The Fun You Can Have By Finding Your Own Solutions.

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Every day I see on my Twitter feed requests to app developers to add more features. Things like adding a calendar view to a to-do list app or making an app more GTD (Getting Things Done) friendly. And yes some of these features might be nice, but when you reach out to other people to solve your problems for you you are missing out on an opportunity to learn some very valuable lessons.

There’s a very good reason for not wanting developers to solve your problems for you and that is learning for yourself how to overcome minor issues. If life was as easy as requesting someone else solve your difficulties for you, we would already have been replaced by robots and computers. We haven’t and that’s because we have the ability to solve problems far better than a robot or computer can.

One of the biggest drags on a productivity system is not learning how to use your tools. If all you do when you come up against an issue that your current app does not solve is go looking for another app that will do what you currently want to do, you will only find later the new app doesn’t do something else you want to do so you switch again. You end up in a never-ending cycle of app switching and never spending any time learning how to get the most out any single app. Often all you need to do is spend a few minutes on Google and you are likely to find a workaround or a simple solution to your issue.

One of my favourite past times is to take a problem, look at my existing apps and figure out a solution to the problem only using the tools I already have. In almost every situation I have been able to find a workable solution. I have never felt the need to reach out to developers and ask them to add another feature that would solve my problem.

One of the most important skills one could have is the ability to solve problems. We see this again and again in articles about skills a person needs to protect themselves from automation. Asking someone to solve a problem or difficulty for you does not help you learn how to solve problems. You are just delegating responsibility to someone else. Instead, why not spend some time and figure out a solution yourself using only the existing tools you have.

When the Apollo 13 space mission developed problems and put the astronauts in a life or death situation, Mission Control did not ask developers of the software to come up with a fix or a new feature. What happened was a team of amazingly talented people, together with the astronauts, looked at what resources they had available and came up with a fix that would get them safely back to earth.

This scene from the film, Apollo 13 demonstrates perfectly how this team of incredibly talented people solved problems.

It’s easy to write on a resume “I have good problem-solving skills”, but the question is: do you? Is your idea of problem-solving reaching out to developers and asking them to create a fix for you, or is it something you relish solving for yourself?

Real problem solving is taking a set of imperfect circumstances and finding a solution using only the things you have available to you. Problem-solving is not about asking someone else to fix it for you.

If you want to become better organised and more productive, then focus more on your system and less on the tools. Once you have mastered the art of collecting, organising and doing (C.O.D) and can do everything you have planned to do each day (the 2+8 Prioritisation System) without any difficulty, you will find you have less need for the tools you use and your productivity will skyrocket.


Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below 👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to 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.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why You Should Build Your Productivity Around Your System, Not Your App.

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Getting Things Done by David Allen is one of the best books around for developing a productivity system. It provides a framework in which you can develop a tailor-made system. Unfortunately, as with all books that become a bible in an industry it gets interpreted in many competing ways.

We have the capture everything and spend an inordinate amount of time classifying and adding contexts to what you captured. Then we have the capture anything related to a project and add the task to the appropriate project and then we have the purists who add a context to everything and use contextual lists as their daily to-do list.

A lesson well learned

I’ve been a GTD aficionado for coming up to ten years now and I admit I have travelled through all interpretations. In the last few years though, I learnt when I spend time in my to-do list organising my projects and contexts, I am not doing work. I used to have the most wonderfully organised To-do list manager. Every task was meticulously labelled and each task was assigned to a project. It was an obsession with me. But around three years ago I realised spending two hours or so in my to-do list manager every day organising and reorganising wasn’t actually getting any work done. I felt I was doing work, but I was not. I got myself stuck in organising and planning mode and I never got a lot done each day.

And that is the problem when you spend so much time in your to-do list manager, or any productivity app organising and reorganising, you fall into the trap of believing you are being productive when you are not being productive at all. You are just being organising.

The difference between being organised and being productive.

Being organised and being productive are two very different things. Knowing where everything is is being organised, getting the important work done as efficiently and effectively as possible is being productive.

Now, being organised is a good thing. It can save you a lot of time because you are not wasting time looking for what you need to do your work. But just knowing where everything is does not make you productive. Having a to-do list manager that is meticulously organised with dates, labels, links and projects is good. But it does not necessarily mean any work is getting done. If no work is getting done then there is no productivity.

