Top 10 Tools I Use in 2021

For those of you who don’t know, I change my workflow. A lot. Even this post used to be a newsletter exclusive before it was booted in favor of “The Canon of Jacob Robinson”. Now, I’m bringing it back to the blog — and updating it with some new additions. 

Notion

We begin with our standards. Notion, as I mentioned in the newsletter copy, I had originally used as a novelty tool. Many updates to the service later, and I’ve now built a “Life OS” of my own using the product’s insane programmability (google “notion life os” for some examples of this). It is a good all around sort of tool. What I mean by that is its lists are worse than Airtable, and its word processing is worse than Google Docs, but it’s the only place where you can have a list item that can convert itself to a word document. It is, in other words, a great aggregator — and I’m interested to see where it goes. 

Todoist

I’ve actually stopped using todo lists as extensively as I have, in favor of focusing on projects and metrics more holistically. I still have some todos, of course, and for those I use Todoist. It’s a great all-around product, and was the winner of my “Todo List Tour” back in 2019. 

Habitica

Alright — if there’s one tool you get out of this post, make it this one. Out of all of the tools on this list, I have been using Habitica the longest. For eight whole years. That’s a mighty long time. 

Habitica’s benefit is that it uses gamification as a force for good. Gamification is a conglomeration of psychological tricks used in video game services in order to develop addiction to the product, triggering the player to spend more money on the game. But what if gamification wasn’t used for spending $500 on costumes for your game character, and instead on building good habits? This is Habitica’s keystone idea. There have been many, many competitors to Habitica since it’s creation — including some on Notion — but in my opinion Habitica has always been the defacto winner.

Google Calendar

When it comes to Calendar software, only two really come close – Outlook and Google Calendar. And while I know there’s plenty of hardcore Outlook fans out there, GoogleCal’s ease-of-access and portability triumphs over Outlook in practically every case. While there might not be as advanced of tools, it does get the job done; and besides, I like to go simple when it comes to the calendar. (Since writing this section, newer calendar apps like Fantastical and Woven have been released. While I think they have a lot of good features, at this point, I have too much on GCal to be worth the switch!)

TweetDeck

As a person who, when it comes to social media marketing, pretty much exclusively uses Twitter, Tweetdeck has become an essential part of my workflow. With infinite scheduling, it becomes much more helpful than Hootsuite, and its columns I think are a lot nicer than Hootsuite’s as well. However, if you’re running multiple channels I’ve still got to say Hootsuite is the best choice. (An update to this section: I’ve also started doing Instagram marketing, for which I can recommend Later. It’s a little bit more limiting than Tweetdeck, but still better than Hootsuite’s trial version.)

Grammarly

Since initially writing this into my top 10 tools, it has quickly become essential. The fact that the Grammarly extension works with just about everything (WordPress, Substack, Twitter, GDrive…) has been a godsend. I initially wrote that Grammarly was not much better than a word processor’s correction, but over time I’ve begun to realize that it catches a lot more nuanced mistakes than the defaults in GDocs or Word. The tone feature also helps sometimes!

MEGA

GDrive used to be my favorite cloud storage service, but its lack of space and specialty began to grate on me. MEGA, on the other hand, has a nice focus on security/privacy and a very generous space offering (50 gigs free!). Not only that, but it’s available pretty much everywhere GDrive is. Needless to say, this one took over.

Google Drive

While GDrive is no longer my favorite cloud service, it’s still my favorite word, spreadsheet, and slide deck creator. A lot of it is due to the fact that its cloud saves. A lot of it is also to do the fact that I’m just more used to it, like how I balk at using Photoshop when I’m already so naturally accustomed to the setup of Paint.net.

Obsidian

Alright, someone really needs to just sit me down and have me decide on a preferred note taking app already. First it was Evernote. Then it was GDrive. Then it was Simplenote. Now it’s Obsidian, a zettelkasten software that provides good organization and linking tools while still keeping things simple. I’m aware that Simplenote recently added linking, but something about the organizational structure on the app I just wasn’t vibing with. It might come back if it adds a few of Obsidian’s features (knowing the current notetaking-product-race, probably before this blog post even launches), but for now I’m sticking with this one. 

One downside to note about Obsidian is that it’s all local, meaning that you have to cloud backup manually. Since all of Obsidian’s files are markdown, however, this is a pretty trivial process. I just schedule time once a week to build a copy of my knowledge base, zip it up, and stash it in MEGA. 

Calibre

Last but certainly not least, we have Calibre. When it comes to a service that can simply and easily catalog all of the ebooks and pdfs on my computer, Calibre wins bar none. It also has a built-in system for reading epub and mobi files, which adds another powerful tool to the pile. Overall, if you have a ton of books and papers on your computer that need some level of organization, Calibre can help a lot. (Zotero can help with smaller stuff, like research papers and leaflets!)

Bonus: Canva

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Canva on my list. Pretty much all of my graphics are made on here. While I don’t like following templates, I’ll be honest — I’m not all that great of a designer. So the templates help me at least start with something that I can then develop over time. It also helps to not have to download a bunch of pics and memorize a bunch of size defaults — Canva does that all for me.

Alright then, that’s that. My top 10 tools change rather frequently, so I might turn this into a yearly feature, if there is interest in such a thing. Anyway, if you would like to join our newsletter, the link is below. Cheers!

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