Posts in Nozbe
The Productivity Awards 2017

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


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


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


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


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


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


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. 



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”.

Four Things You Can Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

I signed my kids up for basketball this week.  Here’s a snapshot of how it went:

1. Daily emails from the school reminding me of the signups.  
2. Creating an account online.
3. Confirming my account via email.
4. Paying for the two kids to play basketball.
5. Capturing my password and login credentials in 1Password.
6. Marking on the calendar the key meetings and events that go with signing two kids up for basketball.
7. Creating a project in OmniFocus so I can “park” all of my basketball-related items in one place.

If this was the only thing in my life, it wouldn’t be a big deal.  Two kids playing basketball… sounds great right?

Except that it’s only one slice of the pie.  Life as a forty-something dad with four kids has become exceedingly complex.  The basketball signup process is just one thing that I’m managing.  

Other (similar) projects include my daughter’s Fall Drama rehearsal schedule and what role parents need to play.  There’s winterizing the house before the first frost.  Then there’s the committee that I should never have signed up for but did out of guilt.  The conference calls for that commitment add another layer of stress.  

I could keep going… but I won’t because you probably have similar things on your project list.  We all add more complexity than we’d like to our lives.

Noise is our accumulated list of projects, tasks and todo’s that need to be managed.  It’s life really.

And complexity equals one thing and that is noise.  

Noise is our accumulated list of projects, tasks and todo’s that need to be managed.  It’s life really.  Nothing more, nothing less.  

The key is this- do we have a system that is capable of helping us manage all of these projects?  Does a person really need to use a productivity app to manage basketball signups?  Can’t life be simpler than this?

Sadly, no it can’t.  Sure, when you’re about 10 years old life is simple.  You wake up and do whatever comes to you during the day.  But once you hit middle school and beyond, you’ve graduated to Project Manager status.  

Your system needs to keep up.  

The “problem” I have (and maybe you do too?) is that I get tired.  On some days, I just don’t want to have to manage projects in my personal life.  I don’t mind it at all in my “work life”- we use Nozbe for that.  

But it’s the Saturday morning kind of thing that bothers me.  It’s a tension to manage- having projects for my kids’ commitments and my non-work activities.  It just gets overwhelming at times.

You could just say, “the heck with it” and toss up your hands and hit delete.  This might be effective for a short while but is probably irresponsible or reckless for the long haul.

Instead, here are four creative strategies for when you feel overwhelmed by your system:

  1. Visit with a spiritual director on a regular basis.  Visiting with my spiritual director, a Catholic priest, has been the most impactful decision of my adult life.  Without someone to talk to about deep things, most of us are left to wrestle with our internal world on our own.  Overwhelm is definitely one of the things that a spiritual director can help with.
  2. Take an intentional hiatus from social media.   More and more studies show that the more time you spend on social media, the unhappier you are.  By hitting the pause button on your Facebook and Twitter usage, you’re making more time for simpler things that matter much more.
  3. Reclaim your Sabbath.  When do you take “sabbath”?  When do you stop picking up socks around the house and sticks in the yard?  When do you enjoy doing something that truly makes you smile?  By reclaiming your Sabbath, you’re not escaping your overwhelming list of projects and todos.  Rather, you’re giving them a context of the rest of your life.  I recommend Terry Hershey's Sabbath Moments as a place to start if you want to reclaim your Sabbath.
  4. Cut it out.  At a certain point, you just need to do less.  Which project can you cancel or delete? Which committee can you gracefully bow out of?  Which event can you skip?

We all get overwhelmed.  The real key is to respond with patience and calm.  Be compassionate with yourself and realize that you have much more agency than you think.  

You’ll get through it!

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.

How to Save 30 Minutes Before Your Next Trip

Travel can be stressful.  Book your flights, arrange for the hotel, schedule the Uber to the airport, hope that things are on time, try to look nice for TSA staff so that they pass you through the gate faster... the list goes on and on.

I used to hate work-related travel.  

My chest would tighten in the days leading up to a trip and the day of- forget it.  I was a bear and my family knew to stay away lest I get even more grumpy.

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Then, not surprisingly, I tried an experiment.  If I created a "template" for packing, maybe that would not only save time but also cut down on the stress leading up to a trip.

It worked.

My current practice is to use a template in Nozbe.  On the day before a trip, I'll have my laptop on the bed next to my carry-on luggage.  It's now saved me, conservatively I would say, at least 30 minutes before every trip.  The use of the template also cuts way down on the stress as I think of the template as a recipe: a little of this and a pinch of that.

Here's what my current template looks like for work-related travel:

I figure that I travel for work about once a month.  If using the template saves just 30 minutes each time x 12 trips a year, that's 360 minutes saved or a full six hours.  That doesn't even take into account the stress that it fends off with each trip.  Factor that in and who knows how much time I'm really saving by using a template!

The pre-loaded list (template) works really well for me.  What tricks work for you when it comes to travel?

If you liked this post, why not download my free PDF worksheet called "Getting Started with Nozbe"?  It will walk you through the six steps you'll need to begin creating templates like the one I've included in this blog post.  Just fill out the form called "Getting Started with Nozbe" and you'll have the PDF in seconds.

What Collaboration Looks Like Within a Digital Task Manager

People toss around the word like it's a nerf ball.


Some (think, Susan Cain) feel that it's been overused and that schools have hurt students in an effort for kids to work together.  As an introvert, I tend to shy away from using the exact word collaboration and instead, favor "working together".  Same thing?  Maybe but it doesn't conjure up bad memories of having to work in a group in middle school.

How about task managers and collaboration?

I've been using Nozbe, a digital task manager, for several years but only recently did I find that it can help a team collaborate.  Todoist and TodoCloud do this as well so Nozbe isn't alone. It's just the app that works best for me.

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Here's the process that my assistant and I use and it works so well, I thought I would share a sample from a project called "Podcast":

  1. I created a project called Podcast.
  2. I shared it with Karen.  At that point, the project became a shared initiative.
  3. Inside the project, I provided the script that I wanted Karen to use when she invited people to be a guest on the podcast.
  4. Karen then invited guests via email with the script that I had provided.  As guests indicated their "yes" or "no" to being on the podcast, she would then enter into Nozbe a separate comment with the guest's name and email. 
  5. From there, I would then follow up with each guest, scheduling them.  I would add a subsequent comment for Karen to see such as , "Just spoke with Barry; scheduled for October." 

The end product was a truly collaborative process, resulting in a new podcast that has now recorded five episodes.  We simply could not have done this without having a digital task manager like Nozbe.   Want to check out the podcast?  You can listen to it here.


Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 20: Interview with Jeff Sanders

In this episode I talk with Jeff Sanders of the 5AM Miracle.  Jeff is a great guy, a productivity ninja and a genuine source of wisdom.  

Jeff and I talk about how he came to writing and speaking about early mornings and what his advice is to those who consider themselves to be night owls.  He also shared his advice for rising leaders.

I could talk with Jeff all day- he's really energetic and his work is making a difference.

Enjoy the show!