Five Essential Tools You Shouldn’t Start Your Workday Without [INFOGRAPHIC]

April 2, 2013


Wondering what secret weapon could take your productivity to the next level? Richard Branson, Meg Whitman, Deepak Chopra, and dozens of other professional thought leaders might have the answer. We asked some of LinkedIn’s Influencers to describe their toolkits for success for “Things I Carry,” the latest in our series of special features by Influencers.

For a definitive guide to success, you may as well look to some of the most successful people in business, and it turns out that the hundreds of items named can be distilled into a few categories. To sharpen your daily routine the way these thought leaders have, make sure you have these five things:

1. A mobile device

We expected smartphones, tablets and accessories to make prominent appearances among the 56 posts in the series. But the ways Influencers say they use their gadgets give us a unique glimpse into how they work. founder Craig Newmark uses a Samsung Galaxy Note for “80 percent” of his work, but increasingly depends on a “Dick Tracy”-esque Martian passport watch that takes voice commands.  Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, admits to a full-blown smartphone addiction, saying he uses his device for everything from exercising to music to watching the construction of his new Pennsylvania stadium on a live feed.

Clara Shih, founder of Hearsay Social and member of the Starbucks board, swears by her Droid 4 despite the disdain among Silicon Valley tech hounds for a full QWERTY keyboard.

“I stand by my decision,” she says. “I need to be able to quickly hammer out emails and social network posts.”

They are among nearly thirty Influencers that called out their iPhones, iPads, kindles, laptops, Galaxys, Droids and other mobile tech tools for their dazzling variety of time-saving apps and functions. I’m sure a handful of them occasionally use their smartphones for making calls, too.

2. Something to scribble on

Gadgets are by no means the only tools that help Influencers think and create. Eleven described using journals, blank sheets of paper or other analog writing tools as a substitute or supplement for electronics. Despite being a self-described “hardcore technologist,” Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein says the crudeness of pen-on-paper drawings actually helps him generate and communicate ideas.

“Because it’s just an ugly drawing (I have pretty poor penmanship), I can focus on the ideas rather than getting bogged down in the pixel-level details,” he says.

About a half-dozen of the Influencers in the series depend on paper journals, many to capture lists of things to do. But one list had a surprising purpose: Shane Atchison, CEO of Possible, carries a list of seven things he currently doesn’t know. “Everyone is constantly liking things we post, telling us we’re brilliant, and making us feel good. A list of what you don’t know is a great antidote to this,” he says.

3. A Swimsuit

I couldn’t resist including this one. While not every Influencer religiously packs a bathing suit -- in fact, only two: HP CEO Meg Whitman, and healthcare and tech investor Esther Dyson -- they both describe it as absolutely key. “I never check my bathing suit (and cap),” says Dyson. “I swim every day, so I can’t risk losing my luggage and ending up in some exotic location wondering whether it’s okay to swim in my underwear.” Whitman, too, swims regularly. Both say they need it for focus, discipline, and a clear-headed way to think through complex problems.

It’s a great reminder that something that may seem completely unrelated to work can actually be a necessary complement to the professional day.

4. A little something personal

Most offices or cubicles have personal touches like family photos, or gifts from children. But as work increasingly goes mobile, business leaders have taken to keeping personal reminders with them at all times. Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz calls his weathered leather binder, ink-cartridge pen and nearly half-century-year-old spectacle case “the adult equivalent of a child’s security blanket.” Don Peppers, author of “Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage,” carries a personal note that his wife writes him for every night he’s on the road. That means for a five-night trip, he finds five dated notes hidden among his luggage. Angel Investor Chris Schroeder carries a small picture of Ellis Island with him everywhere, as a symbol of his family’s history. “It reminds not only of where I am from, but how sheer luck has played an enormous part of my life. And it is humbling,” he writes.

Work isn’t everything. The most successful people recognize that, keeping their perspective intact by carrying around a meaningful object that helps them transcend their quotidian concerns.

5. Smart people

Finally, some of the most important things that can help you become better at what you do aren’t things at all. Influencers gave shout-outs to their teams, co-workers and assistants, even going so far as to say they couldn’t do their jobs without them. Of his assistant Helen, Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson writes: “Before I ask her to do something, she can read my mind and know what it is I am thinking before I ask.” Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of Students First and former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, recruits the smartest team members she can find. “I’ve always tried to surround myself with smart colleagues who challenge me. And when I find people like that, I don’t let them go. Citi Managing Director Linda Descano says that while technology is important, her “fun, high-energy team” is the only thing she truly needs.

Of course, Influencers have very different professional roles and creative needs, just like you do. You’ll find a slew of unexpected answers to the question “What essential things do you carry?” Here’s a sampling: oral swabs, a Road ID bracelet, a half-eaten burrito, a faded thumb drive, a bike lock, a camera, a weight vest, anything orange, and a digital voice recorder. Behind each of these unconventional items is an illuminating, and often surprising story that explains why it’s completely necessary.

In fact, the must-have list above is a bit of a misnomer: the beauty of these posts is that they show there is no “one size fits all” tool. So what are your essentials, and why are they perfect for the job you need to do? Share with us on our LinkedIn Company Page or tweet it to @LinkedIn with hashtag #thingsicarry. Or, even better, view presentations of other influencers' tools for success -- and share your own -- on SlideShare.