Appy Ever After

Hello and welcome to another episode from Productivity Matters - the podcast that's here to help you be better at getting things done.

If this is your first time here, then thank you sooo much for coming along.

If you've been here before - then welcome back.

In fact, this is the last of the current series; as we head into the summer break.

So; in traditional fashion, I'm taking a look back at some of the seasons episodes, but I'm also going to focus on my favourite apps.

Whilst Productivity Matters is all about being more efficient and productive, I did record a couple of more, personal, episodes. One was about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder; more commonly known as a Winter Depression) and the other told my story of Diabetes.

I took a look at financial budgeting tool MoneyDashboard. This has been brilliant for keeping me on track with my finances; allowing me to see what's going where, making small savings here and there, and ensuring there's enough in the bank to cover all the necessities.

It's not a sexy subject. Money talk is still considered taboo; but it's important that we keep talking about it.

On the productivity front; I reviewed a to-do app called PomoDone. This cleverly integrates a to-do list with a pomodoro timer; so you remain focussed and on task, for a predetermined time. Staying focussed is crucial, and setting deadlines for getting tasks completed, even more so; to prevent tasks from just meandering along!

So, what about my favourite apps? The apps that are integrated into my workflow.

- Todoist

- Evernote

- Automation with Zapier and IFTTT

- Google Drive

- LastPass


Regular listeners will know that I use Todoist as my task manager.

I've been using it daily (and I mean daily) since last September. I'm a relative newbie, but it totally changed the way I work.

Before that, I was using various methods to capturing tasks; and not being 100% successful. When I started using Todoist, everything changed.

ToDoIst is available across all the platforms, making it easy to access.

This is something that is suitable for individuals and teams alike.

Whether you want to collaborate with team members to get things done, you work for yourself and need to keep track of clients and tasks, or you just need a good, solid, task manager for your daily life.

One of the strengths of ToDoIst is the ability to use natural language to set dates and times, for reminders. It's simple to type 'Call Mum every Wednesday at 6pm'

ToDoIst will automatically create a recurring task, that appears each Wednesday.

Through the use of projects, you can keep related tasks together; although this isn't necessary, it makes the management much easier.

Combining these with tags, means you can create a context for doing tasks. For example, if you have a number of tasks that can only be done when you're in the office the add a tag of 'Office'.

When you filter on these, you'll be focussed on these at the right time, and not side-tracked by anything that can't be done anywhere else.

Of course, you can do the same thing with 'Home' - therefore helping to keep tasks separate.

On the Mac there are shortcuts available to quickly add tasks from anywhere; without the need to open the app.

I also love the integration I have with my email client. I use Spark Mail, and if there's an email I need to action later, I can simply add it to Todoist.

There are many other features, such as colour-coding, setting priorities

Using a to-do list.

  • Capture everything

  • Create a context for where to do it

  • Add a deadline to focus your mind

OK - onto my next favourite app.

Note Taking

I use Evernote for the majority of my note-taking. I've been a premium user since 2011, and I love it. I know there's been a bit of a love/hate relationship with the media; some saying that Evernote are in their 'death spiral'; but there's been a sea change over the last few months.

They've been much more open about what they're doing to make things better, and I really hope it comes off.

Evernote is solid. Yes, it has its quirks, but for taking notes and storing documents, it does what it says it will. And it does it well. The search functionality is simply brilliant; especially as it searches inside documents and images too. This means finding items is a breeze.

Depending on how you set it up, you could use notebooks to store things, or use tags.

I use a combination of the two. Notebooks provide a structure, and keeps things organised. But, where the note may cross boundaries, I can use the tag to double up.

Creating searches for specific tags will then bring everything back, regardless of the notebook.

I also use tags in the Shortcuts bar, making it quick to access.

So, what do I use Evernote for?

Well, it's somewhere to capture everything

  • Gather ideas for the podcast

  • Keep notes about the Cub pack that I run

  • Capture information from the web, that I'm interested in

  • Store receipts

  • Scan documents

  • I forward emails into Evernote for important things like insurance documents

  • Use it to manage social media posts

Choose a tool that is available across platforms

  • Evernote

  • OneNote

  • Bear

  • Drafts


I have really enjoyed adding a degree of automation into what I do, whether for business or personally. OK - automation in itself isn't an app.

The main one I use is Zapier.

One example of how I use it is, after I’ve uploaded a document to Google Drive, a Zap will pick it up and move it to a specific directory. It saves me time having to locate the directory at the time of uploading it.

Or, when an email arrives with an invoice, Zapier will automatically extract the invoice and place into the relevant folder in Google Drive (followed by sending me a Slack message, to confirm its been done!)

I also use Zapier to parse information from a Google Sheet into an Evernote note, therefore building the information I need.

Now, some of these might seem a little simple, but when you add up the effort to do this, which takes away concentration from other things, then it all makes sense.

There are tons of integrations that you can explore - it’s worth having a look to see what Zapier could do to help you.

The majority of the zaps can be created easily, via a step-by-step process led by the software. You don't need knowledge of software development; although you can make really complex zaps if you need to. Zapier has some pretty good documentation and support.

Moving on to a service that I use, almost daily. I have often talked about online security and the importance of taking care with your passwords and online accounts.

