How do you go from struggling to a highly productive professional?
The answer is fairly simple–use productivity tools on a daily basis.
These tools have helped me immensely in organizing and jotting down ideas for my business and in my private life, too.
Let me share some tools that I know and personally recommend.
Remember, these tools might not be for you! They may not contain features you need for the workflow that you have in place or may not be right for your day-to-day needs.
Another reminder, you have to settle down on using one application. It will not make any sense to use/download the 10 best note-taking applications.
If you’re one of my Inner Circle members, you might have seen the recent productivity guide that I published about Single Source Of Truth in which I explained exactly why you need this single source of truth to really have the information in one place.
What does productivity mean? What are productivity tools?
At this point, some of you might be confused, and might start asking yourself what is productivity and what are these productivity tools?
Simply put, productivity comes out at the end of all your supply chain. The more you produce, the more productive you become.
If you’re one of our Inner Circle Members, you can look for productivity guides where I go into detail about these tools.
The Productivity Tools
We will rip apart these productivity tools to better understand the different uses and features.
In Paperless Movement, I have subdivided these into different sections–digital note-taking, document management, knowledge management, task/project management, and workflow automation. All these sections go into the umbrella of productivity. I also feature these different sections in our forums and webinars.
● Digital Note Taking
If you follow my Youtube Channel, you know that I reviewed loads of notetaking apps, but there are 3 apps that really stepped up–Notability, Noteshelf, and GoodNotes 5.
For digital note-taking, there is one tool I prefer, and that is Noteshelf because I work best with the tool. It has the best functionality. You can simply tap your Apple Pen on the different hyperlinks and it goes to the different pages without any hassle.
In GoodNotes 5, you have to find a workaround.
Certainly, Notability and GoodNotes 5 have advantages over Noteshelf. There are other tools as well, like Zoom Notes. There are different layers and options, but the user experience is just bad in some parts.
● Document Management
If you follow this channel, you might have seen the video where I was talking about the IX 500 from Fujitsu. That was a document scanner I was using for years. It was directly uploading the documents into the cloud and then into Evernote. In Evernote, I was using Filterize which is a plugin that actually automates organization of your documents inside Evernote.
This was to set up I had previously until Fujitsu published a new scanner and stopped support for the old IX 500. At the same time, Raven Scanner was published. You might have seen the videos I made about this and why this, in my opinion, is the best document scanner, especially if you have a lot of documents because I don’t need a computer anymore. I don’t need an iPhone or whatever to set this up. You just switch it on, log in, and then you have everything ready. You can scan it to the cloud or your computer. There are so many places you can scan it to. AND, they have their own cloud called Raven Cloud, which is free for right now.
I still use Evernote, GDrive, GSuite which I use for my business, and scan it directly to Raven Cloud. This is stupid because I have the same document in three different places, but I’m not fully figured out what cloud I really want to use.
I’m really keen on what Raven Cloud will deliver in the future, but GDrive has now the best search functionality.
Evernote also uses the same search engine and the same servers from Google. But Evernote became really bad in the past, so I am using it less. However, I know there’s a better program and changes coming to Evernote. I wish Evernote would get back on track and deliver what we actually need, which is a consistent UI for the different devices.
Obviously, there are different things you need to consider, like folder structures.
● Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management is the input or what you bring into our systems. It is how we actually handle or access stuff, how we find things, and how we work properly with the information that we collect.
Nowadays, we have such a flood of information on a daily basis which is easy to collect but we need to have systems in place. Knowledge Management is to organize, access, and verify information. It is also Mind Mapping.
I have a different video where I talked about mind mapping tools.
Sample of Mind Mapping tools:
In another video, I talked about the conventions set in place of the things I expect from mind mapping tools. An example is Apple Pencil Support. Miro is not built for an iPad, but it has great Apple Pencil Support. The only thing I wish Miro would do is add OCR so I would be able to write things down easily and convert it into text, like in Noteshelf. With the coming iPad, they will release the scribble feature.
On Instagram and Twitter, I have videos where I try on the scribble feature using the Apple pen. It works great with Miro. I hope this feature will replace a lot of missing features in many different apps where we use ours. But it’s not the Tablet Pencils.
Miro is easy to understand and learn. If you are used to more complex software, like Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, and Microsoft Word, you may also use shortcuts in there. What you can actually do in Miro is not to get interrupted in your creative process.
Roam Research is also an awesome tool since it builds up your second brain automatically. While you’re taking those notes, you will get connections between the different nodes, but it is not visually pleasing
I will provide courses for this as well.
But for me, Miro is the to-go tool when it comes to mind mapping.
It allows you to intuitively use mind mapping and build mind maps. Also, Integration is key. I like that I can use this on any device like Windows, Mac, or my iPhone. If I have ideas, I want to have a place where I can easily access all of my information. Roam Research is not natively available on these devices, but they do a great job to access Roam Research on the desktop. I hope they publish a great app. Although this is something I can find a workaround.
