My Productivity Must-Haves


Look how organized my desk looks! I totally staged it.

Today is Clean Up Your Virtual Desktop Day. We all need to keep a clean and organized desktop because it helps us stay as productive as possible. Earlier this year, I shared with you tips about working from home, and here we are, about eight months later, and many of us are still working from home exclusively. Staying organized is a vital part of staying productive and making working from home successful for so many of us. While I have been a full-time work from homer for a while, I wanted to help people who were being shoved into it come up with things to help make life a little easier during the transition. The transition was not the short period many of us were expecting. 

You're probably an expert at working from home now. So I thought I'd share some of my must-haves with you when it comes to staying productive. Everything from apps to different things I keep within arms reach to make sure that I can stay fully focused when I'm working. Just as a little heads up, some of these may be affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using that link, I could get a little bit of a kickback. It doesn't change the price you pay or impact you or your purchase in any way; it just helps your favorite social media manager make a little extra on the side. Anything below that is bold and underlined is a link to the product. :)

APPS

Let's start with the things you can download onto your computer to make your day move smoothly. 


HabitMinder

I don't know about you, but I try to keep track of several things throughout my day. Things that should be easy to remember, but when I'm busy, I often forget. Like taking my medication, making sure my priorities for the day are set, stretching, standing, and drinking water so I don't die or something. For this, I use HabitMinder. There is a free and paid version of this handy guy. I have the paid version and opted to pay $19.99 once and never have to worry about it again. My favorite thing about this is that I can set custom reminders that go off on ALL of my devices. Yes, it's on my iMac, MacBook Pro, iPhone, and Apple Watch - I need that much help making sure that I don't forget things that should be easy to remember. It's easy to click, it gives you a happy noise when you've completed a goal, and lets you look at overall stats of how often you're accomplishing all of your habits. I highly recommend finding a way to track your different habits. It takes 30 days to make it part of a regular routine. Don't wait. Start now.

Spark Email

One of the most important things for me is keeping my personal email accounts separate from my work email. This keeps me from getting distracted by a promotional email or something my Dad sent me during the day. Better than that, it helps me shut off my work life when I need to unplug. For this, I use Spark. It has a ton of features I love. 

  • You can connect different apps to it to make adding information from your email easy. I have my Zoom account synced to it and used to have my Wunderlist synced to it (I still cry about Wunderlist - we'll talk about that later.) If your team uses Trello, Asana, Evernote, Todoist, GoToMeeting, or a variety of other apps, you're able to sync those as well. 

  • You can delay sending an email, replying to an email, or forwarding an email. I work when I can't sleep, which is often. Sending an email at 2 AM may work for me, but most of my clients should be asleep, and sending them an email in the middle of the night seems rude to me, so I use the delay option a LOT. In addition to this, you can snooze emails. What's that? Oh, that's removing something from your inbox and returning it at a time that you've selected. So if there's an email that is staring you down, but you aren't ready to work on it yet, snooze it and focus later. 

  • It syncs between devices. I have access to it on all of my computers, my iPad, and my iPhone. I can set the notifications up differently on each device so that my computers give me push notifications, but my iPhone gives me nothing. I try really hard to create separation in my life between work and personal. Working from home and in an industry that is 24/7 makes that challenging. So having my phone set up differently is imperative to me having some sort of balance in life, especially on weekends and days off. 

  • You can set up quick replies, templates, and so much more to make your email function for you. If you have a team, you can manage your team straight from the app. I can't give insight into that as my "team" can't work on computers - lack of opposable thumbs and ya know being cats creates a problem there.

Slack

You either love or hate Slack based on my observation of the reactions I get from people when I talk about using it. I will say it upfront, I LOVE SLACK. We use Slack for FuseDSM to manage the digital marketing information between the staff and Marketing Team. The easiest way to explain why I love it is to explain how we use it for FuseDSM. 

  • We can IM each other instead of having a long email chain. This can keep all of us in the loop without a missed email getting lost somewhere. It's also great when working on a project to quickly send something by IM, get instant feedback, and move on with what you're doing rather than waiting for everyone to reply by email. My favorite part of the IM function is that it also keeps me connected to people throughout the day. Working alone and from home, I have very little social interaction. Slack IM lets me chat about work or anything else with some of my team members. 

  • We can provide updates and links quickly without more emails.

  • I use it as a checklist of sorts to manage our social media queue. Anyone else on our team can post something they need me to add to my list, and from there, I can get it taken care of. 

  • Using the status setting available to us, we can let each other know if we are available to chat, answer a question, or anything else. This is extremely helpful because often, when using email, you just sit and wait until you get a response, not knowing if the person has seen it or is there to interact. 

  • If you can't tell from the reasons mentioned above - it cuts down on email significantly. Before Slack, we would send a LOT of emails back and forth between the team; this makes it quicker, easier, and more user friendly.

  • As with Spark, you can connect several other apps to Slack, making your life work seamlessly. 


Digital Calendar 

A digital calendar is imperative. It can keep track of your Zoom, WebEx, or Google Hangout Meetings, with the information you need right at your fingertips. I use it to block schedule out my week as well. I am a fan of the native iCal app on my Apple Devices because I can easily access it on my phone, iPad, or any of my computers. I can quickly move things around, add meeting information or notes, and break things down into more specific tasks. I break down by things like client meetings, FuseDSM meetings, and personal events. It can be printed out at the beginning of a day or a week if I need to have it in paper form, and it can also be shared. My calendar is also synced with my Mom's devices. This allows her to see if I'm in a meeting or working on a project that she can interrupt easier.

