I’m quite a productivity nerd, and I’ve always had an affinity for the latest apps on the market. Combine the two and you get a very nice mix of options to choose from when designing a productivity workflow.
Here’s how I organize things.
HelpScout is the ticketing system that we use to provide support for WP RSS Aggregator. On a daily basis, I might have a few tickets assigned to me, although the majority are very ably handled by the rest of our team. So I usually clear my tickets twice a day, once in the morning and another in the evening.
Slack is an awesome chat application that I use to connect daily with the rest of my remote team. It excels in integrations. For instance, I have it set to notify me whenever I’m assigned a new ticket in HelpScout.
Since I keep Slack open at all times, it’s one of my main control panels for anything business related. Within our team, we have almost completely eliminated email for communications and replaced it with Slack.
Within Slack I can also set the occasional reminder. These reminders tend to be very specific to the projects we work on. Consider this situation. I want to talk to a team member about a low priority item that has cropped up, but the team member is currently offline. I’ll therefore use the /remind command in Slack to set up a reminder that will ping me the following day or in a few hours. Simple and effective.
BitBucket / JIRA
BitBucket & JIRA have both become essential tools for our team. We use them for storing all our codebases as well as for registering issues that need to be worked on. All my personal code projects are also on BitBucket, so this is another source of tasks for me.
Since most of my time is spent doing management and strategizing these days, I tend to dive into code and issues whenever time permits, so there are no deadlines attached to my issues. As a team, of course, we do have target release dates, but personally, my time available for coding is too variable to be able to set any realistic timelines.
I use Evernote primarily for the following:
- Important documents (receipts, travel tickets, personal records etc.)
- Articles containing important information (business/personal)
- Checklists (e.g. items to take with me when traveling)
- Conference notes
The best description for Evernote is that it’s an extension of your brain, kind of like the external drive that you attach to your laptop to store all your data in. On a daily basis, I handle a lot of information and there’s no way I could remember everything I read or come across, so I use Evernote for storing stuff.
Since I tag each item religiously it’s easy to find things at a later stage. For example, if I’m researching buying a property in Barcelona, I can attach the following tags to my notes: Barcelona, Spain, Real Estate, Buy.
When I need to search all that material at a later stage, those tags will come in handy. I can use them to bring up real estate agent websites, maybe some properties I had favorited, articles about buying in Spain, and perhaps even a checklist or two.
- Dropbox is short-term storage of files, Evernote is long term.
- Dropbox is where I keep the music, Evernote is where I keep the list of bands to check out and the receipts for the music I buy.
- Dropbox is where I keep records of client assets, Evernote is where I keep a log of client communication.
- Dropbox is how I move files easily between computers, Evernote is how I move text easily between computers.
Like many entrepreneurs, I suffer from the Shiny Object Syndrome. One of my biggest distractions on a daily basis are new articles related to my areas of interest (which do vary widely so there’s a lot of material that catches my eye). The only way to get any work done is to forward all interesting articles to Pocket where I can view them later at a more appropriate time.
I do set specific reading times during the week where I can catch up on those articles in Pocket. By that time a good percentage of those articles won’t look as must-read-now as they did when I first came across them, so I can pick and choose in a wiser manner.
I use Pocket as a kind of intermediary clearinghouse for web research and clippings. While going through the Pocket articles if I feel that any of them will be useful to me in the long term, or I’d need to refer to them at some point, I’ll share them to Evernote and tag them appropriately from within Evernote.
There is an IFTTT recipe that automatically sends starred items in Pocket to Evernote, which would have been perfect to add some automation to this process, however, unfortunately, IFTTT only sends a snippet of the article from Pocket to Evernote, so it really negates its usefulness.
Trello is another tool that I use heavily, both in a personal and professional setting. It’s probably the most flexible tool I use, in fact you need to be careful not to use it for things that other apps might be better suited for. One major use for it on a personal productivity level is to keep track of the major tasks I plan to accomplish during the next 3/4 months. I have that board shared with another business owner with whom I have a mastermind, and we keep ourselves accountable to each other.
I found this approach very helpful to be able to see the bigger picture on a daily basis and not get distracted by smaller things. Here’s when you need to stop and think about things; I realized that Trello is great for keeping track of epics, but not the best tool for todo lists. Hence, enter Todoist.
Todoist is one of the top to-do list apps and for good reason. It has an excellent mobile interface on both Android and iOS, and you can of course also use it in the browser or as an OS X app.
This is the tool I use for the more granular day-to-day tasks. I might break down a bigger task to make it easier for me to complete it in smaller chunks, or simply as a way of remembering what I need to do and what stage I’m at, especially if I’m working on a 3-day task. Having a list of granular items will help me resume work quickly the next morning, as I’ll know exactly where I’m at and what percentage of the bigger task is done.
Note: As of 2018 I have stopped using Todoist, simply because I felt like things were becoming too granular and it was a feat in itself to manage all the productivity apps I was using. I am now putting more things into Google Calendar, and also making use of a calendar and daily journal from Best Self for a more visual and offline experience.
All the events I have to attend are shown in Google Calendar so I can quickly see them in a monthly or weekly view. Visually seeing the times occupied by each event is much easier than having a list of events. It gives me a better sense of the time I’ll have available for my daily work and other smaller errands. On the calendar, I’ll also add recurring items like birthdays or gym classes that I need to remember.
Productive is an iPhone app that I use whenever I want to start a new habit. It’s part of my workflow in the sense that when I want to integrate something new into my daily routine, I put it in Productive and I can then get a reminder about it daily. I also get the feel good factor of checking a box when the task is done.
For example, when I wanted to start doing a 10 minute daily meditation after finishing my work day and before heading back home, I set this on Productive and it helped me avoid forgetting my meditation or skipping days, as would undoubtedly happen if I didn’t have this app.
Usually, I use Productive only for the first few weeks until the habit is formed, from then onwards I would not need it anymore. Try it if you have been failing to kickstart a new positive habit, it might be just what you need.
While we’ve eliminated internal use of email in our team, it is still a very important means of communication for me, and remains one of my primary contact points. I use the Inbox Zero methodology to keep my inbox empty every day. I process emails at specific points during the day, usually at four different times depending on the structure of the day.
I usually take a quick look first thing in the morning to see if there is anything urgent that I need to take care of. If not, I’ll quickly reply to any emails that take less than 2 minutes, and start the others so that I’ll take care of them later. I check email again two more times during the day and one final check towards the end of my work day.
I still use notebooks in certain occasions. For example, if I meet someone and need to take a few quick notes I usually do that on a notebook. The same goes for the various meetups and conferences I attend regularly. When I get home I scan the notes into Evernote using the Scannable app I have installed on my iPad.
I love Moleskine notebooks and I usually tend to have a few lying around both at my desk and at home.
So while technology has definitely helped in improving my workflow, there’s still place for some old fashioned tools like the trusty notebook.
So now that you’ve seen my workflow, how does it compare to yours? Do you have any suggestions on how I can further streamline things?
Bonus tip: When life gets a bit crazy and you get loads of things to do coming your way, go to Calm.com 🙂