The Best Productivity Apps in 2021 | What I use for staying INSANELY productiveJun 15, 2021
I don't know a single person who wouldn't say that they're not busy.
So it's not really a surprise that lots of people are chasing that elusive goal of becoming a master of productivity, allowing them to get a tonne of things done, in the fastest possible time without it affecting the quality of their work.
It's why the likes of Matt D'avela have seemingly shot to YouTube fame as the productivity master, and even some tech YouTubers like Ali Abdaal are now seemingly coined as a productivity genius. So, here is my take on how I stay productive by using a number of certain Apps which I wanted to talk about in this video.
First up - hi my name is Pete, and since selling my IT Business back in early 2020, I make videos about tech, business stuff, and finance, and I would really appreciate it if you headed over to my YouTube channel, found the subscribe button and subscribed for videos - because this is basically my job now... haha!
When it comes to productivity, what experience do I have exactly?
Well, firstly I ran my own business for the last decade, employed 16 people, and managed the everyday finances, legal, customers, HR, and all of the things that come with running your own business. That was a challenge in itself, as every business owner will know.
Since selling that business, I'm now involved in 3 businesses, and my to-do list each week is just growing and growing, but I'm now achieving more work every week than I ever did before whilst technically working less than I ever did before.
Every week, I script, research, and shoot at least 2 YouTube videos for my YouTube channel.
I also script, shoot and edit 1 video for either my other YouTube channel more for my IT Business audience or if it's not a video for myself, it's a video for one of the 2 companies for which I also produce videos.
I also script, shoot and upload around 6 or 7 videos per week to my IT Coaching Course which you can see at NotABusinessCoach.com, and along with those 6 or 7 videos, I also try to upload one or two things to that course as well. Whether that's a legal document, marketing, or some other template, but that's my aim for each week.
On Thursday I coach, and I have 6, 1 hour-long phone calls with my coaching clients that day.
On Friday I take other phone calls and meetings, catch up on my accounts and other emails and have a few calls with the Video Marketing business that we're building.
Weekends are always family time.
Oh, and amongst all of that, did I mention that I have time to head to the gym every morning, plus take 2 half days off per week, so I basically work a 4 day week! Plus now have time for 2 coaches who I've recently signed up with to help work on other areas of my business.
THAT is a heck of a lot of stuff to deal with.
So in this post, I'm going to run through 7 of the best things which I use to help me achieve all of that good stuff.
APP 1# FANTASTICAL
OK so these are in no particular order, but the first tool that I use to stay insanely productive is the one that helps me organise my life - and that is Fantastical - which is an Apple Only product. It's actually one of the reasons I struggle to switch to Android in my recent series of Lifelong iPhone user switches to Android videos because there just isn't anything else like it that I've come across.
Fantastical is a subscription, it does cost me $40 per year, but the fact I haven't found anything else to compare it to yet even when I'm willing to spend money on it just shows how good this app is.
I have multiple accounts from anything from Gmail to Microsoft 365, Apple iCloud, and my ToDo app which I'll get to in a moment, and Fantastical has a really great way of bringing all of this information together.
So at its heart, it's just a really great way to bring all of my calendars together in one view so I don't need to jump between say Outlook and then Google Calendar to see if I can do something at a certain date or time.
It also integrates with my ToDo app, so rather than having a separate app open, I can see and check off tasks from that here as well.
In terms of creating appointments, Fantastical has a really great natural language system where you can just hit the + button and type what you want to do, when and with who, and even which calendar to put it in, and it will place it in the right place. I really love that as it saves you hunting around and clicking, dragging, and all that stuff.
Fantastical also integrates really nicely with everything from Google Meet, MS Teams, Zoom, and all the other usual suspects. So you can just check a box and turn a calendar invite into a video conference. Really handy!
Lastly, you can also see that I colour code my calendar, so you can see my YouTube work is one colour, Coaching another, Personal another colour, Video Agency another - it just means I can glance at today and know what I'm generally up to each day. Love it.
Like I said this app does cost $40 per year or $4.99 per month, but it really, really is worth it to me - and more!
