Productivity Tools

Dorie’s Resource Guide for Entrepreneurial Professionals:
The Apps, Productivity Tools, Products & Services I Use 

Photo by Marilyn Humphries.

Photo by Marilyn Humphries.

Hi there! Like you, I work a lot. In 2015, I gave 74 talks on four continents, and I write a blog post every 2-3 days. As a result, I’m often asked about the tools I use to stay productive. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial professional working inside a company, it’s important to make your work time count, so you can get important things done and enjoy life even more. This is my collection of 15 of my absolute favorites – the products and tools I swear by on the road and when I’m working at home. Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that I’ll get a small commission if you order them. Every product is one that I use regularly. I hope you enjoy. 

  •  This Contact Management System: Contactually. I knew it was important to grow my email list so I could stay in touch with clients and people who were interested in my work. But eventually it grew so unwieldy, I wasn’t sure who to focus on. Everyone got my e-newsletter, but of course I should be prioritizing certain relationships and making sure the connections didn’t go cold. But it was too much for my brain to keep track of, so for a while, I gave up. Clearly, that’s not the best business move in the world. That’s when my friend John Corcoran (an attorney, author, and podcaster) told me about Contactually, an online contact management system that has a killer feature: you can “bucket” your contacts (professional colleagues, friends, prospective clients, etc.) and specify how frequently you’d like to be in touch with them. For instance, you might want to check back with a prospective client at least every month. You can link Contactually up to your email and social media accounts, and if it’s been more than a month since you’ve been in touch, Contactually will notify you with a reminder to ping them. Voila! It does the thinking for you and allows you to keep in touch with the people you most need to. It even color codes your relationships as green, yellow, or red, so you can easily see whether you’ve been nurturing the relationship properly. You can try it free for 30 days and it’s pretty darn cool.
  • This Calendar App: Sunrise. For a long time, I used the built-in calendar function on my iPhone. It was fine enough. But then I found out about Sunrise, a truly fantastic (free!) calendar app that’s available. What’s so great about it? First of all, it’s handsome. Second, it provides timezone support, so if (like me) you’re often booking engagements for next week in Seattle but you’re in New York this week, it will figure it out and adjust for you. And third and best of all, when you enter the location of your meetings into the app, it automatically links to Google Maps, so you can see it on the map and quickly hit a button to get directions and estimated travel time. Score! This has been enormously helpful. 
  • This Scheduling App: ScheduleOnce. Something else that took up an enormous amount of time for me was scheduling meetings and phone calls. There could be half a dozen back-and-forth exchanges before you found a time that worked for everyone (Tuesday? No? How about Wednesday? No? Next Friday? OK, noon? No? How about 3?). ScheduleOnce, which is a paid service but has a 14-day free trial, allows you to send someone an online link to your schedule and they can look it up, find a time that also works for them, and then arrange the booking themselves electronically. (Crucially, it’s easy to book across multiple time zones.) You receive the calendar notification, which Sunrise swoops up into its system. Magic! I love it so much. I’ve tried a couple of scheduling options, and this one is by far the best I’ve used.
  • This Lifehack to Avoid Backaches: Racquetballs. I love racquet sports, so I always had some tennis balls or racquetballs around the house. Imagine my surprise when I visited a physical therapist that shared this awesome lifehack with me: Stand against a wall with a racquetball positioned wherever you have a knot in your back. Press backward and move up and down for an incredibly effective and inexpensive massage. I now carry a racquetball in my carry-on bag, because too much flying will almost inevitably given me a backache. If you’re hurting and a visit to the spa is not in the cards, this is a really good fallback option.
  • This Way to Avoid Headaches: SodaStream. On the road, the peril is backaches from cramped airplanes. At home or in the office, it’s headaches from forgetting to drink enough water. For years, I had frequent headaches – sometimes quite bad – before I figured out I was just being an idiot. Now I drink several liters a day and feel fantastic. But regular water always seemed a little sad, and a little boring to me. As a kid, I used to drink way too much Coca-Cola, and my love of carbonation has lingered. That’s why SodaStream has been a blessing in my life. It actually makes drinking water feel as enjoyable as drinking soda, and with zero calories. Seriously, the best way to double your productivity is to actually feel healthy and not be crippled by headaches.
  • This Way to Avoid Stomachaches: Two Degrees Bars. You might be sensing a theme here: life on the road is tough. You’re cramped up in an airplane where they’re steadily eroding your legroom and sense of dignity, you arrive at a late hour when there’s no food available, and you’re frequently subjected to bizarre timing demands (I’ve had to spend the night on the floor at Dulles Airport; arrived at 9pm because of a delayed flight and then had to speak at 7am the next morning; and the like). One time, I was stuck in the Miami airport with an eight-hour delay and the vendors in our terminal literally ran out of food. Nothing. That’s why I now always carry energy bars with me in my carry-on luggage. I know the founders of Two Degrees bars, so it’s a personal connection (they’re cool!), but I also find the bars super-tasty, especially the chocolate banana and cherry almond, and they donate a meal to a hungry child for every bar you buy. Not bad!
