8 Productivity Tools That Are Actually Worth the Trouble

When we look to increase productivity, we so often look to technology to provide the tools. But each new tool we adopt comes at a significant cost—and not just money. We have to learn how to use a new tool; be disciplined enough to continue using it every day; and get our bosses and teams on board. Which tools are worth the trouble, and which are more trouble than they’re worth? Read on to discover some of the best productivity tools.


Slack

With over 8 million active users a week, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard of Slack (if you’re not already one of those 8 million weekly users). More than just a chat platform, Slack has become the de facto method of communication in many organizations.

The ability to search through every public message and file shared means that great ideas or critical conversations are never lost… unless you had them in a video call, which Slack also lets you do. Best of all, Slack integrates with pretty much every other app existence; customize it enough and it can become the nerve center of your entire business. Et tu, email?


Todoist

There’s plenty of ways to make a to-do list, but few of them are as versatile and powerful as Todoist. Its clean and easy-to-understand interface means you don’t spend a ton of time managing it or figuring out where to put things—it’s all about staying focused on your tasks.

You can also share, delegate and comment on tasks with other Todoist users. And with apps and extensions for every platform and browser imaginable, it might be even more accessible than using pen and paper.


Bullet Journal

Of course, maybe you like your pen and paper. For those who prefer to keep it analog, the Bullet Journal system provides a simple framework for managing tasks, events and reminders in a notebook.

The status of tasks and events is indicated by different types of bullets: start with a dot for a task, and write over it to indicate whether a task is completed, scheduled or migrated—along with optional “signifier” bullets that add context to your tasks. The genius of Bullet Journal is that it’s simple enough for anyone to use, but there are plenty of optional modules available for #lifehacking aficionados.


Trello

Trello is a project and task management software that will keep your team organized and your projects moving forward. Compared to similar applications that can be a chore to use, Trello is almost toy-like.

Your Trello board contains cards, each of which hold all the information relating to a task, including comments, attachments and checklists. Those cards are sorted into lists—essentially columns—and can be dragged between lists just like dragging a file around your desktop. Trello also lets you customize a lot more than most similar tools: change your board’s colors and background image, and even upload your own stickers and emoji!


Realtime Board

If you’ve ever been in a remote meeting that involves whiteboarding, you’ve probably known the pain of staring at a pixelated jumble of scribbles and desperately trying to divine WTF everyone’s talking about.

Realtime Board brings whiteboarding to the web, letting you drop in not just digital post-its and images but also comments, graphs, interface maps and more. The coolest part: take photos of your IRL post-its and Realtime Board will digitize them for you.


NOPE Button

Collaboration is great! Teamwork! Innovation! High-fives! But sometimes you just need to be left alone. That’s why we created the NOPE button, an extension for Google Chrome.

If a coworker’s getting a little too chatty while you’re trying to focus, simply hit the button to send a fake call to your phone, and feign disappointment as you explain that you “really need to take this call.” Your very understanding coworker will walk away, and you can get back to what’s important: reading articles about the best productivity tools.


Airtable

Despite an abundance of tools that organize information, we so often fall back to the humble spreadsheet. But Excel and Sheets were designed to handle numbers, not ideas. Next time, give Airtable a try. It looks like a spreadsheet, but Airtable fields can handle any content you throw at them, including attachments, checkboxes, and even cells that are shared across tables. Transform your spreadsheet into a calendar, gallery and even a kanban view with just a click. Plus, it looks a lot better on your smartphone than a .XLS file.


750 Words

This last one is a bit different. Created by Slack’s platform product lead Buster Benson, 750 Words is about one simple thing: writing 750 words every day, visible only to yourself. The idea is to bypass the annoying self-censorship that can inhibit some of our best ideas from surfacing, and to open the floodgates of creativity for the rest of the day and beyond. And as you might expect from a Slack (and Twitter!) product veteran, the site is packed with delightful motivators that keep you coming back for more. Just check out these adorable badges!

Writing an additional 750 words per day that your job doesn’t require you to write might not seem like an effective method of saving time. But discovering the great ideas hidden inside of you now can save you plenty of time later.


Looking to defeat distraction as a team? Check out No One Works Alone, a free guide from Breather and NOBL that explores the science behind getting more done—together.

Get the Guide