2021 – The Tools I Use to Get Stuff Done

I’ve been obsessed with productivity for over a decade. The obsession started after I purchased my first Mac, the 2006 Black MacBook.

Below is the current list of hardware and software that help me manage my life. What works for me may not work for you, but hopefully it will provide a few ideas as to how to create or improve your own.

Hardware

  • iPhone 12: My first iPhone was the 4S back in 2011. I was a Verizon Wireless customer at the time so this was the first iPhone I could even purchase. I came from the Blackberry Storm 2, so the experience was obviously mind-blowing. When Apple announced the iPhone 12 lineup, I knew I would be upgrading my XR. The iPhone 12 brings back all the nostalgia of my 4S. The phone is beautiful, powerful and I always have it with me.
  • iPad Mini 4: I’ve been a small iPad guy since I upgraded my original iPad to the iPad Mini 2 in 2013. The size of the iPad Mini suits all the tasks I throw at it from browsing the web to watching Netflix and YouTube.
  • 13″ MacBook Pro (2016): I’ve been using this machine from around the time it was first released. Originally, I was extremely excited for the innovative design (including the keyboard), but quickly realized along with many others that this new keyboard was very flawed. Luckly Apple decided to extend the keyboard warranty on this model, and I was able to get it replaced last year. It also got a few other new parts including a new main board and battery making it a new machine. I’m looking forward to what Apple has in store for the MacBook Pro line in 2021. If that rumored 14″ model is released, I see a guaranteed upgrade in my future.

Working from home for a majority of 2020 provided me with time to look at all the paid applications and subscriptions I was currently using. I decided to see if I could reduce the amount of money I was spending and find free alternatives that would handle my requirements. I was successful with this cost saving exercise.

Communication

  • Readdle Spark: Between my personal, family, small business, and enterprise accounts, I look after ten different email boxes. Spark has been my choice of email client for the last few years. The addition of support for Microsoft 365 MFA has allowed me to make it my only email client (only using Outlook for limited tasks).
  • Apple Calendar: I was an avid Fantastical user for years, but late last year I decided to reduce the number of paid subscriptions I had and move back to default and/or free apps where I could. Apple Calendar has proven to be more than capable of handling my scheduling and sharing needs.
  • Apple Contacts: I’ve been using the contacts app on my Mac since I moved to the platform in 2006. I haven’t found a compelling reason to move to anything else yet.
  • Apple Messages: Most (if not all) of my family and friends are primarily using Apple iPhones. Using Messages just makes the most sense at this point to easily stay connected with them. That is until I can start to convince them to move to something “more secure” like Signal or Telegram.

Productivity

  • Apple Notes: I was a diehard Evernote user for years. I’ve also tried a sizable number of other notes apps from OneNote to Agenda. Keeping in line with my goal to reduce paid subscriptions, I decided to give Apple Notes another try last year. With the addition of folders and individual notes sharing the product has proven to be exactly what I need to keep track of my digital notes. Hears to hoping that folder sharing and support for Markdown are on the horizon.
  • Apple Reminders: Most recently I was using Cultured Code’s Things to keep track of my tasks. Cultured Code hasn’t moved Things to a subscription-based model (yet), but in keeping with the theme of reducing my reliance on paid apps and subscriptions I started using Reminders last year. Reminders has proven to be what I need with just enough features. I’m sure Apple will continue to improve the app, but I’m satisfied for now.
  • Apple iCloud Drive: I’ve used Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and others, but as of last year I decided to move all my files to iCloud Drive. I pay for the 2TB plan as part of the new Apple One Family option. iCloud Drive has proven itself to have the features that I need right now. As with all their other services, I’m sure that Apple will continue to add features and make the service more reliable.

Reading

  • YouVersion Bible: I’ve been using the YouVersion Bible app since 2010. This application has helped me stick with a reading plan each year since. That’s right – I’ve read the Bible cover to cover for the past 10 years. January 1st marked my start of year eleven. I’m excited to see what God wants to teach and how he wants to use me this year.
  • Kindle Paperwhite: I’ve had this device for a few years now, but I started to use it a lot more towards the end of last year. I had a real love of reading when I was younger, but technology (and laziness) took that from me. I’m now back to reading a book or two a month and have that love once again.

Entertainment

  • Apple Podcasts: Some might say that I have a podcast addiction. I’m currently subscribed to thirty podcasts and I do my best to keep up with them on a weekly basis. Tech, Pens, Leadership, Cloud, and Christianity make up most of my interests right now.
  • Apple Music: It seems like everyone I know is still on the Spotify bandwagon. I used to have an account myself. I moved to Apple Music shortly after launch and have not looked back. It has the features I need and more importantly the music that I want to listen to. It also works out cheaper by combining services via Apple One.

Social & Sharing

My wife and I watched Netflix’s Social Dilemma towards the end of 2020. I’ve worked in the information technology sector for the past 20 years, so I wasn’t surprised by much that of what was presented. The documentary did however make me rethink how I was using social media. As of now the accounts below still exist, but I make no guarantees that they won’t be deleted in the future.

  • Twitter: I’ve decided to use Twitter for what I would call business and career purposes going forward. I primarily follow technologists in the cloud computing space.
  • Instagram: I’ve decided that I will only follow people that I know in real life and a few brands that interest me. I post infrequently, but you’re likely to see photos of my lifted F-150.
  • Facebook: I’ve cleared down my “friends” list to mostly family and friends that I still associate with in real life. If we knew each other in high school or college and haven’t talked since then there is a good chance you didn’t make the cut (sorry).

If you want to discuss any of these apps or suggest alternatives, post a comment below.

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