What you really need is a system that works for you.

What you need instead is a to-do list that contains your important tasks and shows them when you need them. A quick glance in the evening before you go to bed should show you what needs to be done the next day, and when the next day begins you get straight on doing the work that matters. A to-do list manager should filter out the unimportant tasks so what you see are the important tasks. When you create a to-do list that does that, you dramatically increase your productivity.

No app will do that for you, only the system you build will do that. It does not matter whether you are using Todoist, Things 3, OmniFocus, Trello or Notion, the app is only as good as the system you have in place. If the system you create involves a lot of maintenance, you are not going to be productive. You need to create a system that collects everything quickly and easily, where organising what you collect can be done in twenty minutes or less at the end of the day and the rest of the time it stays in the background only showing up when you have done your one or two most important tasks for the day.

What really matters.

What matters is you are doing work that takes you forward every day. To do that you need to be able to see what tasks will have the biggest impact on your important projects and goals. When you fill your to-do list manager with unimportant tasks they quickly drown out the tasks that would move you closer towards completing the project or achieving the goal and gives you a false sense of being productive when in reality you are just running round in circles. When you couple that with spending too much time maintaining your system, you are simply not getting enough done against the amount of time it takes to organise everything. The ratio you should be aiming for is 90% doing and 10% organising. That equates to 7 hours 40 minutes of doing work and 20 minutes organising in any given 8 hour working day.

This is why apps that have a large feature set fail in the long-run. While the developers are doing their best, feature-creep is a real problem for people who want to be more productive. More features mean more things to adjust and play around with. That requires time, time that would be better spent on doing work.

If you want to become more productive, so you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy doing, focus on your system and not the app. Streamline your system so it is focused on collecting and doing and make the organising as simple and as easy as possible. Aim for a 90% doing and 10% organising ratio and when you get there, you know your system is well on it’s way to working for you.

If you have the right system in place, a system that works for you, it will not matter what app you use. Your system will just work and that should be what you are aiming to build. Build your productivity around your system, not your app.


Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to 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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If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why You Should Stop Using Tools For Jobs They Were Not Designed To Do.

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Over the weekend I foolishly got myself into a discussion about why a certain app didn’t have the ability to print. Being a long time user of that particular app, I knew the reason was because the vision the app’s developers had was to give their users the freedom to go paperless. Being able to print out notes, would contradict their founding purpose.

I often see people complaining that this app doesn’t do this or that app makes it difficult to do that function, and in all cases I find it is because the person complaining is trying to get the app to do something it was not designed to do. In the case of the discussion I had over the weekend, Microsoft Word or Apple Pages would have done the job far better as those tools were designed for the job he was trying to do.

Over the years I’ve seen this happen time and again. People trying to get Evernote to be a to-do list manager and then complaining because it doesn’t do the job very well. Trying to get Google Docs to be a note-taking app and using their email inbox as a to-do list manager And then claiming being productive is hard. None of these tools were designed to do the jobs these people were trying to get them to do. of course it is hard. It means you have to hack the app and create workarounds and all that does is add complexity and an increased likelihood there will be a productivity system breakdown.

The goal of building your own productivity system should always be a seamless, simple system that is fast to collect, easy to organise and shows you what you need to see when you need to see it. You don’t need to be hacking anything to achieve that. There are thousands of free apps that will do the job for you. Even if you do not want to dive into the ocean of productivity apps available, Microsoft, Google and Apple provide specific apps for specific jobs built into your device for free. A simple system, using the tools that were designed to do the specific job you want to do will keep things simple and easy.

Here’s a short list of apps I use with the jobs they do for me:

Todoist — to-do list manager

Evernote — note taking and ideas

Apple Numbers — financial reports and attendance sheets

Apple Pages — one or two page documents that need to look good printed.

Adobe Photoshop — creating thumbnails, blog images and banners

Adobe InDesign — for professional production of workbooks and PDF help guides.

Adobe Premiere Pro — video editing

Scrivener — for book writing

Ulysses — for all other form of writing.

(A full list of apps I use can be viewed here.)

