When it comes to boosting your productivity, there are plenty of articles and videos online showcasing apps and techniques that’ll supposedly help. These things are all well and good, but physical items are often overlooked. In this article, I’m going to share with you 9 physical productivity-boosting products. These are things I use every day to improve my productivity and get more done.

Everything on this list is going to be under £20, with some more premium recommendations if you decide you want to level up a little more. The idea behind each one of these productivity-boosting products is the same though. So regardless of your budget, these are purchases you can absolutely make. You might even have some of them already, in which case, hopefully, this article will help you look at them in a different light.

1. Notebook or bullet journal

First on the list is a notebook, or a bullet journal. This probably seems fairly obvious. But it’s surprising to me how many people don’t have a physical notebook to hand whenever working. Now this doesn’t have to be anything fancy, you can literally get any notebook that works for you and convert it into a bullet journal. You can read Ryder Carrol’s book on Bullet journaling to help get you started.

I’ve been using a bullet journal for years now. The great thing about this productivity-boosting product is that it’s more like a mindfulness tool disguised as a productivity tool. It helps you be mindful and intentional with your time and encourages you to set daily priorities. This in turn, helps you get things done (or at least the most important thing that day done).

The final point to make on notebooks or bullet journals is just about how handy it is to have a book on your desk. Somewhere you can just start scribbling whatever thoughts come into your head. There’s no friction of unlocking your phone and opening an app, or hunting for a piece of paper. It’s just always there, ready to accept whatever you write without judgment. The bullet journal I recommend is the A5 Ottergami Dotted Notebook. And if you’re looking for an even cheaper one to get you started, you should try the A5 Stationary Island Dotted Journal

2. Whiteboard

Next up we have a whiteboard. I love a whiteboard. It’s a great way to map things out, capture thoughts, track progress and so much more. There’s something really satisfying about standing in front of a whiteboard, dumping your ideas onto it, and watching as that idea takes shape.

What’s particularly cool about using a whiteboard is how collaborative it can be. And how much you can shape an idea with a seemingly simple tool. For example, I planned out my entire SEO business on my whiteboard before I even typed a single word. Just the process of doing this let me work through potential sticking points and really refind what I was planning to achieve. And it’s reusable. So as soon as you’re done, you can wipe it away (I often take a picture first though) and start again on the next thing.

There are a lot of whiteboards to pick from, so below there are three options for you. The first is a much more expensive option, but it looks and feels a lot more premium (this is the option I’ve gone for). The third on the list is a great option for turning any wall into a whiteboard. With this option, there’s no need to worry about where you’ll put the board or how you’ll mount it. You can literally cut a sheet off the roll and stick it to your wall using static – so no drilling or nasty adhesives are involved.

The whiteboard I use is the Navaris Magnetic Glass Board 90 x 60cm. You’d be just as set with something like this Aniso A2 60 x 45cm Double Sided Whiteboard though. And if you’re after the ‘use it anywhere’ magic white board, you can find it right here.

3. A3 Pad of Paper

Productivity-boosting product number 3 is an A3 writing pad. You can pretty much use any A3 pad from Amazon or any stationary store. Similar to a whiteboard, an A3 pad is a great way to sketch out ideas and map out problems or even plan an essay. If you often find yourself trying to visualise big ideas, and struggling, then grabbing one of these is a real game changer. As far as productivity-boosting products go, this is right up there. I use A3 pads whenever I’m planning new articles for a website, and I know a few students who use them for mapping out essays too.

Another great thing about the A3 pad (especially when compared to a whiteboard), is that if you want to keep the paper you’re working on, you can. You’ll have plenty more sheets to use. This helps with capturing and remembering ideas and referencing them later. It also means you can go back to an idea and build on it without having to start over again.

You don’t have to get fancy here, so there’s only one recommendation. The one I use is a Pack of 2 A3 Plain desk pads from Amazon.

4. Sharpies

Writing on an A3 pad has one issue. You need something to write with. So whenever I break out the A3 paper, I also break out the Sharpies. The reason I like Sharpies over a regular pen or pencil is down to the thickness. Sharpies come in a variety of thicknesses, but the standard nib ones are my go-to. I like the thick lines when planning things out, it helps combat my desire to get really granular. Big pens for big ideas.

In terms of boosting productivity, I find the colourful, fluid nature of Sharpies really helps with capturing ideas. As well as identifying things on the page. For example, I’ll use black for the key elements of an idea, and red to indicate potential issues that need thinking through. Green to highlight the benefits or ‘done deals’ type things, and the other colours for whatever I need at the time.

Again, there’s no real scale on Sharpies. So my recommendation is the Fine Point 12 Assorted. But you can genuinely use whatever markers suit you.

4 sharpie markers coloured red, black, blue and green laying flat on a yellow background
Sharpies are probably the perfect writing instrument when you don’t want to get overly granular in your thinking

5. Mechanical Pencil

If you’re anything like me, you’ll make mistakes when writing out notes or ideas. That’s why I tend to use a mechanical pencil. The benefits here are pretty obvious… if you make a mistake, you can simply rub it out and start again. But I also find there’s a psychological benefit to using a pencil when trying to be productive.