  • These Shoes: Eccos Dublin Apron Toe Slip On Loafers. When you’re a frequent business traveler, you can’t afford to stuff your luggage with a million different shoes. In fact, unless I’m planning to work out and need sneakers, I usually try to only bring one pair: the one I’m wearing. That’s where these Eccos come in. They’re absolutely dressy enough to give a lecture in, but comfortable and casual enough that you can also wear them with jeans. I love them so much, I bought them in two different sizes – one for the summer so I can wear them with thin socks, and one for the Northeastern winter so I can wear ridiculously thick wool socks. These are men’s shoes, but Eccos is a great line and also has a lot of nice women’s shoe options, too. Eccos has been my go-to brand for more than three years, and I love them! 
  • This Way to Grow Your Email List: SumoMe. If you have a website, you need this tool – period. It’s free and amazing. SumoMe helps you grow your email list by allowing you to set up non-obtrusive pop-ups on your website (you can schedule them to pop up at intervals that won’t annoy people, such as when they’re about to leave your page) and enabling you to customize them in a really nice way. They dramatically increased my email signup rate, and if you choose to upgrade to a paid version, you can even do A/B testing to get really precise about what will increase your conversion rate. It’s also ridiculously easy to install. They claim it takes 37 seconds and I honestly didn’t believe them. But it’s true! I’ve never studied web design or programming but was able to do it myself and get it working immediately. A great tool. 
  • This Travel App: TripIt. If you travel a lot (or even a little), it can be confusing to organize all the details. Which airline was it again? Which hotel? Which car rental service? Solve your problem by using TripIt, which is available for free (which I used for a long time) or you can upgrade to TripIt Pro, which I finally bit the bullet on because I love the service so much. Whenever you receive a travel confirmation, just forward it along to TripIt, which will organize it neatly in one place. Whenever you need a pesky piece of information (what was that airline confirmation code again?), just look it up in the TripIt app.
  • This Professional Development Tool: CreativeLive. In the new economy, we can’t rely on our companies to handle professional development for us: we need to educate ourselves. One of the fastest, cheapest, and most interesting ways to do it is through CreativeLive, a company that offers online video instruction for ridiculously affordable prices. Generally, you can get 12+ hours of instruction from top experts for $100 or so. I’ve done a CreativeLive workshop myself, called Personal Branding for Creative Professionals, and if you’d like to spend nearly two full workdays hangin’ with me (at your convenience), that’s a really good way to do it. (The concepts we cover – how to do self-promotion the right way, how to create and share your professional narrative, etc. – apply to every professional. Here’s a short clip so you get the flavor.) Even if you’ve overdosed on me, there are lots of other interesting and valuable courses you might enjoy, from design to entrepreneurship to health and wellness. It’s worth browsing around
  • This Email App: Boomerang. Have you ever wished you could easily schedule an email in advance on Gmail? Or be reminded to follow up if someone doesn’t get back to you about something? Boomerang makes it really, really easy. It’s a free add-on to Gmail (they also have it for Outlook), and they also have a more advanced paid version. We can’t remember it all, and there are only so many “tickler file” notes we can leave for ourselves. Boomerang helps make sure you stay on top of what needs to get done.
  • These Books. I read a lot. When I was a kid, I’d get ridiculously bored if my mom dragged me around doing errands – but if I had a book in my hand, I could be patient for hours. It’s no different now. I suppose I could let my mind wander or meditate, but I’d rather be reading. Here are some of my favorite business books of all time – the ones I consider classics in the field. I could read these again and again. They include: Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone; Jeffrey Pfeffer’s Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t; Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion; and Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. A new favorite is Guy Spier’s The Education of a Value Investor: My Transformative Quest for Wealth, Wisdom, and Enlightenment.
  • These Podcasts. If you’re a busy professional, you need to make good use of your time. If you’re driving, or waiting in line at airport security, or working out on a treadmill, podcasts allow you to simultaneously be learning. My pal Jay Baer, a business author and podcaster himself, created a really useful site called MarketingPodcasts.com, which compiles all the great options in one place. You can literally enjoy thousands of hours of completely free education at your convenience. For a great starting point, check out Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation, Jay’s own Social Pros podcast, John Lee Dumas’ Entrepreneur on Fire, MarketingProfs’ Marketing Smarts podcast, Jordan Harbinger’s Art of Charm, and more. You could be learning for the rest of your life with just these. The information you can find for free online is nothing short of amazing; I’ve written about the future of podcasting for Forbes and I listen to podcasts every single day.
  • This car service app: Uber. You’ve probably used Uber before. If you haven’t, well, it’s heavenly. Yes, its CEO is an a@&*hole. And yet: it utterly solves the problem of smoky cabs, and disrespectful and lying cabbies who take you the long way, all of which I’ve experienced many times before as a frequent traveler. My experience with Uber’s customer service has been great, and even my mom has become an ardent fan. Totally worth experiencing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these resources. If you’d like to delve even deeper, feel free to check out the 400+ free articles on my website, or read my books Reinventing You and Stand Out. Thanks and good luck.