Welcome to Part 2 of “To All the Productivity Tools I’ve Loved Before” if you missed Part 1 you can read it here. We’re continuing this week on my journey to a more balanced relationship with productivity. I tried a lot of tools over the years and figured out what works for me and could maybe help you too.

Let’s take a look at the tools I’ve tried, and how it turned out.

Productivity Approach #3: Evernote + iPad


What it is:
Evernote is a note-taking app that can be used to save meeting notes, share documents, and manage tasks.

What it promises: Evernote promised that you can easily save everything to Evernote and then find it easily, syncing between multiple devices so that you always have access to the information you need.

How I used it: With my iPad, as I was looking to replace my notebook for taking notes..

How long our relationship lasted: 3 years, between 2015-2018.

At first, I really liked Evernote—by using it with my iPad it felt like a great alternative to using a notebook to keep track of things. However, over time I slowly stopped using the iPad and my use of Evernote also took a dive.

Why we broke up: Eventually, I came to resent Evernote. I was only using it for things that needed to be shared, and I would have much preferred to use Google Docs for that purpose. My company at the time wasn’t a Google shop, however, and so I stuck with Evernote.

Evernote also just didn’t do everything I wanted—it wasn’t great for managing reminders or keeping track of tasks. As I added more documents to my notes, the desktop app began to run slowly and lose track of things. I didn’t want yet another app running on my laptop, sucking up valuable disk space and memory.

#thankyounext: When it comes to relationships, sometimes you just know when it’s not a match. Evernote just wasn’t the solution for me. 🤷

Productivity Approach #4: GTD + Trello

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

What it is: Getting Things Done (GTD) is a time management method, developed by productivity consultant, David Allen. The main principle of GTD is to externally record your tasks and projects and then break them down into actionable steps.

What it promises: GTD claims it will “bring order to chaos” and will redefine how you approach your work and life.

How I used it: I used the GTD method with a Trello board to quickly and effectively triage large tasks and figure out the actions that needed to be taken.

How long our relationship lasted: 1 year.

I began using GTD and Trello when I first started managing a team. It was a great way to get into the habit of effectively delegating tasks. I’m not entirely sure I can claim that GTD failed me, but my implementation of it didn’t work out.

Why we broke up: Combining GTD with Trello just didn’t work for me. Either I just wasn’t looking at that Trello tab, or I got sucked into over-organizing my various kanban boards. I found things got out of date or out of control pretty quickly. I found it more useful to map out high-level plans rather than manage my day-to-day because I had to constantly keep the Trello tab open. I needed Trello to be where I worked, I did not work in Trello.

#thankyounext: GTD helped me figure out an effective way to manage and delegate tasks but the delivery method was not working. I needed a simpler way to institute GTD where It would integrate seamlessly into my day.

Productivity Approach #5: Keeping it Simple

A look at how I work

After my many ups and downs with various productivity tools and methods, I’ve at last found my own Sandy Mangat Method😀… I’ve embraced simplicity.

What it is: For me, work is different every single day, but my overall priorities remain largely consistent. I’ve developed a system that meets my needs.

What it promises: A simple approach that integrates into my workflows and doesn’t require endless maintenance.

How I used it: I document a high-level plan for all my work using a Google Sheet or an Airtable base, and then I use Google Task, Keep, Shift, and Charli AI to stay organized from day-to-day.

For daily tasks and notes, I use the tools readily available to me through Google. Tools like Google Task and Keep help me manage my weekly to-do list, 1:1 meeting agendas, and general notes right from my inbox.

  • For Google Task, I embrace my #keepitsimple mindset by maintaining only three to-do lists: This week, next week, and Misc/Personal Reminders. I keep my task list description under 10 words. This avoids things ballooning outside of my control.
  • Google Keep helps me stay on track with meeting agenda items and tracking projects that are currently outsourced. I add in notes for upcoming meetings, staying on top of everything as I go.
  • Shift helps me keep my work in one window as much as possible by combining my inbox with Google Drive, Google Calendar, and even some of my most used apps like Slack and Airtable.
  • Charli AI helps keep me organized. From my inbox or desktop, I send all of my documents (like invoices, receipts, PDFs, Word docs, etc.) to Charli and Charli uses AI to smartly store them in the right Google Drive folder. Charli will also create new folders if the right ones don’t exist. When I need to retrieve the document (or a bunch of documents, like all my receipts from 2020), I simply ask Charli for it and Charli will provide me with a link to where it’s stored in my Google Drive—saving me the hassle of retrieving it myself. The process is seamless and easy, making it simple to stay the course.

Why it’s working this time: The method I’ve found for myself means that everything is easily accessible in my inbox—which, let’s be real, is where I spend more time than I’d like. Everything is simple, and I don’t need to spend hours maintaining this system. This is super important—I want a productivity system to help me find more time in my day, not eat it up. I want technology to work for me, and not the other way around.

At the moment, work is very fast-paced, things change daily and there are so many things to keep up with. This simple system is keeping me on track and I’m ready to commit for the long-term. 😍

The Takeaway

 

There are a thousand and one tools, methodologies and systems out there promising to save you time and make you more productive. Having tested more than my fair share, here’s what I can tell you:

  • It’s important to recognize when a productivity tool is no longer working for you. Just because it used to fit your work life, doesn’t mean it always will. As your role shifts, your systems may need to also.
  • Simplicity is critical for me… I don’t want to create more work about work.
  • Finding tools that integrate into your everyday workflow is a gamechanger. For me, I spend most of my time in my inbox—I tend to lose track of tools that aren’t easily plugged in.
  • The flashy tool everyone’s raving about? These may not be better than built-in or free tools. I’ve found that Google Tasks & Keep do everything I need.

For me, it’s important to have tools that learn about me and fit into my workflows. I don’t want to be burdened with learning new tools and figuring out how to adapt them to my process.

Because here’s the thing: what really matters is not the relationships you build with productivity apps, but the ones you share with your friends, your family and yourself. My simple approach helps make space in my life to focus on the things that matter.