Switch off notifications. Delete Facebook. Run only two email sessions a day. Get rid of on-screen distractions. Put your phone in a drawer. Avoid diving down rabbit hole websites.

There's no shortage of advice on how to make more productive use of technology.

The internet is awash with productivity wisdom. In fact, you can waste time reading what all the experts have to say on the subject.

At times it seems technology is a barrier to productivity. Yet we know companies making wise technology investments outperform those that don't.


Buying the right productivity tools in the first place and learning how to use them is the key.

Often these tools are inexpensive, so you get a return on your investment within hours.

Email has its uses and isn't going away, but when you need to work as part of a team there are better productivity tools.

Collaboration apps help you stay in touch with colleagues and work together.

They save you from ploughing through email threads or playing telephone tag.

Slack handles group chat. In some ways it is like a more disciplined version of Twitter or Facebook groups.

You can archive all your chats, and built-in search makes it possible to find them again later.

Slack started as a tool for software developers but is now used by a wider group. It's growing fast.


Slack is the best way to manage private conversations and backchannel communications. It also works well for larger teams. It's simple to set up and needs little maintenance.

There are desktop, mobile and web apps. Slack offers a basic free option. If you want to make group video or audio calls, you'll need to find US$8 ($11.50) a month or US$80 a year for Slack Standard. Paid versions also integrate well with other apps.

Slack takes a little getting used to. At first it can seem busy and confusing.

Once mastered, though, it is one of the most efficient ways of keeping up with colleagues.

Another popular collaboration app is Asana. Here, the emphasis is more on managing workflow.

Although it is not a full-blown project manager app, there are similarities. Asana keeps track of what tasks need doing next and who gets to do them. Conventional project management apps tend to focus on one-off projects. Asana is more suited to continuing work.

Like Slack, there is a limited free version. The full version is US$100 a year.

If you've invested in Microsoft technology, you could try the company's Teams. It is a Slack clone, but Teams only works with an Office 365 subscription. That means everyone working with it needs a Microsoft subscription. On the plus side, it integrates with Microsoft's Skype for voice and video calls.

Facebook's Workplace is a less popular collaboration contender. It is not as flexible or as full-featured as Slack or Teams. Its one big advantage is that it looks and works like the social media website.

In practice, Workplace is like a version of Facebook where your colleagues replace friends and family. This means most people can use it immediately.

There's a free version. If you want to share files or link to cloud storage it costs US$3 per person per month.

The best tool for a team of people to collaborate on creating, say, a sales presentation or a proposal is Google's G-Suite.

Most people reading this will be familiar with Gmail. While the email app is central to G-Suite, there's a chat channel too. It also comes with a shared calendar, video conferencing, document editing and oodles of online storage.

Shared productivity apps handle written documents, spreadsheets and presentations. G-Suite comes in different editions with prices starting at US$5 per person per month.

G-Suite can work well with a messaging service like Slack. As a rule, it does not play nicely with anything from Microsoft.

For years, Google dominated the collaborative document scene. Microsoft has since caught up. You can now collaborate with Microsoft Office apps like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. There are a range of prices and versions of Office. In New Zealand, the cheapest option is $8.62 including GST. The Business Premium version is $21.50.

If you're an Apple user, your computer comes with free iWorks productivity apps. Pages, Numbers and Keynote may meet all your needs.

As the name suggests, Pages creates great looking page layouts. It's not a conventional business word processor.

Like G-Suite and Office, iWorks apps are collaborative. Your colleagues don't need a Mac or iPad to use the web versions of the software, but they do need a (free) Apple ID to log in.