Online Security

In a recent episode I mentioned how one of the most common passwords, from accounts that had been breached, was 12345. This is not a safe password. It's stupid.

Almost as stupid as using a birthday or name.

Hacking databases to find login details is an industry in itself, and we (that's you and me) must take responsibility for our own safety.

You wouldn't give a stranger the keys to your house?

So, in an effort to offer some advice, I suggested ways in which you can create individual passwords for each online account, relatively easily.

1. Use the 3-word technique to create a strong password

- Truck Circus Computer

- Put them together truckcircuscomputer

- Now make some letters in upper case - truckCircusComputer

- Replace letters with numbers - truck3ircusC0mput3r

- That's about as random as you can get

2. Don't share passwords

3. Use a different password for each account

- Make it easier by using a password manager

I've been using LastPass for a number of years, and it makes it so easy.

  • password creation

  • changing passwords

  • secure notes

  • security challenge

  • family product for up to 6 people

What's more, it's not that expensive. In fact, what price for your security?

LastPass is just $36. For a year. That's approximately £28 per year. £2.30 per month!

If you want the Family product, that's $48 (or £38) for up to 6 users.

Using LastPass is easy. It's available as a browser extension on your computer, and there are apps for iOS and Android - an it seamlessly integrates. As you get to a login screen, it will magically recognise where you are and populate your login details for you. You don't need to hunt for sticky notes, or look it up in the notes app! It's just there.

I can't recommend it highly enough; and it could save you from being one of the statistics that are hacked due to poor security.

Google Drive

For online storage I use Google Drive. It's here I create the majority of my documentation for work and play!

You get 15 GB of storage for free, when you create a Google account. Storage gets used by Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos, so you can store files, save your email attachments, and back up photos and videos. For more than 15 GB, you can upgrade to Google One.

You can store pretty much any file type – even Microsoft Office files. No matter what type of file it is, everything can be stored safely in Drive.

Google Drive isn't just about storage. You also get access to Docs, Sheets, Slides, (the Microsoft equivalent of Word, Excel and Powerpoint) as well as Forms for creating surveys plus much more. Files that are created in Google Drive do not count towards your storage space. You can even make documents available offline, so you can work on them when you don't have access to the internet.

All the files are private, until you decide to share them. You can quickly invite others to view, comment, and edit any file or folder you choose. It's great for online collaboration; something I did quite a lot of recently when planning our recent Cub camp.

What does this cost? As I mentioned, the initial 15GB is free, but to upgrade this to 100GB the cost is just £16 per year. So, really, price isn't an issue - and 100GB is an awful lot of files. I have the original recordings (made in Garageband, plus the mp3 files) all of this seasons podcast episodes stored in Google Drive. My business documents are also stored here. And there's room to spare.

If 100GB isn't enough, the next tier is 20GB for just £25 per year.

Getting Things Done

Finally, I've mentioned previously how I was reading and getting to grips with Getting Things Done, the productivity methodology, introduced to us by David Allen. It's a fascinating way to work, and whilst it takes time and effort to build it into your workflow, I am seeing the benefits.

Without going into the detail, GTD is about 5 key areas:

Capturing - Capture 100% of everything that has your attention—little, big, personal and professional.

Clarifying - For everything you capture, decide if it is actionable. If not, trash it, incubate or file it. If it is, do it now, delegate it or defer it.

Organising - Create action reminders on lists in your customized system.

Reflecting - Look over your lists frequently to determine what to do next. Do a GTD Weekly Review® to bring yourself current, update your lists and clear your mind.

Engaging - Use your system to take appropriate actions with confidence.

By following the methodology, you can instil some formality in what you need to achieve, whilst never losing sight of all the tasks.

I'm still building the flow that works for me, but even in the early stages, it's made a huge difference to the way I work.


Of course, there are other apps that I use all the time; such as Fantastical 2 for my calendar, on both my iPhone and MacBook.

I use Buffer, for scheduling my social media posts (no, I don't wait up until 2 o'clock in the morning to sent a tweet!) and Canva, which is an online graphic design tool, which I use to create the artwork for this very podcast; as well as for other media uses.

I also use Slack, the messaging and communication tool, at work, and I use it personally too.

In the latest episode, I talked about constant app changing - and the negative effect it can have on productivity. Learning new apps, and the time spent building it into your workflow will detract from actually doing the work, so should only be done as a last resort. At least, that's my opinion.

That's it for this episode; indeed the series.

I hope you've enjoyed , and have got something from some, if not all, of the information I've imparted. Details for all the products and services are in the show notes.

Do you use any or all of the apps I've mentioned? What do you use?

I will be back with a new series, after the summer break, and if there's anything you'd like me to cover, then don't hesitate to get in touch.

If you've haven't already, then please follow me where you normally listen to your podcasts.

Just click subscribe button, and the episodes will magically appear when they become available.

Thank you very much for listening, and until next time remember, Productivity Matters.

Equipment I use to make my podcasts:

Blue Yeti Microphone

Pop Filter

Professional Microphone Boom Arm

If you purchase from these links then I may receive a commission.  This does not affect the price you will pay.  Thank you.

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