Coming back into the freelance rhythm, productivity has been on my mind. With everything crawling for attention and a booming to-do list that has everything from follow-ups, lead generation, keeping an eye on finances, upskilling, and then maintaining oneself – you know, they eat, hydrate, sleep, and then comes the part of having a life – step out for fun and meet people. Uff! It's a lot! I know this isn't just my story. Here is where the buzzword – "Productivity" takes centre stage. 'How best to do it all within the time available?'
I've seen my father cultivate his system over the years. He has an amazing leather-bound book where he adds and removes pages. In this book, he writes down all his tasks as he goes through his day – sometimes highlighting them, but most of all, scratching them out. The satisfaction! I tested his method, but it didn't work for me. So I started doing what I do best – I asked people and experimented with productivity apps myself. Before I share what I found in my research, I want to share the tools I've used or used in the past.
Personal preferences or the default option provided at the workplace often determine the choice of the calendar app.
The beast, and something all of us are familiar with, is the Google Calendar App. The reminder features have saved me multiple times and let me down a fair few times when I choose to clear all notifications on my phone precisely 10 minutes before the meeting. The task function helps, and its integration with Google tasks is also helpful. However, there are days when I forget to hit done. But it carries over, and it's fun.
Outlook with integrated Calendar
This software helped me countless times when I had to send reminders. I could customize the emails to give reminders – once or repeatedly – a lifesaver, especially when my desk involved getting inputs from 14 teams across multiple time zones for an update that had to go out at 3:30 PM IST without fail.
These help you schedule your appointments with clients and others
Ah, this makes booking calls a breeze; the reminders, integrations with calendar and follow-ups – Deep Sigh, heaven!
Well, in times when we as a team couldn't land on a single time – this is an excellent tool to figure out our availability. I found the interface a little clunky to use, but it helped me resolve some meeting times, so I was glad.
A scheduling tool – either 1:1, group meetings, or webinars – allows you to monetize the sessions. The commission they take is reasonable. It also has a very clean, mobile-friendly interface.
These help you to manage the project once it has started
This is my project management tool when interacting with my client. It gives a quick picture that is smooth and easy to understand. Since it is a card-first approach, it becomes easy to track where we are in the project and where it is getting delayed. The interface is also simple to get started.
A collaborative project management tool that can be enjoyable, particularly when working in a team. Assign team members tasks and track them easily. The key is to know how to make the best use of it rather than using it just like a rundown list of to-dos. It then becomes an endless scroll, and one can easily get overwhelmed.
During Meetings and otherwise
The go-to tools that help you while on a call, or to collect your thoughts in a place.
This app is my go-to note-taker, especially during online meetings. One can create multiple notebooks. Inside each, you can start new sections and then add pages. Each page becomes a whiteboard. One can highlight, create lists, add photos, and references with links. It is simple, easy to store, open, and reflect. One can use this even without internet access. However, one needs to keep up with the system, which can easily fall through without arranging or categorizing them.
Oh, this is my favourite online tool. Apart from OneNote, Notion is another place where I store information – all in one location. The best part of it all – I can share it with others. It is so effective and customizable, and I am in awe of its capabilities, which range from creating simple to-dos to having written project plans, presentations, timelines, and more. However, you guessed it – there is a steep learning curve if you want to use it optimally. The mobile version needs to catch up with the desktop version.
There ends my round-up of the apps that I use for productivity. Keep an eye out for my deep dive into more of what's hot and user-friendly in the market!
Meanwhile, leave some thoughts on what tools you use or perhaps why you might agree/disagree with what I've mentioned here.