Productive living is all about being properly equipped. Maintaining an essential set of useful tools is the key to the productivity kingdom. The list below is by no means all-inclusive, but instead concentrates on the very basics, the essential supplies everyone should own.
- Laptop Computer – In most cases the desktop computer is dead weight. The portability of a laptop provides you with the flexibility of using the whole world as your personal office space. Some of my most creative ideas come to fruition while working remotely in fresh, stimulating environments.
- 4 Month Calendar – Take a quick glance at the next four months in one clean shot. A hard copy 4 month calendar is an indispensible tool for capturing an elevated view of a busy schedule. Even better, you can make one for free.
- Measuring Tape – Measuring things by the length of your hand or shoe isn’t exactly an accurate practice. Get yourself a 25 foot retractable measuring tape that will be capable of handling all of your measuring needs.
- Portable GPS – Being truly lost is not a fun feeling. A GPS basically eliminates this possibility. During a recent vacation to Costa Rica our Garmin GPS pretty much saved our rear ends on multiple occasions.
- Cell Phone with Handsfree – Why would any sane person drive one-handed while holding an odd shaped phone to their ear when they have the option to use a handsfree set? When I’m forced to be on a long phone call, I like to get other things done at the same time. My handsfree cell phone allows me to do this no matter where I am.
- Hand Sanitizer – Because there isn’t a sink and bar of soap conveniently located outside of every drive-through window or various other snack time locations. In my mind, hand sanitizer is a tool, a tool that prevents me from infecting my body with germs every single day. Keep yourself healthy! Sanitize your hands before you eat!
- Multi-head Screwdriver – Take a look around. I bet most of the manmade objects around you are being held together by screws. Throughout your lifetime you’re going to need to tighten a whole lot of them in all different sizes and varieties. A decent multi-head screwdriver with a wide assortment of screwdriver heads is your best bet.
- Pliers – Your hands are not the most effective tool for gripping and maneuvering small objects. That’s where pliers come in handy. One set of pliers will not do the trick either. Likely, you will need a small assortment of pliers in various styles and sizes for different kinds of jobs. You’ll probably use needle-nose pliers most often, but heavy grooved pliers and wire cutting pliers will come in handy at times too.
- Hammer – The single greatest tool of all time. The hammer has an infinite set of practical applications. A good old 16 oz claw hammer will provide a lifetime of reliable service.
- First Aid Kit – Human beings are not made of titanium. When you or someone you care about gets injured, a basic first aid kit becomes the single most important thing you own.
- Water Filter – People trade precious hours of their lives for dollars and then waste the dollars buying something that’s already free. This scenario represents the inverse of productivity. A Brita water filter makes tap water taste just as good as anything you’ll find at the grocery store, not to mention you’ll be saving money every time you take a sip.
- Various Types of Tape – Scotch tape, masking tape and duct tape… you need them all. Tape may very well be the second greatest invention after the hammer.
- Quality Sunglasses – Most people consider sight to be their most important sense. Quality sunglasses protect the human eyes from being destroyed by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. This radiation can lead to short-term and long-term ocular problems such as cataracts, blindness and various forms of eye cancer.
- Wrist Watch with Alarm – A wrist watch doesn’t have to be fancy. Being able to tell the time and set an alarm for last minute reminders is the key. It has been my experience that people who wear wrist watches are noticeably better at managing their time.
- Extension Cord – Because an electrical outlet is not always where it should be. How great will it be when household electrical power is transmitted wirelessly?
- Work Gloves – Unfortunately, human hands are covered with fragile skin just like the rest of the body. Sometimes you need to use your hands to accomplish a task that requires a durability threshold beyond that of your exposed skin. This is where a rugged set of work gloves saves you from a few days worth of blistering agony.
- Flashlight – What happens when the lights go out and its pitch dark? Always keep a bright, quality flashlight with a fresh set of batteries in both your home and automobile.
- Rubber Bands – Rubber bands are simple, functional and versatile. There is an endless list of practical uses for a rudder band.
- Step Ladder – If your name isn’t Shaquille O’Neil, you’ll probably need a step ladder quite frequently throughout your lifetime. A standard 6 foot aluminum step ladder should fit most people’s needs.
- Shop Vacuum – The convenience of being able to instantly clean up wet and dry chunks of a hefty mess can be quite a priceless time saver. A 16 gallon, 6.5 horsepower shop-vac will be capable of handling almost any major clean-up job.
- Fire Extinguisher – This one is a no-brainer. Completely useless until the moment the sh*t hits the fan and the house is burning to the ground. If you don’t own a fire extinguisher, you’re being foolishly optimistic.
- Earplugs – Earplugs are one of my favorite simple tools. They allow me to concentrate on my work (usually reading or writing) when I am in the nosiest public environments imaginable. They’re also great when you’re trying to catch some shuteye on a busy airline flight.
- Heavy-duty Scissors – A heavy-duty pair of scissors capable of cutting through thick cardboard, packaging zip ties and other rugged materials is always a handy tool to have around. Get a pair with a 9 – 10 inch serrated blade and you’ll have the ability to cut through almost anything.
- Leatherman – This is the all-in-one multi-tool you should never leave home without. These little tools can handle a wide plethora of different jobs. I personally own the Leatherman 830039 and I love it.
- Bungee Cords – Tie things down, wrap things together… Bungee cords are like giant rubber bands with hooks. They’re darn practical to have around when you need them!
- Adjustable Wrench – If screws aren’t holding it together then nuts and bolts almost certainly are. You will eventually need to adjust the bolts on furniture, appliances, bicycles, etc. A basic 3-piece adjustable wrench set should fit the bill just fine.
