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My preferred apps 2020
These apps made my life simpler in 2020.
In March, when Switzerland had its CVOID lockdown, and my work came to an abrupt halt, I started an experiment. Would it be possible for me to only work on my iPad. I always like the thought of not switching back and forth between my Notebook and my iPad. I also loved how well the iPad and iPhone are playing together.
I decided that I was not allowed to use my MacBook for fourteen days. No matter what will happen. The first few days were an absolute pain. You have to rethink the way you are working. After fourteen days, I had a refined workflow of how I get through the day with my iPad. It took me another twenty days until I opened my MacBook and boy it felt clunky.
Once the lockdown was over, I invested into a new 12.9'' iPad Pro (with cellular), a Logitech K380 keyboard and the new Apple pencil. Since then, I do not miss the MacBook at all, and I enjoy working only on my iPad. Everything is just instant (no startup time, no lagging, no fans, no delays), I can take it anywhere and work, plus the battery life is amazing.
I know this will not work for everyone, but for me, mostly doing boss stuff (mails, video calls, design reviews, messaging etc.) the iPad became my ultimate workhorse. I only switch back to my MacBook if I have to do heavy file management, prototyping or spreadsheets. These things are still a pain on the iPad.
Switching to iPad also influenced which Apps I am using in my daily workflow. I know how high the costs of switching tools are. But for me, trying out new Apps, playing around with tools and figuring out what works and what not is a big passion in my life. I know that I drive people crazy constantly changing what tools I am working with. I still could not stop doing it.
I want to share a few Apps I love and share how and why I am using them. I am skipping over the tools that we use at work (Office 365, Miro, Slack, Figma etc.). I am only sharing the personal tools I use all the time.
My calendar is my foundation when it comes to effectiveness and productivity. Until it is in my calendar and assigned an hour, all the things I want to achieve are just a list of wishful thinking. Scheduling forces me to confront the reality of how much time I have and how long something will take. Fantastical is a fantastic piece of software. They are also one of the only third-party calendar apps that integrate well with MS Teams and Office 365.
Woven is my runner up. If you are using Google Calendar, I would probably keep with Woven. Until they get their Office 365 integration sorted I will stick with Fantastical.
If you look at the price tag, the number of features and that you can only capture but not mange content on the iPhone you will probably skip past this app. This year I tried a lot of different ways to spend fewer times with tools and more time with work. Notion, we get to that, is one of the best tools out there, but capturing a few ideas, jotting down some thoughts always takes forever. I am a big fan of the Getting-Things-Done approach. To make GTD work, you need to reduce friction at any point. I have never seen any application that has that much intention in any aspect of its design. Anything that pops into mind is captured in the Muse inbox (they thought this one through), and then I will sort it out later. Working with Muse is the only application I know where you completely forget about that you are using a tool. It is seamless and invisible.
mymind is a new app designed by Tobias Van Schenider and team. You share anything you want into the app (quotes, tweets, videos, images, PDFs). There is no tagging, no labelling, no folders. mymind is doing all of that in the background for you. With comprehensive search functionality, you can find these things again. It feels a bit like magic. I use mymind to dump anything in there, that I might want to remember at a later point.
If you are not using Notion, I suggest you start using Notion. I covered how I structure Notion in a former post. Muse and mymind are tools for my thoughts. Cluttered, messy and personal. Notion on the other hand contains only well-structured content, curated, organized and to be shared with others. I used it for knowledge sharing, project planning, manuals and structured notes. You won't find many tools that are so versatile and as powerful as Notion. It can easily replace your task manager, your notetaking app and your project planner. I am using Notion since day one, and I am not sure how I would work without it.
Yes, I am still using Evernote. It is my filing cabinet for invoices, receipts, guarantees, tax documents, contract copies etc. All boring stuff but things I need to keep for the end of time. You might ask yourself why I am not using Notion for that. There are two things where Evernote is still unbeatable. Whatever you upload becomes searchable. I can take a picture of an IKEA receipt, and I will always be able to find it via search two years later.
Furthermore, you can export documents in bulk based on search. There is no other tool I found that can do that. So when February 2021 comes around, and I have to do my taxes, I will go to Evernote, select the tags "2020" and "taxes" and say export all. That's it. All my tax-relevant documents ready to send off. Until I find another tool that can do that I am sticking with useful old Evernote.
When it comes to mail apps, I have tried them all (not Superhuman - I am not getting enough mail for that). I love Missive and the Outlook app, but Spark has a few things that make it work for me. First of all, your Email Settings sync across all your devices. If I change something on my iPhone, it will also be the same on my iPad. Missive does the same, Outlook is missing this feature. Unlike Missive, Spark integrates perfectly into O365, making it is to accept invites and manage folder structures.
Furthermore, it has a smart and powerful search functionality. I don't believe in mail folders - therefore search must work. Lastly, it comes with some handy additional functions like templates, smart inbox and one of the best multi-account and alias management I have seen in an App. If you decide using it, I would have a look at the privacy notice.
Sanebox is the only web-based service on this list. Their powerful AI filters unimportant email out of your inbox. By default, all distractions go to SaneLater, but you can further categorize them with optional folders. They also make it easy to not receiving individual emails anymore. You can also pause your inbox and get your mails delivered in batches, so you are not getting disturbed during the day. Sanebox has a bunch more to offer. Inbox zero is my usual state, and Sandbox makes it happen. I must save at least twenty to forty minutes per week. Just that is worth the price. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your inbox, you might want to give Sanebox a try.
So this is my tool roundup for 2020. If you would like to learn more about these tools or my workflow, you can comment in the thread. If you have other questions on other devices or apps, I am using, or you want to pick my brain on other existing digital products, I am happy to share my thoughts.