Which Productivity Tool Should I Use?!

Let's get organized.

There are hundreds of good productivity tools out there and a million ways to implement them for GTD.

Wait, what is "GTD"? Getting Things Done by David Allen

Just read it. It's a bit touchy-feely sometimes, but the principles are solid.

Which Productivity Tool Should I Use?!

Our task today, to select a couple of tools to allow us to get our "house" in order.

Over the weekend I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what tools to use to increase efficiency in productivity. I'll tell you what I have been using in a moment, but for the moment, let me just define what the system would look like as we approach optimal implementation. (Keep in mind that we aren't optimal yet, as we are just starting):

Wish List for my GTD "System"

  • The system MUST be mobile.

  • I come up with ideas in the strangest places, so I need a way to record those things IMMEDIATELY. My system needs to be a ubiquitous part of my life.

  • I'll want to:

  • Take /tag Pictures

  • Jot Notes

  • Create Lists (with locale-specific contexts)

  • Retrieve Lists (at context-specific locales)

  • Take Voice Memos

  • I still need a paper system.

  • For some reason, I still "think" best on paper. I need a scratch pad, and I need it with me everywhere

  • I need to collaborate with my engineers / admin staff

  • Has to allow me to follow GTD for all my processes, both personal and professional

  • It has to be cheap or free

Wish list for the Getting Engineering Done (GED) System (After all, that's the purpose of the blog, isn't it!)

  • I need a way to track hours for myself and my team PER PROJECT

  • I need a FAST way to generate invoices and do simple cash forecasting

  • I need a way to communicate to my customers

  • I need a way to track communications as a function of a contractual record

  • I need a simple way to log and track bugs

There are a couple of points here worth mentioning. The DREAM tool would be one that resided (at least) on my mobile phone, and reminded me automatically when I am near a place where I need to perform a task, run an errand, etc. This is what I meant when I said "context" above. The point is to have a list that you can bring up for when you are in the office, or in town running errands, or shopping, or sitting on the train platform with nothing but your cell phone and a list of all the phone calls you need to make. Keep in mind that contexts are asynchronous, and we do them "as and when" we can. (You'd know this if you read GTD!) ;)

The best tool I have seen for this is the OmniFocus tool for Mac/iPhone by the Omnigroup. I have played with this, and it is really good, but I am firmly in the Windows/Android camp, partly because of necessity, and partly because of desire. Still, I am going to try to tweak the system to perform this kind of task for me as I get into it.

What Have I Been Using?

Over the last year or so, I have been using MS Onenote and Outlook to "do" my GTD. It works. When you are a single person. Not so good when you need to collaborate / delegate to a team of people. There are some EXCELLENT resources on the web to help you set up a pretty decent system with Outlook and Onenote if you are on your own.

However, I need to be able to communicate to my engineering teams on project priorities, next actions, etc., AND I need a place to serve as a "library" for all my project documentation where my team and my customer can see them.

GED Version 1.0

I have settled on using the following tools for this project.

  1. Project Management: Basecamp by 37Signals

  • It's simple, it's cheap, and it works.

  1. Personal List Management: Evernote

  • It's EVERYWHERE, and I love the contexts.

  • Though there will be some growing pains having transitioned from Onenote.

  1. Email: MS Outlook

  • Really I am locked into this by corporate IT policy, and I am looking at the Google Apps for business as a potential solution.

Now, it must be said that I DO pay for these tools, but you don't have to in order to get the system kicked-off. Basecamp has a free 5 project plan, and Evernote is a freemium tool that allows you to have nearly full functionality with a restricted upload and online storage limits in "free" mode.

Until next time!


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