What productivity tools do you actually need?

Every day we are surrounded by a wide variety of productivity tools, from endless mobile applications to the renowned Rolodex. It’s easy to spend so much time trying out new productivity tools and methods that we end up being…well, unproductive. You may find yourself with more than one calendar, at least five notebooks and twice as many to-do lists, a desktop client for everything, a ton of multimedia editors, and way more word processors than you can remember downloading. Productivity tools are great, but having your attention split among so many different applications can do more harm than good. So maybe it’s time to ask yourself: what do I actually need?

Before you go on an uninstalling spree, let’s look at the top productivity tools most people use regularly (and even depend on), and you can tailor it to fit your individual needs.

  1. Calendar. Of course you can’t ditch this! How else would you remember it’s your mother’s birthday? You can use a digital calendar or print one, whatever works for you. Digital works great if you need to set reminders for upcoming events, but many people prefer good old-fashioned pencilling things into their calendar.
  2. Word processor. Chances are you only need one of these. Microsoft Word has set the standard on text editors, but you may want to consider using Google Docs if you have a Google account. You can open Word documents in Google Docs and download Google Docs as Word documents, making it a versatile cloud-based service.
  3. Cloud service. This could save your life, or, more likely, your documents. There are a number of free cloud services, such as Google Drive (from which you get Google Docs), Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, and Mediafire. Maybe you already live out of one or more of these services. If not, choose one and give it a try. You’ll feel great knowing your hard work is safe in the cloud.
  4. Spreadsheet software. Depending on what work you do, you may need to crunch some numbers. Again, Microsoft Excel tends to be the standard software, but Google Sheets works sufficiently, too. If you’re 100% a word person (no numbers, please!), then a simple tabletop calculator may be all you need.
  5. Presentation software. You may need to throw together a great presentation, even beyond the college years. In that case, you should have presentation software handy (Microsoft Powerpoint, Google Slides, and Prezi are some great options).
  6. Notes. The value of being able to type quick notes, whether on mobile or desktop, is inestimable, especially for writers. You can save thoughts and brilliant bits of writing for later use, as well as house grocery lists, to-dos, and more. The free version of Evernote is a fantastic application available on mobile or desktop. If you’re a Google or Microsoft loyalist, consider Google Keep or Microsoft OneNote; if you love Apple, their default Notes app works great, too*.

These six productivity tools should help you get set up, or help you cut back on application excess. Just remember, productivity tools are only there to keep you organized. Ultimately, you are what you make with your time, talents, and tools.

If you’ve used some fantastic productivity tools (digital or otherwise) not mentioned in this article, please share them below in the comments!

*Disclaimer: This article hasn’t been recommending the software that comes free on Apple computers (Pages and Keynote, for example). While these are great to work with independently, they become frustrating when you need to share the document with others who don’t use an Apple computer.

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