“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer

To me, family and dear friends are everything. That means the day-to-day juggling of a demanding job and everything else that is important and meaningful to me (especially time with loved ones) requires productivity tools.

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After about three years as a single mom, it is impossible to think I can get everything done. It is also impossible to try to do everything–it only wears me out. Balance is more important. The best I can do is the best I can do. The rest remains undone, and that is okay.

Over the years, I have discovered a few things which help me with the juggling. Instead of creating more stress, these 5 best productivity tools have helped me minimize the stresses of daily life. I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments, too!

5 Best Productivity Tools for a Happier Year

1. Disable Notifications

In our age of omnipresent smartphones, the biggest battle is to pay attention to a constant stream of notifications. All of us have experienced it, whether it’s from our own phone or from someone near us–a phone endlessly dinging, beeping, and vibrating with new texts, messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram comments, and notifications for every app. Tyranny of the urgent, I think. These notifications are nothing but distractions. Social Media and its river of glossy perfectionisms does not a happy life make. Nor does interruption help bring happiness. For me, my answer has been to disable every notification for the past several years. Sure, I don’t answer things on social media in a very timely fashion, but I feel much freer without notifications.

Smartphones aren’t the problem. It’s all the buzzing and dinging, endlessly calling for your attention. A Deloitte study in 2016 found that people look at their phones 47 times a day on average; for young people, more like 82. Apple proudly announced in 2013 that 7.4 trillion push notifications had been pushed through its servers. The intervening four years have not reversed the trend.

There’s a solution, though: Kill your notifications. Yes, really. Turn them all off. – Wired, July 2017

2. unroll.me

Some friends tucked me under their wings when I moved to town five years ago. I adore getting to be with them, whether it’s hanging out cross-legged on someone’s carpet or having a drink at a nearby restaurant. Always, we share stories, and always I come home with sides hurting from the wonderful laughter. But not only are they funny and fun, they are also savvy. And one mentioned a few years ago a new email service called unroll.me. I took her word for it and gave it a try. Now, I can’t imagine managing my personal email inboxes without unroll.me. It rolls every incoming non-essential email into a single email per day, and unsubscribes from unwanted email lists, all depending on what you tell it in a few easy clicks. It is a relief from the deluge of email and helps me stay connected with the ones which really are important.

3. iPhone

On my / our dream family trip for spring break, we managed to park our car in the airport long-term parking at 4 o’clock in the morning, and ran to catch the shuttle bus to the terminal. When we landed a week later, we returned to a parking lot of thousands of cars and not a clue where we had parked ours. And it was 1 o’clock in the morning. We were exhausted. We were cold. And we searched and searched for our car. Then, on a whim, I checked my iPhone to see the shape of the long-term parking lot, and noticed it showed me where we had parked our car a week before. It was a moment when I realized how helpful the iPhone really is. I love it for many things, including the parking locator, maps, calendar, and email integration that all help to keep me on track.

4. Paper planner

For those of us who came of business-age in the era of Covey and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, paper planners are not that unusual, even with today’s digital options. But it seems even younger generations are coming around to paper planners. For me, I need to have a place to keep notes from meetings and reminders in a visual place. I like the Moleskine with digital / paper integration, but I currently invest in the Erin Condren planner for its customizations. I like the horizontal layout in order to have enough room for notes.

5. Coffee to love

In the entryway of my home, I have a saying:

This home runs on love, laughter, and lots of strong coffee.

My morning coffee brings me happiness, over and over again. It seems silly, but really, the simple things make me smile. My coffee machine is going on 5 years now, the Nespresso Pixie with frother bundle. The recent Yeti company Christmas gift makes the perfect way to take coffee with me and keep it hot. Great cappuccino brings great happiness.

What are your favorite productivity tools? I am always happy for new suggestions. Happy 2018!

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