Productivity tools – Spring 2013!

If you’ve done much research into productivity or success, you’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule which says that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. In other words, most of what we’re doing every day isn’t very valuable. I’ve been working on creating a more organized and productive life so that I can accomplish more of the things I want to get done. I want to see where my time is going so I can focus on the important things.

Since High School I’ve used planners to keep track of my homework and things I needed to get done. I even created and printed my own custom sheets because I wasn’t happy with the expensive offerings from office stores. Recently I’ve come up with these requirements:

  • Cross-platform – Web, Android, iOS. Desktop clients aren’t necessary if there’s a good web interface.
  • Multiple project management – I’m organizing multiple projects in my  life, not a single monolithic work project. I want to see an overview of all upcoming due deadlines.
  • Tasks I can check off!  It’s fun and just archiving a note isn’t quite doing it for me.
  • Reporting – What did I do this week?? Where did the day go?!
  • A modern, attractive, easy to use UI. Keep up with the times.
  • Time Tracking would be great, especially with a visual representation of my days and weeks. Billing would be a big plus (freemium feature?) as an entrepreneur, but since I’m applying this to my life and not just business life, it isn’t a deal-breaker.
  • Free or very affordable.

Evernote + The Secret Weapon (GTD)

Thanks to The Secret Weapon (TSW), I have a few hundred notes in Evernote semi-organized following TSW methodology. I really like Evernote for keeping track of all the ideas and to-do’s I have.
My problem is my notes are still too complex and begin to cover too many topics. I need to break them down to simpler individual things.

For something as widespread and mature as Evernote is, there are still some basic usage quirks that should have been fixed long ago, such as removing formatting that gets pasted in and differing formatting options on different platforms (desktop client, iOS, Android).
Seems like the company is spending their resources on other products (Evernote Hello, Evernote Food, etc) and promoting third-party services that work with Evernote rather than making sure Evernote is as good as it can be. This makes me a little concerned that when a competitor comes along and does a few more things right, I’m gonna have to migrate away.


I’ve been using Producteev a bit. I don’t have a lot of tasks in it yet but it seems to satisfy a lot of my requirements. It’s a Web app, on Android and on iPhone (no native iPad app yet). I can see an overview of all my workspaces (projects) and focus on just one project.

+ Nice interface
+ Free workspaces for up to 2 users each
– Expensive for Pro workspace – $20/month PER PRO WORKSPACE! Not an option for me, thanks.
– Reports limited to giving you an overview of what was done and what’s coming due.
~ Web interface a bit slow.


I still love Springpad but they moved away from being an Evernote competitor to be a Pinterest competitor. I mainly use it for bookmarking at this point. I tried using it for task and project mgmt but it just wasn’t quite doin it for me. It’s too much of a modular and visual system but with very simple notes, making it difficult to be a “notes” app like Evernote. Its now geared more towards bookmarking, organizing and sharing. Still one of my all-time favorite web apps.

+ Fantastic UI.
– UI can be a little sluggish, especially the browser extension/bookmarklet thing that pops open to take up 1/4 of my screen just to send something to springpad.
– I don’t need another Pinterest-like service.

Also on the radar:

+ Web, Android, iOS apps
+ Simple, fun and modern interface
– I’ve been having trouble filtering tasks. Astrid insists I have nothing due today despite the half-dozen tasks I set to be due today.
+ Great UI.
– Several features like Deals, Contacts and a Notebook which are probably attractive for a Sales or Advertising department, but not things I’m gonna use.
– More of a Team-oriented task management app, like Basecamp or Robohead.

+ Interesting long-term goal tracking
– Can’t find the advertised Time Tracking
~ OK UI, looks dated.

+ Introduced me to the Kanban concept, which I really like. It categorizes your tasks into “To do”, “Doing” and “Done” categories and allows you to visualize the work you are trying to do
– Limited to only seeing one project at a time

+ Time tracking!
~ Ok reports – bar graphs, pie charts..
– Tasks require $5/mo Pro account

+ Time tracking using blocks on a weekly calendar
+ At $20/license, it doesn’t get much cheaper

Pivotal Tracker
+ Looks like a combination of Agile + Kanban and that makes me nerdily excited.
+ Free for personal use
– Geared toward Software Development projects (Agile) so I’m not sure how I’d plug personal task tracking into it.
I haven’t tried yet but I like the simple look of it.

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2 thoughts on “Productivity tools – Spring 2013!

  1. Great Post, For Productivity I’d like to suggest one more tool for your list. ProofHub is a project management and online collaboration tool equipped with amazingly powerful productivity features. You can create projects to organize your writing efforts. For instance, you can create a project for the writing that you do for clients and a separate one for your personal writings. There are notes which you can use to jot down your content. Plus, there is an inbuilt calendar which you can use to create an editorial calendar. Apart from these, there are features like inbuilt chat, quickies, timesheets and third-party integrations make it a perfect tool that can help you increase productivity and keep your work-life on track.

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