How do you keep track of your productivity?

over 5 years ago from , Human Deluxe Design Studio

Hey DN,

I'm curious: How do you track your tasks, todos and projects? What tools and techniques do you use?

A little bit of background: I stopped using Wunderlist last year and switched to a very low-tech approach, which I I accidentally kept using for a year now. I used the data that came out of to create an infographic of my 2016 productivity, but also to learn a bit more about my own productivity.

But now I'm wondering: How are other designers doing that? Anything you can recommend?

Here’s my findings → http://johannesippen.com/2017/productivity/


  • Matthew BlodeMatthew Blode, over 5 years ago
    1. I use Trello for general task management using the GTD methodology with all my tasks on a single board divided into Today, Next, Later, Someday, Waiting and then I archive the done cards. One thing to note is I never set due dates because knowing when it has to be done only leads me to procrastinate. So I put the completion date as an event on...

    2. Google calendar where I try to keep it as open as possible and put only the definite things occuring in my life. (Read Jason Frieds recent medium article about this).

    3. Dropbox Paper, although it is still in beta for Android, is an incredible tool for note taking and also collaboration and I would highly highly recommend it.

    4. Google drive is where I keep all my files so even if my laptop breaks, my files are always watched over by mother Google. This is also excellent for sharing files.

    5. I recently set up Rescue Time to track all the applications I use and where my digital time goes. (I should cut down on YouTube videos). It's really a set and forget and it will send you weekly summaries of how productive your time was spent so you can course correct and be mindful.

    6. Google inbox really helps me get to inbox zero. Also unroll.me is hot fire in helping me unsubscribe from all the stuff that litters my emails.

    7. Pocket for reading articles later and allowing me to batch the best content, not just clickbait that attracts my lizard brain.

    8. Google Photos is lovely as I save so much time not even thinking about the organisation of my photo library and everything is safe in Google's cloud.

    Please recommend any other tools that will help me be more productive

    8 points
  • Dimitri NicolasDimitri Nicolas, over 5 years ago

    I use RescueTime and I'm really fan of it, it is really smart and simple. But I didn't have tested any other one.

    6 points
    • Ciarán Hanrahan, over 5 years ago

      +1 for rescue time. just runs in the background and sends a report each week of what you've been spending your time on and gives a really good idea of productivity over time.

      1 point
    • Johannes Ippen, over 5 years ago

      Good lead, thank you Dimitri! Will give RescueTime a try

      1 point
      • Aaron Peck, over 5 years ago

        +1 but mix in a little Freedom app. It creates a new network profile that blocks social media (or any site you specify for that matter) at certain times and on certain days. Works on all devices. This will help your productivity trend up and to the right without taxing your self control.

        0 points
    • Giulio MichelonGiulio Michelon, over 5 years ago

      I love it as much as I love the "focus mode". The FM blocks the distracting sites. So useful.

      0 points
  • Alexander ObenauerAlexander Obenauer, over 5 years ago

    I make a table in Evernote to resemble a calendar, and put my tasks into the days I want to do them. Helps me visualize when I am planning too much for a day (so I can spread it out), and it allows me to throw a task I need to do two Thursdays from now in that cell, and know that I'll see it that day. It also helps me to see if there's enough days to plot all the prerequisite tasks for something by the time I plan to do the final task.

    I've been doing this for years, and it really helped me go from feeling behind, feeling like things are sneaking up on me, to feeling systematic, prepared, focused, and not stressed about things slipping through the cracks.

    Here's an example screenshot from July 2015: an example screenshot from July 2015

    What's cool is that now I can scroll through it and see what periods I went through when I was achieving more things each day, what periods I was more laser-focused on just one or two things, and what categories of things I was focused on over time.

    4 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 5 years ago

    Personally, every time I tried using some tool to keep track of every menial detail or task I have to do as part of a project I found it only slows me down. I do however take notes during conferences with clients and clean those up before I start working on them, and for this I use a markdown editor called Ulysses. I also use Ulysses to keep track of other information and notes I'll need throughout the project. One alternative worth mentioning here is the recently launched Milanote.