As you can see, there could easily be some overlap between apps. Pages and InDesign for example can produce very professional looking documents, but Pages does not have the professional print shop options that InDesign has. Page bleed for example, which is essential for printed documents. On the other hand, InDesign takes quite a Lot of setting up, where as Pages can be set up on the fly. So for short, one or two page documents that do not need printing, I would use Pages.

Evernote could be used for writing blog posts and books as you can write the text and add images. But, in order to get an Evernote note to look professional when printed would take a lot of steps and I would have to trade a lot of functionality for blog posts when exporting to my blog just to get Evernote to work. It is far easier, and better, to use Ulysses, which allows me to use Markdown which formats my documents as I write them and publishes directly to my blog from the app.

Simplicity does not always mean less. Simplicity means using the best tool to get the job done. I could use a trowel to dig a garden wall’s foundations, but it would take a long time and a spade would do the job faster and better. Just because the trowel is the best tool to dig up weeds in my garden, does not make it the best tool to dig the foundations. There are better tools.

Part of the process of becoming better organised and more productive is finding ways to do your work better and more effectively. Part of that process is finding the right tools to do the right jobs. Many of the tools you need are free, others, such as Ulysses and Todoist, cost as little as $30 per year and the time and effort these apps will save you makes that cost an investment worth making.

If you want to become better organised and more productive stop trying to hack apps to do jobs they were not designed to do. You have a lot of choice today, but a simple system based on having a set of tools to do specific types work will give you the best results in less time and with less stress. And that will do more for your productivity than trying to hack apps to do types of work they were not designed to do.

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If you are ready to become better organised and more productive then take a look at my latest course, From Disorganised To Productivity Mastery in 3 Days! — A course designed to take you to productivity mastery in three days through a step by step approach over three days. Hurry, the early bird discount ends on tomorrow! (Thursday 18 October 2018). This course will change your life!

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit the like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to 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.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why You Should Be Focused On Simplicity Not More Features And Complexity.

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The biggest reason so many people fail to maintain a robust, workable productivity system is their desire for complexity. This desire seems to be human nature. We begin simply enough, but then we add more and more levels of complexity until eventually, we have a system that takes far too long to maintain.

First the analogue world

When I began building my own productivity systems years ago it was simple. I had a list of things I needed to do that day and I carried a diary where I wrote my appointments. Notes and ideas were put in a little notebook or in my diary. It was simple. Each item had its place and there were no grey areas.

Then the digital world.

Then along came the digital world. It began with a calendar app on my computer which then became a calendar app on my phone and a to-do list and a notes app. Then app stores opened up a world of business to software developers and we soon got deluged with productivity apps. These wonderful developers devised fantastic features to add to our apps so they could differentiate themselves from the competition. Some of these apps succeeded — OmniFocus, Todoist and Trello. Others failed. Unfortunately, for us consumers, this has given us far too much choice, which has led to constant switching and trying out new apps, which destroys our productivity.

Find a problem and solve it is not great entrepreneurial advice.

I understand why so many apps have become feature bloated. The generic advice for all aspiring entrepreneurs is to find a problem that needs solving and solve it. In the productivity world, that means trying to find a way for an app to do the work for us. Of course, this is not going to happen, so the next best idea is to add features.

A classic example of this is a feature called “start dates”. Start dates as far as I can tell is a feature unique to OmniFocus. What it does is allows the user to add a start date to a project or task so it ‘disappears’ until the start date. In theory, it sounds like a good idea. The problem here is now we have “start dates” and “due dates”. So when we are processing the things we have collected, we have two dates to think about. If I added a start date and a due date to a task or project, and I got the start date wrong (something I often did) even though I had a due date added, if the start date was after the due date, I would end up not seeing the task. The start date overrode the due date. Fortunately, I saw the ridiculousness of this feature and stopped using start dates. I went back to keeping everything as simple as possible. I dated projects and tasks for when they needed doing and made sure I did a full weekly review every Sunday. No more missed deadlines.

Even email apps are not immune.