Using a pencil feels less formal and less permanent (probably because it is). This encourages me to be less precise and more creative, so I don’t get bogged down in details and trying to make things look perfect. Not only does this save time, it helps me capture thoughts and notes more accurately because I tend to write exactly what I was thinking, instead of trying to make it sound good for the benefit of the paper. As a productivity-boosting product, this one certainly beats a pen.

I personally use the Uni-ball Kuru Toga. I love this pencil because not only is it nice to hold and use, but it’s also self-sharpening, so you always have a good point. If you go with this option, don’t forget to get some refills for the lead and erasers too.

6. Sticky Notes

Sticky notes are amazing and super cheap. The amazing thing about sticky notes is just how easy they are to use. I always have some on my desk. I usually use them for two things, the first is reminders. I’ll scribble down whatever it is I need to remind myself about and then stick it down wherever I’m most likely to need reminding about that thing (usually the bottom of my monitor).

The other thing I use sticky notes for is planning out projects. Combined with a whiteboard. Say, I’m working on a new website for a client, and I’m trying to map out a navigation system. Sticky notes are perfect for this. Instead of having to wipe away the work on the whiteboard and then draw it in again, I can write each navigation item down on a sticky note and then just move them around. This could absolutely work for so many other things too. Like planning documents, organisation charts, or just a sequence of events.

Finally, sticky notes are a great way to mark important documents or pages in books without permanently defacing them (I hope you’re not the type of heathen that highlights and writes in books). So if like me, you prefer physical books but still want to mark important paragraphs or things, you can just grab a sticky note and do it.

two sticky notes with writing on stuck to a monitor
Sticky notes in action. These are great reminders for things that I a visual que for.

7. Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is really important (but you know this). But did you know that being dehydrated impairs cognitive performance, especially for tasks that involve paying attention, executive functionality, and motor coordination? That’s why a water bottle is number 7 on this list of productivity-boosting products.¬† So if you take nothing else away from this article, the single biggest productivity-boosting product you can get your hands on is a water bottle.

There’s plenty to pick from. I used to prefer a clear bottle so I could see when I was running low. There are plenty of bottles out there that even have a printer guide on the side to help you gauge how much you’re drinking. If you’re keen to try a clear bottle, I’d recommend this one. Just by having the bottle on my desk, I found I’d naturally drink more and can honestly say I felt the benefits.

If you really want to boost your productivity, you could look at a bigger bottle. I recently upgraded to this stainless steel, insulated bottle from Klean Kanteen. The increased capacity means I have to fill it less, and the fact that’s metal means I can bash it about and take it on my adventures without worrying about breaking it. These are a little pricey though, but the added insulation is a game changer in the summer when you want access to a cold drink.

8. In Tray

Even in today’s digital world, we all come across paper. Be it forms, letters that could have been an email (looking at you HMRC), or anything else. The problem with papers (if we had to pick just one) is that they get lost, damaged, or just look untidy. So productivity boosting product number 8 is a physical in-tray.

I have one of these sitting on the corner of my desk. Anytime I get a letter or some paper that I need to deal with in some form, it goes in the tray. This helps keep everything together, organised and reduces the clutter on my desk. My in-tray forms part of my wider productivity system, but basically, I plan out time to work through everything in it. You could just store the papers somewhere else, but I find having it visible acts as a visual reminder that I need to action these things. And there’s something really satisfying about emptying it.

The book Getting Things Done by David Allen has a great section about the importance of an in-tray. It’s a pretty old-school book. But if you’re on the fence about the benefits of an in-try, I’d recommend you read it.

a wooden bamboo intray with papers inside on a light wood desk.
This is probably the emptiest my tray gets, but it’s so nice to have somewhere to store these things without cluttering my desk.

9. Waste Paper Bin

The final thing on this list is a waste paper basket (otherwise known as a bin). I’ve always had one of these by my desk to help deal with the random stuff that crosses my desk. There’s something so nice about having a bin right next to you. Whenever you’re dealing with paper, whenever it becomes irrelevant, you have two choices, either put it in your nearest bin or leave it on your desk (to add to the clutter). So having a bin within reach just takes the friction out of tidying up. Instead of clearing your desk of random bits of paper every day, you just need to empty your bin every few days.

This is another physical productivity-boosting product that has a psychological benefit. Working in a nice, tidy environment is such a nice thing that if you’re like me. You’ll naturally find yourself more productive when things are tidy. So not having rubbish lying around is another step to achieving a tidy working environment.

Bonus Productivity-Boosting Product

The bonus productivity-boosting product I want to mention is more about helping with long-term productivity. It’s the book Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. I find this book particularly good because while it does offer lots of productivity advice, it does so in a non-opinionated way.

This book is really nicely illustrated. It gives you around 100 productivity-boosting strategies. The idea isn’t so much that you implement all of them; It’s more than you read the book and implement whatever will work for you. Out of the 100 strategies in there, I probably use 8 or 9 of them. But just those gave me a real boost to my productivity. If you’d like to read more about the productivity tips that I think work, you should check out this article.