Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Andre Burnett | Addiction to productivity apps

Published:Friday | July 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Andre Burnett
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Some people just find something that works for them and stick with it; others want to be on the cutting edge of whatever the industry standard is.

After being in business for about a year, I realised something peculiar - I had become addicted to productivity apps. Every week, I would discover the new best app ever for communication or task management or whatever.

A combination of my belief that things can always be better and the fact that my partners and I run multiple businesses with many remote assets had caused me to be on the prowl constantly for a new app or technique. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but working on being productive can get in the way of actual work.

What I've discovered along the way is that apps, like any tool, are pretty much as effective as your personality or your circumstances will allow. Sometimes you might just need a monkey wrench instead of an Acme Bionic Grip Wrench that can adjust to 13 different sizes. Jamaica is home to an ever-growing community of young creative entrepreneurs who value their time as much as they value money, so let me save you some time and money because I excitedly subscribe to everything to get the full experience first by sharing my experiences with a few platforms in a paragraph or so.

Slack

Instant messaging apps are an essential part of our day-to-day lives and many people use WhatsApp and Telegram to create groups for work processes. The downsides to this range from somebody closing a chat and having no record of the previous conversations to sending a NSFW video to the work group instead of their friend.

Slack is essentially a messaging app where your team can stay in touch from your phone or computer. Where it differentiates itself from WhatsApp and Telegram is the ability to add 'integrations' to Slack.

It is possible to run you entire project management from Slack, but I find that it's a bit overwhelming for most people to utilise all of its features all at once. I use Slack to keep communication regarding our many projects separate, track different versions of artwork or videos, and as a repository of our project information.

We've also integrated our project management software, Trello, into Slack which means that our team doesn't have to leave Slack to find out that deadlines or scopes have changed.

Most importantly, since we started using Slack, internal emails have been cut by about 85 per cent, so we can treat email as a means of official communication between us and the clients. Nothing overwhelms a creative like seeing 85 unread emails with most of them reading, 'Noted' or 'Will revert'.

I'll go into more details about Slack in a subsequent post but you can, of course, try the free version, which doesn't afford you the ability to voice call, but you can integrate Skype and have at it.

Trello

Currently, we're utilising two different project management platforms but leaning towards Trello. The other, Wrike, is pretty expensive but it is extremely robust. The problem with Wrike is that it's not very user-friendly, especially if you don't have certification in project management.

My friend Adam swears by Wrike, but we've found that Trello's user-friendliness and attractiveness is definitive in overcoming user-adoption issues. Trello separates jobs or projects into 'cards', which can simply be moved from one state to the other, for example, when a task moves from 'on hold' to 'under way' it is simply a matter of dragging and dropping, which saves time and actually gives you a sense of accomplishment because things are actually moving.

Wrike and others have this same card or tile feature, but none are as intuitive as Trello.

The other big plus for Trello is that it is a lot like Slack, with the ability to add integrations and other applications. This granular approach actually saves on the cost side as you really only pay for what you want to use, instead of paying a huge sum for features you don't use.

Dropbox Paper

Let's start off by saying, Dropbox Paper is amazing. I am not a huge fan of Dropbox itself, because that service has always been just a little too hard to use at times. Something that shouldn't really be a headache, like sharing permissions, can get annoying with Dropbox.

That being said, Dropbox Paper is the most intuitive and attractive note-taking app available and I use Google Keep and Evernote quite a bit. Or should I say, I used to use them quite a bit.

Dropbox Paper is a pretty powerful app because it allows you to sync your calendar, assign to-dos, comment, proofread, and much more, in a very attractive interface. Just like the two apps, you find that you can use some of the functionalities or you can use all of them. Whatever the case is, the result is usually good.

Currently, I use Paper to create meeting agendas, briefs and just to generally collect my thoughts. The result of any of these uses is that I can share the document with anyone and I can know when they open it, what comments they make, and what they've added.

The only drawback I've found is that the Microsoft Suite integration is not as seamless as it is with Google Drive, but then again Google Drive simply isn't as intuitive as Paper.

Evernote Moleskin notebook

Yes, it is weird that I'm including a notebook in an app post, but I find that an idea flourishes best outside of the confines of specific keystrokes and commands, so notebooks are still essential to wading through the muck before you get to a great idea.

This notebook has pages specifically designed to be synced to your Evernote so you can scan the pages and create notes. You can even use the page markers to automatically categorise your captures to the notebooks you want.

How many times have I actually done this? Honestly, probably only a few, but just the idea of knowing that I can share my rough work easily makes me use my notebook a lot more.

I'll delve into more detail when I can, but until then, try something new or make what you're using work a little better.

- Andre Burnett, founder of Muse 360 Integrated and co-founder of Bluedot Media Limited, would like to officially petition for an extension of weekends.

dre@museinspires.com