- Lightweight Cordless Drill – A cordless drill can be a pretty versatile tool. Depending on the kinds of bits you buy, it could be used to drill various sized holes in various surfaces. Or you could use it as an electric screwdriver. Before you buy a portable drill, check the manufacturer warranty as well as the availability of parts. Popular tool manufacturers such as Craftsman are your best bet.
- Binder Clips – Binder clips are basically big paper clips with 4 times the holding strength and 10 times the versatility. I use them regularly in the kitchen to keep the cereal fresh, in the office to hold large mounds of paper together and in the garage to keep various bags soil and fertilizer from spilling.
- USB Flash Drive – The most practical accessory for a computer, the USB flash drive pretty much killed off prehistoric floppy disks and CDRW discs. A USB flash drive is a smaller, faster option with a lot more storage space.
- Filing Cabinet – Unfortunately, paperwork hasn’t completely vanished off the face of the planet just yet. Maybe someday, but for now a small filing cabinet is still great place to organize all your important receipts, medical records, titles, etc.
Photo by: flattop341
I’d like to add two essentials: duct tape and wire ties. 🙂
LivSimpl, wire ties is a goodie! I use those all the time. 😉 A techie’s best friend… 😉
Maria - Never the Same River Twice says
You forgot the essential uber-geek tool – index cards! (The Space Pen is optional.)
This is a great list for anyone thinking of moving, and also getting rid of all those little annoyances in life – like when you can’t find a sodding screwdriver!
I agree with LivSimpl, duct tape is pretty indispensable!
The most useful tool is a wad of cash, all the other things can be obtained as and when necessary.
Even in foreign countries, no need to speak the language, just wave your cash and shout.
A word on leathermans. I have found in my experience that the trade off for having all the tools a leatherman has is that none of them work as well as you want them to. The screwdrivers are hard to use, the saw’s too short to be of too much use, the ruler is kind on stupid, and can openers are frustrating enough to use without having pliers attached to them. They’re clunky, and the actual knives are hard to use safely. I use a SOG Twitch II assisted open knife, and it’s seved me very well.
Karl Staib - Your Work Happiness Matters says
Great list! My two favorite is the…
– 4 month calender
I never think to see how I plan my next four months out. I should be more balanced with my schedule and this is a great way to do it.
I love earplugs. I use them to mow the lawn and sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep.
What, no love for Vice Grips?
No batteries! Get an emergency radio and two wind-up flashlights.
Never heard of a leatherman. But… a lightweight portable anything is not a reality. Batteries are heavy!!! Just get a really long extension cord. And as for good heavy duty work gloves, well, I wish! I wasted more time looking for just that very thing, A PAIR THAT WOULD FIT ME OR AT LEAST BE SMALL ENOUGH NOT TO FALL OFF! I am five feet 4 inches and weigh 112 lbs. (and a woman) .I love to fix things and make things. but I can’t lift heavy things. Any suggestions?
You caught me red handed. I should have included index cards and/or post-it notes. Great addition, thanks.
LOL… money still doesn’t buy the convenience of being equipped in the exact moment of need.
You’re right, Leathermans are not perfect. However, they are highly functional, portable tools. You can’t always have your whole toolbox with you on the road. That’s where Leathermans come in handy. I keep mine in my vehicle.
I have love for vice grips, but I don’t know if everyone needs one. Maybe…
Battery-free is always a good way to go. Great recommendation! 😉
How about this?: Youngstown Glove Co. Women’s Garden Glove Performance Glove Small
Flora M Brown, Ph.D. says
Thanks for this list of tools.
My addition would be the adapter for making the 3-prong electrical cord fit into the 2 prong extension cord. Extension cords seem to be be made for just 2 and yet all of modern appliances and devices seem to have 3 prongs.
Tie wraps. What would life be like without tie wraps.
I just have something to say about keeping hand sanitizer everywhere you go. Good idea, but at the same time, not. My argument is I knew a friend who had a terrible immune system, he washed his hands every single moment he had, in fact, every half hour or so, no matter what he was doing, he would go wash his hands. The point is, introducing germs in small amounts in to the body is how an immune system is built.
your site rocks!
FROM THE NETHERLANDS
Firstly, awesome web site! When I’ve got more time I’m keen to go back and read a few earlier posts.
I would like to add the humble Paw Paw Ointment to your list. It takes on many roles in my household, from lip balm to cuticle softener to nappy rash soother to a topical ointment for things like cuts, burns and insect bites. You can get it in tubes that are handy for in your car (we keep in in our first aid kit) and in tubs for use at home.
i love it!!…but what about the old duct tape???
31. Condoms? – Unfortunately, it is hard to predict when you might need to get it on. In any case all nerds should *definitely* carry them, because how often do you get an opportunity to have sex. Would you really want to be turned down?
Gaje Master says
Well, this is true. I use nearly all of these throughout the month and they are surely something that everyone needs.
Brad Tanner says
If you want a quick, easy calendar that is the best tool I have in my arsenal, get a Paper Assistant.
Bob Atkins says
I’ve long kept an 8″ combo file with 4 filing surfaces. It’s flat on one side, curved on the other, so you have both a metal and a wood file in each shape. It doesn’t replace a decent set of files, but like the Leatherman/Gerber/Victorinix, sometimes it’s just what you need.
Julie Newman says
I agree with all in your list. I was waiting to see “quality can opener” since personally, I couldn’t live without one. I’ve tried opening cans with knives and it is no easy feat.
Thanks for the list Marc!
I like everything except for the water filter. You know what’s even cheaper than a brita water filter? Tap water. If you live in the US, there is nothing wrong with your tap water.
All this stuff seems neither here nor there… decent info, but nothing earth-shattering…