Best Productivity Tools

Discussion in 'Apex Lounge' started by cardine, Dec 10, 2015.

Share This Page

  1. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Messages:
    1,032
    Likes Received:
    995
    Since I am naturally a very disorganized person I've spent a large part of the last several years trying to streamline everything I do each day to make sure I'm keeping myself as productive as possible and as streamlined as possible. I've tried a lot of tools and stopped using them, but there are a bunch of productivity tools I've been using for months and months and months that I've found to be completely indispensable.

    Toggl
    This one is by far my favorite as it is incredibly simple and effective way to keep yourself accountable. It lets you very easily log how much time you are spending on different things throughout the day. Whenever I start working on anything I just hit the "Start" button, and then whenever I'm done I hit the "Stop" button. It lets you very easily look at your last day/week/month/year and figure out "how much time did I actually spend working and what did I spend that time working on." At first I used it solely as a way to keep myself focused and motivated - I would set a goal of working X hours in a day, and then log my time as I was going while motivating myself to reach that target goal. Now I use it a lot to figure out where I need to hire - for instance earlier this year I looked through my logs and realized I was spending over 25% of my time on customer service and then promptly went out and found someone to help me work on that.

    So for instance here were my last two days as logged by Toggl. I set it up so that I marked my task, what "Project" the task was devoted to, and lastly what "Role" I was acting as. So for instance two days ago I spent 3 hours looking at offices to move into, and I was doing "CEO work" during that time, while yesterday I spent a lot (way too much) time getting this forum software all setup doing "Server Admin" work.

    upload_2015-12-10_17-32-12.png

    Wunderlist
    This is just your basic to do list so I don't think this needs quite as much explanation. I once again have things split up by projects and assign different tasks with different deadlines. There are a million different apps for this but Wunderlist was the one that I found to be the easiest and most intuitive.

    Workflowy
    This is probably my favorite app on the list, and I discovered it through Matt Cutt's blog of all places. It's basically a "list" on steroids, allowing you to create sub lists and notes which allow you to very easily lay out an entire project. So every product I'm working on has its own list, which then has sub lists such as "Marketing Strategies" or "Features" which then each have their own sub lists. Describing it doesn't quite to it justice, but it is probably one of the most indispensable programs I use.

    Pivotal Tracker
    This last one only applies to programmers, but this is a very intuitive website for managing a programming project. It keeps track of your to do list, lets you easily break down how hard different tasks are, and once you start working it estimates how long the project should take to complete based on how fast you are working on things and how much stuff there is left.

    There are probably a couple more I'll add later, but that's all for now. I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else has any tools or programs they can recommend that they are getting good usage out of!
     
    JamesAtlas, Anaconda, Bizzy and 2 others like this.
  2. SiteAuthority

    SiteAuthority New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    6
    I have a bit of a problem staying focused. So I have one main productivity tool I use every day to force myself to stay on-task: a free Mac app called SelfControl. Basically, you can either whitelist sites you want to be able to visit or blacklist sites that you know will waste your time and set a time period to enforce the black/whitelist - and SelfControl will prevent you from being able to waste time on the web.

    If you're a news junkie, just blacklist Drudge and set SelfControl for two hours. Tempted to waste time browsing YouTube? Blacklist it until quitting time. Waste too much time on Apex Forum? Shut it off until lunch time. :D You get the idea.
     
    Allen Gomes and megodon like this.
  3. megodon

    megodon Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    24
    I used a similar Mac tool while in college, it was a great deal of help!
     
  4. omm

    omm Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    4
    Toggl is great. I am a fan of todoist and also trello for certain things. What's nice is that they all integrate together so you can easily keep track of your time through toggl without having to leave the other programs. This comes in handy with work. I can just go through my list of things to do and a toggl button shows up next to each task which I can just click on to start and stop the timer. Then it is automatically sorted and labled in toggl.

    OneNote has been a savior for me lately. I would recommend checking it out if you are looking for a place to consolidate notes and pretty much anything. When it came to keeping track of notes and stuff, I struggled with Evernote. It just never seemed to be flexible enough for me. I will use Evernote for bookmarking but that is about it.
     
    megodon likes this.
  5. hunch

    hunch New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    16
    We use Teamwork for PM and love it. We're heavier on the marketing than dev though, so I can see why some people prefer something like Jira.

