How I Changed My Toolset

It’s not a secret that I get bored quickly.

Perhaps I never did outgrow that teenage trait after all.

And let’s face it, with our current interruption run society, it’s no wonder I have the attention span of a fish.

I also know I do my best work when I’m in a deeply absorbed state that is often referred to as being in the zone.

For some, that’s achieved with meditation. For others, it comes through vigorous exercise prior to a creative session. For yet others, it is music.

For me, the zone has the best chance of happening when I find a new toy and I get chance to use it in my otherwise routine work.

Take for instance, writing.

When my Galaxy Note 10 inch was the center of my world, I produced some of my best work while testing out new keyboards.

Oh, how I loved tinkering, and figuring out how to squeeze even more word count from my gadget of the week!

And when Scrivener hit my radar? Three books in four months. Yup.

Toys fire me up.

So, what am I changing?

Well, everything really.

No, I’m not moving house or changing where my work area is. That was last year.

I’m changing the key tools I use for project/task management, writing, and archiving.

I’m even considering venturing out onto Pinterest, Instagram and Periscope in lieu of good ol’ Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. But perhaps that will be next month.

But I’m not just fickle

There are good, solid reasons for me to make the switch. I mean REAL reasons beyond keeping myself entertained with new toys.

For instance, for project management, I’ve gone back and forth between Asana and Trello for years now, while every so often dipping into

Sometimes I would totally rebel, and stick to the Reminders app on my iPhone.

My switching around was borne out of need. For example, much as I enjoyed’s minimal, beautiful interface, grouping tasks into projects or even context wasn’t so straight forward, and caused much fiddling.

Asana is fantastic for teams, but just ended up confusing me with sections, subtasks and the inability to see across all workspaces.

Similarly, I love writing in Scrivener, but while it is possible to fiddle with it to get it to sync with mobile devices, there’s no equivalent iOS or Android application.

Evernote? Been using it for 6 years, but they recently changed some things I wasn’t too thrilled about. Emailing into Evernote became a premium feature, and I’m a cheap skate, and that was the push I needed to look for an alternative that has offline access to the archives.

All this to say that I had good reasons to go looking.

My new set up?

After spending best part of the summer tinkering and looking for new candidates to spend best part of my digital time with, I made three major changes.  Yes, a few minor ones as well, but that’s another blog post.

From Evernote to Microsoft OneNote

Yes, no one who knows me quite believes this one.

It’s been ages — ever since Outlook for Mac ate up 4 years worth of work email archives — that I swore off anything remotely related to Microsoft.

But here’s the thing: OneNote has this wonderful organizational setup, which includes notebooks, sections and pages.

And each notebook is exactly like a physical binder: sections and pages within the sections.  Onenote takes it a step further, so that you can even have sub-pages within the pages.

That’s FOUR levels, baby!


Plus you can write (and even draw on iPad) anywhere on the page, just like a real physical page.

Add to that the ability to easily tag and have everything available on all my devices even while offline is just too good to pass up.

From Scrivener to Ulysses


No. It’s a what. Ulysses, the gem that this very post is being written on as we speak, is the answer to my writing prayers.

One of my challenges was finding a writing tool with the organizational muscle of Scrivener, the markdown capability of Byword, and with the ability to sync and work across several devices.

Ulysses does that! And it keeps a live word count, goals and a folder structure!

Screenshot while writing this post!

Screenshot while writing this post!

Export capabilities are aplenty, but I won’t bore you with all the ins and outs. Suffice it to say that I can export to HTML for my blogs, plain or rich text for my emails, ePUB for Kindle and other self-publishing platforms, and PDF for normal people.

Amazing, right?

Yes, it is a paid app, but I’ll just challenge you to come up with an app that runs on the laptop, tablet and phone, syncs beautifully across, is available offline, keeps word count goals and progress towards it right there in front of you (I’m so competitive it’s sad really), and can be used to draft anything from emails to novels.

Ulysses is it.

From various task organizers to Handle

There’s the task list in Evernote, which, while you can create and manage within the context of a note, doesn’t do timed reminders or let you schedule them graphically.

Wait – Trello and Asana both do drag/drop on a calendar view to schedule, but calendar view is not available on the iOS version of both apps. And they’re not really properly available offline.

Enter Handle, a fabulous little big app that has the genius of putting Email, Calendar and Todo in the same place.


All three critical components of day-to-day productivity together.

On a single screen.


It is a thing beauty, and swiping gorgeousness.

Turn an email into a to-do, or tuck it away to read it later. Move a to-do to a later day by drag/drop action. Organize tasks into colour coded projects. View your calendar with your meetings and your to-dos.

The one thing that made this app an absolute winner (despite a couple of hiccups on the desktop version) is the concept of having a reminder and a due date.

The reminder reminds you to get started on the thing. The due date tells you, ahem, when it’s due.

It works beautifully, because it gives you the heads-up of a more rigid start/end date project management feature without the pain of a complex system.

Did I mention it runs on my iPhone and iPad, syncing seamlessly via Dropbox?

Only downside: only works with Gmail, so if you don’t have a Gmail account (what’s wrong with you???), then you’re out of luck.

Is my new toolset helping or hurting?

Ok, let me be honest.

I have been sidetracked, many a time in the past couple of weeks, looking up how to do something using my new toys.

So my productivity tanked before it started soaring.

Not just soaring, but soaring with pleasure.

Your Turn

Have you considered test driving a new tool, or are you saving it for New Year’s resolutions?

May be you’ve embraced Apple Music in lieu of Spotify (I did), or abandoned WordPress to go to Squarespace (I didn’t).

The point is, every so often, it’s good to change the digital sheets, so to speak, and give yourself a little jolt of newness to make the mundane interesting again.

So. What will you change?