APP 2# ToDoist
The second app that I use to enhance my productivity and beast through my tasks, is my Task Manager app - which is ToDoist, which as I mentioned before integrates really nicely with Fantastical.
This works in very much the same way when it comes to the natural language. If I have something that I need to do on a certain date then I can just fire up the ToDoist App, click the plus button, and type in what I need to do and when, and with the way I have my default view set up, I won't see it again until I need to worry about it on that date.
It even works for recurring tasks, so if I need to do the same thing every month, like pay myself, then it will automatically create a to-do item every month that I check off every month.
The other great thing is that you can share access to your tasks, which I have shared with my Virtual Assistant and so if I have something that I need to get done, but I don't have the interest or time to do it myself, then I can just add it to the ToDo list that my assistant works through, and I know it'll get taken care of. Again that works with recurring tasks as well, since many of the tasks I delegate do need doing on a regular basis. So that can be really powerful.
ToDoist also has card views where you move cards along if you want to view it that way, but I just like to keep it simple and have a checklist of things to do.
APP 3# ZAPIER
There's also one other thing that ToDoist 'ToDoes' for me, and that is by Integrating with Zapier which is kind of the third App that I want to talk about in this post.
Zapier is basically a service you sign up to online which works in an If this happens then do this' way.
So if something happens over here in this system, then do this in this other different system over here. With Zapier and ToDoist working together, I can automatically create tasks when certain things happen.
When my Video Editor, another thing I've outsourced, uploads a video for review, it automatically adds a task to my ToDo list.
Or when there is an invoice I need to pay, it again goes onto my ToDo's - with the proper date set for the date that it's due to be paid. And that uses Zapier to pull the information out from my online accounts system, Xero, and pushes it through to ToDoist.
Zapier starts from free, and gives you some basic functionality which may be plenty to get you going - but again, this is one that I've paid for because I value the time that it saves me having to do each of these things manually. Specifically for me, I'm really forgetful - or rather I'm not forgetful, but I've got so many things going on that I just couldn't survive by relying on my brain - I need something to organise me. And between Fantastical, ToDoist, and Zapier all working together so far, these do a pretty damn good job at it.
APP 4# CALENDLY
The next one on the list for me is a brief mention for Calendly, which is a meeting booking app - and I just HAVE to use this because where I have so little time in the working day, and I have so many things on the go with YouTube, the Coaching, the Video Business that if anyone needs to book some time with me it pretty much becomes a logistical nightmare.
Like Fantastical, Calendly will integrate with all of my calendars. My Apple Family Calendar, Google and Microsoft 365 calendars, so if anybody wants to book something with me, it will only show times available across ALL of those calendars.
So the way I started setting up my Calendly App for Max productiveness, was by first setting a fairly high-level theme for each day.
Mondays and Tuesdays are Scripting and Shooting Videos.
Wednesday is creating Content for my Coaching Business
Thursday are Coaching Calls
Friday is kind of anything else
Gym in the mornings, and half days on Wednesday and Fridays.
First up, I set my default availability to run from 9.30am to about 4pm, so I have time for the Gym in the morning and I don't book something that starts at 5pm and takes me to working quite late in the day.
Then I totally block off my half days so nothing can be booked at all. Then I actually create calendars for each specific task.
So I have a Calendar page for my Bi-Weekly Coaching Sessions. So when someone signs up as a coaching client, then get sent this link where they can pick a time that suits them. This one ONLY shows time on Thursdays and ONLY in my specific slots that I've picked for coaching. This means I get a nicely paced out day and with time for lunch - so that works really well!
Then I have one for people who want my time, and I actually started charging for this one because I got inundated with requests to help with this or get my thoughts on that - so with Calendly, I paid up for their Pro subscription which means I can take card payments via Stripe directly when people book appointments. The first person who booked a call with me when I first signed up to this basically paid for more than the yearly subscription cost me, so that was a great return on investment right there.
