Hello, my name is Neil and I’m a productivity tool addict.
Yammer, Slack, Asana, Trello Evernote, Droptask, Basecamp, Todoist, Wunderlist, Mailbox, Inbox, Google Apps… you name it, I’ve probably tried using it for work.
At some point this year, I realised the main barrier to my productivity was trying to manage too many productivity tools. So, I embarked on a bit of a purge and attempted to identify a smaller set of tools to get work done.
This is a quick run through of my current workflow that I’ve been using consistently for the past six months. I’m writing this mostly as a reflective tool, but if it helps anyone else in the process — ace!
Trello has become my project management tool of choice. I was using Asana for a long while before that — but for whatever reason, when I had to share projects with other people they seemed bewildered by it.
Trello strikes a really nice balance of being visual enough so that others can get a good idea of what’s going on at a glance, whilst being detailed enough that I can store a lot of supporting information inside each card.
I currently have overall project board (so I can track where things are in the pipeline and how many things I’m trying to do simultaneously) and each card links to a specific Trello project board of its own.
The only gripe I have is that occasionally people just want a Gantt chart to see which activities overlap etc. — and that’s a bit of a hassle (although it can be done with https://www.gantt-chart.com/ and a bit of extra fudging about).
Ah, trusty old Evernote! I’ve been using it on and off for about five years. The only thing that’s really changed is that I’ve refined my use of it. Before I was clipping anything and everything under the sun and storing it on the off chance that it was needed— this made my management of notebooks tricky (picture lots and lots of sub-folders).
I’ve paired Evernote down to just note taking duties. If I’m sat in meetings or having conversations with people — this is where that stuff lives. As a meeting concludes I often share the notes around to those involved as a record of what we’ve just spoken about and invite amendments & corrections. This cuts down on misunderstandings and differing interpretations of events. It’s also really handy for me as I can empty my brain into Evernote and forget about it until it’s time to come back and do more work.
Google Drive has been pretty great for working on documents with multiple people. No fear of sending things around and then having to track changes and merge amendments in!
Sharing is made super easy because no sign in is required, therefore no problems for people having to remember passwords. In a word, it’s frictionless (is that an actual word?).
Weirdly, one of the aspects of Google Apps I get a huge use out of are the drawing tools. I recently used it to communicate folder structures to multiple teams. But I’ve also used it for network and systems diagrams. It’s great if I need to visually convey stuff to a load of people and quickly iterate through design changes.
The biggest strength of using Google Docs is that I don’t need software installed to use it. I use perhaps 6 or 7 different devices between home and work, so being able to quickly hop into a document and edit is worth its weight in gold.
We’ve been using Yammer internally for a good year or so — but it’s really only recently that I’ve started trying to use it for project management. I REALLY HATE sending emails around to all the various stakeholders for projects. Often if you’re sending an email to everyone, you’re actually sending an email to no one.
Yammer is sort of the social network spine that links all of the above tools in a cohesive way. I can point people my Trello project management boards and link them to specific notes of meetings and supporting spreadsheets and documents stored in Google Drive.
I make all Yammer groups public so that even if you’re not a direct stakeholder in a project, you’ve got a general awareness of what’s going on and you have an opportunity to intervene if you see something that’s obviously wrong. This sits nicely with my own personal crusade this year for trying to inject more transparency into our work.
The humble paper notebook
I’ve been evangelising a paperless lifestyle for a few years. Being a techie, writing stuff down with pen and paper seems like a less efficient way of doing things, particularly as I’m keen on sharing and collaborating. (Also — my handwriting is atrocious, so the chances of someone understanding my notes are minimal at best.)
However, I’ve recently found that when I’m trying to figure things out — pen and paper are actually fare more useful. My written notes combine words, doodles and diagrams to help get the disjointed ideas in my head out on paper. There’s just no way I can do anything similar in digital with such immediacy.
What does your workflow look like? How do you impose order on chaos? I’d love to hear how others organise their work.
Get in touch! 🙂