Posts in GTD
Should You Download Another Productivity App?
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Another productivity app anyone? Maybe a new Markdown editor or todo app for your smartphone? Wait! Before you hit the download button, think again.

There is an upside to an app that works for you. There is also a downside to any app that steals your focus. 

I've certainly felt this. When my work tools are helping me get things done, it fees good. When I'm tempted to test out something new, there is a slight feeling of unrest. There really is a spiritual component to our work.

As Carl Pullein says, your apps should work for you, not the other way around. 

  

To save you time, I've tested out the latest version of Omnifocus (version 3.0) and it's quite strong. That doesn't mean that you should use it but you should watch the video. If you like the app, the OmniGroup is prepping for a May 30th public launch. 

Enjoy the review!

 

 

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About Mike St. Pierre

I teach people how to pray using simple online tools like blogs and video. f you’d like to be included in my regular email with tips and tricks for praying better, you can sign up here.

The Productivity Awards 2017
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I decided to do the TPA awards for a second year after the positive response from last year’s awards.  A few disclaimers are helpful: I’ve tested each and every app in the list.  Second, if I’m an affiliate for an app, I indicate that in the award.  

 

One new feature in this year’s awards is the inclusion of a  “Best Prayer App”.  Since prayer can make you a more productive person, why not highlight two apps for you to try in 2018?  Ok on to this year’s awards!

Best All Around Todo App: Tick Tick

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TickTick is this year’s best all around todo application, mainly due to its versatility and customization. It offers Smartlists, Themes, Natural Language and so much more.  It even has a Pomodoro timer for tasks if you want to track your work.  Want to use Touch ID to protect your projects?  You can do that too.  TickTick will even give you a weekly achievement score and visual “map” of your most productive day.  You won’t be disappointed with TickTick.

 

Runner up: Todoist

Todoist is a phenomenal app.  Sure, it’s due for a UI refresh but if you are looking for productivity app that can be customized to suit your needs, Todoist can handle anything.  The natural language input is the best in the business and its various color themes take your personalization to another level. 

 

Best GTD-Specific App: Things3

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Things3 from Cultured Code has its limitations and that’s by design.  It still isn’t my favorite app for file attachments and you can’t use Things3 to collaborate with peers.  But, the 3rd version of Things did not disappoint in 2017 for its stunning visual design and a “less is more” approach to productivity.  It’s the one app that is actually fun to use when you are trying to get things done.  If you don’t require deep natural language input or collaboration, Things3 will make you enjoy using a todo app like never before.

 

Runner up: OmniFocus

Not including OF in this year’s list would be like omitting a Mercedes from a list of luxury cars.  While its UI is ready for a refresh, OF is so powerful as a GTD-related app that it can equip you with various customized perspectives.  These allow you to work how you want to work, teasing out the projects or tasks that you need when you want them.

 

Best Project Management App: Nozbe

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While Nozbe is also due for a UI refresh, it still gets our top slot for project management.  Besides the fact that Nozbe is 100% cross-platform and the company can’t be beat in terms of its customer service, the collaboration features are what make Nozbe stand out from other apps.  Whether you need to share files or delegate tasks, Nozbe is our favorite project management app. (Disclosure: I am a Nozbe Ambassador and  an affiliate for Nozbe.)

 

Runner up: Asana

Asana continues to get a head of steam as a favorite project management app for both individuals and organizations.  While the barrier of entry is somewhat high, Asana allows teams to share documents, chat and organize their projects into “tiles” which makes work more fun.

 

Best Productivity Podcast: The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency

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The Productivity Show got a reboot in 2017 and the results paid off.  Featuring various guests, including some from their “Productivity Dojo”, TPS comes out each week in order to help you be more productive and apply tactical strategies to daily life.  The shows gives you a “deep dive” into topics related to productivity.

 

Runner up: The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry

Todd’s podcast is an extension of his best-selling books on creativity and work.  The Accidental Creative Podcast is bolstered by its brevity and Todd’s practical advice for working smarter with your colleagues. 

 

Best Productivity YouTube Channel: Keep Productive with Francesco D’Alessio

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You’ll get tired just trying to keep up with Francesco as he reviews multiple apps per week.  How he finds time to manage a day job is mind-boggling but his output of high-quality videos is what puts him in this year’s top slot.  Besides his affable tenor and creative app comparison videos (i.e. Todoist vs. TickTick), Francesco is like an online coach, walking you through different apps without showing a bias.  

 

Runner up: The Working With Channel with Carl Pullein

Carl’s channel started as a way of sharing his love for Todoist.  Since then, it’s exploded into a full-on productivity channel with multiple videos per week.  Carl’s branding has expanded into multiple “Working With...” verticals (with apps, with work, etc.) and he’s a delight to watch.  Coming across as a fellow practitioner rather than a lecturer, Carl really wants to help people get more out of their everyday lives.