It has calmed down a little in terms of how many people book, but that's also kind of by design because I essentially just kept upping the price until people stopped booking. Because if it was too low then I'd get busy again. So it's kind of nice to be able to control the rate of pay for calls that come through by doing this, even though that probably sounds a bit mean because I really do want to help as many people as I can, but I also need to look after me. I've already been in the position of working all hours under the sun in my last business, so I know what I want to avoid this time around.
Anyway, with that calendar, I only have my time as available on that Friday morning slot which I reserve for the kind of, anything goes. So if it gets booked up with paid-for calls, well at least it's earning me money for that morning.
Then I also have a few calendars set there for the video agency and youtube inquiries and such.
All of this, calendly, fantastical, and all of my time management that I do pretty much boils down to Parkinson’s law. Which, if you don’t know this by name, you will likely have experienced it for yourself.
Parkinson’s law states that work expands so as to fill up the time available for its completion. This basically means, that any task you set will take as much time, if not more, than the time you allocate to it. So to keep my productivity high, I purposely don’t schedule in that much time. I mean, half a day per week to work on one business. A day and a bit to work on another. Before I was spending 5 days, long days, running just one business!
So yeah if you're trying to get hold of your schedule, and perhaps are getting inundated with meeting requests constantly, maybe give that whole Calendly with a credit card payment thing a go to see how that works out for you?
APP #5 NOTION
Touching briefly on how I stay productive around specifically creating my Video Content let's briefly stop in for 2 tools that I use.
Notion is first, and I use this to plan and organise my videos and it's basically a clever table database kinda thing.
I have one for my YouTube videos where I can plan the topics, script the videos, do research on the titles and tags as well as plan their release dates.
I can also track who is editing them and what stage each of the videos is in so when I hit those days where I'm making videos, I just open this up. Find the videos which are ready to shoot, or ready to script and get to work without much procrastinating.
I also have a similar one for my IT Coaching Videos, but rather than posting them and disappearing, I'm using this to help put the videos into some kind of order or series, as well as keep track of the attachments, the value, and again the stage of each video so I know on Wednesday afternoons I can just fire this up, scan through the list to find videos that need making still, script a few of them out and then film them and upload on the same day
I only use the free version of notion for all of this, so for once, this is one that you don't have to buy!
APP #6 ECAMM LIVE
In terms of filming those videos for my IT Coaching, let's talk about eCamm Live - because I have been using this Mac-only Live Streaming app to basically create 6 to 7 videos on the fly, without any editing whatsoever. I can spend a few hours scripting videos within Notion, then turn around and throw the scripts up in front of me - hit a few buttons and walk away with all of those videos, pretty much ready to upload unless I want to fix any minor mistakes.
Rather than live streaming, I just switch eCamm to record locally only, and then I use my Streamdeck to trigger an Intro / Outro as well as my Atem Mini Pro which switches the camera angle sometimes just to switch up the video to keep it interesting.
But eCamm has been amazing as before this I tried sending each of the videos to a video editor, but the time that it takes to go back and review the videos, make comments when it was just quicker for me to re-record and upload using eCamm - it just saves me a heap of time here.
In terms of other things that really enhance my productivity, there are a few things that aren't Apps - but are so very much an important part of the process, and first I want to start off with the hardware that I use because those definitely are a reason for why my productivity is where it's at right now.
That firmly sits in the Apple Ecosystem right now - though, with that, said, I am currently seeing what it's like to switch to Android because actually, Android CAN do a lot that Apple can't. But right now, my world is very much Apple because what I need works right out of the box with Apple.
So I'm rocking the max spec Apple M1 Mac Mini, which even max spec is still only something like £1,500 - and this is the main machine I use when sat at my desk each day.
When I want to be more portable then it's the M1 Macbook Air and this is the higher-spec of the base model, so still 16Gb of Memory but only has 512Gb of storage, and this was about £1,200.
Then I also use my trusty iPhone 11 Pro Max, yes I haven't upgraded to the iPhone 12 as for the first time in quite a while I saw no reason to upgrade, thus my recent interest in switching to Android.
