The Working With... Podcast | Episode 16 | What To Do When Your Company Won't Allow You To Use 3rd Party Apps

This week, I answer a question many people have concerning what to do when your company does not allow you to use your own productivity apps. 

Don't forget, if you have a question, you can contact me at or DM me on Twitter or Facebook 


In this week’s episode of the working with podcast, I answer a question about integrating a personal productivity system in to a work environment that restricts app usage. 

Hello and welcome to episode 16 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week’s question is on a topic I know many people encounter in their working lives where their company’s IT policy restricts the usage of personal apps in the working environment. I know this can cause a lot of frustration for us productive, organised types. 

Before I get in to answering the question, I would just like to say if anyone is interested in learning more about productivity, time management and goal planning, Skillshare, the online course provider, has given me a unique link that allows anyone using it to sign up for their premium membership for FREE for 2 months. All you have to do is click on the link in the show notes and follow the instructions. Most of my productivity and time management courses are there as well as my latest English Email Mastery course which I launched a couple of weeks ago. So, go ahead and sign up, it’s completely FREE for 2 months and the education you could get in two months would be priceless. 

Okay, let me now hand you over the the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Adam. Adam asks: how do you integrate a productivity system into work environments that limit certain apps. 

This is one of the more frustrating parts of living in a modern tech orientated society. I know a lot of companies are fearful of being hacked or have their product secrets stolen, so their IT departments impose very strict rules on what can and cannot be used in the office. Personally, I think as time goes by, this will become less of an issue as more and more companies adopt more flexibly working practices. 

But how do with handle this today? Well the first thing to understand is you cannot change the rules, well, I guess most of you can’t, so we have to work within the rules. Now I know all companies have different rules, but the basics would apply whichever type of company you are working for. 

Let’s assume your company operates on a Microsoft Office platform, so the only apps allowed to get work done are the Microsoft suite of apps. This however, does allow us access to some fantastic apps. Two of which are particularly excellent, OneNote and OneDrive. If you have a personal Microsoft account, and a work account, although you may not be able to merge the two together you are at least able to use two of the best productivity apps out there. 

Now, most of the companies do allow you access to their files through their own signing in protocols and VPN (that’s Virtual Private Network internet access) so, at least you can have access to your work when you are off site. What I would suggest in these situations is you use your company’s computer for your work related files and notes and if you need access to your personal files, access those through the online versions. Evernote, OneNote, Todoist and many other productivity apps have web versions of their apps, so this should not be problem. 

However, I do know that some companies restrict the websites you can access too. In these situations, the only thing you can do is use your personal phone or tablet computer to access your personal files. 

The thing is, if you are using an app like Todoist, Asana, Trello or Things 3, you do still have access to these on your personal devices. If you are not allowed to access their websites, then you can still add tasks via your personal devices. This is not that much different from the way I work, When I am with a student or client and I have a list of things to do for that student or client after the meeting, I will transfer those tasks from my notebook (yes, I do still use a paper-based notebook when I am with clients) into my Todoist’s inbox. I would then process those tasks later in the day. 

There is another thing you can do that works beautifully, and that is to print out your tasks list the night before. When you have your task list printed out on a piece of paper, you can cross off the tasks as you do them, and you can add tasks that need adding to your to-list manager with a pen. Then, when you get home you can transfer those tasks into your to-do list manager when you do your daily mini-review. One of the professors I work with, prints out his calendar every week, and as he goes through the week he adds tasks and appointments by pen to the piece of paper. He’s been doing this for years and he’s one of the most productive guys I ever met. 

Your work calendar can be used to block time out for focused work, and you can see an overview of what meetings and appointments you have from that calendar. I would assume your work calendar can be shared to your main calendar as there is little or no secret information stored in there. If there is and you cannot share your work calendar with your personal calendar, then just block work time out on your personal calendar. 

In these situations, I would also recommend you do a daily mini-review while you are at work. That way you have access to both your work related tasks and your personal tasks. This means when you finish work for the day, you have everything planned for the next day while you had access to all the information you may need. 

Reference notes for your work projects can be stored in your company’s OneDrive folder or whatever system they use. Quite often when I am collaborating with a client who uses Google Docs, for example, I keep notes related to that collaboration project on Google Docs. That way when I am working on that project, I can access my notes directly from Chrome. Likewise if I have a client who is in the Microsoft ecosystem, I would keep my notes related to that project in my OneNote. If I have no such restrictions I still prefer to keep everything in Evernote, but from time to time that is not always possible. 

The thing is, personal productivity is all about the framework you have in place. It is not about the apps. The apps are irrelevant really. A good productivity system can be utilised on any platform with any device. Your to-dos are on your to-do list, which could very easily be a simple piece of paper, your events and appointments are on your calendar, your notes are kept in a notes app, or if that is not possible, a simple Word or Google document would work. In fact, when I think about it, Microsoft Excel could be turned into a fantastic to-do list manager if you really thought about it. 

What you need to make sure of is that when you need a file, or need to know what to work on next you can quickly access that information when you need it. Having a to-do list manager that is not permitted on your work computer is fine, you can use your mobile devices and you personal computer (if you have one) to do your processing and reviews. Notes can be a little more difficult, but most Operating systems now come with a built in notes app. On a Mac you get Notes, on Windows you get OneNote for example. For work related reference materials you can always use these build in apps. 

I run two companies, my productivity business and my language consultancy. Both companies have their own email domain which run through Google Business. With that package I get the full Google suit of office apps. I keep my language consultancy business’s work in it’s Google Drive. Because I know any document relating to that business will only ever be in Google Drive, it is very easy for me to locate the file I need, when I need it. For my productivity business, I use iCloud. So I am using two different platforms, but have no problems because there are clear, hard edges between the two businesses. The same goes for companies where their IT policy does not allow you to use third party apps. You just have to use whatever you are permitted to use and make sure YOUR filing system is followed. 

I as I say, these difficulties will disappear soon. Companies will have to change if they are going to become more flexible with their employees. And even if the companies don’t change, employees will demand it. Having a good, strong framework as your productivity system, allows you to be able to operate in any kind of environment. My Todoist has plenty of tasks like “continue developing online course”. As soon as I see that task, I know I need to open up Numbers on my Mac and continue planning. I know where the file is because it is related to my productivity business. If I had a task that said “continue developing communication lecture for AB Company” then I know the Keynote file is in my communications company’s Google Drive in the folder “AB Company Lecture”. And that’s what you need to create when your company is very restrictive with what you use. 

Hopefully, that has helped those of you listening that have to deal with strict company IT policies. 

Thank you very much for listening, don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering on this podcast, please drop me a line at or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. Or you could write your question on a postcard and mail it to… Hahaha I’ve always wanted to say that. 

It just remains for me to wish you all a very very, productive week.