5 Old School (But Highly Effective) Productivity Tools for Entrepreneurs

While, certainly, technology can be instrumental in boosting productivity, sometimes going old-school is the best way to get the job done. Whether you want to complement the high-tech tools and apps you use or simply wish to avoid being distracted by technology, analog may be one of the best ways to be efficient at work.

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I interviewed several entrepreneurs to find out what low-tech productivity tools they use to stay on top of their daily tasks. Here’s what they had to say:

A handwritten to-do list

Forget about apps that interrupt your daily grind to buzz a task reminder.

Shane Griffiths, partner at Clarity Online, an SEO marketing agency in Seattle, prefers writing his tasks down on paper.

“I keep a notepad with me at all times, with a list of tasks for the day,” Griffiths said. “I have an outline of tasks, meetings, reminders and general notes I take throughout the day. Numbering these helps me to stay prioritized and on schedule. At the end of each day, I’ll review the leftover tasks and make a new list for the next day.”

A whiteboard

For those of you who are visual thinkers, a whiteboard can be a great instrument for creativity and brainstorming.

Charlie Worrall of Imaginaire Digital, a UK-based digital marketing agency, says that despite his company being incredibly high-tech and his love for project management software, he still incorporates a few low-tech tools into his routine, as well. Most notably, a large, vinyl whiteboard.

“On the whiteboard wall, we’re able to plan out our projects and brainstorm the best ways to have a big impact on our clients. This also means that when planning a website, we can even create a rough sketch of it on the wall,” Worrall said.

“After that, we can get up close to it and erase anything that we don’t like. This also means that we can view the very fine details that make our sites look bespoke and high-end! A big whiteboard is a must for me; the visual aspect of it keeps me on track and moving forward.”

Sunrise Manifesto Guided Morning Journal

We’ve all woken up in the middle of the night with a task or worry on our minds.

Kali Geldis, director of marketing at Nav, relies on a paper journal called the Sunrise Manifesto Guided Morning Journal as a central place to jot these ideas down.

“I’m a morning person, so 4 a.m. wakeups are my norm. I was having trouble harnessing my morning energy though. I would wake up scattered and start a million to-dos, but finish zero,” Geldis said. “I started using the Sunrise Manifesto Journal and it really helped me focus my thoughts and priorities for the day.”

Composition notebooks

Douglas Dedrick, a writer at HealingLaw.com, prefers composition notebooks for getting organized. He suggests entrepreneurs keep one or two general notebooks, using one for your most important, time-sensitive notes. Then, you can store your longer-term goals and ideas in the second notebook, tailored to specific subjects as they relate to your business.

“As a freelance writer, the best tools for me to stay organized are my notebooks. I have over 20 notebooks floating around my office, car and home,” Dedrick said. “Each of them holds notes and ideas that I would otherwise lose. In my opinion, there is no application or computer program that can help me stay organized better than a good old pen and notebook.”

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Post-it notes

Post-it notes are arguably the greatest analog tool for organization.

I place Post-its on a board, representing each phase of a given project I’m working on, organizing them by timeframe or priority. And when I’m working on a presentation, I might create a Post-it for each slide. Then, if I notice one topic might fit better in a different place, I’ll move them around accordingly as I build the presentation.

I also use Post-it notes to keep focused and on task. It’s so easy to get distracted, and the notes will remind me what I need to get done next.

Most of the entrepreneurs and business owners I interviewed used technology in conjunction with these analog tools in order to stay productive. Whatever it takes to stay organized, there’s no doubt that an organized entrepreneur is a successful entrepreneur!

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