Here’s What Really Matters in Productivity Tools

Does the idea of being productive make you feel like you are juggling flaming chainsaws while blindfolded on a unicycle?

Professional on a unicycle juggling flaming chainsaws

(Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but let’s be honest, our work life can feel pretty intense.) Between designing workshops, crafting engaging training materials, and nurturing employee development, finding time to breathe, let alone be productive, feels like a pipe dream. (Share your favorite productivity tools and tips in the comments below.)

Here’s the truth: the latest productivity tool du jour, with its flashy interface and promises of “ultimate efficiency,” won’t magically solve your productivity issues. In fact, getting caught up in the “shiny object syndrome” can be a productivity trap itself. 

Remember Franklin Planners? I do, and I was all in, relying on mine to keep my tasks and commitments in line. I didn’t go anywhere without it. So, when it came to incorporating digital tools, I was hesitant to make the leap because there were so many options. Where does one start?

Yet, embracing these tech solutions eventually turbocharged my productivity levels.

I discovered it’s crucial to recognize that it wasn’t just the gadgets and software that made the difference. The real game-changer was how I integrated these tools into my workflow strategy. This key insight tends to get lost in the excitement of trying out new productivity tools. There is no improved productivity without improved or foundational workflow habits. 

Therefore, let’s dive into what really matters when choosing productivity tools. Let’s shift the mindset away from the “more tools, more productivity” myth and help you identify the specific areas slowing you down in your unique workflow.

Let’s focus on what works for you. This post will equip you with a clear checklist to assess potential tools and a curated list of options that can truly streamline your work.

But remember, the power lies not just in the tool but in how you use it. We’ll explore the crucial mindset shifts needed to make technology your ally, not your overlord. So, put down those flaming chainsaws and discover real, sustainable productivity tools to help you achieve what matters most.

Shifting the Productivity Mindset

Let’s face it, the world of productivity tools is almost endless. Every new app promises to be the magic bullet, the one-stop shop for crushing your to-do list and achieving zen-like focus. But before you get swept away by the latest “shiny object,” let’s take a step back and shift our mindset towards sustainable, personalized productivity.

Here’s why the “more tools, more efficiency” myth doesn’t hold water:

  • Shiny Object Syndrome is real: Jumping from tool to tool, seduced by the next big thing, is a recipe for distraction and unfinished projects.
  • One size doesn’t fit all: What works for your colleague might leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused.
  • Tools are amplifiers, not solutions: A fancy app won’t magically fix bad habits or unclear goals.

Instead, let’s focus on identifying your unique workflow bottlenecks:

  • Where does your time get sucked away? Is it endless email threads, scattered documents, or difficulty prioritizing tasks?
  • What are your biggest productivity pain points? Do you struggle with staying focused, keeping track of deadlines, or collaborating effectively?
  • What are your working style preferences? Do you thrive on structure or prefer flexibility? Do you need quiet or nature sounds to concentrate?

By understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and workflow quirks, you can choose tools that complement your natural tendencies, not fight against them.

Remember, technology is a tool, not a savior. The most powerful productivity tool you have is your own mindset and intention. By approaching technology with a clear understanding of your needs and goals, you can harness its power to create a work environment that truly supports you, not hinders you.

In the next section, we’ll equip you with a handy checklist to help you assess potential tools through the lens of your unique workflow. 

What Makes a Great Productivity Tool for You?

As L&D professionals, our needs are unique. We juggle diverse tasks, from crafting engaging workshops to collaborating with colleagues and tracking employee progress. So, when choosing a productivity tool, it’s crucial to look beyond the generic features and focus on solutions that cater to our specific workflow.

Here’s what makes a great productivity tool for L&D:

1. Task Management:

  • Clear organization: Easily create, categorize, and prioritize tasks within projects.
  • Visualizations: See your workload at a glance with kanban boards, Gantt charts, or priority lists.
  • Deadline management: Set due dates, receive reminders, and track progress towards completion.
  • Collaboration features: Share tasks, delegate subtasks, and communicate seamlessly with team members.

2. Time Tracking:

  • Accurate and efficient time capture: Log time spent on tasks with minimal clicks or interruptions.
  • Project and client tracking: Analyze time spent on specific projects and clients for informed decision-making.
  • Reporting and insights: Generate reports to identify time-consuming tasks and optimize your workflow.

