This 1 Tool Made My Productivity Skyrocket — and It's From the '90s

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Modern technology may be increasing productivity for some, but it also has its drawbacks. For one, I don't love being in front of a blue screen all day, every day. As a creative writer, my favorite times to work are before bed and right when I wake up. If I want until after my morning ritual, I usually get flooded with emails and instant messages. It's very easy to get distracted, and even when I disable the WiFi, the temptation is just too strong. I inevitably switch it back on and get lost taking breaks or doing "research," aka surfing the web.

I know I could just write with a pen in a notebook, but I get impatient with longhand writing for anything other than thank-you notes and stylish calligraphy. When I'm working on a draft, I need my hands to work as fast as my mind. I even considered getting a typewriter, but that wouldn't be easy to carry around. Plus, the "type, type, type, ding!" noise would probably make my boyfriend move out.

It wasn't until a fellow writer shared an amazing tip that I finally found what worked. Per his suggestion, I ordered the AlphaSmart Word Processor ($30) off eBay (yep, that little tool from the '90s). I was shocked to see how many were available, and this purchase tripled my productivity almost immediately. No, really, I'm not exaggerating. My word count per writing block tripled.

The AlphaSmart is smaller than my laptop, and it runs for months on AA batteries. I love my iPad, but the keyboard is flimsy and awkward for lap-typing. This machine has a supersturdy keyboard that can rest just about anywhere. Also, there's no need for WiFi. It doesn't even need it to "save" your work, since the work exists on its hard drive. I simply turn it on, and everything is there — no logging in or searching required. You can even work on eight files at a time. The processor has basic commands, and I can view my word count, which is my most needed tool in draft writing.

AlphaSmart Commands

Also, it stops me from the bad habit of "editing as I write" because it only shows about four lines of text at a time. I can't research anything, and going back to reread is a pain, so it forces me to literally just write. Also, I love that it hooks up to a laptop through a USB chord. I just plug it in when I'm ready to upload my file, open Microsoft Word, and hit send on the AlphaSmart. It writes out the entire file into the empty document. All of this has helped me feel way less stressed when I work.

In addition to being available on eBay, you can also purchase it on Amazon through third-party vendors (it's been out of production since 2013). I went with the Neo2 version, but there are other options to choose from. For anyone writing, whether for work, school, or just for fun, this is a game changer.