Year 2020: Apps and Tools

This year has provided tremendous value and growth in honing my productivity. The growth is subjected to a few nominated apps that I rely on as part of my daily workflow.

I will break this article down to highlight:

  1. Note-taking apps
  2. Todo list apps
  3. Audio related apps

Note taking apps

  1. Notability – Notability is an excellent application for the iPad. In combination with the Apple Pencil, handwritten notes are easier to produce, which eliminates the use of a notebook and a pen. I find it encouraging to use this application whenever I’m importing a PDF document to review or signing various documents. During my initial phase of using this app, I was actively using it to write blog posts. However, during COVID-19, I resorted back to using my iPad to work on my writing and creating new graphic ideas that I could highlight in my newsletter. Another app to consider would be Goodnotes, I haven’t tested it much, but I can’t wait to try it out in the new year.
  2. Notion – A game-changer for my workflow. I actively use this app to manage my writing and creative process. The functionality and usefulness of this app has enlarged my outputs making it manageable to balance my creative process. Through various key applications within Notion, I have been able to experiment with different board views, creating additional pages within a category of topics, and assemble my scavenger list in a table list to manage various pillars of my life. I’ve previously done videos on using Notion as a beginner. You can check them out here. Certain inbuilt tools that I love to utilise are the ‘toggle’, which can wrap away large amounts of information. The ‘to-do checkbox’ provide that instant gratification when you have completed a task. Also, the ability to create innovative templates that play a key role in minimising setup time. This app has truly become a second brain, my capture hub to enhance my productivity.
  3. RoamResearch – An underdog but a recent addition, to the world of note-taking apps. RoamResearch is another note-taking app to my workflow, it’s my secondary component for value storage as part of the Zettelkasten Method. The advantage of creating bi-directional links to gather relevant information has been beneficial. I’m able to manage my value storage easily by assembling information on an author who has produced various works of literature or creating a tag system on a category of topics. It works well with my ‘snippet of value’ section when I’m composing my weekly newsletter called the Monday Madness.

Todo List Apps

  1. Todoist – I would consider this to be more than just a standard todo-ist app. An effective means to capture your tasks that are important but not urgent. A particular usefulness of this app is creating a project and within the assigned project creating a to-do list. This can be monitored with reminders which are sent to your email account.
  2. Draft – You could consider this as a note-taking app, however I prefer to use this as my go to “to-do list app”. I use this app to practice capture habit or managing a to-do list within the scope of the day. The use of the app with an Apple Watch is a productivity advantage. It allows you to dictate your ideas or capture notes whilst multitasking i.e. driving or running.

Audio related Apps

  1. Airr – This app has been a revelation in the making – a recent addition to my productivity arsenal. The functionality of this app presents a single advantage in the form of “snip quotes”. I can save intervals of 15, 30 or 45 second snippets whenever I’m listening to a podcast, which can be reviewed at a later time. The snippets are available in audio as well as being transcribed. The saved highlights can also be exported onto your personal note-taking platform if supported through readwise.
  2. Audible – An alternative to reading, I find listening to books on audible to be an effective use of my time whilst driving. I find myself listening to various fictions and autobiographies during my journey from and to work. An effective means of repurposing unproductive time. Audible also has the capability to “clip snippets of information”, which can be reviewed at a later time.

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Let me know in the comments below if I should be experimenting with any other apps in the coming year.


A Personal CRM for maintaining communication

I remembered as a kid growing up my folks had a light brown A3 notebook that they kept near the home telephone. And, as I vaguely recall my memory I remembered skimming through the pages to find a whole host of names with their telephone numbers beside it. When I questioned my folks, they stated that it was a contact list of their friends and people they liked to stay in touch with. Fast forward, I found myself in a similar position of fabricating a cloud-based CRM (contact relationship management), a method of maintaining communication with my network of friends and acquaintances.

Why do I want to design a Personal CRM?

While thinking about this, I reflected on whether using social media as an alternative. But, I wasn’t convinced since Facebook, to which I have been disconnected with for the longest time didn’t provide any meaningful value. Instagram doesn’t build on any real connections. Twitter, I am still trying to figure out, but it doesn’t fulfil what I truly want to achieve with the Personal CRM.

Hence, the purpose of the Personal CRM was to focus on the following three things:

  1. To grab a cup of coffee with any of the potential contacts that are visiting the city. 
  2. Staying connected with people I share similar interests – to build a better rapport. 
  3. Keeping track of the people I meet.

