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The right tool for the job

· 6 min read

A list of tools I'm currently using

To-do list - Things 3, Dropbox Paper

Task: Track what I’m doing (today, tomorrow, months from now)

I always recommend starting with a physical notebook. It is inherently the most flexible to-do list tool out there - great for when you’re just getting used to working with a to-do list. Plus, it comes with all the other benefits of a notebook. If this works for you, try out the Bullet Journal system (and then simplify it because it’s crazy overboard).

Having said that, I kept finding myself without my notebook at crucial moments, and the most important thing with a to-do list is that you always have it: you need to write everything down, and can’t afford to miss anything due.

Things is a great tool:

  • Clear UI
  • Spaces allow you to organize tasks sensibly
  • On all devices (synced)
  • Fast

However, whilst I do recommend Things:

  • it did take me quite a while to get used to it, and it still doesn’t feel amazing.
  • its price range may be prohibitive - try a free to-do tool and make sure a digital to-do solution works for you (Try Todoist)
  • it’s missing collaborative to-do lists

As I mentioned previously, I’ve recently started restricting myself to 10 things a day. Once I’ve chosen my ten things for today and tomorrow, I move them out of Things and into a Dropbox Paper document.

Things 3 → Todoist → Dropbox Paper → Bullet Journal →

Habit Tracking - Habitify Task: Track what I do every day

A to-do list should only be a place of “I-must-do things”, and if a habit is there, it means it MUST be done every day. That stressed me out. If I missed a single day, the to-do list would become cluttered, but I didn’t want to delete the habit and I didn’t want to leave them undone, either.

From Habitify’s interview with me

Habitify is pretty flexible and is very simple to use. Crucially, it lets you distinguish between failures and purposeful decisions to skip a day, and its progress tracker offers reasonably visualization of your productivity.

As with to-do lists, there are free alternatives out there - let me know if you find success with any! However, I’ve tried at least 4 others and Habitify was the first that stuck.

Habitify →

Goals - Dropbox Paper Task: Track what I want to achieve in the future

I have a Dropbox Paper document where I track my goals at a yearly and monthly level. I’m already setting goals for 2021. These goals inform the tasks I set in my habit tracker and to-do list.

Dropbox Paper includes to-do list functionality, including setting due dates, reminders, and assigning tasks to people.

Dropbox Paper →

Notes and writing - Dropbox Paper Task: Write things down

More generally, I also use Dropbox Paper for all my note-taking and document writing. I really love its user interface, which strips out all the unnecessary power features of Google Docs. It has great collaborative functionality. You can even reference other documents, creating a wiki-like interconnected set of documents.

Also, Evernote sucks. Do not use Evernote.

Dropbox Paper →

Progress - Google Sheets Task: Track and visualize data

Google Sheets is the ultimate data dump and dashboard. I use it to track all my health and exercise metrics.

If, for instance, you want to track your weight, you could reach for Apple Health or some Android equivalent. One year in you’ll probably realize that tracking this data doesn’t actually help you do anything with the data. Then you might try exporting data from the app, and realize it’s in a bloated XML format that’s incompatible with other software, and you can’t do anything with the data.

I suggest you make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets and put the data in there. You can actually leverage your data and gain insight from it - create various charts to visualize it more effectively and create moving averages to pick out trends in the data.

Google Sheets →

File Syncing and backup - Dropbox Task: Access your files everywhere

Dropbox is a really effective way of making sure you always have access to your files. If you’re going to pay for any of these tools, I recommend it be this.

A warning: I’ve had really bad experiences with iCloud - notably, pictures and files going missing and huge issues leaving the platform.

Dropbox →

Calendar - Apple Calendar, Google Calendar, Calendly Task: Track my schedule

I mostly use the default Apple Calendar - it does the job and it reliably syncs across my Apple devices. In addition, I use the calendar of my Gmail account as some services (such as Dropbox Paper) have calendar features that only work with Google Calendar.

In addition to Calendar, I find Calendly extremely useful. It provides a way for people to see your availability and even book time with you. It’s been extremely useful whilst looking for a job,

Calendly →

Email - Apple Mail Task: Emails

I’ve tried so many different email services and yet keep coming back to Apple’s default Mail application. The others have either:

Gone out of business

Failed critically

Had issues with account synchronization across devices

Poor search functionality

In the end, I gave up trying new email clients and stuck to Apple’s which is at least reliable. However, if you can recommend me one send it my way!

So that wraps up this list of my go-to tools. Let me know if you think there’s something I should try out!


Note: I have an iPhone and use Apple computers. Some of these services may not work (as well) on Android/Windows devices.


To-do list - Things, Dropbox Paper

Habit Tracking - Habitify

Goals - Dropbox paper

Notes and writing - Dropbox paper

Progress - Google Sheets

File syncing and backup - Dropbox

Calendar - Apple Calendar, Google Calendar, Calendly

Email - Apple Mail