2020 Tools Update

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It's been a long time since the last tools update. I try not to obsess too much about finding the best tools for my work.

I'm writing this post as much for myself as I'm doing it for you. Yes, my primary goal is sharing my workflow with others for the sake of inspiration, debate & shared wisdom. But writing things out in a single post is also a way for me to analyze the current setup and see it as a whole.

One common theme you'll see among my tools is simplicity. During the past 12 months I went on a crusade of decluttering and simplifying every single possible tool. I think that the true power of tools lies in the habits we associate with them, not in the features they have. So you won't find fancy automation, complex databases & 100s of apps here. You'll find a system that works very well without being overly complex.

Note: some of the links here may be affiliate links.

The Planner

The most basic, but at the same time the most crucial tool is my planner. It's a simple Moleskine hardcover ruled notebook. It's compact enough to carry it around with ease, but big enough to let me plan my day thoroughly. Every day has its own page. I divide my day into 30-minute blocks; my plan starts at 6am and ends at 8pm. This system is perfect for me, because there's one line for every 30 minutes. If I'm working on a task in that one block, then I'm going to work for 25 minutes and have a 5 minute break afterwards. It's stupidly simple yet incredibly effective.

My use of this planner is kind of inspired by the Bullet Journal, because I used that method for about 8 months. In the end, I realized that I need a system which is more centered around time. And there my planner was born.

I pair it with a simple LAMY logo ballpoint pen.

The Journal

My second main analog tool is my journal. For this, I use a Baronfig Confidant Plus. It's a simple yet beautiful hardcover notebook with amazing quality paper. Writing my daily journal in it is pure pleasure. I don't have a fancy system with prompts, scales etc. I just write a sentence or two about how I'm feeling in the morning, and fill out the rest of the page during the evening. This notebook is pretty huge, so I don't carry it around in my everyday backpack.

I write in it using my LAMY lx fountain pen. It's a very solid metal pen, but it's not crazy expensive. Writing with it is an absolute pleasure.

The Idea-books

At last, there are the many notebooks I call "idea-books". Basically, I have a few Moleskine plain journals in various sizes which I carry around with me all the time. I use them for taking notes, writing longer pieces, jotting down ideas on the go, and whatever else I need them for. They're unorganized and unstructured on purpose; they're an extensions of my brain.

Here is a set of my favorite ones with detachable pages.

Standard Notes

No matter how much I adore my analog notebooks, digital tools still have many advantages. While I moved a lot of my core "operations" to paper, I still stick to a few simple digital apps.

Standard Notes is my favorite note-taking app ever. It's simple, yet very reliable, and incredibly secure. Works on all platforms and is open source.

For me, the greatest power of this app lies in it's multiple editors. I write my notes in HTML, blog posts in Markdown, ideas in plain text, project task lists in the task editor & tables in the spreadsheets one. I organize my entire digital workflow inside of this app. It's the first productivity app that I've ever used that doesn't encourage me to procrastinate inside of it. Whenever I open SN, I immediately jump into work.

iA Writer

While I can write my longer texts in Standard Notes, I prefer writing them in iA Writer. It's a beautiful markdown writing app. Again, it follows simple design & UX principles; simplicity & usefulness. Writing in this app is an absolute breeze. It makes it so much easier to write.

Raindrop

While Standard Notes is my one-and-only app for my own stuff, Raindrop is the one for everybody else's stuff. I use it to collect articles, videos, podcasts, and basically everything else that can be saved as a link or as an image. One of the best things about Raindrop is that it distills the content and shows it in a nice preview. So, no ads on articles, and no recommended videos on a TED Talk.

Other Stuff

Here are a few other digital tools that I use every day:

  • ProtonMail - secure and encrypted email.
  • ProtonVPN - it's always nice to browse the Canadian Internet.
  • Basecamp - very opinionated project management tool. Their CTO is a well-known aggressive Tweeter calling out bullshit.
  • Ghost - WordPress's cool younger cousin. 8 times faster.
  • Carrd - simple one-page websites for all of us too lazy to code from the ground-up.
  • DigitalOcean - pretty damn good developer cloud for everything.
  • Whereby - video chatting simpler than Zoom. Oh, and they're Norwegian & care about privacy.
  • Simple Analytics simple, privacy-respecting analytics based in The Netherlands.

Ok, that's all for this train of nerdiness. Keep this in mind: tools don't matter, habits do.


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