6 Productivity apps that changed my life

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Anyone who’s spoken to me so far this year will know that I’ve become borderline obsessed with productivity tools and apps.

The background to this is: a) I love lists. I mean I really, really love lists b) I’m trying to respond less with ‘busy’ when people ask me how I am - work smarter, hot harder people c) I made ‘Focus’ my word for 2016. If you don’t know what I’m on about, I talk more here about why I choose a word for the year instead of a New Year's resolution.

Despite this, I’m notorious for often having 30+ tabs open at a time. I know, it’s insane. I’ll get onto this later.

While I’d classify myself as a creative type, I’m also super logical and get frustrated when things aren’t efficient. In good ol’ Myers Briggs mode, I’m much more a T (thinker) than an F (feeler).

 

Before

The best system I’d found to get sh*t done was fairly old school - handwritten ‘to do’ items on different coloured Post-It Notes. I can categorise them and stick them anywhere - if one was a shopping list, I’d stick it in my purse. Or if one was for a client meeting, I’d only need to take that one. Plus it’s super satisfying to scrunch it up and throw it out once something’s done.

I actually love this system. But since I often think of things while I’m not anywhere near a Post-It Note, it’s flawed. And since there’s an app (and Chrome Extension) for everything, I started trialing different options to hunt down what worked for me.

 

During

I started downloading and experimenting with everything. You name it, I’ve used it.

Evernote, Teux Deux, Todoist, IFTTT, Zapier, Charlie, Streak for Gmail, Way of Life, Habit Clock and the list goes on. I tested their usability, functionality, whether they sync across devices and integrate with other platforms. I tested free versus paid.

I could write forever about all the ones available, but as I was looking for list and project management ones (to replace my Post-In Note system), I’ll stick with that.

 

After

This list is what made the cut and what I now use on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

Google Keep (keep.google.com) It beat other note taking and to do list apps like Teux Deux and Todoist easily. It uses a card based system to sort, colour coding, tags, syncs perfectly across any device, allows you to share individual cards with other Google users and I can easily switch between my personal and work Google accounts. You can add images, reminders, copy notes to Google Docs and is hands down my go-to for to-dos.

Google Photos (photos.google.com) Store an unlimited number of photos. Need I say more? The app is super simple, backs up my iPhone photos seamlessly and the search function can’t be beat. Need to find photos of that time I was climbing the Villarrica volcano in Chile? Easy. Search ‘villarrica’ and they appear. I can also create albums easily, share them with whoever I want via a link, or make them collaborative a la Google Drive. Boom.

Google Calendar (calendar.google.com) Bit of a theme happening isn’t there? What can I say, all the Google products work really well together. Anyway, I found I liked the Google Calendar app much more than the Apple one because of two key things: 1) It automatically sets up calendar events for things like flight details or event confirmations from my Gmail, and 2) Being able to add Goals and Reminders. Set a goal to run three times a week for one hour (which I did), choose what rough time of the day you want to do it, and it’ll work out over time when suits you best.

Slack I almost can’t remember work life before Slack. I guess I’d call it BS (before Slack). They’ve absolutely dominated the market by making a platform that’s so intuitively easy to use. The Mac app is the bee’s knees - simple to switch between multiple accounts, set up different channels, share files, integrate with other platforms, start a video chat, send hilarious gifs and the list continues.

Trello Not quite as user friendly as Slack, but excellent for simple project management. I use it daily to brief in design and dev work, give feedback, check on progress and give sign off. Switch boards and I’m allocating tasks between another team, checking on progress and making sure everything’s on schedule.

Pocket I like reading a lot and always learning new stuff. Trouble is, now’s often not the time. The ‘Save to Pocket’ Chrome extension syncs with the app on my phone and lets me read that oh-so-interesting Wired article while I’m on the tram later. #nerd.


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