We are now seeing this with email apps. Each new email app has so many features it has become almost impossible to keep up. We have “snoozing”, scheduled sending, read/receipts, smart mailboxes and so on. But if you stop and think for a moment, email should be simple. A person sends you an email, you see it, you make a decision about what to do with it (reply, file or delete) and move on to the next one. Operating at this simple level makes email easy, stress-free and manageable. When we add in snoozing, smart filtering, VIPs and all the other stuff that’s now added to our email apps, we end up with far too many decisions to make and that just slows us down.

What we need is different to what we think we want

What we need are apps that focus on simplicity, not features. To-do lists need to be built around collecting, organising and doing. We collect stuff throughout the day, we organise that stuff into projects and then we get on and do the stuff. When we are doing, the app should disappear. Email apps should make it very easy to reply, file or delete emails without having us to make decisions about whether we want to snooze an email, or flag it or schedule a response. Notes apps should be making it easy for us to capture notes and then find them again when we need them. None of this is difficult. Simplicity and speed. That’s what is needed.

The secret to success is simplicity.

I’m not a developer, I’m a consumer. One of the reasons I moved away from OmniFocus to Todoist was a need to return to simplicity. OmniFocus is great! It has so many features, but I realised those features, designed to make my life easier, were actually making me less productive. My move to the simpler Todoist gave me a huge boost in productivity and that was down to Todoist’s focus on simplicity. I’ve used one note taking app for nine years now, Evernote. Evernote comes in for a lot of criticism because they are not adding new features. The truth is, one of the reasons Evernote has endured for over ten years is because it has not been adding more and more features. There are just enough features for power users, but it has remained simple enough for anyone to use.

The majority of consumers do not need, nor want, all this complexity. What consumers want is a product that is fast, simple to use and works without crashing, freezing or causing confusion by having so many choices.

If you want to boost your productivity, if you want to get more amazing work done and if you want an easier, stress-free life, then go back to basics. Focus on simplicity and use apps that have fewer features. Apps with fewer features are less likely to go wrong, have a much easier learning curve and will allow you to spend more time doing your work. And that is what being productive is all about.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to 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.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

How Many Productivity Apps Do You Need?

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We are spoiled for choice when it comes to productivity apps that promise to change our lives and make us more productive. Each new app attempts to disrupt the field with new features, new ways to input our stuff and then spew it out in another cool way with lots of different colours, font sizes and swipes.

The difficulty this throws up is with that choice — which is a good thing — comes with it the temptation to experiment and play — which is a bad thing. Experimenting and playing takes time. Time, that for most of us, we cannot afford to use in this way.

How many apps do you really need?

This got me thinking. How many apps do we need to be productive? My definition of personal productivity is getting the work that matters done in the most efficient and effective way. So how does having more apps help this? More apps mean more time looking at apps and lists of things to do. That’s not doing the work. If you have to check your calendar to see if you have time to work on the projects Trello is telling you need to work on and then to open Notion 2 to see how all this fits into the bigger picture of your life before finally opening Google Docs to start writing the report you are supposed to be working on. That’s not being very productive. That’s being very inefficient and unproductive.

App switching is one of the most inefficient and ineffective things you can do.

I sometimes joke with my colleagues and friends when they tell me they have found a new app that promises to improve their productivity. If they have time to be switching apps then they are obviously not very busy. I don’t know where they find the time to switch. The truth is I have never come across anyone who has switched a productivity app and then become a lot more productive. I have often found the reverse to be true though. I’ve seen many people switch apps and become much less productive because they spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get a particular feature to work that worked perfectly well in the app they were using before they switched.

So, to help see if you have too many apps, here are a few indicators to look for:

  • If you are checking a task off in more than one place — that’s too many to-do list apps.
  • If you have to look in more than one place to see where you need to be and when — that’s too many calendar apps.
  • If you can’t remember where you put a note — that’s too many notes apps.
  • If you can’t remember where you started writing your report — that’s too many writing apps.

You only need one to-do list manager, one calendar and one notes app. If you are using more than that, you have too many apps and they will be causing a drag on your productivity, effectiveness and your efficiency.

One app for one type of work.