Coming across the following articles written by Khe Ry and Nat Eliason, provided the groundwork on how to establish a CRM system. Taking into account, the methods these guys proposed – I decided to use Notion to create a cloud-based CRM system that I can update as I went along. Now, an excellent thing about Notion – it has a default template on a ‘Personal CRM’. The template eluded on a few attributes that I have included in the revised version as highlighted in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Default Notion template

So, while updating the fields, I included the following:

  • How I met that person for the first time? This eliminates the initial awkward question ‘do you remember that time how we met?’
  • Interest – to narrow down the contacts with their particular interests. The reason for this in the possibility of catching up – it would be in my control to organise something that we both could enjoy.
  • Location – if the contact is in the same town and city – it allows me to meet with that person.
  • Personal Contact – I included this field for family and close friends. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with those distant cousins.
Figure 2: Personal CRM

By positioning myself to build my own ‘digital book of contacts’ and having a visible status that would automate a reminder whenever I need to reach out – I can make the necessary effort and not rely on a chance meeting. Overall, this is an initial draft template that would see a whole lot of changes as ‘my contact list’ expands. If you guys decide to pursue your personal CRM, I recommend checking out the posts from Khe Hy and Nat Eliason.

Scavenger’s List

Ever since being introduced to the concept of creating a secondary brain and the PARA method. I have created a database which is my ‘point of reference tool‘ for any potential ideas for my blog, newsletter or even Youtube Channel. I call this database the ‘Scavenger’s list’. It hosts a stream of articles, youtube videos, live streams notes that I’ve came across. The intention behind this method was to create a massive transitional database of ideas that I could reflect and use as a source of inspiration for my future work. To give you guys a snippet:

One of the tricks I’ve picked up more recently is using the Notion web clipper – it’s a Google chrome add-in extension, it allows a user to easily clip in any information they feel resonated with into their own assigned database.

The method of information hoarding can be a challenging task if done incorrectly. In past, I have tried the classic method of having multiple browser tabs opened up at any one time thinking ‘Right, this is some good stuff’. This was never an efficient way to store useful information. At one point in my life, I even had a text file containing useful links to all things I resonated with. You might be thinking ‘What an amateur?’ it was such a rookie move to make because I ended up losing all that information. Nonetheless, my current method of storing information has been quite effective and it allows me to reflect more often, especially whenever I am writing a blog post or my weekly newsletter. I have implemented this by creating a ‘relation formula’ and it looks something like this:

So while writing this post, the idea behind ‘Notes property’ is to provide access to my ‘Scavenger’s list’ database so, I can refer or link articles. I have realised there are limited frictions in this step-up which allows me to be a lot more productivity. Through this process, I have already been able to action new ideas into potential blog posts and newsletter. So, test it out and let me know your thoughts.

Photo by fran hogan on Unsplash

You should get Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

As a personal recommendation, if there’s one item that I like to endorse purchasing would be the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. I received this as a gift on Christmas of 2019 and I now use it religiously. By the way, this is not a sponsored video (I wish).

Reasons why you should get the headphones?

  • Nosie Cancelling

The technological advance of noise cancelling has been a game changer. I mean who wants to listen to whining babies or hear an overly loud individual chanting on your flight journey (speaking from experience). Bose 700 eliminates this with 11 levels of noise cancellation. It reduces background noise to a level where you can’t even hear the person in the opposite room.

  • Listening to Podcasts

On some weekends, I find myself occupying few hours of my time listening to the weekly podcast hosted by Tim FerrisGetting things Done or Not overthinking. Now, I have been practicing this as a means to systematize this habit – I head out to a coffee shop, put on my headphones, drinking my flat white and just immerse myself into the world of wisdom. And believe it or not, much of the book recommendations and articles that I write about in my blogs have come from such speakers. It is an expensive purchase but the ROI (Return on investment) outweighs that it many ways.

  • Listening to music while carrying out repetitive tasks

I find doing repetitive work and using my Bose 700 while listening to music to be an excellent combination. This results in tasks being carried out at a faster rate with fewer mistakes being made because listening to music triggers the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which makes you feel relaxed and happy. From my own experience, while I was carrying out my one-week work experience at North Manchester General Hospital shadowing a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. His practice of playing music (not while wearing his headphones) and performing surgery was a means to relieve stress to keep him relaxed, preventing his focus and performance to be compromised.

As a one-off investment and stealth look of Bose 700, I’ve found this to be a valuable item in my arsenal. So, check it out the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash.