t use it so much for client calls, but more for CLE (Continuing Legal Education). As a lawyer, I am required to participate in a certain number of CLE trainings to maintain my license. These trainings used to be in person but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they are now virtual. Zoom has been really helpful in completing these trainings. I have also used Zoom to attend an annual conference for a legal organization I belong to, which would normally meet in person.
The final tools that I use in my office are a duo: an electric kettle and a mug warmer for tea while I work. The mug warmer, which you can see in the bottom left corner of the photo above of my desktop, keeps my tea warm and automatically shuts off when I pick up my mug. Having my tea nearby and hot throughout the day contributes to my productivity.
Tools I use for my personal and home life
I love my Apple Watch and wear it every day. I use it to track my activity and water consumption, set reminders for appointments, and add things to my grocery list when I think of them. I use Apple Reminders on my watch for my grocery list.
Another tool that helps me be productive around the house is my Dyson cordless stick vacuum cleaner. It makes it easy to clean the floors. It’s very lightweight, so I can carry it upstairs easily; there are no cords to fuss with and the attachments let me easily use it to vacuum furniture, high places, etc. Mine is the v10 (I bought it at Target a couple of years ago, but it’s also available on Amazon). The v11 is the latest version.
I also enjoy using my Instant Pot. I can create quick meals and because it’s a pressure cooker, I can cook something in a matter of minutes instead of an hour or more. My model is the 6-quart size which I bought 3 years ago on sale from Amazon but you can get it lots of places and they come in other sizes, depending on your family size. You can also use it to cook rice, which I’ve done, and it turned out great, or make yogurt, which I haven’t tried. I use it almost every week to make some of our favorite meals
Another food-related tool I use is a small iPad mini that I keep in the kitchen. I have the Paprika app installed on this, which stores all my recipes. I also have the app on my phone and computer, so they are all synced with each other. I like being able to prop my iPad on the kitchen counter, with my recipe in front of me, while I cook.
I use Walmart grocery pickup a lot, and consider it a tool which helps my productivity. I am able to put my grocery list together, while they do all the shopping and I just go and pick it up. Doing pickup saves time and money because I am not impulse buying.
Here is another app I like to use, the Deliveries app. I do a lot of shopping online, so I love this app. I can enter the tracking number for anything I’ve ordered and it keeps me updated as to status and expected delivery date.
And finally, the last tool I use is my treadmill (and streaming TV). I don’t actually enjoy working out, but it’s important for my health, my weight, and a great stress reliever. We live in a rural area with no gyms nearby, so even before COVID, it was tough and time-consuming to get to the gym. Having a treadmill at home removes my excuses for not working out. (Walking or jogging outside is nicer, but when it’s 100 degrees or raining, I’m just not that dedicated.) I have a TV in front of it (I formerly parked my iPad Pro on the stand) to watch YouTube videos or a Netflix series to pass the time while I sweat. (Right after I recorded this episode, the treadmill I’d used for nearly 20 years finally conked out, so I just bought a newer version of the same brand; I bought mine at Academy Sports & Outdoors, but it’s also available at a lot of other retailers.)
Podcasting tools I enjoy using
For recording podcast episodes I use the Rodecaster Pro, which is a combination of a sound mixer and a digital recorder. I use a Shure SM7b mic for speaking. I have just a basic set of headphones, nothing special. I use Skype for guests and Dropbox for sharing files with my editor and assistant
I like to use Asana, which is also shared with my assistant, to manage TPW projects. I like it because it’s very visual; you can set up columns for the various stages of the workflow and move the card for each episode from one column to the next as the steps get completed. The card for each episode has a checklist of the steps with the person who’s responsible for each task, and we can attach files, such as the guest’s photo or other photos we use in the show notes, the social media images, etc.
Another communication tool I use is Slack, which I use to communicate back and forth with my assistant, as well as share files, etc.. I have it on my computer and my phone and it’s a quick way for us to message back and forth.
And of course, I use TextExpander for The Productive Woman. I have snippets with fully formatted text and even dropdowns for emails I send frequently, such as scheduling guests, or for responding to frequently asked questions.
The final tools I use for podcasting are from Google. I use Google Docs to outline the episodes, Google Sheets for mastermind tracking goals, wins, etc., and Gmail to aggregate my TPW email accounts so I can see and manage them all in one place.
What do you think?
What are your favorite tools that help you manage your life and be productive in the way you want to? Please share them in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
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Royse City, Texas