Tools of the Trade: Staying Productive

As someone with a Type A personality, a propensity for detail, and more demands on me than I feel I can bear sometimes, I’m always looking for ways to better manage my two most important resources: time & information.  As it happens, one of the assignments we have with Founder Institute is to create a “Startup Toolkit”, so I thought it would be a good time to share what I keep in my arsenal.  Now, one thing I have learned from past discussions on this topic is that personal productivity tools are, well, very personal.  And, having been associated with Microsoft for over 10yrs, I’m probably not as agnostic as some may prefer for giving advice.  But, it’s free.  So….


I use both. I have a dual-monitory homebuilt beauty in a slimline case that is my workhorse. While most of my data is stored in the “cloud”, I do use a few desktop apps, most notably Microsoft Office and Microsoft Visual wp7-1Studio. And, I have a Gateway laptop with a 17” screen, a true desktop replacement that I use when I need to use the aforementioned apps away from the office. Most of the time, it is hooked to my HDTV, allowing me to monitor twitter throughout the day or view my work on a larger display.


I have an HTC HD2 running Windows Phone 7.5 and I love it.  I’ll spot the iPhone wide appeal (lemmings), accessories and app marketplace, but if you look at features and top-rated apps, you’d be hard pressed not to consider WP7.  I don’t have to buy it, I chose to, and think it’s the best phone platform out there.  I have both my personal (Skydrive) and business (Office 365) portals synced to it, so I’m literally able to work from anywhere (obviously with vary levels of ease) in a pinch.  But again, I don’t fault anyone for buying an iPhone or even Android-powered phone.  Ok, let’s move on.


As I’ve discussed before, I bought an iPad the first day that they were available.  It is a nice ‘tweener’ – more practical/useful than a smartphone, while being much more convenient than carrying a laptop everywhere.  And because most of what I use is web-based, I have few issues.  Where it fails miserably is in the creation and editing of documents.  No matter what anyone tells you, it isn’t a replacement for a laptop, even with a keyboard.  In a pinch, I’ve used GoToMyPC to connect back to my desktop.  Not ideal, but it works.  Overall, it is a very rare circumstance in which I feel I’m not well equipped to get things done.

capturxNote Taking

One of a multitude of hats I wore during my days at Microsoft was OneNote evangelist.  Even today, I think it is one of the most underappreciated products the company has, and I hope that the introduction of an iPhone app is just the start of an increased focus on the potential it has in the market.  Yes, for about a year I did stray to Evernote, and was very happy with the product.  I particularly like the ability to email notes to yourself and feel that the UI and notebook metaphor is much easier to work with than OneNote’s.  But, I have a lot of information invested in OneNote and it works quite well with Windows Phone 7.

Adapx Capturx for OneNote

I’ve used this digital pen + notebook product off & on for several years (psst – could someone from Adapx please respond to my email? Sheesh) and have been mostly happy with it.  Why, you may ask, do I need this when I have an iPad and a smartphone?  Because sometimes you just want a pen & paper, that’s why.  And, sometimes I am doing something on the iPad and don’t want to continually be switching back & forth.  This particular version, when I connect the pen to my PC, uploads my handwritten notes into OneNote.  And because OneNote has the abilitymurse to a) convert handwriting to text and b) index handwritten notes, I really do get the best of both worlds.

My “Murse” (man purse)

Call me metro-sexual, just don’t call me ill-equipped.  Or late to dinner (ha!).  I like to travel comfortably, and fashionably.  Long ago I gave up on carrying a wallet (too bulky), opting for a travel billfold that forces me to carry less and use a breast pocket rather than the pockets of my pants.  But most days I find even that too much.  And as I started accumulating more tech gadgets, chargers, batteries, etc. And began spending days away from a “traditional” office, I realized I needed something that was relatively stylish yet easy to work with.  Hence, the “murse”.  I haven’t found the perfect one, and in fact will likely have several (insert purse jokes here).  But most days I carry a Targus bag designed for tablets that works really well.

Together, these tools keep me about as organized and prepared as any technology possibly could.  Often I think about what, if anything, I would add or change.  But this has worked well for me the last year (save for a phone update).