Best-loved productivity tools of the rich and famous


What’s that one productivity tool you simply couldn’t live without? For me, it’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the voice recognition package that, despite its many quirks and frustrations, has saved me countless hours of keyboard time over the past 15 years.

This week I set out to find a NaturallySpeaking equivalent for other business professionals. I posted a simple question on Twitter and the sourcing site Qwoted: “What’s the one digital productivity tool you would take if you had to be marooned on a desert island (presumably with internet access)?” I got way more responses than I could handle.

Technology journalist David Strom chose Mailman, the open-source mailing list manager he’s used for years to send his weekly newsletter. Mailman has “served me well in generating business, building brand identity, and marketing my services and expertise,” he said. “There are others with exciting technology, but Mailman does the job, and I am familiar with its quirks.”

For Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure, AnyDesk wins “hands down. It connects me to my computer from all of my mobile devices just as if I were in the office.” Similar applications he’s tried to make compromises on reliability or interface, but “AnyDesk is both simple and powerful.”

Several people responded that workflow and collaboration tools topped their lists. An SEO and marketing manager at PhotoAiD, who goes only by “Natalia,” likes Asana, a collaboration aid that “enables me to organize, manage, and track projects and work. I cannot imagine working without it,” she said.

Amy Hart-Koullapis of the nonprofit World Vision International swears by Kissflow, a workflow, project management, and collaboration platform that has automated processes that “used to involve many email chains, multiple attachments, and Excel spreadsheets,” she said.” Her organization uses Kissflow to build custom workflows without coding and roll them out with no training.

Airtable helps Virginia Cram-Martos, CEO of Triangularity, to easily organize, keep, and reference information on various projects. She uses the flexible relational database to maintain tables in 23 categories like partners, competitors, PR opportunities, and articles of interest. “I never need to scratch my head about where I saw a potential competitor or technology of interest,” she said.

Oleksandr Kosovan, founder of Mac software developer MacPaw, couldn’t get by without OmniFocus task management software. “We have more than a dozen products, and OmniFocus allows me to be on track of different projects and deadlines, as well as on different platforms,” he said.

Deepak Shukla, founder of SEO consultancy Pearl Lemon, was dying the death of a thousand browser tabs until he came across a Chrome extension called Toby. It lets him drag-and-drop tabs into a single visual workspace organized however he likes. No more hunting for the right tab, and “it makes my laptop faster because not all the tabs are open,” he said.

Notion is my favorite tool that I use every day,” volunteered marketing services entrepreneur Sam Piliero. A cross between Evernote and Asana, it’s good for “project planning, lists, and, most importantly, my rolling to-do list,” he said. Better yet, it’s free for personal use.

As a defense contractor, G2IT has a lot of moving parts to track in each project. “CORAS manages all our clients’ data from various sources in one live platform for reporting and decision-making for billion-dollar DoD budgets, people, and programs,” said Founder Mike Gauche. The software understands structured and unstructured data, uses a neural map to break big problems down into smaller ones, and learns from new data sources. The Navy manages its budget with it, so what more do you need to know?

After looking at the feature list in ClickUp, I think I’m going to get it for myself. “ClickUp is like Google Sheets and every productivity tool had a baby,” said Lauren Petrullo, founder of Mongoose Media and several other companies. Her team lives in an “if this then that” world, where status changes have ripple effects. She can create rules that automate all kinds of processes to keep staffers informed and on track. It’s “a traffic person, project manager, and assistant in one,” she said.

Not every choice was high-tech. Marcia Layton Turner, founder of the Association of Ghostwriters, said the $19.99 Productivity Cube helps her stay focused while writing. The plastic cube has various time increments etched into the sides. “You set the cube down with the time you want facing up, it counts down, and then buzzes when your time is up,” she said. That’s when she takes a break.

And let’s close with a special shout-out to an old friend. “I’m really starting to love the phone call all over again,” said Ted Power, Chief Product Officer at Emburse. “After 18 months of non-stop Zooms, I feel that the art of the one-to-one phone call has been lost.”

I agree. While Zoom has made meetings more human and personal, I don’t always want to dress for them, and there are times when a voice is enough. “Also, I think better on my feet and usually walk around when I’m on the phone,” Power said. “If you do that on a Zoom video call, everyone thinks you look weird.”

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