    On a side note, I couldn't think of a better person to start a new marketing forum. Good luck, glad to be here now that "that other place" is dead.
     
    megodon and cardine like this.
  6. Hernan

    Hernan Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2016
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    10
    I'm using mostly:

    Evernote - for day to day to-do list
    Slack - for team chat, that way I can keep out of FB chat, Skype etc.
    Asana - for actual tasks that needs a deadline
    Coogle.it - for map minds and ideas layout
    Brian.fm - for productivity and concentration. I'd marry this app if I could.
     
    Anaconda likes this.
  7. potentialeight

    potentialeight Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    51
    • Todoist - This is my daily to-do list. I keep recurring stuff on there like making sure I pay bills each month, reminding myself which day I'm going to take the trash off, appointments I need to remember and other stuff. If I plan on doing something that's not a hardcore habit, it goes in here. Also, I use it on my computer and on my phone.
    • IFTTT/Google Docs - I use this for ubiquitous capture. Every time I sent a text message to the number, it gives me a line in a Google Docs document that has the date, time and the note I left for myself. I have a daily item in Todoist to zero this daily (related: I have a similar daily item to zero my email daily).
    • OneNote - I use this as a sort of encyclopedia of all of the crap that I have as far as ideas for the future, motivational quotes, keeping up with my girl's period (example: so I don't plan a trip when she's supposed to be cramping/bleeding/miserable) and all kinds of other miscellaneous crap like my personal projects that aren't work-related. A lot of stuff from the Google Docs document I mentioned above ends up filed away here somewhere.
    • Readability - This is a free service that puts a button on your browser window that allows you to send anything you want to read to one place to read it in a simple format later. There's also an iPhone app, so I mostly end up reading this stuff while I'm waiting on someone somewhere, while I'm eating lunch or while I'm on the toilet (just saying) instead of reading it in the middle of the day and screwing up my productivity. There are other services like this, but it's about 50 times better than any other one I've tried.
    • Text/Email Reminders for the Future - I'm sure there are services that do this, but I wrote my own tool for this in some really busted PHP a while back. On my phone or computer, I can put in a reminder for the future into a really simple web form. A cron job checks a database table of these reminders every 15 minutes, and if there's one that needs to be sent, it sends both an email and text message to my phone with the content of that reminder. This is best for reminders that don't fit well inside of the IFTTT/Google Docs framework for whatever reason, especially if they're time sensitive. Random dumb example, but earlier I set one for 7:30 to remind me that my girl was probably going to want me to find a stream for her to watch some show at 8 just so I wouldn't forget.
     
    cardine and returntrip like this.
  8. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Messages:
    1,032
    Likes Received:
    995
    Considering Coogle.it redirects here when I go to it
    upload_2016-2-10_18-53-22.png

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you meant Coggle.it ;)

    Assuming that is what you meant, what sorts of things do you use Coggle for? I've heard a lot of people talk about mind mapping but I've never seen a clear example that makes me think of anything I would actually want to mind map.
     
    dzianis likes this.
  9. Krayzie

    Krayzie New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2016
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    2
    I personally use :

    Headspace - for meditation
    Marinaratimer - pomodoro timer
    Brain.fm - when working or doing other stuff on pc
    Chains.cc - just started using this one and its for record you progress when forming new habits
    Trello - we all know what it does :)
     
  10. dzianis

    dzianis Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    366
    A lot of great options here. These work best for me:

    - Trello. Apart from the obvious, I start a new board for every project/website and brainstorm ideas adding cards - works as a mindmap for me. From that board I can later assign tasks to VAs uploading necessary files and updating the instructions.
    - Pocket app (+ browser button). When I see something cool but unrelated to my current research I save that link to Pocket. Helps me not get distracted since I know "I won't lose it and read that later". Funny thing is when I browse my saved links in a couple of days I realize they're not as exciting as I thought, imagine how much momentum I would've lost reading all that crap the moment I saw it.
    - Notepad ++ - literally one of my most used apps. I am not a coder but I do great stuff using macros in there, any kind of text sorting and editing. Great thing about it that's not obvious - it keeps all my open txt files in tabs and it re-opens all the tabs even if they weren't saved. I can paste something quickly or jot down an idea and it'll be there without asking me where to save it.
    - Paper daily planner. I need some time without any screens for my mind to stay productive and sort things out. Even if I'm writing a basic list of 4-5 things in the morning and summarizing them again in the evening I feel a lot better about that day. I read somewhere how important it is to list what you've done in the evening and that definitely applies to me, kind of a "happiness hack".
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2016
  11. L_C

