7 Simple, Time-Tested, High-Performance Productivity Tools

Indispensable tools no achiever (or aspiring achiever) should be without.

Unproductive people mistake productivity as some mysterious workaholic’s nirvana achieved through witchcraft and dark magic. That’s obviously wrong.

Productivity is something you achieve through consistent practice of a few fundamental principles. Like any skill, it takes practice to become good at it. Luckily, they’re not difficult to learn.

The biggest hurdle to massive productivity is yourself. You have to decide to become productive. Once you’ve done that, half the job is done.

You just need to start practicing the fundamentals of productivity.

Below are a few tools that make the job easier.

1. Lists.

Making lists requires only two pieces of technology that you definitely have access to. You need a pen, and a piece of paper. If you’re more technologically savvy, you can use a text editor like Word or Google Docs. As you can tell, this is really, really simple… but simple works.

You can achieve a lot using a list, including becoming a productivity wizard.

Despite all the flak that to-do lists get from various productivity experts around the world, you’ll still need some kind of to-do list. To-do lists are especially effective to get you from zero to some kind of forward motion.

Mindlessly writing lists do create inefficiencies after a certain point, especially as they get longer and less goal directed, but lists will always be a part of your productivity toolkit. Even if you learn more advanced time management and productivity strategies, you’ll end up with a to-do list in the end.

Tools to use: Word, Google Docs, Notes, pen and paper.

2. Mindmaps.

When the lists get too complex, you should turn to mindmaps.

Mindmaps are really useful when you get loaded with tasks because they give you a visual representation of the stuff that runs through your head on a consistent basis. It removes the clutter and noise in your head, and puts it somewhere for you to see. The clarity allows you to focus on specific tasks without being interrupted by random thoughts stressing you out.

This is slightly more technologically advanced. To be effective with your mindmapping, the pieces need to be mobile. That excludes our basic pen and paper. I prefer using technology here. There are some Chrome apps you can use, such as Mindmeister, but my personal favorite is a program called Scapple.

Tools to use: Scapple (author’s personal favorite), OneNote (author’s second favorite), MindMeister, bulletin board and 3-by-5 cards.

3. Schedule.

This is so basic, yet so many people don’t schedule anything, and don’t even use a calendar except when they travel!

The reality is that most people don’t need a schedule because their schedules would only contain basic activities like sleep, go to work, eat dinner, watch the game, hang out with friends, and some kind of hobby every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

The most productive people plan their time at work to ensure that they get done what has to be done. They plan their dinners in advance. They even plan exactly what to do every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Effective use of schedules let you set up time to tackle projects that don’t require everyday attention. If you want to throw an amazing birthday party for a friend, you’re not planning that party every day for the rest of your life. The entire planning and prepping might only take four hours. You could do that in an evening or two. However, if you don’t plan it, you won’t throw the party.

When you figure out what to do, set off specific time to do it. That way, you can keep your focus throughout the day.

Tools to use: Google Calendar, a planner.

4. Domination List.

I’ve previously written about The One Hour Productivity Hack, in which you should devote an hour every day for a year to something you want to learn or achieve. If you do, you’ll become incredibly skilled and accomplished compared to the average Joe.

In response to that article, people asked how to do actually do something every day for an hour. Unfortunately, the answer is a four letter word… Discipline.

To get yourself to do follow through, write down the stuff you have to do every day in a place that you see all the time. It could be your phone’s wallpaper, a piece of paper written on your bathroom wall, posted on your fridge, or whatever else.

This is the Domination List because they are things you want to dominate. Every day, make sure things get done and check off the list.

Tools to use: Reminders, wallpapers and calendar on your phone, pen and paper taped in places you see it, sticky notes on your computer screen, iron will.

5. Outsource List.

As you start increasing your productivity, you learn to delegate. You’ll hire freelancers to do things for you, or you might even have employees. Eventually, you’ve outsourced so much stuff that you need to keep track of everything. Use a document to keep track of who you told to do what by when.

Tools to use: A document, such as Word or Google Docs. Create a file for everything you’ve outsourced.

6. Meeting Record (Or A CRM).

If you’re dealing with clients, talking to a lot of people, calling on prospects, or have a lot of meetings, you should keep track of it all. That way, you know what you talked about and what you need to talk about in the future.

That lets you be a lot more effective when you’re in touch with them. As you get in touch with more and more people, this becomes even more important.

Companies that employ salesforces put an extreme emphasis on customer relationship management, usually using software to keep track. Most people are small-time so they don’t need a CRM, but you should use a meeting record. The idea is the same, but smaller scale.

This makes sure that you’re always on point when it comes to meetings and contacts.

Tools to use: Word, Google Docs, some kind of CRM software.

7. Turn Off Notifications.

This is actually the opposite of a tool. It’s all about removing distractions.

Distractions are the worst thing for your productivity, so make sure to remove all the most obvious distractions. Notifications are the most obvious distraction, so make sure to turn them all off so you don’t get interrupted with garbage every five minutes.

Tools to use: Not-your-phone.

Never underestimate the fundamentals.

If you put these tools to good use, your productivity is guaranteed to shoot through the roof.

As you see, you don’t actually need much to increase your productivity. Some paper, a planner, and a pen is more than enough. You can use technology to help you, but technology isn’t necessary to plan and achieve big, big tasks.

Go do more.


Copywriter, SEO, behavioral sciences.