How To Choose The Best Productivity Apps For You.
There are many time management and productivity apps on app stores today, which makes choosing incredibly difficult. There are also thousands of YouTube videos, blog posts, and adverts extolling many of these apps’ virtues.
The difficulty is not just the choice; the difficulty is choosing the apps that will work for you.
Let me give you an example. Take one of the new kids on the block, Obsidian. I get comments on my Evernote videos saying how much better Obsidian is over Evernote. The trouble is this is not true. It’s also not true to say Evernote is better than Obsidian. The reason is while Evernote works for me, Obsidian does not. Yet for the people leaving such comments, Obsidian works for them, Evernote does not.
You see, at a fundamental level, there are two types of people: creative types who like to see things visually and more logical thinkers who like to see things linearly. And then some people are a bit in the middle.
To find the right tools for you, you need to know what type of person you are. Just because your favourite YouTuber swears by a particular app, does not mean if you use the same app, you will be just as productive as they are.
Take David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, for example. David uses a task manager called e-Productivity. It is a fork based on the Lotus Notes software, and it looks like it was developed for Windows 95 (it was). There’s no app for a mobile device for it, and it is software that is over twenty years old. Nobody today would want to use that software, yet David Allen does. Why? Because it works for him.
Matt D’Avella uses a task management app called TeuxDeux. To me, TeuxDeux appeals to my minimalist nature because it only shows you the tasks you have decided to do each day. There are no project folders or tags. Just days and the ability to bold, italicise or underline tasks using markdown. For most people, this is an app that is too minimalist.
The next consideration is, how are you going to use it. In my coaching practice, I have clients who follow a pure GTD system. Contexts organise Their tasks (people, place or thing) and their projects are managed in a project support area such as OneNote or Evernote.
I have other clients who like to see their tasks organised by projects and others use the Time Sector System.
Going deeper, some people want an application that will allow them to assign tasks to their assistants or team members. In these instances, apps like TeuxDeux, OmniFocus and Things 3 would not work.
Other considerations are what platforms you are using. Are you exclusively in the Apple or Windows eco-system? If not, you will need a cross-platform app. Having all your notes, tasks and events syncing to all your devices ensures you miss nothing and can collect your ideas, tasks and events wherever you are with whatever device you are using.
So how do you find the right app for you?
Begin by using the built-in apps on your devices. For example, if you are predominantly a Windows user, use Microsoft ToDo and OneNote. Learn how to use these tools and make a note of how you use them. Try these out for one or two months. Doing it this way will give you a good idea of how you use the tools.
There is no rush to finding the right tools. You can take your time. The key here is to get used to collecting your ideas, tasks and events, so you don’t miss anything by trying to remember everything in your head. Any tool will be better than using your head to manage your work, commitments and goals.
Once you have discovered how you like to manage your work, take a few apps. Try TeuxDeux — the more minimalist app — have a look at Trello or Asana to see if managing your tasks by boards works better for you.
Now having a look means just that. Take a look. Set up an account and have a play. It does not mean jettisoning your current apps and rushing headlong into a new app that might not work. Both Asana and Trello have web apps, so you don’t have to download any software, and their basic versions are free.
For your notes, take a look at Evernote, Obsidian, Notion or Roam Research. All these apps are different, but they do function as notes apps. Their difference is in how you write notes and connect them. For example, Evernote and OneNote are your more traditional notebook set up with a notebook for subjects and ‘pages’ for your notes. Obsidian and Roam Research are more about connecting ideas together by linking lines, paragraphs and keywords to other individual notes with similar topics and keywords. And then there is Notion which is a mix of everything.
It can take a while to find the right apps, but your research does pay off. Once you find an app that works for you, give it a chance. If you have spent a few months with the stock apps on your devices, it will be a little uncomfortable and slow at first with your new apps. It takes time to learn the keyboard shortcuts and connect tasks and notes, but if you give your new found apps a chance (at least six months), you will get years of service from them. You will soon automatically know how to get stuff into them, organise them in a way that works for you and, more importantly, how to find what you are looking for quickly.
No app will be absolutely perfect, that would be impossible. It’s not about finding the perfect apps; it’s about finding apps that work for you. There will be compromises, workarounds and a little frustration at times but the effort and time you take at the beginning will reward you later when your productivity increases significantly and remember, that was always the goal; it was never about using the latest shiniest apps… I hope.
For the record; here is a list of the tools I use and how long I have been using them:
Tasks manager: Todoist (6 years)
Notes app: Evernote (12 years)
Calendar: Apple Calendar (19 years)
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My purpose is to help as many people as I can live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.
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