Productivity Tools That We Love

As the years pass it's becoming increasingly obvious to us that our time is the most precious and treasured resource that we have.  We're both getting harsher with how we spend it and we both get very cranky if we waste it.  Actually, right now the thing that may upset us more than anything else is an inefficient use of our own time.

Over the last few weeks, we've had several people ask us how we manage our time.  Instead of going through some of our decision-making processes, today we thought we'd share a few of the tools that help us get things done.

Here is a list of tools that we use to manage our time:

1. Gmail.
If you aren't using Gmail from Google for your email yet it's time to switch.  Gmail uses a "conversation" style of email threading that is difficult to get used to for the first few weeks but once you've got the hang of it you'll never go back.

And more importantly, Gmail has the best search functionality that we've ever seen for email.  Think of having "Google Search" working for you on your email.  We rarely "save" emails any more in "folders".  For years we've just been using Gmail's "Archiving" functionality to hide read emails from our inbox but we have access to years worth of data by just searching our Gmail accounts.

The "Advanced Search" even allows you to search within specific "time frames" when you're looking for something but just not exactly sure when it was you were dealing with it.

We also "forward" ourselves any important emails and include keywords in the email.  We then Archive the messages.  But now those emails have keywords that we can easily search using Gmail's search functionality.  Some keyword examples "main street offer" or "joint venture agreement" or "sample rental ads".


You don't have to use Gmail for personal accounts.  Using Google Apps you can hook up any domain name (e.g. our is " to use Gmail for that domain's email.  And it's free.  What more could you ask for?

Google Gmail = 2 thumbs way up.

2. Paper Based Weekly Calendars. We use paper-based daily calendars - every day.  We both have software and IT backgrounds and have both played with Palm Pilot's, Blackberry's and iPhone's for years but nothing beats the paper-based daily calendar.  We use the "weekly view" formats so we can see the entire week at a time and prefer that the calendars have a monthly view for each month as well.

For managing some virtual projects Google Calendar is our choice if we have to share dates across virtual teams but we use paper-based calendars to manage our own daily activities.

Sounds barbaric, doesn't it?  Yeah, we know ... we're old school. 😉

Here's the model we use, it's At-A-Glance Weekly/Monthly Calendar.  You can lay out the week, but it also has a monthly view and a monthly "to-do" list down the side of the calendar that stays visible throughout each week of the month ... priceless.

3. We use little notebooks to keep all our ideas in one place.
We don't care what the notebook looks like but lately, we've been using Moleskin models.  That keeps all our important thoughts, notes, ideas, brainstorms in one place.  And sometimes we use Giant Sticky Notes for lists of to-do's that can get slapped into our calendars.

4. 1 Year Wall Planner. We started mapping out our entire year a couple of years ago and it's made a huge difference.  When you see all your important deadlines, projects, vacations etc. in one place it's extremely powerful.  Each year we'll write in our vacation time first and then begin filling in dates for things like "Member Events", "VIP Calls", "Training Classes" etc.

Planning an entire year at a time has been a game changer for our productivity.

5. and These two online applications are used for virtual project management.  Basecamp is great for projects that you're working on with a "virtual team" across time zones.  Lately, more and more collaboration happens with people who aren't in your office or even city ... this software helps manage everything virtually.  And is pretty good for mapping out tasks where you have a virtual team working on them and you're tracking progress and paying by the hour.  We've used it for a few months now and it seems like a winner.

6.  iPhone 4. It's incredibly handy when you're travelling to have access to everything you need.  And we especially like the iPhone 4 because with its built-in camera and video functionality we no longer have to carry around a digital camera to take videos for the blog.

7.  Mind Mapping. Mapping out new ideas and listing out the activities that go with them can be difficult but Mind Mapping software gives things a certain clarity.  Free Mind is a free open source tool that does the job nicely ... just Google for it.

The only other thing we fight with? The daily discipline required to keep our time management on track.  We've found the more we force ourselves to be disciplined with our time the more we enjoy our "down time" and are able to re-charge faster and keep our energy levels up.

Whenever our energy levels decrease it's often because we're reacting to things instead of proactively managing them.

And there you have it ... some of our very favourite tools to get things done.

Until next time ... Your Life. Your Terms.

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0 comments on “Productivity Tools That We Love”

  1. Good idea about forwarding e-mails to yourself in Gmail to remember important ones with keywords.

    Will try that one out!

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