I'm very much a pen-and-paper kind of gal - especially when I'm planning. For me, the motion of writing the words invokes a sense of commitment to the task. You can't just Backspace your way out of it. Ideas flow plenty as well since I can pretty much make marks on any part of the page. There are no restrictions. But I must admit, in the fast-paced reality that we live in today, I find myself often employing the services of digi-helpers. Much of my daily agenda relies on a curated set of apps that help me go about my day as smoothly as possible. I've found a comforting balance between the use of a pen-and-paper planner and my go-to productivity apps / programs.
Let the app-sharing commence!
01 | Evernote
I have only recently appreciated the gold mine that is Evernote. I tried it once before but I just couldn't work it into my flow before. I realized that it was because I wasn't using it all in. I would still have notes / bookmarks / clips scattered on other locations so I couldn't fully appreciate the potential of Evernote.
When I was writing E-mail Sanity, I decided to give Evernote another try since I wanted to be able to write on-the-go and have it synced to my laptop. And then I installed the web clipper extension on my Chrome browser and started snipping portions of websites as I do my research for the e-book. And then I would copy-and-paste quotes from Twitter / Facebook / articles into a consolidated Inspiring Quotes note for future reference. Before I knew it, all my notes were safely tucked into Evernote. It just happened organically and now it fits perfectly into my workflow.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Go all in -- it's either you use Evernote for at least 90% of your note-taking / clipping or you don't. It's beast of an app and can probably handle any type of note-taking that you would need. Juggling it with other apps just didn't work very well for me since I had to manage more services. It takes a while to get used to but once you do, there's no going back.
- Install the Evernote Web Clipper extension. This alone makes Evernote better than other apps. You can clip an entire article (with its format!), you can take a screenshot of a section, or clip an entire webpage. It's a powerful thing.
02 | Sunrise Calendar
Amazing calendar options are pretty scarce for Windows / Android users. Add to that the fact that I'm very specific about my calendar needs; the best one I've seen so far is Mac's iCal. For the longest time, I've been looking for a good alternative -- Google Calendar wasn't doing it for me as I wanted a desktop app as well -- and fortunately, Nico introduced Sunrise Calendar to me.
What I love about is the clean design. I'm such a sucker for good lookin' apps, really. But Sunrise isn't just a pretty face. It also syncs well between my devices and has most of the features that I would need: sending notifications to guests, recurring events / tasks and color-coded calendars.
Some things to note:
- The notification system can be quite... annoying. Whenever I update an event (changed the venue, for example) and re-send a notification to all the guests involved, it counts as a totally new event. So, if your guests confirmed on the updated event, they will now have two similar events in their calendar. The guests have to manually delete the old event and confirm the updated one. It's definitely my biggest pet peeve from this app. I'm not quite sure if they've updated it as I haven't had to change the details in any of my events.
03 | Trello
When I was planning the launch of my blog, it was difficult dealing with all the different deadlines and promotions that I needed to do. I wanted a headquarters for all launch-related tasks and throughout this process, I rediscovered Trello.
Trello is extremely useful for timeline-based planning with multiple tasks involved with its Lists + Cards features. I created a list for everyday leading up to the launch and created a card for every promotional material that I needed to release for that day. And their mascot is a Siberian Husky. A SIBERIAN HUSKY.
04 | CoSchedule
This is an editorial calendar powerhouse. I love plotting my posts and doing the initial brainstorming by using pen and paper but when it comes to scheduling it into a calendar and assigning deadlines - CoSchedule is the way to go. I talk a little more about this in a review that I did a couple of months back. In a nutshell, CoSchedule allows me to schedule (duh!) blogposts + social media posts and see 'em all in one hefty calendar.
As most of you will know, I have a 9-5 day job and social media sites are all blocked from my desktop computer. Previously, I would use my phone to publish social media promotions when my blogpost goes up. I would save the promotional graphics to Dropbox the night before (so I can easily access it on my phone), craft my tweet / Facebook post / Google+ post, copy the URL from my already-published blogpost, attach the image from Dropbox and then send it out into the www ether. Rinse and repeat.
Ever since I've subscribed to CoSchedule, I can do pretty much everything from within the web app (my preferred way of using it -- you can also use it from within your Wordpress dashboard). it automatically extracts the photo from my blogpost, shortens my URLs and schedules everything (and it's easy to move as well, with the drag-and-drop calendar interface). HOLY LIBERATION.
I definitely recommend this app if you're a blogger / creative and have a lot on your plate right now. I've also used this with a whole team of writers (for my boyfriend's basketball blog, HumbleBola) and it works like magic. For you to fully enjoy the features, you will have to pay after the trial period ends but they do have generous discount options. I received a 50% discount for writing an honest review that you can find here.
05 | ClearFocus
ClearFocus is a pomodoro-timer app for Android. I'm not sure if it's the "best" one out there since I just did a quick search for a pomodoro app and this happened to be the first one the caught my attention. The design and interface are clean -- you basically just tap the start button to start the 25-minute work timer. After that, it automatically goes into the five-minute break timer. After a couple of full work times, it goes into a 15-minute break time as a sweet reward for your hard work. It's simple and it does the job.
A little con:
- It is ad-supported; you can see the ads at the bottom part of the screen. I find that I don't really notice it since the background color changes to red for work time and green for break time so I don't need to really look at the app that much.
Apps worth mentioning :: Buffer for sharing great quotes + reads to social media, Todoist for organizing tasks, Asana for team management + tasks organization (we use this for HumbleBola as well!), and Streak for customer relationship management straight to your inbox.
Do you use apps for your day-to-day productivity? Or do you find that the good ol' pen and paper does the trick? Although I'm happy with my current set-up, it's always nice to discover a new tool so if you have some apps to recommend, let me know in the comments!