3. Collaboration:

  • Real-time document editing: Collaborate on training materials, workshop outlines, and other documents simultaneously.
  • Communication tools: Chat, video conference, and share files seamlessly within the platform.
  • Version control: Track changes, revert to previous versions, and ensure everyone’s on the same page.

4. Automation:

  • Reduce repetitive tasks: Automate data entry, scheduling, and reminder notifications.
  • Integrate with existing tools: Connect with your LMS, calendar, and other workplace platforms.
  • Streamline workflows: Create automated processes to save time and reduce manual effort.

5. Ease of Use:

  • Intuitive interface: Learn the tool quickly and minimize the learning curve.
  • Mobile accessibility: Access your tasks, documents, and projects on the go.
  • Customizable settings: Tailor the tool to your specific preferences and workflow.

Bonus points:

  • Security and privacy: Ensure your data is protected with robust security features.
  • Affordability: Choose a tool that fits your budget and offers clear pricing options.
  • Customer support: Access reliable and responsive support when needed.

Remember, the best tool is the one that complements your work style and addresses your specific pain points. Don’t get caught up in the hype! And don’t be afraid to pull the plug on a tool that isn’t working for you. 

Cautions & Considerations

While the right productivity tool can be a game-changer for how you work, it’s important to approach your search with a healthy dose of skepticism and caution. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

Beware the Shiny Object Syndrome:

  • Flashy interfaces and feature overload don’t guarantee productivity. Focus on tools that address your specific needs and workflow, not just the latest fads.
  • Don’t jump ship too quickly. Give new tools a fair trial, but don’t get caught in a cycle of constantly chasing the next “magic bullet.”

Cost Creep & Hidden Fees:

  • Read the fine print! Many seemingly affordable tools have hidden costs for additional features, storage, or user licenses.
  • Beware of freemium models with limited functionality. Upgrading can become necessary as your needs grow, leading to unexpected expenses.
  • Consider subscription fatigue. Multiple tool subscriptions can quickly add up. A few dollars here and there can result in hundreds of dollars each year. Choose tools that offer good value for the price and integrate seamlessly with your existing ecosystem.

Over-reliance on Technology:

  • Remember, you’re still in charge! Tools are meant to empower your work, not replace your critical thinking and decision-making abilities. Develop your workflow first. 
  • Don’t let technology dictate your work style. Be mindful of how tools impact your focus, creativity, and collaboration. You know how you like to work, so find a tool that works with you, not against you. 
  • Maintain a healthy balance. Productivity is deeply intertwined with self-care; taking moments to reflect and recharge is crucial for maintaining your efficiency. By prioritizing time for reflection breaks and well-being, you nurture your mental and physical health and bolster your capacity to produce your best work.

Sustainability & Long-term Fit:

  • Choose tools that can grow with you. Consider your future needs and ensure the tool offers scalability and adaptability. Don’t plan just for today, but how you will use those tools tomorrow. 
  • Seek solutions that integrate with your existing tech stack. Opt for solutions that seamlessly mesh with your current tech ecosystem. This compatibility ensures a smoother workflow and builds on the effectiveness of your existing tools.
  • Prioritize data security and privacy. Choose tools with robust security features and transparent data handling practices. This vigilance safeguards your data and upholds the trust of those with whom you might share the tool.

Remember, technology is a tool, not a savior. Sustainable productivity stems from a holistic approach that considers your individual needs, workflow, and well-being. Use these cautions and considerations to find the right tools that complement your unique day, not dictate it.

Productivity Tools for Streamlined Workflow

Now that you’re armed with a clear mindset and checklist, let’s explore some powerful productivity tools that cater to your specific needs (those in bold are Learning Rebels favorites):

Task Management (for you or for the business):

  • Asana: Popular for its flexible project management, task organization, and visual dashboards. Excellent for collaborative planning and managing diverse L&D projects.
  • Trello: ⭐Simple, visual task management with intuitive drag-and-drop functionality. Ideal for keeping track of training development stages, brainstorming, and team assignments.
  • Highly customizable platform with powerful automation features. Great for complex workflows, managing employee development programs, and budget tracking.