If you write reports, essays, articles and other written documents in more than one app, then you should ask yourself if you really need so many writing apps. I use two writing apps. Each has a specific use. Short and long-form writing is done in Ulysses and my books are written in Scrivener. Ulysses’s export options allow me to send any written document out in any form I want. That would be MS Word, Apple Pages, Google Docs, PDF or even email if I chose. So there really is no reason to use any other writing app. This means if I want to do some writing, if it not writing my book, then whatever it is I want to write will be in Ulysses. Easy to find and no decisions to make about where I will write the document.

The same goes for creating presentations. I use Keynote for all my presentations and even if a client sends me a PowerPoint file to check, I can check it in Keynote, make any corrections and export it as a PowerPoint file. I have no need to spend time learning two apps. I only need to learn how to use Keynote and as I have been using it since 2004, there’s not much left for me to learn.

What is productivity all about?

Productivity is not about the apps you are using. Productivity is about the work you are doing. If you have too many apps, or the apps you do use are slow and inefficient either because they are too complex or you haven’t learnt how to use them properly, then you are not going to be as productive as you can be. You are not going to be remembered by the apps you use, but rather by the content you produce. That’s what people remember about you. The most incredibly productive people alive don’t use any apps, they use a simple pen and paper to collect their notes, ideas and to-dos. Sir Richard Branson, Cheryl Sandberg and Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) collect everything into notebooks. We don’t need sophisticated apps to manage our work. We just need to do the work. That is what productivity is about — the work. It is not about the apps.

 

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below 👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to 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.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

How To Stop Re-Organising Your Work And Just Get The Work Done.

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Last week on my Productivity Mastery Video Series, I talked about why your to-do list is not going to do the work for you and sometimes you just need to get the work done.

This is something I see all the time. People spend so much time reorganising their to-do lists, playing around with the settings and changing colours and view options and not doing the work. Then they complain they are so busy they have no time to do the things they really want to do.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t recommend feature-rich productivity apps. There is always too many things to play with and this playing around is often at the expense of the work that needs doing. These apps, while on the surface appear to give you everything you could want in a productivity app, very quickly become a procrastinator’s heaven, sucking you in on a never-ending quest for the perfect set up and preventing you from getting the work done.

Collect | Organise | Do

My to-do list manager collects all the stuff I need to pay attention to, it is a place to organise all that stuff at the end of the day and it tells me what work needs doing next. That’s it. My ratio of work to organising is in the region of 95% of my time I am doing and 5% I am organising the stuff I collected. I feel there is still a few more percents I can squeeze from the organising side of the ratio. If I could get it to 2% organising I would feel I have a perfect balance. The less time you spend inside your to-do list manager, the more work you get done. That is the mindset you should be adopting.

Output -V- Input

Becoming more productive is not about the tools you use to be more productive. Becoming more productive is about your output. What to-do list managers and other productivity tools do is tell you what needs doing next and the fewer steps it takes to tell you that the better.

Just because your to-do list manager can maintain a dashboard of all your current projects, can automatically assign dates to your tasks and prioritise things for you doesn’t mean you do not have to do the work. No matter how feature rich your to-do list manager is, it is never going to do the work for you. To become more productive, you are going to have to increase your output. Productivity is your output measured against your input. So if you are collecting everything and spending too much time organising what you collected, then your output will suffer and you are not being productive. To be more productive you have to reduce the time it takes to collect and organise your stuff so you can maximise the time you spend doing the work — the output.

Set up for speed.

Make sure the way you collect stuff into your system is as easy as it can be. Set up keyboard shortcuts, learn the fastest way to collect on your mobile devices etc. When it comes to organising, set your system up so moving tasks and commitments into their right placeholders takes as little time as possible so the time available for output (the doing) is maximised. When you place your focus on maximising the doing, you create a system that works for you and a system that takes your productivity into areas you have always dreamed of.

The more time you can find to do the work and the less time you spend organising your work, the more productive you will be. If you can spend ten minutes or so the night before deciding what you will work on the next day and start your day with those tasks, you will find you make a great start on improving your output. Too often when you don’t plan the day before, you spend far too much of your most creative time (the morning) trying to decide what to do. That’s not a good way to become more productive. That’s just wasting valuable creative time.

The ‘perfect tool’ does not exist — everyone is different.