 

Best Prayer App: Give Us This Day

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New to the Productivity Awards this year is the top app for daily prayer.  We give this year’s top spot to Give Us This Day.  Give Us not only provides you with the daily Bible & Mass readings but its interface is playful and easy to use.  You’ll find yourself wanting to use it more just as a result of the UI as tabs expand and “fold” down as you click on them.

 

Runner up: Magnificat

Magnificat is a wonderful app for following along with the daily Bible and Mass readings and offers a daily meditation and feature on the saints.  If you enjoy the Liturgy of the Hours, you won’t be disappointed in Magnificat. 

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Want more help with technology and prayer?  Click here to get Mike’s free PDF “5 Ways That Noise Wreaks Havok on Your Prayer Life”.

The Problem with the 2 Minute Rule
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Life comes at you pretty fast.  My morning began with getting up for my morning routine by 5:30am, waking my daughter for work by 6:15am followed by my wife at 7am.  After dropping off the teenager at work, I began my own work as a director of a national non-profit.  The morning was filled with email, project lists and a few phone calls.  By the time lunch came around at noon, I was ready for a break.

Some of our work demands that we tackle it right then and there:

  • The realtor calls with an offer for your house.
  • Your son is sick and needs to be picked up from school.
  • The water bill needs to be paid by Friday.

You know something urgent when you see it.  I bet your list is much the same.  Different items but a healthy variety of whatever makes up "life" for you.  

A question that I often think about is whether to address tasks when they show up or is it better to schedule them at a time when you can more fully engage with them.  

The former approach is probably most linked to David Allen's famous Two Minute Rule.  In other words, deal with it when it shows up rather than when it blows up.  Allen once told Success magazine the following about the Two Minute Rule, "If you determine an action can be done in two minutes, you actually should do it right then because it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it." (Source)

I understand this approach but the older I get, the more I'm uncomfortable with it.  Even further, the more I work the less I want to use the Two Minute Rule altogether.  

Let me explain, the Two Minute Rule sounds really good and there is something good about getting things off your plate as quickly as possible.  It presumes that you are in an interruption-rich mindset and that you don't mind being taken off task.  Think of it as "knowledge work" triage- a few tasks related to this and a few related to that.  Keep it all moving, etc.

Where The Two Minute Rule becomes a problem is when you are trying to find blocks of time to do uninterrupted work.  Think of Cal Newport here, i.e. “deep work”.  How can I be truly immersed in my work if I'm allowing myself to be interrupted here and there to practice The Two Minute Rule?  

Two Different Approaches

If you don't want to use The Two Minute Rule, I suggest the following as alternative mindsets for work:

1. Consider theming your days.  I've used this approach for years and it's a game-changer.  By giving each day a distinct "theme", you are creating containers for your work.  Tim Uhl of the Catholic School Matters podcast and I talk about it here.

At work, this means that I'm creating content on Monday and focusing on constituents on Tuesday.  Each other day has a theme as well.  At home, this applies to some of our administrative asks as a family.  I don't like to process the mail more than once a week.  As a result, each Sunday, I go through the mail as it's been put into a pile during the week.  This way, I don't have to deal with it on another day when it might throw me off my game.  I’m doing the mail when I want to do the mail.

2. Schedule Interruptible Blocks During Your Day.  If you can't use option one (day theming), you might be able to schedule some smaller blocks during your day.  As an example, your morning might be dedicated to focused and uninterrupted work but you know that some things need to be addressed before day's end.  To do this, you could schedule 1-2pm for those Two Minute Rule kinds of tasks.  Then, the rest of the afternoon could be given back to your focused work.  

However you work, whenever you work, do it in a way that works for you.  Instead of giving in to the most urgent tasks, schedule them when you want to deal with them.  That’s a form of productivity on your own terms.

Practicing the Art of Productivity

How do you remember to do things?  Do you put a sticky note on the door with a brief reminder? Do you use an app on your smartphone that will ping you?  

Whatever you use, whether an old fashioned sticky note or a string tied around your finger, the mind needs these little tricks in order to remind us to do things.  After all, there are too many things churning around in our heads- you need reminders.

These reminders are what I call Productivity Prompts.  A prompt is a nudge, built into your system, that will remind you of something.  A prompt keeps a project moving.  A prompt can take many different forms, going beyond simple reminders.  It can be any of the following:

  1. A prompt might be a sticky note on your fridge.  
  2. Or, a prompt might be an item on your to-do list.  
  3. A prompt might be an item on your agenda or a prompt might be an email to someone that requires a response from the other person.
  4. A prompt can be an item on your calendar.