The most important thing a tool should have is web access. I need a tool where I can access from any place I want. This is something that notetaking apps are struggling with.
They have their own file format, so I can’t share it between the different notetaking apps. You still need to export it as PDF.
You can do notetaking on other tools, like Evernote or Roam Research, but I am talking about these handwriting note-taking apps. There is that struggle in accessing it from anywhere. In GoodNotes 5, you have the option to auto back up and a PDF that automatically updates as soon as you write something. NoteShelf has this as well. This allows you to access the PDF of your notes from another device. You can also read through it but cannot edit it. It limits collaboration. Apple’s note app does a better job with collaboration compared to paid apps.
When we talk about knowledge management, we put information, but it’s hard to connect to another device and add links.
You might now say I use a lot of apps. Yes, I do…
As you can see now, Miro is not only for mind mapping, it is also for many other things, like project and task management. I only use it for Mind Mapping and Creative Research.
This now brings me to Notion. This is where I write my wikis, work instructions for my teams, or my clients. I suggest this especially if you have a team since you can write instructions. Notion allows you to add videos and short screen recordings. You cannot give people a wall of text that they should work from. I suggest giving them short videos, screen recording, or GIFs because they are easy to understand and explain short work steps. I love Notion.
I also use it for travel organizations or even plan out a whole year. The struggle I had with Notion is that it does not have offline access which is also an issue for other apps. So if you do not have internet connection, you cannot access your boards and all. I know Notion is working on an offline feature and I hope we see it soon. I don’t need to access all my notes offline, I just need access to some of them, like flight tickets, some information or to give instructions to taxi drivers. I don’t want to be limited by the Internet connection, and that’s why I really need offline access to these things.
Although this is not such a big thing for me. I use Miro on my desk while doing heavy research. Once I have concepts, I will bring it back to Notion. The good thing is Notion actually integrates with Miro perfectly. You can simply embed your mind maps and other things you have.So when I build up the structure inside Notion, I usually have a Miro map or something that relates to what I was working on there. I may be jumping back and forth here, but I hope you can follow me because it’s so important to understand that for Noteshelf or GoodNotes 5, there is no backlinking and no link that I could click on to take me to another software.
While using these apps, I learn pieces of information and go to Roam Research to write it down. I use Roam Research for general research. Compared to other apps, I can just add, for example, Miro, hashtags in Roam Research and it opens up if there is a page available. In other apps, I have to set the link manually.
I think this is what everybody likes about Roam Research. It is easy and indirect. It is like building up a second brain and there are connections between the different information you put there.
Again, talk about a single source of truth. If I start notetaking in Evernote, Notion, and in Roam Research, I think this won’t work out. You have to settle on one tool that you use.
● Task Management
It’s really my goal as your coach and in the Inner Circle membership to help you get the right set up for you. I’m figuring this out for myself as well, but I have a completely different use case compared to you. I’m an entrepreneur, have a business, and building up a team, but maybe you are working in a day job where you have to manage your own tasks. You don’t do you don’t care about project management? Maybe, but you need to be connected. You get all tasks in a different tool and manage this on your own. This is when we come to individual setups for you.
And now, we will talk about task management. When you’re in your day job and get tasks on a daily basis from different stakeholders, so they all have to be the highest priority, obviously, and they think, they can just throw tasks at you. But that cannot be because the task list is infinite and a calendar is finite. You really have to connect both. That was my goal when I was looking for a task manager. The best task manager for personal task management, in my opinion, is Todoist because it integrates with so many different apps, accessible via Web access, I can have it on all my different devices, and the integrations are native. One example is when I’m using Gmail, so if somebody writes me an email that I should follow up on, I could snooze this email and follow up later, but in Todoist, I can easily create a task out of it with one click of a button.
Todoist integrates into Gmail. All I need to do is click on Todoist, it will open up Gmail and take the subject, create a task out of it. From there, you can pick a due date. When the day comes, I get a notification on Todoist. All I do is click on the subject and the email opens that is related to this.
Todoist is really so timesaving. This is how I achieve inbox zero on a daily basis because everything is processed.
Another reason why Todoist is the best personal task manager, in my opinion, is the two-way integration with my Google calendar. It also works with Outlook calendar. What this means is that as soon I create a task with a due date and a time, it will make an event on my calendar. For many other task managers, you can set this up on automation software like Zapier and so on, but this is not as stable as in Todoist.
What do I do in the morning? I go to my calendar, not into my task manager. I see what I have to do in my calendar because I planned everything out already and blocked them. If your calendar is filled with meetings, you won’t have time to work on your tasks. You have to block your time on your calendar and to-do list. These two synchronizations will do this automatically.
The beauty is as soon as I drag around the task on my calendar and reorganize things, time management is done and it syncs back to Todoist. Even if I change the subject on my calendar, it will be changed in Todoist.
