Happy New Year!
I don’t know about you, but I have a good feeling about 2016. In some ways, it’s a fresh start—a chance for reinvention. In other ways, it’s an evolution—a chance to nurture what has taken years to build. Okay, so it’s not that different from any other January. Nevertheless, it’s as good a time as any to set some goals.
But let’s be real: The optimism, ambition, and boost of confidence that fuels our desire to set goals in January provides immediate gratification that tends to dissipate all too quickly. It feels good to dream, but the discipline required to achieve goals often proves to be the most challenging part. In fact (spoiler alert!), it’s typically weeks or even months before we see results.
But don’t fret—we can help. Pivot’s strategists are productivity tool junkies. To help you take action and stay on track, we have compiled a list of the best tools for staying focused, efficient, and effective. Our favorites:
Joshua’s Favorite Things
Evernote: This is a great tool if you need to store and organize different types of information. You can use it to write notes, collect data, and share content. It even has a built-in chat function to help you communicate with other collaborators. I use Evernote to store relevant articles, photos, best practices, and all my “big ideas.” It’s intuitive and very easy to access on both desktop and mobile devices.
Workflowy: Workflowy is a nested note-taking tool that allows you to prioritize, hide, and reveal specific content (a great alternative if you feel Evernote is too robust). It’s especially helpful for those moments when you remember writing something down but can’t remember when or where you put it. Simply search by phrase, and Workflowy will pull and highlight all corresponding notes. There’s even a mobile app for convenient note taking while you’re on the go.
Asana: I have a love-hate relationship with Asana. It’s great for project management because it helps you organize and track tasks. It takes all the guesswork out of setting expectations, assigning key contributors, and communicating deadlines. But be aware: Asana is addictive. It’s easy to spend all your time and energy organizing your to-do list. If you use Asana, keep it simple.
Jonathan’s Favorite Things
Trello: With a simple user interface and drag-and-drop features, this project management tool is easy to use and incredibly flexible (almost to a fault). It’s essentially a virtual Post-It note board that helps you organize both big ideas and tiny details via lists and cards. I love that I can move cards around as projects change and ideas are fleshed out. And it’s easy to collaborate with others. I can assign cards to teammates to encourage conversation within each project.
A walk around the block: Nothing helps me focus, clears my mind, and boosts my productivity more than getting away from my computer and outside for a few minutes. A walk around the block a couple times each day is my secret weapon for staying on top of my game, not to mention giving my eyes a break and getting my heart rate up.
Handwritten lists: Sometimes the best option is putting pen to paper and tackling to-do tasks one by one. I’ve been known to add items retroactively just so I can cross them off.
SimplyNoise and Coffitivity: In an open office environment, adding more noise might seem counterintuitive. Yet these two websites help me get into the zone so I can focus on my tasks at hand. SimplyNoise offers three different frequencies (I go with brown noise), and Coffitivity provides the chatter and bustle of a coffee shop without actual distractions (“Is this seat taken?” “Are you my two o’clock meeting?” “Oh hey! I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you; let’s talk now!!!”).
Erin’s Favorite Things
Tomato Timer (of the Pomodoro method): This is a great accountability partner—especially on days when it’s tough to focus. The timer helps establish longer bursts of full-focused attention (25 minutes) followed by short, five-minute breaks. The idea is that you do nothing but the task at hand for 25 minutes (no texting, email, browsing, etc.), and then do whatever you want for five minutes. Repeat the cycle three times and you’re rewarded with a 15-minute break. Give it a try, and you’ll be surprised by how much you get done.
Blank paper: When researching brands and markets (once I have all my information collected and organized), I like to transfer everything to a blank sheet of paper. Blank is really important because it helps me keep my ideas fluid and unrestricted. For strategy, this is critical because two ideas that seem separate in an outline may turn out to connect in surprising ways when dropped onto a clean slate. Think A Beautiful Mind meets Homeland, with a little bit of The Wire thrown in for good measure.
Still not sure where to start? Try these fun and interactive resources: