It’s been a year since I last updated my “The Tools I Use” blog post, so this week, I thought it would be a good idea to update it so you can see what tools I am using now to get my work done and to create the videos, blog posts and podcasts I create each week.
For the most part, little has changed. This is because I strongly believe once you have found a device or an app that works for you, you should not change it. Instead, I find using the same tools year after year I am able to go very deep into learning the app, get faster at using it and work with it without having to figure out how to do something. That is a huge time saver and allows me more time to do work that really matters.
So, what has changed?
The biggest change over the last twelve months is in how I edit my videos. I have started to use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit my headshots because Premiere Pro allows me to adjust the lighting and sound better than Screenflow does. Screenflow is still my go-to app for recording and editing my screencasts, but for the introductions and other headshot type videos, these are edited in Premiere Pro.
Another area that changed over the last twelve months is how I write my blog posts and other short-form writing. In the past, I kept all this in Scrivener, which worked very well, but I found writing in Scrivener on my iPhone was not the easiest thing to do. So, I invested in Ulysses and now use Ulysses for all blog posts, online course introductions and other short-form writing I do. For writing books, Scrivener still wins hands down every time.
I made a physical change to my journaling this year too. After a year of trying out a digital journaling system in Evernote, I returned to paper-based journalling. There was nothing wrong with using Evernote as my journal, but I missed writing by hand. There is just something more special about physically writing out your thoughts and ideas than typing them. I found a great leather bound journal made by a U.S company called Gallery and since buying the journal I have not looked back. It just feels so much better writing rather than typing.
My journal of choice is Gallery Leather’s large ruled desk journal.
Finally, I began using Asana for managing my weekly content schedule. Asana has allowed me to see visually, in a board like set up, all the content I am working on for the week and helps me to manage the scheduling better than a list view would do.
- Mid 2013 Apple iMac 27in (my workhorse for writing, research, web-surfing and music listening)
- Mid 2014 Apple MacBook Pro 13in (For the hard graft of video and podcast editing as well as all Adobe products I use.)
- 2016 9.7in iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil (for writing and teaching materials)
- 2017 iPhone X in Space Grey with 256GB memory
Todoist is the core of my whole productivity system. It controls my daily tasks, it makes sure I am doing stuff that is important to my future goals and it makes sure I collect all the daily stuff that comes into my life so I can organise it later.
Evernote is my go-to notes application. I have been using Evernote for nine years now and I have built up a large collection of articles, ideas and reference materials over those years. I use Evernote to collect articles I find interesting or want to refer to at a later date. I also use it to collect ideas and plans for future use. I even use it for brainstorming ideas.
Fantastical is my calendar app of choice for all my appointments. I’ve been using Fantastical for about three years now and I chose it because of its incredible natural language recognition abilities. Over those three years, Fantastical has got better and better and now with its desktop app, it has become an all-round great calendar app.
For years I used Apple’s built-in mail app on all my devices. That was until I was introduced to Newton about eighteen months ago. To me, all the traditional mail apps looked too ‘corporate’ and were not an inspiring place to do work. Newton changed that for me. Its interface is gorgeous and it really is a pleasure to compose, read and organise mail. I confess I do still use Apple Mail at the end of a day because Apple Mail has smart mailboxes where I can collect all the action today emails into one place.
I use Asana for a specific reason. Asana is my Kanban type board for tracking the content I produce on a weekly basis. This allows me to plan and schedule my content so there are no conflicts and I can visually see the progress on each piece of content. I was inspired for this set up by Steve Dotto’s video showing how he and his team put together their content.
So there are my core apps. These apps tell me what I have to do and where I have to be while at the same time makes sure I get my work done on time.
Now for the heavy lifting apps:
I really don’t think I would be a presenter today if it was not for Keynote. I began using it from the very first day it was launched and have never been tempted back to PowerPoint. All my workshops, presentations and even draft design work is done in Keynote. I love the fact I can create outlines, PDF files and so much more with this brilliant app.
Pages is my go-to app for all formatted written work. I love its interface and the way you can format documents pretty much how you please. I also use the track changes features to proofread client work and then export as a Word file (as pretty much all my clients use MS Office)
Like Pages, I use Numbers for my day to day office work. I keep all student attendance lists, client payments and other similar files in iCloud so I can access these from my iPad when I am out and about.
For writing books I use Scrivener. Scrivener is the best app there is for long-form writing such as a book and since the app came available for the iPad and iPhone last year, this has meant I no longer need to carry my laptop with me every day as I can simply pick up where I left off on my iPad with its Dropbox syncing.