● Project Management
It’s a level higher and not many of you need this tool that I am using, which is Asana.
I’m actually a certified pro now by Asana because I’m such a big fan of this product. I implemented it in so many different teams already and saw success. Compared to other competitors, I think Asana is really the best all-in-one solution when you are building up a business because there are so many things that you can do on different levels, but it is really too complex to go into right now in this video.
I want to point out again, if you are a team manager and you’re looking for a task manager or a project management tool, don’t listen to the salesperson.
First, sit down and think about what needs to be done. Ask questions like:
❏ Do you need cross-function between different platforms?
❏ Write down your conventions, workflows, and what you have in place
Start looking for a tool that fulfills these requests.
Asana is really delivering a lot of different functionalities, but you might not need this and maybe Trello is enough for you. This is really something we need to keep in mind.
I know many people are using Asana for personal task management. In my opinion, Asana is not good for personal task management. You can use this with a team to get things done. It is not as easy and intuitive as using Todoist. For integrations, Asana has integration into Gmail, but it is really slow because it interrupts my creative process and my workflow. That’s why it’s called flow and it should not stutter. Then people ask me, why do you still use Asana then? I am saying it is awesome, but there is no all-in-one solution for the different parts of productivity out there. That might be something you have figured out already in this video. That’s why I split these into different categories and put different tools into different categories. Asana does an awesome job when it comes to team management, project management, and collaboration work. I think this is just awesome for the team and promotes teamwork.
For me, I want to stay organized and also give my team members the option to work on their own tools because that’s really when things become complicated. If you start to implement a new tool, everybody has to work in there, but people are used to working on a sheet of paper on a daily basis and write down the tasks there or use a Todoist, so you should find ways to integrate these. That’s why it is important to get a tool that is easy to integrate with other tools. Asana is one of these tools that can easily integrate with others.
● Workflow Automation
It is the fifth item of productivity. Workflow Automation makes working between different apps and workflow much more efficient and increases productivity.
There is one tool that I use between Asana and Todoist. It is called Pleexy and it is what I use to automate things. It does essentially the same thing as I talked about Google Calendar and synchronization. It has a two-way synchronization between Asana and Todoist. I can choose certain projects in Asana that I can send back to Todoist.
I only have one project in Todoist called Paperless Movement. Everything my team is working on is in Asana and everything will be synced back to Todoist. This means I know the tasks and deadlines, so only those will pop up in to the list and in my calendar. I also built up two-way synchronization between Google Calendar and Asana. That, for me, is really the missing piece to get everything together and work on a single source of truth.
I just want to mention two more things, which is how I do communication. I recommend Slack to all my clients as well. This is what I use for general chatting and brainstorming. Project and task-related discussions are done in Asana.
In Asana, for example, you can leave comments and talk to each other about the task. If anything happens, you have status updates for the whole project and others.
Maybe you’re wondering, what does Slack do? It is just a list of different channels and you can communicate there. This can be done via Skype or Hangouts. The reason why I’m using Slack is because it’s my notification center. You can use it to integrate with nearly any app that you can imagine.
Whenever I get a notice from my Paperless Movement membership or request via my support system or a sale or refund, the notifications I usually get inside my e-mail inbox, I can just bring into Slack’s different channels.
It is just easy to go there and I see exactly what happened during the day because all the information is sorted. I can build up the different layers of different sections and re-targeting the Information. There are different ways to do this, but Slack is really the communications center and it’s nice. I go there and talk to my team members about general stuff or things that don’t fit into any of the different projects.
One bonus I just want to mention is Snagit. I use it for short screen recordings, print screens, and explanations.
I know you can do print screens easily with Mac and Windows but Snagit has so much more to offer. It is the best screenshots tool that you can have because it opens up an editor and can add arrows for explanations.With I make a short screen recording, I just do two clicks then I have a gif animation, edit to my website, or Notion explanation. I can make a screen recording and upload it to Screencast, which is a service they offer like a Cloud, where they can upload these snippets and send it. If you have a question about how things this work, I usually make a short screen recording and send it.
This is the reason why I also recommend using Snagit if you’re doing a lot of explanation. There’s nothing worse than having a lot of back and forth to try and explain things. You can, call, do a video call, talk, or just do a video in Snagit.
In general, I’m using Gsuite and use different tools, such as GDoc and Gsheet.
Why do I use Gsheets, for example? Again, integration is key. I can use Gsheets and integrate it with so many other tools.
If you are struggling with your things and don’t know how to set up your system, but want to get it done properly, you have the option to reach out to me and get direct support by simply joining Inner Circle. You can set-up a call with me and talk about the struggles you’re going through. We will talk about what conventions you have in place and work on them. We also have a forum there. There’s a lot of great feedback from the Inner Circle members about others having problems. You can also have access to Productivity Guides, webinars, and online courses.
The most important thing for Inner Circle members is you have direct access to me because I am really keen on helping you get things done and setting up your own system.