I’m sharing with you today my toolkit for focused work. This isn’t for a typical workday, because those include lots of meetings, teaching and other appointments. Consider it a window 🪟 into my deep work toolkit, for days when I have time to focus. I hope you’ll find elements that work for you too.
9am. Trello. Check on individual and team projects.
Trello provides a simple overview of my various projects. I check it to remind myself of deadlines and commitments coming up as I decide on today’s priorities.
🌳 Read more of my thoughts on how Trello can help you organize projects
9:15am. Sorted. Plan out my day. Block out task time.
Sorted helps me plan out the hours of my day. I type in some tasks I want to work on, with time estimates. Sorted then shows me a schedule I can use for the day. It has access to my calendar, so it includes appointments in the plan. Bonus feature: things often take longer than planned, so I can pull up Sorted mid-day to auto-adjust as the day progresses. I use iOS and MacOS versions. No Android, Windows or Web versions yet.
🌞 Here’s more on the tools I rely on for a good morning.
9:30am. Notion. Create a resource collection.
Let’s say I’m mapping out next year’s curriculum for a program I run. Notion makes it easy to put information and ideas into neat tables that can be easily sorted, reordered and filtered. They look good. They’re easy to make. And each row of a Notion table can be opened up into a complete document of its own. Unlike Airtable, another tool I like, Notion docs can include a mix of regular paragraph text and tables. And unlike Google Docs, a Notion page can included embedded images, videos and slides.
10:30am Wakeout. Exercise without equipment.
This is the best little fitness app I’ve encountered. It uses gifs to show how to do stretches and exercises with no equipment and no special skill. I use it for three-minute stretch breaks or short, intense home or office workouts. Works on iOS, Mac, and Apple Watch. It’s $5/month. If you can’t afford it, email firstname.lastname@example.org and they may offer you a free year.
11am Coda. Make a handout.
I often use Coda when others will interact with and add to my document, and when I want the mobile version to look good. Coda has a great way of separating documents into sections, and its interaction buttons are unique.
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1pm Roam. Review and add to my notes.
I have a bag full of old paper notebooks from years past. I’m trying to keep notes more streamlined these days with Roam. Rather than a hierarchical or folder-based system, Roam gives me a simple blank daily canvas for notes. I use Roam as a brain drawer — a repository for thoughts, ideas and notes I want to return to and develop.
Unlike Evernote, Roam lets me add tags to individual bullet points, quotes or thoughts. That makes it easy to scan all my notes on any topic later. The software automatically creates a page for each tag with all relevant notes embedded. Since there are no folders or notebooks, I don’t have to worry about where to file things.
I still have old reference notes in Evernote, but I confess that I now use it mostly for organizing recipes.
📓 Here’s my post with a deeper dive into how and why I use Roam.
2pm Pitch.com. Craft a presentation.
I use lots of tools for making slides, just as cooks use distinct pots, pans and appliances to make different kinds of meals. Sometimes I use Beautiful.ai, when I’ve got lots of numbers to show, charts, diagrams or other kinds of special visuals. I use Google Slides when I want to embed interactions from Pear Deck or Slido. And I use Apple’s Keynote when I have to design or present fully offline. I like Pitch for its terrific templates and because it’s great for collaboration.
Here’s more on the best new tools for creating slide decks.
3pm Calm. Breath. Meditate.
I alternate between Calm and Headspace to step out of the rush of city life. I sometimes rely on these to help fall asleep too. To learn more about mindfulness I use an app called Healthy Minds.
Here’s more on the suite of apps and tools I use for mental wellness.
4pm Craft.do. Make a list to share.
5pm Day One. Reflect on the day.
My handwritten journals were a mess. So a few years ago I switched to digital. Day One is simple and reliable for journaling on my phone or laptop. I pull in photos from my phone. I like that I can order a printed version of my journal. And that I can record my thoughts in audio form.
For other peeks into my workflow, here’s my toolkit for brainstorming, teaching, and de-stressing.
Why so many tools? 🧰
It may seem odd to use so many tools. I like a toolbox 🔧 analogy. It wouldn’t make sense to use a screwdriver 🪛 for every home repair, or a hammer. Each tool is useful in a particular context.
Given how much time we spend using digital tools, it seems sensible to develop a personal toolkit with multiple specialty tools that save time and make it easier to do high-quality work. Hopefully this newsletter can help with that.