Then I also have the Apple Watch, again the old gen 5 version because I saw no reason to upgrade to the 6.
The most recent purchase has been the new Apple M1 iPad Pro, mainly so that I can take notes and draw on the screen whilst filming videos for my coaching business. This seems overkill, but it will just help me scale things and keep my videos interesting when they are mostly shot live and I don't have time to edit like my videos are.
Only a really small thing, but on top of this iPad I've got the Paperlike screen protector which basically makes the screen feel more like actual paper when using this mainly to write on. And that's from someone who never ever bothers with screen protectors on any of my devices - so that's a first for me!
One thing I always think of when I'm buying something seemingly expensive like these Apple devices is not can I afford it - but is what can I do with this thing that will make it pay for itself.
I did that with my first Apple iMac, which I bought and then designed a few websites which then paid for the Mac, and it's something I think about whenever I make what is seen to be an expensive purchase. Because if you can take something that on the face of it seems expensive, but actually it could return that value and more, then it's a sound investment in my eyes.
I apply that to almost everything, as you've seen in this post. It seems silly to spend $12 per month on Calendly, but I need to book just 1 paid-for meeting and that pays for the whole year's subscription. That's a good return on investment.
ToDoist - $3 per month. But that $3 is nothing compared to the hours of time I would have to otherwise spend on checking my accounts system for who needs paying. Or remembering to check my video edits, then getting behind because I didn't notice one or forgot about it. So it's well worth that small investment.
Just think about what seemingly might be an expensive purchase. Because if it can save you time, or money elsewhere down the line then wouldn't we all make that same purchase again and again if we could repeat the results?
Anyway, I digress slightly! haha.
The last bit of hardware which I want to talk about when it comes to productivity is the beast of a screen, which is a Samsung G9 49" Curved Ultrawide screen, and this thing is incredible from a productivity point of view because I can fit so much stuff on there.
At any time I can have a web browser with about 15 tabs open, Spotify for music, Slack AND teams for chatting with my colleagues, iMessages, my calendar, my ToDo app, file browser, and Notion all open at the same time, and quickly jump between scripting videos, answering messages, researching something in Chrome, checking off tasks on my ToDos when they pop up through the day and keeping an eye on what I need to do next on my calendar - it is SUCH a good thing again if we go back to talking about how spending money on something seemingly expensive when it can improve your quality of life - then this is one of those 'well worth it' purchases.
Lastly, the final thing I wanted to talk about how I hack my productivity or explain how I'm so insanely productive, as the youtube world would probably like me to call this video - is by outsourcing what I can, when I can.
My chosen place so far has been to use a company called TimeEtc, because through them I've found a reliable Virtual Assistant who picks up all sorts of administrative things from me every day, so they get done without me even knowing it. You can use this link to try their services for free.
Tasks like turning my videos into blog posts on either of my 2 websites, checking Google Search Console to see which pages are getting views and then working on those pages to make them better each month, checking my emails, scheduling appointments for me, scheduling some social media posts, light accountancy bits and so much other stuff that I could go on.
But any time I'm doing a task and realise that it's a time suck, particularly if it's something that needs doing regularly, or something I don't particularly enjoy, or repetitive, then I ask my VA to do it, and she does brilliantly.
This is something I wish I did much earlier on in my business journey because I have to say that outsourcing from pretty much day 1 has just made it so much easier to scale everything that I'm doing.
You do need to get used to delegating and letting go of things that will probably not be done to your own level of standards, but if you don't let go of these relatively small things when looking at the big picture, then you will never be able to grow and scale as you otherwise could if you did outsource.
A great book to read on this topic is the 4-hour workweek by Tim Ferris and that's actually what spurred me on to outsource very early on this time of building a business.
So, that is it for me in my very first productivity type of post! A bit of a departure from the regularly scheduled Tech, but it's basically a giant tech review post that reviewed about 7 things at once, so - there you have it!
Don't forget to go watch the video for this post and like it if you did, subscribe if you aren't already, hit the bell icon and you'll be notified when new videos get posted, and I look forward to seeing you in the next video.
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