App switching, playing around with settings, colours and layout of the productivity apps you use is not doing the work. It is time wasting. Maintaining a simple system of lists of things to do, a calendar that shows you where you have to be at the right time and a notes app that allows you to find your notes when you need them is all you need. The simpler these apps and systems are the more productive you will be.

Focus more of your attention on your output and less on the tools and you will very quickly see fantastic results in what you get done.


Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit the like button below👍  It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to 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.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

How I Get My Work Done - The Tools I Use - 2018 Edition

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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.

 

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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.

Hardware

  • 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

Software/Apps

Todoist

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

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

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.

Newton Mail

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.

Asana

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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:

Apple Keynote

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.

Apple Pages

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)

Apple Numbers

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.

Scrivener

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.

Ulysses

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 7

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.

Adobe Premiere Pro

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.

Adobe Photoshop

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.

Adobe InDesign

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:

Dropbox

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.

iCloud

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.

1Password

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.

TextExpander

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 5

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

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.

Apple Music

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 TherapyJudge 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:

Reeder

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…

Instapaper

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.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, please hit the like button below👍  It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

 

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to 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.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Are your productivity apps helping or hindering your productivity?

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I am involved in a number of Online productivity groups and enjoy reading them for insights and ideas. There is one theme though that dismays me. That is the theme of new apps.

Every day there seems to be a whole slew of new productivity apps promising to improve your productivity, allow you to get more done and be stress-free. They come in all sorts of colours, designs and of course have all these new cool features that use the latest technology. All you have to do is type in your tasks, put in your events and add all your notes, research and files and you’ll become a productivity genius, or so they promise.

None of these cool new features, colours, gestures and filing options has anything to do with whether you will be more productive or not. Your productivity is directly related to the work you do, (your output) not how what you need to do next is presented to you.

I’ve frequently talked and written about the dangers of app switching. This is where you are constantly changing your productivity apps to the latest and brightest new toy. Doing this involves moving all your to-dos, notes and files over to a new app or set of apps. Moving everything over requires a lot of unnecessary time and then there is the time lost for tweaking, rearranging and learning the new app so you can actually use it. My conservative estimate is that it takes around forty-plus hours to get a new app up and running to the same efficiency as the app you were using before. That’s a ridiculous amount of lost, unproductive time to change an app. Just imagine the amount of real work you could get done in those forty hours.

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The question is how much time are you spending doing work that matters and how much time are you spending inside your productivity apps? The whole point of being productive is in the amount of quality work your produce. If you spend half your morning inside your to-do list manager trying to decide what you should be doing, rearranging things and deciding how you want that shown to you, then your system and apps don’t work. That time should be spent doing, not playing, rearranging and deciding. You are buying your dream house and spending all your time cleaning, decorating and repairing instead of living in it.

A good productivity app should be able to tell you what you need to do next when you need to know what to do next. The rest of the time it should be acting only as a collection tool. A place to dump your ideas, commitments and tasks. At the end of the day, when you have spent all your creative energy, you process what you have collected and turn off. You shouldn’t be spending more than thirty minutes a day inside your productivity apps.

David Allen, the father of Getting Things Done, says all you need is a place to keep your lists of things to do, a place to store your files and a calendar. If something absolutely needs doing on a particular day, it goes on your calendar. You don’t need anything more than that. This philosophy should be at the core of whatever productivity tool or system you use. If the tools you are using require a lot of maintenance, then your system fails. You are spending far too much time twiddling and not enough time doing.

The goal is to have a network of tools that support your work, that helps you to do more of the important work, and to filter out the unnecessary work. If the tools you use need a lot of time to maintain, you are not working at your most productive and in effect your tools are causing you to be unproductive. It’s a bit like buying a new Ferrari and not having time to drive it because you spend all your time checking tyre pressures, deciding what brand of oil to put in it, washing and cleaning and trying to decide what things to put in its tiny boot.

So before you hit reset and start all over again with the latest and greatest tools. Ask yourself what the time cost is going to be. Is this new app you are considering really going to speed up the work you do so much you can afford to spend forty-plus hours moving everything over and tweaking the settings? If not, then spend some of those forty hours making your current app work better. The most productive people on the planet do not spend time switching apps. They know what works for them, they know what is important and they focus on getting the important things done. They do not waste time searching for a better app. They focus on getting the work done. That should be your goal tool. Just drive the Ferrari!

