Productivity Stack for 2021
I refuse to use Notion for everything. Here is a list of apps that I'm currently using to keep myself on track
29 December 2020
I run a freelance business with several ongoing clients, build & acquire products, write blog posts across multiple websites, workout and travel on a full-time basis.
The overhead all of managing this is daunting at times, so over the last week I have tried to standardise my workflow ahead of 2021. There are still several things to figure out which I will flag throuhgout the article.
A lot of people out there try to use Notion (or similar products such as Roam Research) for everything. Don’t listen to these people. Notion is good for certain things but bad for most other things. There are teams out there that have worked for years to develop a great product in one specific thing. Notion will never be better that these niched down products. Trying to use Notion for everything is going to lose you time and add unnecessary burden to your life.
It’s like trying to use hammer for everything - it works great for nails, but there are also screws along the way.
Trello for client communication
I use Trello to keep my clients up to date with any ongoing projects.
The client can see what is there to be done, what’s currently in progress, and what’s ready to be reviewed/completed. Once the items have been completed, I move them to the invoice and then paid columns for my own records. It’s a straightforward workflow that works on both ends.
We can also discuss a specific item and any questions the client might have straight into Trello, so I minimise the number of emails and can keep the discussion in the context of the item.
Notion for internal project management
I use Notion for personal project management. I have a page for every client and product, so whenever there is a new project, I create a new subpage. Within that subpage, I can scope, plan and write notes regarding that project.
I also keep boards for any new product ideas, blog posts, etc. As I’m writing this, I realised that I could transition these kanban boards to Trello.
TickTick for deadlines & habit tracking
I have tried using TickTick for almost 2 years now - for calendar, habits, daily tasks, project management and so on. I never really got into it, so throughout 2021, I will “de-ticktick-imize” myself.
For now, I will continue using it for habit tracking and important deadlines but will look into completely moving away from it later in the year.
Timestripe for goal setting & daily todo
I discovered Timestripe earlier this week and I am already loving it! The idea of Timestripe is that you define your life goals, then break those goals to yearly goals, then monthly, then weekly and then finally daily.
I had this exact product idea 2 years ago but never executed on it. I’m glad that someone else decided to do it! The design is great as well!
Bear for note-taking and writing
Bear is another app that I discovered recently. Up to now, I’ve been writing my articles in Notion… and wow! I didn’t realise how bad it is for writing.
Bear is a clean, markdown based editor. And it’s mostly free unless you want some advanced features and customisation, which costs only £15 per year.
It’s also a plus that I will now have a dedicated place for taking quick notes during client meetings.
FYI, I wrote this article in Bear, then exported it in markdown to put it on my website. It’s awesome!
Raindrop for bookmarking
There are so many bookmarking apps out there, but the best one so far has been Raindrop. It’s easy to add things from my browser or phone and sort them in Collections.
An alternative is Mind, but it doesn’t have as many features as Raindrop and it’s also x5 more expensive (I’m actually using the generous free version of Raindrop at the moment, but I will transition to the paid version soon).
I’m not a big email user. However, I still put importance on email management as it can eat a big chunk of your day if done incorrectly.
I am using Hey for personal use at the moment. However, I plan to transition back to Gmail once my yearly subscription is over - it doesn’t add much value compared to Gmail and it often removes features. I am still hopeful that it will get better over the next 6 months, but only the future will tell!
Mailplane is a Gmail client which allows you to quickly switch between different emails. One of the frustrating things about Gmail is using it in the browser and having to constantly switch between accounts, so I’m happy that I discovered Mailplane.
I’ve been using VS Code to do all of my coding over the last 3 years. No shocker here, it’s still awesome to this day.
I also use Postico to view PostgreSQL databases for my development, staging and production websites.
My preferred software for designing is Sketch. I still dabble in Figma from times to times, but I always fall back to Sketch whenever I need to do anything design related.
1password for managing passwords
I have both the desktop app and browser extensions of 1password which allows me to easily manage all of my passwords (170 as of today).
I use two browsers - Opera for personal use and Chrome for work.
Chrome extensions that I’m using to improve productivity:
- Loom for recording screen videos
- Redirect Path - debugging tools to see the redirect history of a page
- Remove YouTube Recommended Videos, Comments - reduces procrastination
- Vanilla Timeline for Twitter - removes retweets & “liked” tweets
- Visualize Value - new tab with graphics from Visualize Value
In June of 2020, my MacBook broke while I was in Portugal, so I had to quickly order a new one. All of my files were stuck in the old, now broken laptop.
Good thing that the most important thing, code for the websites I’m working on, were all hosted on Github. However, to this day, I still don’t have access to illustrations, books, designs, etc that were on my old MacBook.
I have already started the transition to keep everything in Dropbox. My goal is to not have anything on my MacBook. In the event of my laptop breaking again, I can transition to a new laptop relatively painlessly.
I currently have several folders but will expand in the future to include files detailed in the next section:
- personal - anything related to me, eg CVs, scanned documents, etc
- docs - payslips, recovery keys, etc
- courses - courses and books that I have bought
- business - invoices and contracts
I keep my Desktop and Downloads folder empty. I usually spent 5 minutes every 1-2 weeks to clear them.
Currently, I have two simple folders in my Documents folder which soon will be moved to Dropbox:
- code with two subfolders - freelance and products. I then have a folder for every client/product where I keep the root folder of the codebase.
- design - anything design related. Structured similarly as the code folder.
I might find a way to combine these two folders, so I scope code, design and anything else under the product’s name, as opposed to the other way around.
Spotify for listening
I have several cool playlists I enjoy listening while working. I might open-source them at some point in the future, so keep an eye out!
Other Mac apps
Notable mention for several apps that I use on the daily:
- Magnet - easily snap app windows for my desired workflow
- PixelSnap - measures anything on your screen
Kindle is awesome for reading, especially when you are travelling and don’t have the opportunity to bring heavy books with you.
Did you know that there is an option to send books to your Kindle via email? Neither did I!
And that’s pretty much my productivity stack with which I’m going into 2021. I used to be picky with the tools I work with, but now I enjoy exploring new products. You never know what will stick with my workflow.
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