27 Founders Reveal Their Favorite Tool to Keep Them Organized
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur's "20 Questions" series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
There is no one right way to cut through the clutter and keep distractions at bay. It often takes time and trial and error to figure out the strategies that work best for you.
Whether it’s a unique app or a simple pen and paper, we asked 27 successful founders to share what tools they use to keep themselves on the right track.
Appeal to your brain.
Name: Brit Morin
Company: Brit + Co
Organizational tool: I’ve just started using an app called Brain.fm. The founders have studied the brain for years and figured out that certain sounds trigger different brain impulses -- some of which can aide in focus, sleep and anxiety. It’s been fascinating to play the music while trying to get work done; it’s like an instant ability to focus in a way I’ve never experienced before.
Read more about Morin: This Founder Shares the Secret to How to Make Your Business Last
Make your schedule a priority.
Name: Carrie Dorr
Company: Pure Barre
Organizational tool: Evernote I use for everything, Shazam for music. I use Think Dirty to find toxin-free products because I’m really into that. And Amazon Prime and Instacart too, I love that you can get things delivered during the hours that work for you. I don’t know what I would do without those five.
Read more about Dorr: This Founder Shares How to Tailor Your Schedule to Fit Your Brain
Send notes to your future self.
Name: Amber Venz
Organizational tool: I use my inbox as a to-do list. Whenever I'm out and I think of things that I need to do, I just send myself a quick email or just put in the subject line the thing I need to do, so that later I can just search by my own name to find it. I find I don't write them down it will get lost. The other thing is actually screenshots. If something makes me remember that I need to do something, or it gives me an idea. I'll just take a screenshot of it and email it to myself.
Read more about Venz: This Founder Shares the Mindset That Helps Her Stay On Track
Delegate to a team you trust.
Name: Bastian Lehmann
Organizational tool: I use Clear; it’s a to-do list app. I also send myself emails. But I’m not really good at organizing time, so it helps me have a chief of staff to work with and to get things done. My advice is to figure out what you’re strong at and what you’re not. Having a team that does that [fills in the gaps] has freed up a lot of my time to spend more time doing the things I love.
Read more about Lehmann: This Founder Shares the One Trait He Looks for in Every Hire
Use your calendar to change your behavior.
Name: Julia Hartz
Organizational tool: I live by my Google calendar; it’s a compass for navigating my days. Productivity starts with staying organized and calendaring my day enables me to create a structure that empowers me to get things done. It’s also crucial to block out time for yourself, so you’re not just stuck in meetings all day. Each week, I look back back at how I spend my time and re-evaluate if needed, so I also use it as a learning tool.
Read more about Hartz: The Day This Eventbrite Co-Founder Learned When to Speak Up
Have access to your notes everywhere.
Name: David Bladow
Organizational tool: I use the Notes app. It syncs between all devices; it’s very simple. I make agendas and it's all there. The best tool is the one that you use, and for me, that’s my system.
Read more about Bladow: This Founder Has 3 Simple Tips to Achieve Maximum Productivity
Sound the alarm.
Name: Randi Zuckerberg
Company: Zuckerberg Media
Organizational tool: It’s old-school, but I set a lot of alarms during the day, like for when when I want to be done with something. Sometimes I follow them, sometimes I don’t, but it does bring mindfulness into my day.
Read more about Zuckerberg: Why Everyone Can Use Randi Zuckerberg's Number One Focus Tip
Shut everything down.
Name: Tim Chen
Organizational tool: The off button. I put my phone on nighttime mode, and I shut down everything when I'm working. I get highly distracted otherwise.
Read more about Chen: Nerdwallet's Founder Shares the Worst Advice He Ever Got
Work the old-fashioned way.
Name: Oliver Kharraz
Organizational tool:This may date me, but I still use pen and paper for priority projects and even developing new ideas. You have the choice to draw things or write things and sometimes one is more appropriate than the other. You can mix and match them in a way you can’t do on the computer yet
Read more about Kharraz: This Founder Says to Succeed You Need to Question Everything
Create a digital inspiration board.
Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
Organizational tool: In terms of getting work done, one app that we have started using across the organization is iCloud for photos. We are constantly sending different imagery back and forth and different things that inspire us.
Read more about Yacobovsky: This Co-Founder of BaubleBar's Secret for Inspiration? Always 'Keep Your Eyes Peeled.'
Write down everything down.
Name: Jenny Ripps
Company: Owl’s Brew
Organizational tool: I use the Notes app all the time. I treat it as a robust program; I sort of have hacked it in a way to work for me.
I'll use Notes during meetings and for recaps. I also have various notes that have to do with things that are personal or strategic.
On the flip side I use a project management system called Wrike. We use Slack for our inter-team communication, and we use Nutshell for CRM. We're pretty tech-oriented here, and we use these cloud-based systems all the "right ways." That's why I think my personal notes addiction is strange, because we tend to really use a lot of technology for the business so Notes is kind of an anomaly within that context.Read more about Ripps: The One Thing This Entrepreneur Does Each Day to Stay Productive
Work with your hands.