Here's what this looks like in my own life.  I am giving a talk this summer and the organization required that I deliver to them a rough draft by a certain date followed by a final outline by another date.  The prompts I used were as follows:

  • On my to-do list: "Create first draft outline of talk" with a date and reminder
  • In my calendar: "Finalized outline and submit to Joe" with a date and a reminder

Between my to-do list and my calendar, I had enough prompts to keep the project moving along and finish my work on time.  A very simple process for a relatively straightforward set of tasks.  Thankfully, both my calendar and my to-do list let me add dates to particular tasks and then remind me when they are due.

Whatever prompts you use, and you probably use many different types, use them often.  Keep your projects moving.  Try to avoid dropping the ball through the use of prompts.  

By building in various prompts into your system, you truly are practicing the "art" of more sophisticated work.  You're becoming much more than someone who accomplishes tasks.  You are becoming an artist.  

How to Make Lists Work for You
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The most productive people I know use lists to stay organized.  Most people appreciate the value of a good list- for groceries or for Christmas shopping.  

What the uber-productive people know is that the same magic that makes a grocery store list so good can be scaled to other areas of life.  

The result: super productivity and greater peace of mind.

Think of the grocery store list and why it works so well:

  • It matches need to resource.
  • It gives you items to cross off. This feels so good!
  • It takes a store with tens of thousands of items to offer and simplifies it to your needs and wants.

Where a grocery store list can be brought to the next level is when you keep a list going throughout a week.  The milk runs low on Tuesday and "milk" goes on your list. Tortillas show up on Friday and also go on your list.  By the time Sunday rolls around and you're ready for the store, you already have your list.  This is how you can make your lists work for you instead of the dread of having to add things at the last minute.

I use this at work for upcoming cities and travel.  For example, it's unlikely that I'll remember all of the people I want to visit the next time I'm in Boston.  But, I can remember a little at a time and add to my list in the months leading up to my next trip to Beantown.

I currently have lists for:

  • next time in Cincinnati
  • next time in Boston
  • next time in LA
  • next time in Florida

I find these sort of "add as you go" lists work really well around the house.  At a random moment, you might have an idea of something you need for your porch to get finished.  As you already have an "Around the House" list (or better yet, a Finish the Porch project), you can simply add when the muse hits you.  Then, on a Saturday when you have time, you just open your list and get to work.

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This process also works well for gift giving.  My wife is notoriously difficult to shop for so I keep a list just for her birthday and Christmas.  When she drops a hint of something that she might like, I add it to my list like a super-sleuth.  Boy does it make things easier when I then go to purchase a gift!

As a follow up, I suggest looking at your current lists.  This presumes that you're using a digital task manager (like Nozbe which is my favorite or Omnifocus or even a paper planner) to stay on top of your lists.  After a quick scan, identify which of your lists you can "populate" as you go through your week.  You may be surprised by how many of them are ready for you to add items as you go.

Then, and this is the key, have the courage to add to your lists on the fly.  

You'll be tempted to just have a thought and then let it go.  Instead, pause and add to your lists.  Don't let the hectic pace of life sabotage your lists.  You'll feel good about it and your productivity will go to the next level.
 

Is a Notebook Your Best Productivity Investment?

Everywhere you look, people are using old-fashioned notebooks.  It's not that they've given up their smartphones but that they are using notebooks to bring some analogue into their daily lives.

A smartphone, complemented by a portable notebook is a powerful combo for everyday productivity.  

I have been a hybrid paper-digital user for years.  While Google Calendar keeps my "hard landscape" events in place, I find there's nothing like paper and pen to navigate the nitty-gritty details of my daily work.  This includes meeting notes, doodles and notes from phone calls. 

David Sax, in his best-selling book The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, details the rise in popularity of such notebooks like Moleskine and Baron Fig:

“Numerous studies have shown that handwriting notes is simply better for engagement, information retention, and mental health than is writing on digital devices.” 

When you write things down, your brain activates on a deeper level than if you just think something or type it into your computer.

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Moleskine isn't the only popular brand of notebook.  There's also the Bullet Journal which has given folks a clever way to stay organized.  Consider it "stylized productivity".

The bottom line- notebooks are back and they're cool once again.

There's one catch: what if you want all of the benefits of a fancy notebook but would rather save the $15 that often goes with it?  

After all, consider the costs of the most popular "in" notebooks:

  • Bullet Journal: $24.95
  • Baron Fig: $15-65

There are some other options.  You can use an inexpensive notebook.  You can create your own system as David Seah has done.  Or, you can use a whiteboard to get your creative, handwriting juices flowing.

The most important idea is this- connecting paper with digital is a smart move.  You just need to find an expression of this marriage that works for your style and your budget.