2019 Productivity Tips and Tools / by DM Heebner


It’s here, 2019!

The start of a new year typically signals, for many of us, the start of new habits, resolutions and commitments. Whether it’s exercising, eating healthy, professional goals, personal goals, creative goals, you most likely have a few things kicking around that you’d like to accomplish over the next 365 days. I love the new year. I love fresh starts and opportunities to accomplish new things. But, like everyone, most of my goals and resolutions are good intentions that meet an early demise. I start off the year excited and ready to go, usually falling off somewhere in February.

In 2018 I accomplished some pretty big things, but also let a lot of very important things fall to the wayside. Instead of getting frustrated and hoping that 2019 is somehow magically different, I took some time to evaluate what goes wrong year, after year, after year. No matter what I identified as the cause, it all trickled back to one thing: accountability. No matter how many cool gadgets or apps I have, no matter how many lists I make, no matter how good and set my intentions are, nothing will get accomplished without accountability. The way each of us responds to accountability is different. Some of us need a partner who checks in on us. Some of us need to write stuff down. Some of us need programs that help us reach our goals. As we enter this new year, let’s take a look at some tips to help you evaluate your resolutions/goals and tools to help you reach those goals.



  1. Find your accountability.

    Like I said before, everyone is unique and everyone responds to accountability differently. Try and figure out what works best for you. It may be bullet journaling, an accountability partner, an app, or a simple calendar reminder. Don’t be afraid to try a couple of things to see what sticks. Also, don’t be afraid to have multiple ways to achieve your goals. One particular approach may work great for a certain goal while something completely different is the answer to another goal.

  2. Don’t be afraid to fail.

    For a number of years I used to think that I had to be perfect when it came to my goals and resolutions. If I missed a day (or week — let’s be real here) I would feel like an instant failure and that I had to start over or give up.

    No one is perfect. Everyone fails. (Rinse and repeat that phrase all year long.)

    If you’re anything like me, stop thinking that a goal or resolution is lost simply because you backslid or didn’t hit your goal. Keep going. The most important thing isn’t always completing your goal perfectly, it’s making progress. So what if it takes you a little longer to reach your goal? At least you’ll be making progress.

  3. Push yourself.

    There is truth to all of those old adages that tell us to be all we can be, push ourselves beyond our limits, etc and stuff. Annoying as they are, they stand the test of time for a reason. I’m a firm believer in setting a couple really big goals, goals that force you to push yourself farther than you would otherwise. I rarely achieve these goals, but what I accomplish in trying to reach them is far more than I would have otherwise. So, set a few crazy goals and see how far you can get.

  4. Make a plan.

    The only way you’re going to be successful in all of this is if you take a little bit of time and think through what you want to accomplish. Sure, you can wing it. Chances are, if you wing it, you’ll only be accomplishing quick things that take little effort - not the bigger stuff that helps you grow into a better human. Throw together a basic list or sit down and plan out a detailed strategy. Either way, putting in a little time and effort will help make your vision for the year clear and your goals attainable.

  5. Keep it flexible.

    Just like you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to change your mind. Sometimes we’ll make goals that just aren’t feasible for where we are in our lives. Other times we might come up with new goals part way through the year. Be flexible and willing to let go as well as willing to take on.



Having a few tools to help you achieve your goals and resolutions is crucial. You may already have favorites but in case you don’t, here are a few that I’ve used over the years, many of which I continue to use.

(A disclaimer about these tools, they are simple. Really, really simple. As a UX/UI designer I value designs that are straightforward and simple. Taking the complicated guesswork out of stuff makes you much more likely to keep using a product.)

  1. HabitShare - I use this app every day. It’s free and easy to get started. You create the habits you are working to gain, set the frequency, and then simply click the circle green if you did it, grey if you skipped, and red if you didn’t do it. It keeps track of streaks and you can view by week or month. A quick glance is all you need to see where you are thriving and where you are falling short. This is my favorite habit tracking app on the market.