Name: Oren Frank
Organizational tool: I really like cooking and food, and I’m obsessed with a Japanese whetstone, which you use to sharpen knives. I don't need that sharp of a knife, and I put more time into it than is probably needed. I think it's highly therapeutic -- just doing something with my hands.
Read more about Frank: This CEO's Favorite Productivity Tips Are Surprisingly Simple
Keep conversation open.
Name: Luis von Ahn
Organizational tool: I use Slack a lot. It helps me easily communicate with the Duolingo team and keep track of what the team is working on day to day.
Read more about von Ahn: Why This Founder Says the Worst Advice He Ever Got Was to Listen to His Users
Name: Bea Fischel-Bock
Organizational tool: I’m pretty old-school in that I always have a paper notebook with me where I write notes and to-do lists with little boxes. Nothing beats the feeling of checking off that little box. And Slack is a huge part of how I stay on top of everything going on.
Keep current with your calendar.
Name: Angie Hicks
Company: Angie’s List
Organizational tool: Obviously the Angie’s List app to get my home stuff done, which is really important to me. I’m a very basic gal. I’m an Outlook gal. It is what it is, all I need is a calendar. Have I got my calendar? Then I’m good.
Read more about Hicks: This Introvert Founder Swears by This Management Tip
Name: Kara Goldin
Organizational tool: When there is so much to accomplish each day, it’s important to take a moment every now and then to breathe and be mindful. I recently discovered the app Headspace and it’s been a great way for me to fit in bite-size moments of meditation to help me stay focused and clear my head.
Subtract apps from your phone.
Name: John Zimmer
Organizational tool: It’s more that I remove apps that are distracting. I always remove the news app and Safari from my phone and that helps me stay on track.
Read more about Zimmer: Lyft Co-Founder John Zimmer: 'You Should Never Veer Off the Path of Your Own Values'
Use your computer password as a reminder.
Name: Alex Friedman
Organizational tool: I set my computer password to be something aspirational, or a reminder to myself. Like "eat less candy" or "do your taxes." If I remind myself often enough, it usually happens, and then I change my password.
Read more about Kier: How You Can Use Your Computer Password to Make Your Aspirations a Reality
Name: Bruce Poon Tip
Company: G Adventures
Organizational tool: Because I travel a lot, I’m all about Babel the translator app. You can even take photos of signs and menus, and it translates them. Also, Evernote is the one that keeps me on track in terms of my notes and thoughts.
Get from point A to point B.
Name: Chieh Huang
Organizational tool: It’s a little cliche, but honestly it’s Uber. Uber has a "pick up at a certain time" feature that is really helpful. It gets me where I need to go on time.
Read more about Huang: The Surprising Reason Why This Founder Says Not to Be Afraid of the Competition
Pencil and paper everytime.
Name: Jeff Chapin
Organizational tool: I still use sticky notes to make daily to-do lists. I make a list of what I need to do and check it off. Pencil and paper works for me better than anything I’ve seen.
Chat with Siri.
Name: Vicki Fulop
Organizational tool: I use Siri on the go. I just ask her to make reminders for me, because if I don't put something in my calendar or literally have someone to remind me, I will forget.
Read more about Fulop: Use This Founder's Simple Email Strategy to Keep Burnout at Bay
Make your inbox into a dashboard.
Name: Nirav Tolia
Organizational tool: I would say that from a digital standpoint, I use my inbox as a sort of centralized place where I can track everything that's going on. It's a real-time dashboard of what I need to do or need to know.
Let music be your guide.
Name: Jennifer Hyman
Company: Rent the Runway
Organizational tool: A choose a different Spotify playlist based on what I’m trying to accomplish. Music helps me get the job done, relax or get revved up.
Read more about Hyman: Rent the Runway's Jennifer Hyman Shares Her Worst Advice Ever: 'Shut Up and Act Sweet'
Get an overview of your finances.
Name: Christene Barberich
Organizational tool: Mint has been a savior. I wouldn't say that managing my finances is my strong suit, but it's helped me to have a clearer picture of everything in one snapshot. And I think that's incredibly valuable.
Read more about Barberich: Why Your Done List is Just as Important as Your To-Do List
Name: Sarah Kauss
Organizational tool: I would says email on a plane. I really try to keep my email as my to-do list. I try for inbox zero, but I can't get there. But on plane I can attack things in order and get to the bottom. So I travel every week, and I'm super productive.
Keep to-do lists on your phone.
Name: Barbara Corcoran
Company: Forefront Venture Partners
Organizational tool: I have endless to-do lists on my phone. Recently I learned how to put one of those little bubbles next to it which allows you to check it off. I use notes for everything.
Read more about Corcoran: Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran Explains Why You Must Make Time in Your Schedule For Fun