The Importance of an Organized Workflow and the Right Tools

I am constantly fine tuning my work flow. I have sometimes been asked why I use a Macbook Pro as my primary computer. Workflow is one of the primary reasons why I enjoy the Mac so much. Apple simply does it better than anyone else when it comes to integration. My three tools of choice are:

Macbook Pro for my main work

iPad while out and about, or Simply Brainstorming

iPhone for communications

While I have experimented with tools and workflow, I have found that keeping it simple is the most important thing part of being successful and organized. There are a number of components to my workflow:

Communication

For communication with my clients I use a variety of tools, from Whatsapp and iMessenger on my iPhone, to Mac OS Mail on my Mac. I tried Microsofts Outlook for the Mac, but found it to be much too limited for my use. My Mac Mail is heavily customized for productivity. My main mail add-ons come from a wonderful developer called Indev, they have two great products call Mail Act On, and Mail Tags, which have become indispensable for me. I use a couple of other mail tools as well, like Attachment Tamer which allows me to open attachments that are normally not supported on the Mac. I prefer Mail as my primary communications tool, but in a pinch one of the messenger applications are fine. The strength of instant messaging comes when immediate communication is necessary. Many of my clients use iPhones, but Whatsapp gives me the flexibility of communicating with people on other platforms, including Blacberry, which many business people in Latin America still use. Though I doubt the longterm viability of the Blackberry Platform, this is a bit of interesting news. Blackberry should have licensed all or part of its OS a long time ago.

For conferencing or video conferencing, I use Apple’s Facetime or Skype. Skype is my preference because it offers a whole variety of features including international phone numbers. It also offers file transfer, texting, and simple voice calling, FREE if the other party also has Skype. I have also found that Skype works a bit better on 3G than FaceTime, and this comes in handy when calling from my iPhone.

Cloud Based Services

My Dropbox
Apples iCloud is awesome in and off itself, but my Cloud Service of choice is DROPBOX. It integrates with Mac OS, and Windows, is powerful yet easy to use, and works with ALL my devices, including my iPhone and iPad. I often use Dropbox as a Project Management tool, sharing files with my clients. They also have Dropbox for Business, which has some additional features. Sharing is so easy, your Grandma can do it! If you are interested, please use my link to sign up, I will get some free space as a result. A big part of being a Business Consultant is Document Management. As you can see from the Screenshot above. I use Dropbox as my primary Documents folder. But the cloud is for more than document management. A person who’s time is his most valuable asset, must be organized. I have three favorite applications that I use, to keep myself on track.

Productivity Applications
Productivity Apps I use the stock applications of Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Contacts for most of my productivity applications. They all sync with iCloud to provide across device availability, and they are well integrated into Mac OS. When working with fellow Mac and iOS users, I can share reminders and set up shared groups of contacts, notes etc. This brings a close to Exchange like experience, at no real extra cost. I recently finished the first phase of a project with Activa Solutions in Honduras. The Activa principles were both Mac/iOS users, and we had an opportunity to create some incredible workflows using stock Mac OS X, and Dropbox. My favorite Task Manager is an incredible little program called Things. Using Things for the Mac and the iPad, is the closest I have come to the functionality of my old Franklin Dayplanner.

Things for iPad

Things for iPad

You can use it like the old Franklin Planner, or with the more modern GTD system. In my consulting business, I have a lot of scheduled events, but find that Task Management, especially staying focussed in my biggest challenge. Things helps me stay focussed, while Apples Reminders program works well in assighning task to people who use the Apple ecosystem. Things is somewhat integrated with Apple’s Reminders, but not to the degree I would like. So for now, I use both applications, which is not optimal.

Documents

The Ubiquitous Microsoft Office

The Ubiquitous Microsoft Office

Lets face it, Google Docs sucks. And anyone who works with large corporate customers knows the ONLY SAFE choice is Microsoft Office. Try using Google Docs and see how your formatting gets scrambled. Anyone over 25 years old has grown up with Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and despite Microsoft’s improvements, Using the office suite is second nature.
My Novel in Edit Mode in Google Docs

My Novel in Edit Mode in Google Docs

My personal preference is Apple’s incredible iWork Suite. In many ways it is more powerful than MS office, without all the bloat. iWork also works seamlessly with Apple’s iCloud and there are powerful iOS versions for your iPhone (Though the small screen is not ideal for editing), and the iPad (Now we are talking! Even though iWork documents can easily be saved as MS Office Documents, there are still occasional glitches in formatting. With a cost of about $100 for the non Outlook version (Save your money on Outlook, it is junk mail (Pun intended), Microsoft Office is worth the money if you do Business Documents.

Some Other Cool Apps
While I have earned a reputation as a top notch business consultant, I have always and always will consider myself first and foremost a writer. Two incredible tools I use in developing ideas are Notebook and Scrivner. These two applications could also be listed in productivity apps, becuase both are powerful organization and idea development tools. This screenshot shows a writing template for Novel writing in both tools.

Notebook and Scrivner side by side

Notebook and Scrivner side by side

While there is an iPad version of Notebook, I rarely use it, as it is not very intuitive. Literature and Latte is in the process of developing an iPad version of Scrivner. This is something I am quite excited about. I am a bit Mind mapper and outliner, and use Notebook products like these two and Pear Note, which also has Mac and iOS versions, make my productive and creative life a little easier.

A lot of the applications I have mentioned also have PC versions (Though I could never get why besides COST, anyone would use a PC). I did not spend as much time on Workflow as I intended to on this post, so lets just say:

I am a new age GTD fan who believes in the power of automation and technology. I rarely take un scheduled meetings, these are time killers and are all to common in Latin America. I also insist that people respect my time. A 9:00am meeting means 9:00am, not 9:30. I plan my day each morning using the Reminders and Things apps, sometimes while I am still in bed. I try to use software and cloud based applications to document share and collaborate. Lastly I use best in class Document editing and management tools to create quality documents. Lastly I would say to my PC Brethren out there. If your computer is your primary tool, invest in the best one you can afford. My Mac Book Pro cost me over $3000, but it will pay for itself in less than 6 months because I will not have to deal with Blue Screens of Death, viruses and trojans or any of the other productivity killers that Microsoft pushes on us.

One Response to “The Importance of an Organized Workflow and the Right Tools”

  1. Expat Guru » Blog Archive » Why I use a Mac Says:

    […] with the Mac with one simple sentence… It does not get in my way. I recently wrote about workflow and tools, hope it was useful to you. Truth is, the Mac is all about workflow. It is a platform that out of […]

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