When I graduated from college, I had no work experience. And that didn’t sit too well with the real life that followed. The result? I repeatedly messed up at work or fell behind schedule because I lacked good productivity habits. Before long, I realised I needed help.
So I turned to productivity apps for answers. In the years since, I’ve tried everything from Asana to ZipSchedules, and I’ve progressed from being basically unhire-able to running my own successful business.
Which got me thinking: There are so many productivity tools out there today that it’s nearly impossible to decide which ones to choose. That’s why I rounded up some of the most productive people I know and asked them what tools they use, on a daily basis, to stay productive. Here are their surprising answers.
1. Andres Moran
Moran is the co-founder of Fundera, a reputable small business loan startup, and Vestable, a marketplace for small businesses. He’s often in touch with other business owners, and his favourite productivity tools are email-related.
Related: Can productivity tools help me?
According to some studies, U.S. workers spend as much as 6.3 hours a day compulsively checking and responding to email. Lowering this number by whatever means necessary should be high on everyone’s priority list.
- Yesware. “This email extension allows you to see whenever someone opens an email you sent. It also shows you their location and whether they viewed your email on mobile or desktop. Beyond that, Yesware allows you to store email templates and schedule emails to be sent at a later time.”
- Rapportive. “Rapportive allows you to see the social media profiles of recipients. The most utility I get out of it is to test different possible email address variations of a person I’d like to cold email.”
2. Preston Pesek
Pesek started his career in real estate on Wall Street but has since turned to running Spacious, the world’s first “time-share” co-working solution. Pesek says he spends a lot of time managing his remote team of employees and responding to emails.
According to surveys, up to 49 percent of millennials support better social tools for workplace collaboration, while 86 percent of employees and executives think a lack of communication leads to workplace failures. Being able to keep in constant touch with decision-makers and team members is key to a healthy organisation.
- Slack. “Can’t live without it. Our team is distributed, mobile, and we work in multiple locations throughout the day. Slack is where we can always find each other, and Slack calls have replaced conference-call UX, video, voice and file-sharing.”
- Mail. “There are lots of slick new apps out there for email, but nothing beats the clean and intuitive interface of Apple Mail. I ride the subway and draft underground. I send and forget, and don’t get that message “failed to send” [as I do with apps] like Slack and SMS. Apple Mail just sends when I’m back online.”
3. Jay Baer
Baer has advised hundreds of blue chip companies on everything marketing related. By the time he started Convince & Convert in 2008, he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest names in digital marketing. Unsurprisingly, Baer does a lot of traveling and speaking.
In the United States alone, people go on more than 488 million business trips annually to meet with clients and prospects. At the same time, over $213 billion per year (or 1 percent of the 2014 U.S. GDP) is wasted on unnecessary meetings. Streamlining both travel booking and appointment setting can go a long way to cutting costs.
- Tripit. “This keeps all of my travel plans and documents in one place, and easily accessible via laptop, phone or tablet. I travel 180 days per year, and couldn’t survive without TripIt. I’d be wandering around downtown trying to figure out what hotel I booked.”
- Amy.io. “It’s the magic, human-like robot that schedules meetings and conference calls automatically. It offers the best of artificial intelligence, installed to your inbox and calendar. An amazing time-saver.”
4. Eric Siu
Siu is the CEO of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. He co-hosts the Marketing School podcast with Neil Patel, and is also the founder of Growth Everywhere, a podcast on startup growth. Siu spends a lot of his time sharing files, and has figured out how to do it as efficiently as possible.
Not counting time spent on TV, radio or video games, the average American consumes over 3.5 hours of online media every day. Every second, over 2.3 million people Google something. That’s a lot of clicking, liking and sharing. Knowing how to share things even faster and with a higher degree of automation is the secret to social media mastery.
- Droplr. “You can take screenshots of things and annotate them quickly. After Dropir takes the screenshot, it copies it to the clipboard and you can share with people. There’s a lot less clicking around and it saves a lot of time each day.”
- Alfred. “A search bar that lets you find any file very quickly or do calculations on the fly. This will allow me to find something very quickly and drag it into Mac to send to somebody. It can even launch apps, run searches in Wikipedia, etc.”
5. Joseph Warwick
Warwick, a content marketing consultant, is the former digital marketing director of Xerox and is currently a content marketing strategist at Blast Analytics. He’s a data-driven social media expert obsessed with tracking how he spends his own time.
Most of us think that we’re being as productive as possible at work. But when the average American worker wastes a median 2.5 hours each day, knowing how to keep better track of your time can be career-changing.
- SproutSocial. “It can be a challenge to respond to social media mentions and requests in a timely fashion, particularly when they’re spread across five or more social channels. Sprout has helped me consolidate all of my social into one place and better manage community engagement.”
- Harvest. “Harvest is a time-tracking tool that’s been a lifesaver and helps me understand whether I am scoping my client projects appropriately and staying profitable with my time.
Productivity is a deeply personal habit
Did you notice that no two people listed the same tool? Perhaps productivity isn’t something that you can just copy and paste from productive people. Maybe it’s more like a culture fit, a way of life that needs to be adapted to each person’s unique personality, work style and needs.
My personal favourite “productivity app” is Google Drive. Not only does it make sharing and real-time collaboration a snap, I also keep my daily to-do list in a Google Doc. Whenever I’m done with tasks, I cross them out. Any tasks that are left unfinished by the end of the day are simply pushed into the next day. It’s simple, but it gets the job done.
If you’re still struggling to be productive, try out some of these apps. Just remember: You shouldn’t use a productivity tool simply because other people do. Figure out what works best for you and stick with it. Sometimes the simplest productivity hacks are the most valuable.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.