    I use my calendar for meetings - things that can be scheduled for a specific time, the reminders app for small things and Trello for more difficult tasks. The reason I split tasks into easy ones and difficult ones is that if I set a reminder for tomorrow at a specific hour and the task is a difficult one, I may not have the time or the patience to do it, and I found it's a lot better to have several lists in Trello (things I need to learn more about, ideas to market my services, etc.) and deal with them whenever I have the most time.

    I posted a more detailed story earlier about organising information a while ago and several other designers shared what tools they use.

    This is not quite the answer you were looking for but I hope it helps.

    2 points
  • Nick Dominguez, over 5 years ago

    Hi Johannes, In the past 6 months I've started using Omnifocus. One reason I switched to Omnifocus from Things was a feature called "Perspectives" Perspectives are basically custom views you can build to look at your tasks. Having a good way of looking at completed tasks for me personally was also important.

    You might want to take a look at Todoist as well which uses a feature/concept called "Karma" which quantifies and rewards you completed tasks. Todoist or Omnifocus are the best options in my opinion. Both have strengths and weaknesses depending on what your needs are. Good luck!

    2 points
    • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, over 5 years ago

      +1 for omni focus. Only thing I'm not a fan of is the price.

      0 points
      • Johannes Ippen, over 5 years ago

        Thank you Nick & Jonathan! I've been trying Omnifocus a while ago – feels a bit like flying a jumbo jet, so many elements! Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the tool?

        0 points
        • Nick Dominguez, over 5 years ago

          There is definitely a learning curve with OF. It's NOT for people who want a simple task management setup. I've spent a fair amount of time reading about how other people have it set up and built a system that works really well for me.

          0 points
      • Account deleted over 5 years ago

        Price and the fact that you need to really dig into it to take advantage of its capabilities. You can use it out-of-the-box, but then it'll just be a really expensive todo list.

        Having said that, for anyone who wants to overhaul (and to put deep thought into) how they organise their life, its flexibility is a huge bonus.

        1 point
    • Jonas LekeviciusJonas Lekevicius, over 5 years ago

      Interesting - last year I moved back to Things after using OmniFocus for about a year. The main reason was that I felt that I spent too much time tending to my tasks, moving, checking, reviewing. With Things I have far fewer features, and it made me more focused and productive.

      0 points
  • Jian Wei LiauJian Wei Liau, over 5 years ago

    Interesting. I'm also looking for tools that tracks the projects I'm working on. Like a daily log; how much time I spend on the projects and turn into data visualization to look back on my progress.

    1 point
  • Igor PascoalIgor Pascoal, over 5 years ago

    This has been working fine for me as a freelancer:

    1. I keep RescueTime running in the background. I've set a goal of a minimum of 4 hours of productive time every week day.
    2. I use OmniFocus to track all the tasks I need to do. I've created separated folders for Admin, Projects, Clients, Later, General. I guess you could also do this with Perspectives but I don't see the value in the Pro version/price. I've written before about how OmniFocus is working well for me. You can check here.
    3. I have scheduled planning, email and work time in my calendar. I'm currently still fine tuning it. Heavily based on Jessica Hische's
    4. I've been using Spark for email on all devices. It's sort of like Inbox from Google but more focused and practical. It brings the most relevant emails to the top and groups them by category.
    0 points
  • Greg Warner, over 5 years ago

    For me, Google Inbox and Calendar, plus Toggl to keep track of time. At day job, we use Jira refined to work with our process, which shows a lot of detail on productivity. For personal use, I manage details and to-dos with Trello.

    0 points
  • Jonathan SimcoeJonathan Simcoe, over 5 years ago

    I've been using TeuxDeux. It is simple, has a view of a whole week, and allows me to capture a backlog of other lists that I can drag into a given day as needed. Very minimal and it moved uncompleted tasks to the current day as the week calendar marches forward.

    0 points