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6 Tools That I Use to Manage My Work

Omnifocus

Everything in my workflow inevitably finds its way to Omnifocus. It’s my secret weapon. In addition to the baked-in features that allow you to track to-do items based on context (i.e. home, work) and projects, Omnifocus offers plugins that allow you to add items to it through a browser plugin, or through your email client. Here’s how I use it:

  • Email: If something enters my email inbox, and I can’t reply to it immediately, I right click and “Send to Omnifocus.” This allows me to archive the email in my inbox, and set a date for when I should definitively respond to the item. The email then appears in Omnifocus as its Subject Line, with a link in the notes that opens the email in my inbox.
  • Browser: We’ve all had a browser tab problem at one time or another. I’ve solved this problem, in part, by using Omnifocus. If something’s in my browser and is important enough to warrant a to-do item, I click on the Omnifocus plugin, set a date when I want to come back to the website, and hit Save.

In addition to these two primary uses, I do a few other things in Omnifocus to keep me honest, including:

  • Thank You: I have a weekly recurring item that encourages me to send a “thank you” to someone who I appreciate.
  • Divergent Thought: I have another weekly recurring item to reach out to someone (from a large list that I’ve built) to see if they’re available to grab a coffee in the next week.
  • Write: T,W,Th of every week, I have an item reminding me to write.
  • Hustle: Every weekday, I have an item that reminds me to push some business or otherwise new endeavor forward.
  • Updates: At the end of the work week on Friday, I have a note to send a group of relevant individuals updates on what I did during the week.

Airmail

My chosen email client. I use Airmail to centralize my email inboxes, and also to keep track of the day-to-day things that I need to do. This one is a little less in-depth than Omnifocus, because I actually employ the Inbox Zero strategy that you can read all about over here.

Evernote

Over the years I’ve come to define a creative process that works well for me, and Evernote is an integral part of that process. In short, my process is:

  • Divergence, or Hunting
  • Narrowing
  • Action

Evernote fits really well into the divergence phase, where (in part) I need to collect information from multiple disparate sources. Evernote allows me to take pictures of my notes and make them text-searchable with OCR. It also gives me the ability to save other pictures, voice notes, websites, text notes, music, and any other form of media into buckets.

My buckets are defined, loosely, by the general directions I’m hunting in. If I’m working on a new hardware badge, it might get a bucket that begins to collect other related (or seemingly unrelated) things I notice on the Internet, hurried voice notes after a thought occurs to me, or anything else. Once the bucket gains direction, I begin to shift out of Evernote and into something like Basecamp (which you can read all about how to use here).

Pinboard

Pinboard is a pretty simple tool, so this won’t take too long. Honestly, to fight my hoarding tendencies, I use Pinboard to save websites and other information I might want to (but rarely ever do) come back to. It’s a way to get things off of my mind and off of my browser to clear mind space up for other things, but while also satisfying that little part of me that wants to hold onto everything.

Instapaper

I love Instapaper! In contrast to Pinboard, where I stash things that I suspect I’m holding onto for no good reason, Instapaper is where I save articles, journal pieces, short stories, and longer-form media that I’m interested in reading. I’ve built in a habit where every night, before going to bed, I flip through my Instapaper reads and make sure (after reading it) to either archive the piece, send to Omnifocus for some action item, or send to Evernote to inform a project that I’m working on..

Reeder

Most people don’t use RSS readers any more, but I think they’re still relevant and important tools for those of us seeking to exit the echo chamber of “news that bubbles up” through social media. Reeder is my app of choice, and I read it once in the morning, and once after work to catch up on possible relevant news. In Reeder, I’ve organized my news thusly:

  • Business
  • Design
  • Family
  • Games
  • Hacking
  • Higher Ed
  • Making
  • Outdoors
  • Politics
  • Science
  • Technology

And for those interested, some of my favorite places for news are:


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

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