Essential Offline Productivity Kit – The Most Valuable Office Supplies

Productivity Does Not Just Happen on your Computer

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I spend a lot of time writing about ways to stay organized and productive using your computer’s applications and web services. There is another area where you can give yourself a big boost and that’s your office supplies.

I keep a collection of supplies around that help me collect, create, display, and organize mountains of information. I categorize my supplies by their purpose:

  • Collecting and Creating Information
  • Displaying Information
  • Organizing Information

Collecting and Creating Information

During my day job (and while I’m working on this blog) I am primarily doing two things going to meetings about a project or generating information for project. This means writing, writing, writing. Now I know I spend a lot of time writing about software, services, and gadgets to help you gather information, but my number one tool is good old fashioned paper.

I take books and books worth of notes on everything. When I’m not capturing information, I’m generating it (books, presentations, documents, articles, etc.). Either way it’s pen to paper. Actually I do most note taking and brainstorming in pencil.


Here are the main tools that I use for these tasks:

A Couple of Notebooks (Large and Small) – I have a notebooks everywhere in every size. I even have my own note taking method that I will cover in a future article.
Copy Holder – After I collect and/or brainstorm information, I eventually have to get it into my computer. I like to place my notes on a copy holder next to my monitor and type it up. It totally looks like something an old secretary would use, that’s because old secretaries knew what’s up.
Mechanical Pencil – You will never regret having a nice mechanical pencil. It’s so much better and more comfortable than the old wooden ones. Plus they look a little more grown up.
Comfortable Pen – Once you grow up and learn how to take care of things you should really treat yourself to a nice pen. They’re like a good pair of shoes, you don’t understand why they cost more until you own them. You deserve it!
Multicolor Highlighter Pen pack – One of the most powerful tools for organizing information is color-coding. I use highlighter pens on everything; research, notes, categorizing my brainstorming, and more. Next time you have a bunch of random ideas on paper, use colors to group them. Then, when you go to type them up, just type all of the green, then orange, then pink topics together.
Sharpie Marker – I constantly have to label things for storage, shipping, and other things. Nothing works better than a sharpie for writing on any surface.

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Displaying Information

Some of the information that I capture or create needs to be visible or close at hand. I have a few go-to tools that help me out.

Dry Erase Board – This is a little more expensive than the rest of the items on the list, but it’s very useful. When I have meetings, I use it to analyze complex topics with a group. I also use it to hang up important things like large project plans.
Dry Erase Markers – Again with the multi-color thing. Different colors for different types of information. It really helps put extra context around information.
Magnets – I use these to hang papers on my dry erase board. Things like project plans, flow charts, and schedules.
Bulletin Board – I hang things on my wall that I need handy. Things like important phone numbers and technical “cheat sheets”.
Thumbtacks (preferably multiple colors) – How else are you going to hand things on your bulletin board?
Post-it Notes (Small, Medium, and Large) – These are the best. I use them for everything. I usually stick a bunch of them on the back inside cover of my notebooks. This way I always have them with me when I’m on the go.
Multicolor Page Flag stickies – These are great for making tabs in books, documents, or notes. Again, devise your own color-coding system to add extra value to these little miracle makers.

Organizing Information

I create a lot of paper. I need to keep it neat and organized.

Binder Clips (Small, Medium, and Large) – First of all, staples kind of suck. If you have anything over 20 pages, staples just crap out. Binder clips are great, because you can open them and remove or insert pages as needed. When you’re done with a document, just take off the clip and toss the paper. They last forever. Plus, they make a nice plunking sound when you pass them out on a conference room table.
Solid Stapler – I know that staples have their limits, but if you’re going to use them, have a good stapler. (Insert Milton joke here.)
Sturdy Tape Dispenser – Things fall apart and you need to fix them. There is where tape comes in.
Scissors – The only things that don’t fall apart are the ones that you want to. Get a nice comfortable scissor.

Stock your office with the right set of supplies and you will see a pronounced jump in your productivity and organization. You will capture things faster, organize them better, and leverage your creative ideas more effectively. I promise!

What do you use?

I can’t wait to here what your supplies and tips are. Please add anything that I missed in the comments below.

Don’t miss the my next article where I talk about note taking techniques to get the most out of your shiny new productivity machine.

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