One of the things that has made me scratch my head too much over the past 3-4 months is discovering what productivity tools work for my needs now, not the way I did things 5-10 years ago. I believe that many of you will understand the struggles I went through to get the tech stack that I am now using.
What tools will I chose to use for my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system?
My hardware setup is Apple-centric:
- 2021 — M1 MacBook Air
- 2018 – iPad Pro w/keyboard
- 2022 — iPhone 12 SE
- 2011 — Lenovo ThinkPad 230 X/T. It has features that I find important:
- fantastic keyboard
- flip a switch and the Internet disappears
- there is just enough friction to getting things done that I sometimes need
Figuring Out What Works
Since January 2022, I have used numerous apps that are supposed to enhance our productivity. Some did, but for most it was all about figuring out how they fit into my world, which at times was frustrating and not the direction I was going.
I found myself moving away from Google’s tech silo. Dealing with creating the correct question to find what I was looking for or interpreting obliquely written answers to my FAQ’s regarding their apps has gotten tedious. This ongoing headache has become something I am no longer willing to do. Yes, this is how Google has defined their customer service for years.
I’ve changed and Google hasn’t.
My preference is to talk/text/chat with a person, who can answer questions or at least commiserate with the difficulties I am experiencing.
I will keep my legacy Google account, but I do see the others going away during 2022.
What directions did I end up going?
Email – I tried several options and it came down to preferring Apple’s Mail app. I push any incoming email from all my various email accounts to Apple Mail. If I am on my Windows machine, I open iCloud’s web page. Although I am in the process of looking closer at Titan email from WordPress to see how that works too.
Browser – I like Safari’s interface and do 90% of everything there. The other 10% is done in Chrome. As the months went by, I stopped using Chrome except when I had to. There are a few browsers that I want to try in future (Brave, Firefox, and Vivaldi) to replace Chrome as the across operating systems browser.
Calendar – I finally found a note-taking app that works with Apple Calendar and since I am deeply embedded into the Apple ecosystem, it makes things simpler and less cumbersome. Although not using Google Calendar might limit potential app choices in the future.
Blogging – I love Blogger and always will. However, it seems to be yet another app in the Google portfolio that is tracking towards oblivion or irrelevance. I also don’t see a lot of effort by other companies to incorporate Blogger into their apps, which makes it even less relevant. As a result of my recent change of perspective towards Google and suggestions from people I think highly of — I went back to WordPress.com. While it wasn’t what I expected or wanted to do. It was what needed to be done.
Office suite (Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation) – For basic word processing I am using IA Writer and Craft, they work well together. I did go back to Apple’s Numbers since my spreadsheet needs are basic. Though if I needed more power Airtable looked interesting. For presentation, I will use Apple Keynote. There is always Microsoft’s Office lurking in the background if I need it, I have a paid subscription that I have to maintain and it sits there waiting to be used.
Note-taking app – This is where I didn’t find a solution that worked for me until last week. I kept going back and forth between these five (Evernote, Mem.ai, Logseq, Obsidian, and Reflect Notes) multiple times in hopes that I had missed something that would make them the app I was looking for.
Mem.ai and Reflect Notes were darn close, but still have too many rough Beta stage edges that I didn’t want to deal with at this point and time. I want to use an app and not have to wait for it to grow into what I thought it could be.
Even though I had downloaded and tried Craft.do a couple of times, I didn’t use it for any length of time until I watched a YouTube video series last week. After that video series, I could see how it checked off nearly all the boxes of what I wanted from my notes app.
What’s missing for me? The graph view and being able to forward email to it. Other than those two, in the short time I have used it, everything else works. Enough that I have subscribed to it for the next year. I am sure that there will be a post or two on how it is working for me in the future.
Read-it Later – I found that Instapaper, Pocket and even Readwise apps aren’t useful to me. I pop articles in and never get back to reading or making notes from what I captured. Which defeats the purpose of having those apps. I prefer to use my note-taking app’s inbox to store an article or put a link to it in my daily notes page. I am more likely to look at it again and do the notes that I want to make on the article there. Without these apps, I am much more selective about what I highlight or save.
To-do apps – Apps like Apple Reminders, Todoist, Things, Google Tasks and all the rest are too compartmentalized from the rest of my workflow. I find that putting a task into my calendar or into the daily note section based on calendar views – like Craft or Reflect Notes use, is a better solution for me.
What I Learned
That there is the one constant in the world today – change. Apps will continue to improve, and we probably will use different ones in the future than what we are using now. When I look at the apps I use now, versus 10 years ago and the differences are quite amazing.
The more I use Craft the more I am liking it and it is becoming my daily productivity hub. Especially the daily journal that is attached to a calendar. For me this method keeping track of things works better than traditional task managers I have used in the past.
Finding the tech stack, I am currently using has been a grand adventure and I have learned a lot about my own peculiarities and what is available to use now.
I also know that the developers are working on apps that I can only dream about now. It will be fun to try out more than a few of them.
But now I need to get to work and do more writing than experimenting with apps and workflows. I have dallied, errr procrastinated long enough on not being productive. It is time to get beyond writing about them and start using these productivity tools to be productive.
Apple really does suck you into their ecosystem, doesn’t it? The seamless connection between my phone and laptop is just irreplaceable. Would love to switch to the M1 soon though.
And when it comes to note-taking-cum-organisation, nothing beats Notion for me. That app is a freaking powerhouse. Anyway, thanks for sharing your flow!
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I have the M1 MacBookAir and love it so far. The only thing I am not crazy about is the charging ports because that’s all there are. The ease of use between the three is great. I tried Notion and found that I was working too much on improving the app itself and not enough on other stuff. Which is my problem, not Notion’s. It does amazing things and has a great community, but I just got too far into the weeds with it too easily. 🙂
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