You know the feeling: You’re swamped with work and have no time. You start to feel awful, like you’re falling behind in your business or career and not being productive at all.

Is your work productivity out of whack? Yeah, I’ve totally been there too.

The biggest myth about productivity is that it’s about being able to do it all. But that’s simply not true — productivity is the opposite. It’s about focusing in on what you really want to do. But when you identify your real priorities and focus on what you want to do, you also need to find ways to do all the other things in your life more efficiently, every day.

Want to know how I manage it all? I use 8 “ninja tools” to keep my excess (insecurity) work to a minimum, so I can focus my energy on what really matters. Here are my top 8 favorite productivity tools and strategies — and how each lightens my workload:

  1. Never log onto Facebook or Twitter the first thing in the day. The night before, think of the two top priorities that must get done the next work day, and write them down. The next morning, do them first – don’t check your email or social media until you do. When you get those two priorities done, you’ll feel productive.
  2. Make a “do less” list. Steve Jobs told his management team we need to do less, not more. Provoke your company or organization to do less by writing down what you’ll do less of each month.
  3. Check your email three times a day … MAX. Stop checking email so much. You know what I’m talking about!
  4. Use Boomerang for Gmail. Schedule your email messages in advance so you can be more available and accessible, and reach people at the best time — for you and them.
  5. Use Rapportive. Pull up social networks in the sidebar of your Gmail account. It will show you your email contact’s LinkedIn profile, last five tweets, and their Facebook Page — a quick, simple way to connect with others.
  6. Use Google Voice. Google Voice will send text message transcriptions of the voicemails you receive right to your email. Much-needed, especially for those of us who spend most days on the road.
  7. Use Evernote. Hands down, this is a super-productive online tool to organize your files, notes, ideas and top articles in one place. Bonus: It syncs across your smartphone and computer.
  8. Try Instapaper. Did you find industry news or a must-read op-ed when you were browsing the Internet or your RSS feeds? Don’t stop and read now — save articles so you can read them later. Instapaper is your answer!

Get productive! And please, let me know how your productivity improves and any other tools you use in the comments below.

Erica Dhawan is a globally recognized leadership expert, Gen Y keynote speaker, consultant and researcher at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Her work with Gen-Y change agents and future-thinking companies changes the world. Learn more at and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

photo by: john.schultz