Productivity tools seems to be all the rage the last few years. It’s probably one of the categories of applications and services that is growing, in amount of apps at least, the most. Todo lists are, after all, the Hello World of web apps.
I have tried a few different tools over the years, and I am always on the lookout for tools that might fit my work and personal life better. It’s also easy to jump onto the Next Greatest Thing.
I’m not limiting myself to free or open source tools only. It is a bonus, of course, but if someone has something to offer that I don’t have to operate and maintain and its cost outweighs whatever time I would have to spend on it — here, take my money!
The first tool in this short list is maybe not a productivity tool, per se. It does however help me stay productive and focus on other things, as well as keep my day to day finances in check.
You need a Budget
You need a Budget, or YNAB for short, is at its core a fancier kind of spreadsheet. Not in a negative way. It helps you keep track of your household and personal economy by following four simple rules:
- 1: Give every dollar a job
- 2: Embrace your true expenses
- 3: Roll with the punches
- 4: Age your money
In short, by assigning every dollar, or whichever currency you have, to a specifik task as soon as you have them you make sure that you put the money where they are needed and in the long run you end up with margins so that you won’t be ill-prepared if an unexpected expense pops up. It really helps in setting savings goals or if you want to focus on repayment of a loan or other debts.
Instead of looking at your bank account to see how much money you have left, you look at the category in your budget to see if you have money to spend on dinner, books, a camera or whatever. If you don’t, can you rearrange other categories and move money to this category? Do you have expenses that occur quarterly, make sure to assign money each month and those big expenses every three months are spread over time.
The satisfaction of having and keeping a budget in balance and knowing exactly which category has sufficient funds is highly satisfying. It also helps in tracking your expenses to let you easily re-evaluate where your money actually ends up. You should give it a try! They have an active Youtube channel that teaches you tips and trick for general household economics as well as how that transitions into their tool and the four rules.
I’m not endorsed by YNAB, in any way, but for me it is as close as possible to the perfect budgeting software. This referral link gives me one free month if you sign up. No strings attached. YNAB offers a 34 day trial, and is priced at $6.99 per month annually, but that price is definitely something you recouperate through your use of the tool.
Who doesn’t need a todo app? My goto app in this category is Todoist (referral link). Previously, I used Wunderlist, but I looked around for something new when Microsoft bought the company behind it. I found a really good Youtube channel called Keep Productive that showed really nice workflows you could achieve with Todoist and I’ve been using it since April 2017.
I use it for my day to day todos. This includes work related things I set at the start of the workday as well as some recurring ones and those that have a short term time limit. And of course when going grocery shopping, it is a todo app after all. For me, a todo app should be easy to access and use, the barrier to entry should be low and it should only be a click away — this is achieved by Todoist by having good mobile apps as well as extensions in browsers.
Todoist seem to have some nice feature coming in 2019, among them boards. Todoist has a free tier which is plenty powerful, and the premium version costs €3 per month annually.
Notion (referral link) is the latest addition to my tools. I’ve been a “user” of Evernote since several years, and been a premium user since a few of them, but I never really used it for more than sporadic note-taking. Keep productive, as mentioned above, showed a few videos about a tool called Notion and it looked like something that would fit into my daily workflow.
Notion is hard to describe in a few words, but shortly it is a note taking tool on steroids. It calls itself an all-in-one workspace where you gather notes, knowledge, todos, task and project management and even databases for you more structured data. There are premade templates you can use or you can create your own setup from scratch. It is a very versatile and powerful tool, so do sit through a few videos showing off its features - I think you will find it useful.
Notion has a free tier and a three different paid tiers, the cheapest costing $4 per month annually. I haven’t yet reached the need for that.