A Discussion on Personal Productivity Tools

It was a small gathering (about 10) by  kcommunity standards. As the conversation progressed more people joined us and we grew to 15. It was an unusual event too – the audience were the speakers. To me it was one of the most productive kcommunity sessions. I learned a lot more about personal productivity tools but more important, got a peek into how people think about their work and productivity. Here is my log of the event. It won’t do justice to the event itself. For that you need to see the video recording. When it is available, I will add a link in the post.

Here is a list of productivity tools with a brief note to provide context.  The order in this list is not significant. We went around the table asking people what they use and why. I took notes and I am typing all this in the same order in which they were mentioned. Some of them were mentioned a few times but I have only one entry, for example Post-it Notes.

  • Text Expander – converting short cuts to fully editable text http://bit.ly/Mx4NoW
  • Pure Text – Paste any text to applications without formatting http://bit.ly/Mx4Sck
  • Mindmaps – Several people mentioned it. There are several free and paid ones. My favorite is http://bit.ly/Mx50bI. Lakshman mentioned mindjet. Many of us use mindmaps on paper as a thinking and note taking tool
  • Todo lists were mentioned by several people (Google Tasks and Outlook)
  • Kanban was mentioned once – http://www.kanban101.com/
  • Several people use post-its and its variants sticky notes, for example
  • Latex http://www.latex-project.org/intro.html
  • A couple of interesting uses of Excel came up. This research scholar uses Excel to schedule calls and also uses it as a priority  list for tasks.
  • White board (I guess the physical one) came up multiple times. It is there as a constant reminder of things to be done.
  • Mobile devices (guessing that these are smart phones) was mentioned as a multipurpose tool. I am sure various uses of mobile may fill another session.
  • Expense manager
  • Evernote (a note taking tool that is available on several devices and operating systems)
  • Time recorder
  • Excel macros
  • Supermemo (http://bit.ly/Mx5PRZ) to manage memory decay. The tag line for this tool is “Forget about forgetting”. To me this was an amazing discovery. This is a tool as well as a philosophy to remember things long term.
  • Screen grabber (I use snagit)
  • YSlow
  • Automatic code review enablers in Eclipse (plugins)
  • RSS and OPML
  • Diigo -a web highlighter
  • Watson for system learning (need to get more info and links)
  • Slideshare
  • Dropbox
  • Netvibes ( a portal builder)
  • iBook Authoring tools
  • One Note
  • Sharepoint calendar for announcements
  • Physical Notebook (turns out to be one of the most popular tools)
  • Markview – a tool to convert pdf files so that it is easy to flip through them
  • Stephen Covey Planner
  • Ideabooks (to jot down ideas)
  • Delicious for social bookmarks
  • Twitter as a social bookmarking tool – it is an active bookmark that pulls suggestions from fellow tweeters
  • Personal wiki (I use wikidpad a combination of wiki and notepad)
  • Argument maps and debategraph
  • wikibook
  • Programmers Journal
  • Podcasts
  • Google docs (especially spreadsheet) to share tasks, lists
  • Lists, Lists, Lists

In addition to tools several practices (habits were mentioned) during the conversation.

  1. A research scholar mentioned that he preserves the keywords he uses to search (for later recall). It is a neat idea. Google must be caching this somewhere but there is no tool if you use multiple search engines. A browser history can probably be extracted and tweaked.
  2. Use a mobile phone to take pictures of documents and convert them to pdf
  3. Creating automated scripts to check for availability of internet (a very Indian phenomenon), continue downloads after they are paused etc. Requires some scripting knowledge (shell, python, perl, windows powershell)
  4. Calendar analysis to find where a lot of energy is spent
  5. Group Whiteboard (checking items by others as completed triggers others to respond)
  6. Type phone numbers to memorize them instead of storing them in contacts
  7. Organizing everything every day to have a clean desktop
  8. Set time to do things that repeat at predictable intervals
  9. Fifteen minutes of reading everyday
  10. Taking time off from Twitter, FB and email – one day a week
  11. Use folders for management
  12. Focus drives all the patterns and usage of tools
  13. Six thinking hats
  14. Algorithms for passwords

My book recommendation to the group was 18 minutes.

6 thoughts on “A Discussion on Personal Productivity Tools

  1. I would like to add two more productive tools

    1) Asana – Task Management for Teams
    2) Do – the app to get work done with anyone.

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