One of the best all-round writing apps there is today. It is simple, yet has enough features to handle almost all writers’ demands. I love writing in dark mode on my computers as this gives me a feeling of complete focus and that is how I want to be when I am writing — completely focused. The iPhone app is just outstanding. There are times I just love to sit back on the sofa and write using my iPhone.
Screenflow is now in its 7th edition and I upgraded from version 6 over the last twelve months. Screenflow is my app of choice for recording and editing my YouTube videos. I love its simplicity and solidity. It works, it has direct publishing to YouTube and the way it allows you to mix videos and text is just fantastic.
Premiere Pro is the video editing software I use for recording all my headshot videos. Because Premiere Pro has such a fantastic array of tools for adjusting lighting and sound, it is just the best tool to use for this kind of work. Screenflow can do it, but Screenflow’s lighting adjustment features just do not match Premiere Pro’s.
Photoshop has been my design tool of choice for nearly twenty years now. All my blog post images, online course images, thumbnails and YouTube video thumbnails are created in Photoshop. This is another app that is pretty much open on my computer all day, every day.
I use InDesign for designing my workbooks and other PDF learning materials for teaching. This is another new app added to the list this year and I spent much of last year learning to use it and designed and produced a number of workbooks as well as a book I published for the university I teach at. I really enjoy working in InDesign.
Now for the cloud drives, I use.
I essentially use two cloud drives. These are:
Over the last year, I have reduced my usage of Dropbox. Not because there is anything wrong with Dropbox., it is still one of the best cloud services on the market. I am now using iCloud much more as I am fully invested in the Apple eco-system and iCloud has improved so much over that few years.
I use iCloud for specific apps. In particular, I use iCloud for Pages and Numbers files I am currently working on as I can access these directly from the device I am working on. I am now also using iCloud for all my productivity business matters. I am paying for the 2-gigabyte storage option and share this with my wife. As time goes by, I am using iCloud Drive much more.
And now for the little utility apps, I use every day to make my life that little bit easier.
I couldn’t live without this wonderful app. 1Password is where I store all my passwords so I do not have to remember any. The only password I have to remember is the master password and as I use that every day it’s not difficult to remember. With the fingerprint ID and now Face ID on my iPhone X the functionality on the iPhone and iPad, 1Password is brilliant on my IOS devices.
Another one of those little apps that I couldn’t live without. TextExpander stores little snippets of text I use regularly so all I have to do is type the trigger word or letters and boom! The text appears. I also use TextExpander for today’s date and to correct my most common spelling errors — such as business which I regularly spell as “buisiness” for some reason.
Drafts recently got a big update and WOW! What an update. Drafts is just brilliant and I could not live without it. Drafts is a clever note-taking app that allows you to send notes and captured ideas almost anywhere. I have a list of Evernote notes that Drafts can append notes to so I don’t need to go into Evernote and search for a note. I can type my idea in Drafts, and then use the actions menu to send the note to any of my pre-defined notes. I also have some pre-written emails in Drafts that I use to send reminders to students. I do not need to type anything except the recipient’s email address.
Scanbot is my scanning app of choice. It’s a great little app that works really well with Todoist and Evernote and allows me to take a quick scan of a document or a receipt and then send it to either my Evernote, Todoist or iCloud accounts. Scanbot is one of those solid apps that does exactly what it is supposed to do and does it very well.
Love this app so much. It allows me to listen to my favourite trance artists as well as go down memory lane whenever the mood takes me. How I survived without it I have no idea.
Apple’s Podcast App
Okay, this one might surprise some people, but I have found Apple’s Podcasts is a solid app that works extremely well. I’ve tried a lot of alternatives, but none of them has been so much better than Apple’s native podcast app that I wanted to change. On my phone, where I listen to most of my podcasts, I am subscribed to Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy, Judge Jules’s Global Warm Up, and Anjunabeats’s Worldwide. Perfect music for when you are out and about or just need a pick me up.
And finally for reading I have the following:
I use Reeder to collect all the articles from the blogs I am interested in and scan through these every morning while I am on my way to my first client. Any article I want to read later I send to…
Over the last year, I have switched from Pocket to Instapaper because of all the ads I was getting with Pocket. I was using the free version of Pocket, so it was probably to be expected I should get some ads, but Pocket went overkill and it destroyed the reading experience. Switching to Instapaper, a free competitor to Pocket was a no-brainer really.
And that is really all there is to it. I use Safari as my main browser on all my devices and from time to time I use Google Docs and Google Drive for collaboration projects. If I need a browser for doing work, I use Chrome as I have no social media sites saved there and so the temptation to procrastinate is removed.
What you use to get your work done is irrelevant, what really matters is the content you produce. How you produce it doesn’t matter. The only advice I would give is to choose tools you enjoy using. If you do not enjoy using them, or if you actually hate them, then it will affect the quality of your work.
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