4 Productivity Tools to Reach Your 2017 Goals

From Unsplash, by Erol Ahmed

As I set my goals for 2017 and think about what I want to accomplish this coming year, I considered the tools that have vastly improved my productivity in the last couple years.

Productivity tools aren’t just for driven entrepreneurs or techies who build apps. They’re for anyone who needs to manage themselves, and nobody I know needs to manage themselves more than creatives.

Whether you’re published or unpublished, you have to hold yourself accountable. It takes a more than simply having the right program, enough time, and a cozy space to work. No one is going to hold your hand. Not even the other writers in your community. (If they genuinely care about you, they’ll tell you to sit your ass down and get to work).

I spent years being unproductive. That changed when I realized that I did a terrible job of holding myself accountable and that I couldn’t do it on my own.

When I started using these productivity tools, it was the difference between night and day, the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, pre-Beatles and post-Beatles rock ’n roll. My habits, my drive, and my confidence all changed.

If you want to feel like a true professional, try using these tools.

Time tracking. I originally started using this for freelance work, but I soon found it useful for tracking writing time as well.

I know some of you may be thinking that its hard enough even finding the time to write, much less tracking it. But the practice of tracking my time has helped me look at it a lot differently.

It showed me when I was being productive and when I wasn’t. It showed me that the time I spend in this endeavor is the equivalent of a part-time job. I began to perceive my writing and the time I spent doing it as my work. It made me take that time much more seriously.

What I use: Toggl. An app that can be used on all devices with a very simple timer and weekly reports. I’m a visual person, so I love that projects can be color coded. What I’m working on actually stands out. It comes on all devices. There’s a Chrome extension and integrations with Evernote, Google Drive, an offline mode for your computer, and more.

Others: Time Doctor, Hours.

Focus app. Over two years ago, I fell into a terrible habit that affected my productivity in the worst way. I was spending way too much time on Facebook and other websites, and it was sucking up all my time.

I noticed that I was particularly vulnerable to this time-suck in the morning, my magical creative time. I also noticed that I was more angry, afraid, and distracted by political issues and world events, and unless I was prepared to channel that energy into activism, I was only distracting myself.

I started using a focus app that allowed me to block these distracting sites while I was working, forcing me to stay focused. Often, I would set the timer at night before bed for ten or twelve hours so that when I got up in the morning the app was already protecting me from my terrible habits. I didn’t have it on my phone, but having it on my computer was enough.

What I use: Self Control. As always, very simple to use. Set the timer, and unless you’re some kind of hacker superstar, you cannot shut the stupid thing off until the timer runs out.

Other programs: Freedom is very popular because it can be used on multiple devices. AntiSocial is another alternative.

A Planner. Yes, I use a planner. The kind that is printed on paper. With dates in it. That I write in. With a pen.

For a long time I tried using Google Calendars, but I am the kind of person who needs to see things written down on pieces of paper.

Using a planner was another game changer for me. I work part time jobs on top of my freelance work and creative projects. Using a planner helped me get realistic about how much time I have in a day and how I should use it. After carving out time for my part time jobs and freelance gigs, I see (again, visual person here) what’s leftover.

In the past I drifted from one project to the next, unsure of whether I was spending my time the way I needed to. Now, I plan my day every night before bed, so that every morning I know what I’m working on and when I’m working on it.

What I use: Passion Planner, love it for the goal setting, journaling, and accountability features.

Other planners: Danielle LaPorte & Productive Flourishing has some good options.

Words Written Tracking Sheet. This one is pretty simple. I track the number of words I write for the day and do this throughout the year.

Basically it makes me stay accountable with the goal of writing (almost) every single day. When I start to see gaps, then I know I need to pick up the pace. When the spreadsheet is filled with three digit numbers, then I can reflect on my work and feel good about all that I’ve accomplished.

Here’s a link. Feel free to use this & adapt as you see fit. I’m always looking for ways to improve this method, so if you have any comments or feedback, I’d love to hear them. Email me at jane [dot] endacott [at] gmail.com.