Todoist 

I have written previously about how I keep a digital to-do list. My first love was Wunderlist; unfortunately, they were bought out by Microsoft, who harvested some of the better parts of Wunderlist to add into their own To Do app. I tried To Do for a while, and it was just okay but didn't ever win me over the way Wunderlist had. 

Last week I decided it was time to look for something that I loved. Todoist has very quickly won me over. Not only can you make tasks recurring, but it also gives you so much freedom to organize projects and add notes and subtasks. It tracks your activity as you work within the project. I'm still in the early stages of Todoist, perhaps a to-do app honeymoon phase, but I am already a big fan. It doesn't give me an option of a pretty background picture like Wunderlist or To Do, but what it lacks in cute backgrounds, it makes up for in functionality. I have several things I try to do each day, habits that I work hard at for my health, mental wellness, and general organization. I can add these to appear every day, and once I've completed it for a day, it rolls over to the next. It gives me the ability to see what is coming up, and it color codes the way I do my paper planner. 

PAPER, PENS, AND MORE

I may be a techie, but I still need physical items to help me stay on task and productive.

My GORGEOUS Amplify Planners

Amplify Planner

First things first, I need a paper planner. I know that all of the above apps that I list should mean I don't require a paper planner, but writing it down by hand helps me remember what I need to do. I have chronic migraines. Often the migraines and medications I have to take for them cause my memory to get a bit foggy. Writing things down, in addition to having them in a digital form, helps me commit the tasks to memory. I also love the creative element that paper planning provides. Whether it's color-coding my meetings and tasks or adding stickers to my day to brighten it up a little.

I have tried just about every paper planner possible. I've used Franklin Planners, Passion Planner, Day Designer, Happiness Planner, and so many others that I can't name them all. None of them really met my needs. I love being able to see my month-at-a-glance to plan out things like content calendar weeks, days off (yes, I sometimes take those), and office days. In addition to that, I also use it to track invoicing dates and when bills are due. Having a week-at-a-glance to know what days are stacked with meetings and what days provide a little more space for things like design, content creation, and other tasks. The real kicker is that I LOVE having a daily page. I need a place to put to-do lists, track everything from food to self-care activities, and take notes while still having a place to put my daily schedule. I have finally found #plannerpeace in my Amplify Planner. It is a quarterly planner with monthly, weekly, and daily page layouts in addition to a copious amount of notetaking space. I wasn't 100% sure I'd love a quarterly planner, but I LOVE A QUARTERLY PLANNER. It's more of an investment than a yearly planner, but it's 100% worth it because this planner meets my needs and doesn't require that I buy 2 or 3 planners throughout the year while trying to find what works best. 

In addition to being a fantastic planner, the team at Amplify is incredible. It's a small business that prints and sources everything that goes into the planner in their local area, which is Colorado. They are open to ideas from their users and have made adjustments to the planner to meet people's needs. I'm in my 2nd quarter using this planner and have already purchased my Q1 2021 Planner. They have developed an online community of Amplify Planner users to share ideas, layouts, challenges, and thoughts about best using our planners. It's a fabulous community to be part of and run by the three incredibly responsive owners. Q4 2020 is only the second quarter that Amplify has been available to purchase; I'm glad I took the plunge when I did. Just because 2020 hasn't gone the way we all hoped it would at the beginning of the year doesn't mean we need to stop making goals and plans. 


Keeps notes AND charges my phone? I'm in!

TUL Notebook 

I am new to the disc bound notebook concept but already in love with it! I picked up my new TUL notebook a couple of weeks ago at Office Depot, and I am already so happy about the flexibility it offers. I can take notes on anything and punch them to add to my notebook. I can move the pages and dividers around to fit my needs. I have the option to pick between several different paper types - I am a graph paper fan, in case you were curious. 

I grabbed this excellent TUL notebook; it is also a wireless phone charger, so it serves double duty. When my work life returns to a more normal pace, it will be nice to not only have a notebook that perfectly works for me but also my iPhone. I am notorious for grabbing whatever notebook I can find on the way out the door. Having a disc bound system means that whatever notebook I have notes on can be modified to fit into my TUL notebook. I'd been eyeing this particular notebook since Christmas last year, and I'm so glad I grabbed it on clearance. I've also grabbed a smaller notebook and don't see that being the last one I buy.


I take color-coding seriously.

Pens + Highlighters 

As I've mentioned a few times above, I color-code everything. My tasks, my planner, my calendar - if it can be color-coded in my life, it is. It is an easy, visual way to see how my day, week, or month is being spent. Am I spending significantly more time with one client? Am I forgetting to spend time working on my own work? Am I forgetting that self-care is as important as ever right now? Color-coding helps me do that so easily. 


I do that with a few things - pens and highlighters. I love that Mildliner Highlighters offer me two sizes of highlighters within one highlighter. I also love how many color options are in this set of bullet journal pens. I do need to state that these pens are not my favorite pens. I love the Papermate InkJoy Gel Pens and the Papermate Flair Felt Pens for my regular writing; these are very specific for task coding or notetaking that is specific to a client. 

OFFICE SUPPLIES

Office supplies are my love language. Here are a few of the things that make my days as productive and comfortable as possible. This picture shows just how many things can end up on my desk during a busy work day.