“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm, woolen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.”
As we dive even deeper into the holiday season, I’m hearing this song ad nauseam on the radio and in stores (maybe at this point, it’s just an ear worm in my head? I’m not sure…) I don’t know when it became a “holiday song,” perhaps it’s all the references to winter things in later verses, but it reminded me of some of MY favorite things that help me stay on track in life and boost my productivity on a regular basis. I’m sharing my top five favorites here with the hope that you consider some favorite things of your own that you appreciate and maybe couldn’t live without!
- Google Calendar & tools
Probably my all-time keeps-my-life-and-brain-organized tool is Google Calendar, and Google tools in general. Not just keeping track of where I need to be and when I need to be there, but Tasks and Reminders to help me remember what I need to do and when, Keep for all of that miscellaneous information that floats around in my head (what exactly did my husband say he wanted for stocking stuffers this year?) and all of the myriad jumble of time and information management that can clutter up my brain if I let it! While I pay for Google Workspace for business purposes, for most folks, the FREE version works beautifully, too.
My favorite paper planner ever. Why? Because it can be custom-created to serve all of the myriad needs I have that work better on paper. While I use Google tools for many things, I prefer to do my deep thinking and planning on paper. Buy a cover and some rings (which you use indefinitely) and you can fill it with any of Circa’s many templates for any area of your work and personal life. Calendars – daily, weekly, monthly, Meeting Notes, Mind Maps, To-Do lists, etc. Dividers and add-ons galore, all there to pick and choose as you like. Those ready-made planners may work for you, but often they’re filled with stuff I will never use – meal planning pages, fitness tracking, etc., etc., etc. The Circa planners only include what YOU choose, and can be refilled any time. While the website and choices can be overwhelming, if you’re a paper person, take some time to peruse the options, try a few out, eliminate what doesn’t work after a while, update, and experiment. (BTW – I’m happy to hop on a session to help you navigate and decide!)
In my experience, we all have at least some paperwork we need to keep easily accessible (some of us have a little too much…) My advice is to corral those papers in a desk-top file box to keep them organized, but at your fingertips, both at home for personal and family paperwork, and at the office. Set up a “command center” with this file box and you will have what you need when you need it. This acrylic file box is sleek, unobtrusive, goes with pretty much any decor, and will hold EXACTLY the right amount of paper files for every day accessibility.
At the beginning of the pandemic when I was on my laptop in meetings and client sessions for hours a day, I found myself struggling to find a pair of headphones that didn’t drive me up the wall after hours of use. I have fairly small ears, so ear buds are fine for about an hour, then the discomfort made me want to rip them out! Large, padded headphones were more comfortable, but they were HOT! So, I went searching for something else, and found these bone conduction headphones from Shokz. Originally designed for runners, who wanted to listen to stuff while running outside, but wanted to be able to hear things like traffic and other sounds that might signal pending harm, they rest on the bones just in front of your ears instead of in or around your ears. They keep the ear open, but work AMAZINGLY well by transmitting the sound vibrations through the bone instead of through the ear canal. So comfortable, and clear as a bell. They may also work better for folks with some hearing loss than traditional headphones. I bought a pair with a small mic so I could wander around my office while I talked, but they come both with and without. If you work in a noisy office or home setting, these probably won’t work for you and you will need noise cancelling headphones, and warning – they are not cheap! But, worth every penny to me because they made my work life so much easier and more comfortable.
- The Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin
While this is a book and not strictly a “tool”, I’ve found it to be enormously helpful in my relationships with clients, colleagues, family, and friends. Rubin explores four personality tendencies, which she labels Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel. Similar to things like Myers-Briggs and DiSC, but so much simpler and easier to discern. You can take a simple online test to figure out what type you might be, but I found that even without a formal “diagnosis,” it helped me to identify the personality type of those with whom I interact regularly. It opened my eyes to recognize what types those folks were, how to recognize their (and my own) strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, how to work, play, and generally interact with them in a positive, understanding manner. While it’s not a new book (published in 2017), and I had read bits and pieces of it over the past few years, I dove in and read the whole thing recently. Eye-opening, and perhaps one of the most helpful, and favorite tools for me of 2023!
I hope perhaps at least one of these tools may be helpful to you in the upcoming new year – check them out and let me know what you think. And – I’d love it if you would share some of YOUR favorite things with me!
Happy Holidays to you and yours – whatever and however you celebrate!