  2. Traveler’s Notebooks

    1. Quasi Bullet Journaling

      This is a whole new world to me. I’ve always been into journaling. I love to write and find it the most helpful to way organize and process. Recently, through a productivity YouTube video, I was introduced to the concept of bullet journaling. I tried it for a little while but all of the official “rules” annoyed me so I changed it up to fit my needs. Heading into 2019 I plan to do a this quasi bullet journaling for personal travel, business, and my day job. I’ve invested in some Traveler’s Notebooks and inserts and have them set and ready to go. They include task lists, room to sketch, and room to write and plan for new concepts and projects.

    2. Time Tracking

      Now, time tracking might be going a little far for some of y’all, but I’ve been doing it for the last month and it’s been eye opening. I have a small Traveler’s Notebook and I use a Field Notes insert to keep track of all of my weekly expenses (very eye opening..) and an additional Field Notes insert to track how I spend each hour of my day. Like I said, this might be too much for some of you, I get it. But, you might like it. I encourage you to give it a try for a few days. The best part of this practice has been seeing how much time I waste on social media or binging shows. It’s been a great accountability tool.

  3. Accountability Partners

    Throughout the years I’ve had people help hold me accountable in different areas of my life and helped me reach big goals. It’s been extremely valuable. It can be tough to find the right person or group of people, so take your time on this. I still haven’t found the right set of folks for this season of life, but eventually I will.

  4. Lists & Task Trackers

    These are a few tools and list tracking apps that I use regularly. There are free versions of each for you to try out. Again, they are simple to use with good UIs.

    1. Trello

    2. Anylist

    3. TeuxDeux


So, what are my goals?

My goals run the gamut for 2019, some of them are specific and others are general and open ended.

  1. Professional - My goal is to keep pushing myself as hard as I can, learn as much as I can and grow as far as I can in my role as a designer at IBM. I’m planning to accomplish this thru 1x1’s, mentorship, continuing education and seeking as much feedback as possible from my teammates and those in the design community.

  2. Business - Get an online shop up and running filled with photographs, prints, and other creative goodies.

  3. Health & Wellness - incorporate a daily practice of meditation, removing red meat, gluten and fried foods from my diet. Incorporating as much organic and local foods as possible and cooking as often as possible.

  4. Fitness - Since this is the area that constantly falls prey to the February slump, I hired a trainer. For the next 12 weeks (at least) I’ll be working with a personal trainer to train and create workouts to push me to my specific fitness goals (put down the queso). This is an area where I need accountability from a person because I’m too good at ignoring an app and convincing myself I’ll get to it tomorrow. Plus, paying for this is an investment in myself and I don’t like wasting money!

  5. Organization - I’ve got a journal for that. Seriously, between work and my personal life I have all of these goals set up to track in the HabitShare and Traveler’s Notebooks. I plan to use a modified bullet journaling system to track monthly and daily goals and tasks personally and professionally each in their respective TN. I also have a small traveler’s notebook where I log how my time is spent each day as well as log how I spend my money. If I don’t log it, I forget and lose sight of my goals.

  6. Simplify Spending - If I’m honest with myself, I am not in need of anything. It’s easy to fall into the trap of consuming whatever we want, whether we need it or not. My goal for the year is to track everything I spend and only buy things when I need them.

  7. Travel - I didn’t do much traveling in 2018. My goal for 2019 is to get back on the road. Sure, I have a few bigger trips in mind, but I’m planning plenty of weekend and smaller trips as well.

  8. Mandolin - I’m finally dusting her off and going to learn how to play the mandolin.

  9. Art & Creativity - continue to pursue art projects, outside of work and business, for fun including painting, drawing, and venture into other mediums.

  10. Adoption - 2019 is going to be the year that my husband and I begin pursuing domestic adoption. It’s going to be a long road, but we’re finally at a place where we are ready to grow our family. We won’t be sharing much of this online, this is an area we prefer privacy around.

  11. Boredom - “Boredom” is my word/theme for 2019. This may seem a little odd following the lengthy list of things above, but after the craziness that was my 2018, this list seems like a cake walk. I plan to write more about this in a future post.

Now it’s your turn. What are your goals or resolutions for 2019? Hopefully this article will help encourage you to get moving and embrace the year ahead.

Happy New Year!