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, the like button below 👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to encourage you to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life. If you want to learn more about how I can help you, have a look at the various online courses I have. There might be something there that could change your life!

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why I Switched To Todoist 3 Years Ago.

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I read the Getting Things Done book by David Allen in 2009. I’d heard about the book but never considered reading it. I thought I already had the best time management system in my Franklin Planner. But one day, as I was browsing the books in the English books section of the Kyobo Bookstore in Seoul, I came across Getting Things Done and thought, why not? That book changed everything for me. I saw possibilities of creating my own system and the chance to take advantage of the emerging mobile technology that was beginning to emerge.

Reading Getting Things Done, was the start of a journey of discovery. I tried many different kinds of productivity apps, from Franklin Covey’s Task app to Things for Macbefore finally going with the Rolls Royce of Mac productivity apps, OmniFocus. And there I stayed for a number of years.

But there was always a slight problem in the background. I loved OmniFocus, it got me in the habit of using digital tools to manage my daily tasks, I ate up every article and listened to every podcast I could find on using OmniFocus, I played and played around with the perspectives attempting to find that ‘perfect’ one that would meet all my needs, then I would read another article and change all my perspectives again. It was a cycle I repeated almost every week. I was continually searching for the ‘perfect setup’ and I loved it!

Then, one day, I came across Todoist. I was immediately drawn to its beauty and simplicity (I am quite an aesthetic person) and I downloaded it to test it out. For about one year I played around with Todoist. By then, I was a hardcore OmniFocus user and because of the financial investment, the start and due dates, the perspectives and different setups I could have in OmniFocus I was reluctant to switch completely.

What finally moved me over to Todoist was when I asked myself exactly what I wanted from a to-do list manager. OmniFocus is brilliant. It has every conceivable feature a productivity and time management geek like myself could ever wish for, and I took complete advantage of that. I was always tweaking my perspectives and playing around with start dates and due dates. It was procrastination heaven.

Then it hit me. OmniFocus is a procrastinator’s heaven. There was always an excuse for playing with the settings and set up, and I found I never needed much of an excuse to play around with it either. The amount of actual work I was doing was being limited by the amount of time I was playing around with the features in OmniFocus.

I should point out, this is not the fault of OmniFocus. This is my fault. I can’t help myself. That inner productivity geek is a strong voice and was always tempting me to try just another perspective or to switch to using only start dates, and then a few days later suggesting I switch back to due dates. Oh did I love it.

The trouble was, I wasn’t getting much real work done. I had a beautifully organised OmniFocus, but I didn’t have that much completed work to show for it. That’s when I decided to go all in with Todoist. Todoist’s feature set is much simpler. At its core, it is just lists for different projects or labels. But, for my inner geek, I have filters. I can play around with the filters as much as I like, but as there are fewer options than in OmniFocus I am not spending complete afternoons playing around. Just a few minutes instead.

At the core of my productivity system, today is GTD. So when I made the decision to move over to Todoist completely I re-read the GTD book and set up my Todoist as close to a pure GTD system as I could. Over a period of a few months, I came up with a system inside Todoist that worked far better than anything I created in OmniFocus and apart from a few minor tweaks, my system has remained pretty consistent over the last three years.

In those three years, I have written 4 books, created over 300 YouTube videos, 8 online courses and still maintain my communications consultancy. My productivity has increased ten times, and this was because I dropped an app that was feature rich and moved over to Todoist. Todoist has focussed me on the work and not the feature set and for that, I am so grateful to Todoist.

And that brings me to the point of this article. There are thousands of to-do list managers out there today with new ones appearing every week. Each one promises a better feature set than the others. But a great to-do list manager is not one with hundreds of features. A great to-do list manager is one that focuses you on the work. One that puts the work you need to do right in front of you from the moment you open it. In simple terms, a great to-do list manager is just an app with lists. If the app presents those lists in a beautiful way, then all the better, but really all we need is a list of the tasks we need to accomplish today and a way to check them off. For me, Todoist does this brilliantly.

So thank you to all the amazing people at Todoist. You’ve made an incredible product and I for one will not be changing apps anytime soon.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My goal is to help show you how to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.