6 Tools That Help Me Have Awesome Productivity

productivity tools Feb 08, 2021
Man wearing a toolbelt

I realize you don’t have the time or desire to weed through all the productivity apps to find which ones are worth using and which ones you should steer clear of.

Note: none of the apps mentioned in this article are paying me to write about them. In fact, until this article was posted, they didn’t even know about it. I take your trust very seriously and don’t want to be swayed by developers.

Now, here are my favorite productivity tools as of today.

Fantastical from Flexibits (iOS & Mac only)

I can’t tell you how many calendars I have tried and discarded, but it’s a lot.

Until I discovered Fantastical a few years ago.

As a diehard and unapologetic Apple fanboy, the calendar that comes with the iPhone and Mac is horrible.

Fortunately, Fantastical corrected this problem. Yes, I intentionally wrote the word “problem.”

Let me highlight two differences that mean the most to me.

Default Event Duration

It’s 2021, yet Apple’s calendar still only has a default event length of one hour. If your event is less than or more than this, you have to change it. Every time. Manually.

But with Fantastical, there are presets for 0 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 90 minutes, 2 hours, and 3 hours.

So, if most of your events are, say, 30 minutes, you select that length, and when you create a new event, it’s 30 minutes.

Because I was curious, I reached out to Flexibits (an amazing company) and asked about the zero-minute preset. They replied and said, “We have the 0 minutes duration for if you don’t know how long an event might take or don’t want to have a duration. That way, an event set for 10 am is from 10:00 to 10:00 and doesn’t block any more time in your calendar view.”

Makes sense.

I also told them that I prefer to work in 50-minute increments, but the 45-minute preset was close enough.

They replied that the app has a hidden option to change the default duration to something other than the presets in Fantastical’s in-app Settings and proceeded to give me the instructions.

Now, when I create a new event, the duration is 50 minutes.

How cool is that?

Multiple Alerts

On the iOS calendar, you can only create two alerts. However, on Apple Calendar on the Mac, you can select more than two. Why the limitation on the iPhone?

However, on Fantastical, there are no limits. Well, I’m sure there are, but I’ve not reached it. I’ve set up to 4 alerts.

Why 4 alerts? Because some events are significant to me and I don’t want to miss them.

There is plenty more I like about Fantastical, but I have other tools to share.

The Bullet Journal (BuJo)

I used to be a big fan of to-do list apps. I’ve used Things 3, Wunderlist (discontinued after being purchased by Microsoft), Don’t Forget the Milk, Google Tasks, iOS Reminders, etc.

I have virtually stopped using a to-do list in favor of a Bullet Journal. Full transparency: I still use Things 3 for a few tasks, but I am in the process of migrating them to my BuJo.

I like the Bullet Journal for tasks because it forces me to be intentional about completing them. It would be easy to move a task from one day to the next continually.

But with the BuJo, if you don’t get a task done and want to move it from today to tomorrow, you have to write it again.

If you don’t get it done then, you have to write it again.

Until you either do it, move it to a Someday collection (not what I recommend), or don’t do it.

Let’s be honest: eventually, the task would be so late that doing it is pointless.

My BuJo of choice is the Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover, Large (5" x 8.25") Ruled/Lined, Earth Brown, 240 Pages (affiliate link).

But you can use any notebook.

Google Drive

I’m a huge fan of all things Apple, but… Oh. My. Goodness.

As an entrepreneur, I love how nearly every app I use (Canva, Headliner, Kajabi, and Zencastr, to name four) has direct integration with Google Drive. It makes it so easy to use.

Recently, I upgraded my Google Workspace for Business (hey, Google! Can you please stop changing your name every other year? Google Apps to Google Enterprise to Google for Work to GSuite and now Google Workspace for Business.) and brought everything for my business from iCloud Drive over to Google Drive.

With the Google Workspace for Business Standard plan, I get 2TB of storage, up to 300 people on Google Meet for meetings up to 24 hours, ad-free Gmail (for business), and so much more for just $12 a month.

The Timer

Ah, the forgotten productivity tool.

The timer on your smartphone can be used for way more than for preheating your oven or grill.

Here are a few ideas:

  • when you want to go on social media but you don’t want to waste too much time
  • to ensure you’re reading a certain amount of time each day
  • meditating
  • to track how many minutes you’re exercising
  • or any other task so that you don’t spend too much time doing it or not enough

Apple Watch

Surprised this is on the list?

I was, too…until I purchased my first Apple Watch in September 2018.

How did this make the list?

My Apple Watch:

  • tells me the time
  • lets me know what’s on my calendar
  • reduces the time I’m on my iPhone

I can’t surf the Internet or social media, and replying to emails and messages, while possible, is tedious, so I rarely do so.

Calendly

I love automation.

And while there are many scheduling apps out there, I love Calendly.

I’m a Pro user for just $144 a year, around 40 cents a day, and have all the features that they offer.

Guests and prospective guests for The Mark Struczewski Podcast, coaching clients, meeting planners, and even people who want time with me use my Calendly links (I have an event for every situation…one of the benefits of being a Pro Member).

Recently, they’ve rolled out some really cool features, one of which is Default Availability. Instead of setting up my availability for each event, which was the old way, now I can create a Default Availability and select that option for all events.

I am constantly talking to people, and Calendly has made my life so easy.

CONCLUSION

There is no shortage of productivity tools in the world.

But not all tools are created equal.

When you’re looking at getting a new tool:

  • don’t get a tool just because it’s on this list, or someone else’s, or because it’s popular. Will it serve you, or will it be a distraction?
  • Read unpaid reviews about it. Look at the five-star reviews and the one-star reviews. The truth is likely somewhere in between.
  • Try it out. Many paid apps have a free trial. And even if they don’t, if you’re really not happy with an app purchase, iTunes will let you request a refund. I know because I’ve done it. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thank you for reading it. 

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