    L_C Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2016
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    45
    Holy crap! I must be getting old. The profession I'm in requires a huge amount of organisation and all I use are a day book and a whiteboard. The only other thing I would suggest is a workspace environment that is free of distractions and allows you to be productive.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2016
    Golan, cardine and dzianis like this.
  12. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Messages:
    1,032
    Likes Received:
    995
    Along these lines another really important productivity tool for me is a notebook and pen. I write things down all day. Sometimes its notes from a meeting or conversation right after it happens, other times it's just stream of consciousness, and other times they are very organized plans or wire frames, but it's usually very ephemeral. In total I probably write down on 2-3 full pages in my notebook each day, then if something I write down is important enough I'll move it over to another more permanent, digital, and searchable tool like Workflowy.
     
  13. Anaconda

    Anaconda Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    89
    My time management is appalling. I've tried a couple of online services, Asana and Trello but I never seem to get into the habit of using them consistently and since I'm usually working on my own projects all of the collaboration options just confess me. I usually revert to a simple To Do list in my diary - old school. I know I'm incredibly focused when I have my list to follow - but, again, it's about consistency and building the habit. Workflowy looks good for the basic To Do lists I prefer. I might give that a go.

    One tool I quite like to use is a Mind Mapping tool - Mindmeister There is a basic free version for 3 mindmaps and a range of paid upgrades. The sort of thing I might mindmap are the case studies.
     
  14. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Messages:
    1,032
    Likes Received:
    995
    How exactly would you use Mind Mapping any differently than something like Workflowy? It seems like how they structure things are exactly the same, the only difference is in how it is laid out.
     
  15. dzianis

    dzianis Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    366
    Holy crap Toggl is good! I gave it a shot yesterday and it's very helpful.

    What I personally loved about the app is that it kills multitasking urges. Each time I want to quickly "check" something I think "hold on, timer's on for something else, I don't want to either stop it or divert to another task, since it will twist my stats!".

    I split my tasks into pretty detailed "projects" and I'm looking forward to using this for at least a week to see how much time I'm dedicating to them relatively.

    [​IMG]
     
    cardine likes this.
  16. potentialeight

    potentialeight Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    51
    For what it's worth, I use the free program XMind for my occasional (read: few and far between) needs for a visual "mind map" type of thing. I use it for topics where nested bullet lists aren't flexible enough to handle the data and I need to make multiple connections in multiple directions. It gets messy very quickly, however, but I've found it useful for specialized circumstances.
     
    cardine likes this.
  17. Anaconda

    Anaconda Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    89
    I like a visual - this is not one of mine but a good example.
    mindmeister.png
     
  18. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Messages:
    1,032
    Likes Received:
    995
    That's awesome! Now that it's been a week, how are you finding it?

    This might be less of a priority for you but I would definitely consider adding tags as well. I use the tags for roles so that I know when I should start outsourcing a specific task, but you can also use it too to help determine if you are spending too much time doing things that aren't making you enough money. For instance I have in the past at the end of the year, calculated how much value I think each role I did contributed (how much money did I make by spending all of that time doing design work) divide that by the hours spent doing that task, and seeing which tasks make me the most money per hour and how I can do more of that.

    I also try to gamify results a little bit by setting goals for certain amounts of time worked a day or a week. In my case too I try to under report as much as possible - so if I'm passively doing something I'll turn the timer off - Toggl is only allowed to run while I am actively working on something. So browsing Apex Forum doesn't count as time logged, but writing a very specific guide does.
     
  19. rymedia

    rymedia New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trello
    Zapier
    Notepad++
    Snipping Tool
     
    cardine likes this.
  20. Anaconda

    Anaconda Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    89
    I find this handy from time to time. You know how you have a long list and you just want to create a spun list
    http://www.getspintax.com/

    I use Notepad2, it's simpler than Notepad++ and it has some nifty features not available in Notepad++. My favorites are ...
    Prefix text to lines - adds the same Prefix to all selected lines
    Append text to lines - same to the end of selected lines
    Sort Ascending, Descending and Shuffle lines - Shuffle especially useful
    Merge duplicate lines, or remove dup lines
    Convert to sentence Case

    For an enormous list of keywords - http://www.keywordshitter.com/