My tools for being productive – Part One

ProductivityLike so many workers these days, I spend hours per day staring at a computer screen. There are obviously many distractions when you are permanently connected, so it’s easy to lose focus and just surf, sometimes for hours on end.

Distractions aside, we all have different ways of getting our stuff done. Different tools we use and methods we follow. I thought I’d share mine, which are admittedly always changing. Hope you find some of the things useful.

Getting Things Done

If you haven’t read the seminal book¬†Getting Things Done by David Allen, then I strongly urge you to do so. Allen has an army of devotees across the world following his system, usually shortened to just ‘GTD’. It is a brilliant method for getting things out of your head, and into a trusted system of lists that you can refer to and find a task that can be done:

  1. Within the energy level you have
  2. In the location or context that you find yourself in
  3. With the tools you have to hand

Allen’s follow-up book, Making It All Work, adds more context to the methodology, helping the reader to define why a particular task is important at any given time. You don’t have to read this book to ‘get’ the system, the first book does all that, but I still refer to both books after many years of doing GTD.

Whether you adopt the system wholesale or just implement the parts which suit you best, I guarantee your productivity will increase after reading these books.

Dual Monitors

If you have never used a computer with dual, or even triple, monitors, you haven’t experienced a whole new level of productivity. Having so much screen real estate means less time switching between applications and just being able to see so much at once is a revelation.

If you have a laptop, chances are it has a video out port. I strongly recommend buying a second monitor, which are now dirt cheap, and having it permanently connected to your laptop while you’re working in a fixed place.

Once you’ve gone dual, you’ll never go back. Some screen sizes are now so huge that they achieve a similar result, but there is still something about having two monitors. I have two 22″ screens for my office PC – that’s a lotta screen!


This is a new discovery for me. I have been looking for a way to have a fast, efficient task sharing system for my company, so that my colleagues and I can assign projects and tasks to each other, get updates when progress is made and so on. Our financial services industry-specific back office system is awful for task management.

Asana was founded in late 2011 by two of the cofounders of Facebook. No doubt they have made their millions by being part of that illustrious social network, but they have now turned their minds to helping companies to collaborate.

Asana uses state of the art technology within your browser to be so fast it is almost seamless. Get used to the four or five keystrokes you need and you’ll be flying through the system without ever touching your mouse. Best of all, it is free for up to 30 users. Nice


Power users of computers use their mice (mouses?!) or trackpads as little as possible. OK, maybe this is changing with the advent of multi-touch trackpads, but still, you can tell a proficient user by their instinctive use of keystrokes to drive their machines.

From Control (Cmd) X, C and V for cut, copy and paste, to more advanced strokes, learning the keystrokes specific to your system and your way of working will make life easier by far.

That’ll do for this post, but there’s more to come next time. Till then, what do you use to stay productive? What tips do you have to help others achieve productivity ninja-level status?!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Andrew Reeves

    Evernote + GTD. This guy says it best. Like you I have adapted for my purposes and it keeps getting tweaked. Made a big difference though. BTW used CTRL + C and CTRL + V for the link above ;OD (See you at Celtic curry!)

    • petematthew

      Thanks for that link Andrew; not seen that before. I love it when there’s a new website to delve into! See you Monday…