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5 Must-Have Productivity Tools

An image of tools such as wrenches, screws, drill bits. 5 must-have productivity tools.

One snowy day, I took my car for an errand, and once I got back home, I turned around in an alley. My vehicle got around fairly well in the snow, so I thought I would have enough momentum to get through the unplowed snow at the edge of the alley. Ha! I got stuck. So, I tried to gently rock my vehicle back and forth and back and forth hoping to edge forward (or backward) just a bit. I was really stuck. My tool of rocking back and forth didn’t work, but thankfully the shovel and a push from my neighbor and my husband did!

The shovel wasn’t anything I had to go out and buy because I live in the midwest where snow in the winter is a common and regular occurrence. Feeling unproductive is a little like that, though. We keep doing the same thing over and over again when we probably have the tools that we need!

I’ve been working on using my own tools lately to help my motivation (because what good is a tool if you don't use it?!)

Tool #1: Setting blue light filters on electronic devices

Some research suggests that the blue light that is emitted from your device suppresses melatonin (which is good during the day, but not so helpful at night). I turn both on around 6:30 at night (which is 3 - 4 hours before I go to bed).

Why it's helpful to me

I have automated the blue light filter on my phone and my Kindle Fire tablet and feel like it's helped my sleep immensely (which in turn fuels the next day's productivity).

iPhone blue light filter

  • On your iPhone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness.

  • Tap the Night Shift setting.

  • You can choose the “Scheduled” option and select a time (6:30 PM - 7:00 AM).

  • You can also change how warm the color appears by adjusting the slider for Less Warm or More Warm.

Android blue light filter

I don't currently have an Android, so am providing this link for my Android-using readers:

Amazon Fire tablet blue light filter

  • On your Amazon Fire Tablet, go to Settings > Display.

  • Tap Blue Shade.

  • Turn on Automatic Activation so the filter automatically turns on.

  • Tap Schedule to choose when the blue light filter should activate

Tool #2: Using a Pomodoro timer

Focus To-Do is my favorite timer. It is a Google Chrome browser extension that combines both a to-do list and a timer. When I first started using it, I used only the timer feature. I also changed the timer to 15 minutes rather than 25 (like a traditional Pomodoro would recommend). I now use this as my to-do list tracker as well.

Why it's helpful to me

I've found that this tool helps me with two things: staying focused and getting started!

Tool #3: Cleaning my desk at the end of the day

“When our space is a mess, so are we” (from Harvard Business Review). I spent many years telling myself (and everyone else) that a messy desk was a sign of a brilliant mind. And I fully believed it! Then I worked for a company that had a clean desk policy because it dealt with confidential, financial information. I first started by just shoving stuff into a drawer every night. I proceeded to be more intentional about what I printed and what I saved. Now I am in a different position at a different organization and I still follow the clean desk policy!

Why it's helpful to me

It's helped me keep overwhelm at bay - honestly, a messy desk was always another thing on my to-do list that never got completed unless I was going on vacation!

Tool #4: Getting completely dressed first thing in the morning

I am completely ready when I come downstairs in the morning. It's part of my morning routine that I established in the last 2 years. PJs-in-the-morning Nicole was always rushing to get out the door.⁠

Why it's helpful to me

I feel like it's made me ready for anything. Want to head to Farmer's Market early Saturday morning? Yep! I'm ready!!

Tool #5: Using the Think-Feel-Do strategy for journaling.

Turns out procrastination is caused by the need to manage a negative mood! Think-Feel-Do is a strategy that helps you recognize, label, and neutralize negative thoughts and moods. Click here to see how I use this technique.

Why it's helpful to me

I can tend to overthink things or even be my own worse critic. This has helped me tame my negative thoughts which lets me actually work on something productive!

Let's start a conversation. What are your go-to productivity techniques or tools?



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