Time Tracking:

  • Toggl Track: ⭐User-friendly time tracking with project tagging and reporting. Easy to integrate with other tools and helps you analyze time spent on specific training materials or workshops.
  • Harvest: Powerful time tracking and invoicing solution for freelancers or consultants. Perfect for tracking billable hours for customized training sessions or consulting work.
  • Clockify: Free and simple time tracking with mobile and desktop apps. Great for individual time management and understanding personal work patterns.


  • Google Docs: ⭐Oldies are goodies! Perfect for real-time collaboration on projects, materials, outlines, and team documents. Special shout-out to Jamboard!
  • Dropbox Paper: Collaborative document creation with real-time editing and comments. Ideal for brainstorming, collecting feedback on draft materials, and team brainstorming sessions.
  • Notion: All-in-one workspace for notes, tasks, projects, and wikis. Excellent for capturing knowledge, sharing resources, and facilitating internal collaboration within your L&D team.


  • Zapier: Connects different tools and automates repetitive tasks. Streamline workflows by automating data entry between your LMS, task management tool, and calendar.
  • IFTTT:Simple automation tool for connecting various apps and services. Automate reminders, create notifications and streamline repetitive tasks.
  • Make: Visual automation platform. Perfect for simple and complex workflows. Just drag and drop apps to automate existing workflows or build new complex processes.

Bonus Tools:

  • Loom: Screen recording tool for creating quick video tutorials, feedback snippets, or asynchronous communication with learners.
  • MindMeister: This online mind-mapping tool helps you visually brainstorm ideas, organize content, or simply map out your thoughts. Perfect for planning workshops, visualizing complex concepts, and facilitating collaborative planning sessions.
  • Evernote: Not just for note-taking, Evernote’s research and organization features are ideal for collecting and organizing research articles, web clippings, and resources, tagging them for easy retrieval, and even accessing them offline.
  • Feedly: ⭐This news aggregator and RSS reader keeps you informed about the latest trends and research in the L&D field. Curate specific feeds on topics relevant to your work or industry. Access articles, blogs, and updates from credible sources in one centralized location, saving you time and ensuring you stay ahead of the curve.

Remember: The best tools for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. Experiment, explore, and choose tools that truly empower your unique workflow and propel you toward healthy productivity.

Let’s Wrap this Up

Remember, true productivity isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. It’s about understanding your unique workflow, utilizing technology mindfully, and fostering a healthy relationship with work.

Here’s your call to action:

  • Don’t get overwhelmed by choice paralysis. Experiment with a few tools based on your checklist and identified needs.
  • Focus on sustainable solutions. Opt for tools that can grow with you and integrate seamlessly into your existing ecosystem.
  • Remember, you’re the driver, not the passenger. Use technology to empower your work, not dictate your style or well-being.
  • Share your journey! In the comments below, tell us about your favorite productivity tools and tips for fellow L&D professionals.

By embracing a mindful approach and utilizing the right tools, you can unlock your true potential, streamline your workflow, and achieve sustainable productivity that empowers you to make a real impact. So, put down those flaming chainsaws and take back your workflow. 

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Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

2 thoughts on “Here’s What Really Matters in Productivity Tools”

  1. What a brilliantly insightful post! The vivid imagery of juggling flaming chainsaws on a unicycle perfectly captures the intense nature of our work lives. The cautionary tale about the allure of “shiny object syndrome” and the reminder that technology should be an ally, not an overlord, resonates deeply.

    Your emphasis on the importance of mindset, workflow strategy, and the need for a holistic approach to productivity is refreshing. The checklist provided is a valuable tool for L&D professionals to identify and address their unique workflow bottlenecks.

    The breakdown of what makes a great productivity tool for L&D, along with the cautionary considerations, is practical and serves as a helpful guide. The curated list of productivity tools, especially the Learning Rebels favorites, adds a personal touch and showcases a thoughtful selection catering to diverse needs.

    The call to action encourages a proactive and mindful approach to experimentation with tools, focusing on sustainability and individual empowerment. The reminder that true productivity is a journey, not a destination, and the invitation to share personal experiences and tips in the comments create a sense of community engagement.

    In a world inundated with productivity advice, your post stands out as a beacon of practical wisdom, guiding professionals to reclaim control over their workflow. Kudos on providing a comprehensive, well-rounded, and genuinely helpful resource for anyone seeking to enhance their productivity in the dynamic landscape of L&D.


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