The new year brings resolutions of being more organized and increased productivity. Busy professionals, stay-at-home moms, and budding entrepreneurs resolve to manage their time, businesses and households more effectively. But how?

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The evolution of productivity has witnessed many trends. The Franklin Covey time management system came to market in 1984. Loose leaf planner pages allowed for appointment setting, expense and mileage tracking, note-taking, and capturing to-dos housed in a cover and size of your choosing. Like Franklin Covey, UK-born Filofax, Day-Timer and others have for some time held prominent places in the personal organizing market. Self-help guru Stephen Covey first published his best-seller “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” in 1989, giving readers advice on goal setting and attainment by mastering seven habits. And Palm Pilots, one of the first iterations of personal digital assistants (PDAs) launched in 1997. With stylus in hand, users managed contacts, reminders, lists and more while on the go. Then came the advent of the smartphone.

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Compact, intuitive, affordable, and offering variety, smartphones were the answer to paper digital assistants. Not only could users organize their lives, they could now interface via phone, messaging, email, and video with those most important to them. Yet, some remain “old school,” with an affinity for pen and paper. Although they use smartphones, paper digital assistants remain de rigueur. A Financial Times article in December suggested that even millennials, with their inclination to be all digital all of the time, tend to couple their smartphone usage with notebooks and journals for information and life planning.  

Recognizing an appeal to personal aesthetics, cottage industries have sprung up at online retailers like Etsy, offering customized paper lifestyle planners of every size, color, and information management need. Stylish brands like Leaders and Heels, Passion Planner, Day Designer and Erin Condren have also seen a boost in customer appeal over early innovators like Covey and Filofax.

Amazon Echo Alexa enabled (Photo/

The 2016 holiday season brought another trend in productivity—personal digital assistants. The brain-children of Amazon and Google, the Echo Dot and Google Home are voice command personal helpers. With a simple, “Alexa” or “Hey Google,” your local weather, to-do lists, appointments for the day, the latest chapter from your favorite book or Latin jazz station from Pandora or Spotify are just a command away. Echo’s information repository is online search engine Bing, while Google Home, no surprise, pulls from Google.

Sleek and non-intrusive, both products also feature smarthome capability, allowing users to control multiple devices like garage doors, locks, and appliances at one time.

Google Home (Photo/Google Store)

Baltimore resident Reginald Thomas was gifted the Echo Dot for Christmas and immediately put it to good use. Alexa offered assistance with everything from an Uber ride, setting a daily alarm and what’s on his calendar, the score of the Cleveland Cavaliers game, and recommendations for a good seafood restaurant.

“Embracing and appreciating technology is the way of the future and the future is now,” Thomas said.