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What's In My Toolbox Part 1 My Productivity Tools February 14, 2024

Each year my household chooses a theme which becomes a sort of mantra for the year. We choose something that fits with our goals and we build around it. We don’t always achieve our goals, but the theme always enhances our lives in some way. Last year the theme was Barbaric Productivity. We focused on getting stuff done. I didn’t get all the things done that I wanted, but I ended up discovering some productivity tools that I am finding very helpful. I thought it would be fun to share. Two I pay for and opted for their annual plan, (though they do have free tiers) one is free.

  1. Milanote
  2. Focusmate
  3. Chrome Tabs

My husband stumbled across Milanote somewhere online. It was billed as ‘Project Management for Creatives.’ I had tried a really long list of project management tools. Most of them are designed to work with large teams. Are very corporate minded, and came with templates that you were kind of forced to use. (Products and services are always extolling the virtues of their templates. I do not understand what to do when given a template.) Milanote is a big empty space that you can drag notes, checklists, documents, photos, tables, whole other boards (a big empty space within your big empty space) draw lines between them all. