My 2019 Productivity Setup


It’s been about two years since I became a tad obsessed with trying to be as efficient as possible. In those two years, I’ve done a lot of app jumping, and I’m finally settling into some apps I like.

I did a brief overview of some of the apps I was considering back in the spring, and it’s high time for an update.

If you’re interested in apps, getting stuff done, or general geekery, read on!

Task List App: Todoist

I think that Todoist is the productivity app that I’ve been using the longest.

It’s also the most important app in my daily workflow.

I try to put every single task I need to do in Todoist. If I don’t put it in Todoist, I try to do it immediately.

I’ve found that if neither of those things happens, the task is either A) not significant OR
B) not going to get done (and hopefully not necessary).

I’ve only been using the Todoist app in this way for 2 years (ever since reading Getting Things Done), but I can’t imagine life without Todoist.

I’ve tried a few other to-do apps – some with more features – but the thing that keeps Todoist at the top of the list for me is that it’s very easy to input stuff. Other apps have menus or buttons to categorize or schedule things, but Todoist allows me to sort, schedule, and prioritize a task while typing.

Todoist also integrates into lots of other services. You can email tasks to specific lists, so you don’t have to retype or copy and paste. You can set up an IFTTT filter to send specific emails to Todoist without ever needing to see them. You can setup IFTTT filters to copy lists from Alexa or Google Home to Todoist. You can add articles from an RSS feed or Youtube channel to Todoist. All without ever needing to type anything in manually.

Another advantage of Todoist is that it’s available on just about every platform. It has apps for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac. It does not have a Linux app, but the web app is great. I actually prefer the web app to the native Windows app.

For about the last year of using Todoist, I’ve been using their Todoist Premium subscription. I’m a strong believer in paying for apps (or services) you use, since the alternative is monetization by ads. Ad monetization means more intrusive data collection, so I’m fine with paying for useful apps. Todoist does have a great free tier, though, that was more than adequate. The premium service includes Reminders, Filters and Labels, which let you further categorize tasks. These are great features, but not essential to get lots of value out of the unpaid version of Todoist.

If you’re interested in trying Todoist, the free plan is great! If you think you may want to try Todoist Premium, use my link and we'll both get 2 free months!

Planning/Writing App: Notion

Although Notion is a relatively new app, it’s one that’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

I mentioned Notion briefly awhile ago, and I was trying to decide between it and Microsoft’s (also excellent) OneNote for general writing and planning. While there are still things I very much like about OneNote, I’m currently using Notion much more regularly.

The main reason is that Notion offers a nice balance of flexibility and structure in the web app. So a page can be almost anything, but aN easy-to-use grid system keeps things from overlapping or getting too messy (like they can in OneNote).

The mobile app is a bit more limited in terms of structure, but still quite easy to use for lots of things. On the other hand, the OneNote Android app has repeatedly crashed my Chromebook. Not just a mild “app shuts down” crash, either. Trying to use OneNote causes the Chromebook to reboot after less than 60 seconds.

I could always use the OneNote web app, of course, but the Android app is pretty good, and its stylus-handwriting experience is much better than the web version. Until Google decides to fix the bug (the issue appears to be in ChromeOS) OneNote is a non-starter.

This is a shame because there are only two things that I currently wish Notion had, that OneNote does quite well: an API for external access and handwriting support. The API would make it possible to send or clip web pages to Notion easily (like OneNote or Evernote both do), and I’ve been more interested in trying to write more stuff by hand (but still digitally) as I find it a bit easier to hand write for specific topics (lessons and journaling, mainly).

Right now, though, Notion does most of what I want/need it to do, and it works without issue on all of my devices. Whenever Google finally fixes their issue, I may be putting some things back in OneNote, but right now Notion is the clear winner for me.

Notion has a free tier that allows 1,000 blocks. This was plenty for me until I started using Notion full-time in November. They also have a paid plan with unlimited blocks (and other features), if you decide to go that route. If you use my link we’ll both get a $10 credit, so you can try out pro features!

Other Apps

These aren’t the only two apps that I use regularly. I also have quite a few other apps that I use in my day-to-day life:

  • Google Calendar: Essential for keeping my sometimes-crazy schedule straight
  • InoReader: I subscribe to lots of RSS feeds instead of constantly checking websites for news or updates. This way I can scroll through the new posts for dozens of sites in under 5 minutes and quickly mark the things that I’m interested in reading. I either read them in InoReader or…
  • Pocket: Makes it easy to save some articles for later and catch up whenever I can, whether or not I have a data connection (read: orchestra pits).
  • Toggl: A relatively new addition, but I try to keep track of various work and personal tasks so I can keep track of where my time goes when I’m working. Being online it’s quite easy to lose track of time and not accomplish much, and I find having this record makes it easy to keep myself on task.

There are other apps that I use daily but not so much productivity-focused (LastPass (seriously everyone needs a password manager), Pocket Casts (one of many great podcast players), and YNAB (an excellent app for budgeting and tracking money)), but the above comprise most of my day-to-day work needs.

If you’re finding that time or tasks are getting away from you, I encourage you to try some of the apps I’ve listed. They all have very respectable free tiers or trial periods, so there’s no reason that you would need to pay for them unless you find them useful (or need additional features).

If you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know in the comments below, and have a great productive start to 2019!


About Colin Dorman

Colin is a freelance horn player and teacher, as well as a fan of tech of all sorts, aviation, and increasingly complex flight simulators. He also enjoys beer, bourbon and fitness - but not at the same time. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, as well as right here at ColinDorman.com!