3 Essential Tools for Productivity

Today I would like to share a description of some of the tools I use for my own productivity practice:


First, my workspace in my home office. This is where I manage all of my activities for the blogging enterprise as well as my day job for BigCorp. If you click on the pic you will be able to see the notes at Flickr.
This is a very simple and effective set-up. Everything that I need on a daily basis is available close by. You may also notice that I have arranged the desk according to the “F-shape” principle that I featured in the design of my planner pages. From the top left across I have placed:

  • Note cards and the usual office supplies.
  • Pen-holder.
  • Desk lamp.
  • Laptop.

From the bottom left:

  • In-box.
  • Open task information.
  • Clear desk blotter with frequently-called numbers and notes

To the right of the desk:

  • Bookshelf with reference and tracking materials.
  • The Book of Days
  • Software.
  • The printer.
  • The Tickler File.

The Tickler File

This tool consists of 43 Folders numbered 1-31 for the current month and 12 more for the months of January through December.

I use these files for paper items that I need to process at specific times but the items do not need to go in my organizer right now. In the same file are the Reference folders for frequently-accessed information such as billing records, work records, etc.

The typical workflow for the Tickler file is:

  1. Each morning, while the coffee is brewing, I check the contents of “today’s” folder.
  2. I sync any time-specific items with my paper calendar,
  3. Complete the items that are date-specific but will not physically fit into my calendar (which I refuse to stuff with notes and loose papers),
  4. Any non-time-specific items then go into the In-box on my desk for processing.
  5. Items are processed in order of the amount of time required, starting with the shortest.
  6. Anything that does not get completed, or needs to go in the organizer, is forwarded to its proper place.
  7. When “today’s” folder is empty, it goes to the back of the line, becoming in effect an empty folder in next month’s queue.

Part of the beauty of this system is that if something comes up and I cannot process the items in the Tickler File for a day or two, it is ready right where I left off. This gives me almost instant access to date-specific items that need to be processed with high priority.

Print your own Calendar pages

My Organizer

I picked up a nice leather planner that zips closed for $10 at Target. It is now a mini-briefcase that I use to carry my essentials. Number one of course is the Circa organizer that holds my DIY Calendar pages that I designed. (You can read more about this atPrint Your Own Calendar Pages“)

I keep a Pilot .5mm G2 in the pen loop, and a PaperMate .5mm Mega Lead mechanical pencil loose inside. I tuck a few blank 3×5 cards into the front pocket, along with some business cards. Toss in a pad of 3×3 Post-Its and I am ready to go.

These are the most essential tools for my personal productivity practice. What tools are most important for your activities?

What do you think about the lack of portable electronic devices?

9 thoughts on “3 Essential Tools for Productivity

  1. Good idea using a big organizer instead of a briefcase. I could pull that off, but I might miss the shoulder strap. I don’t like PDA’s for tracking to-do and appointment stuff. It’s better for me to see everything on paper where I can see the whole lay of the land at one time and scribble notes. A Moleskine notebook and Moleskine calendar are getting the job done for me.

  2. Thanks for sharing Brad. I do use a messenger bag to tote everything around in, I am heading towards a “What’s in your bag?” post soon!

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  7. I prefer using an software organized to a real life one. I use HyperOffice to organize personal info. I can access all my info (including mail, contacts, schedules, calendars, and even documents) on my mobile (in addition to desktop) which saves me from logging around a hefty organized or be afraid of losing it (which is like me). Moreover, i also share my information automatically with colleagues, which is more than one can say for a hard bound organizer.

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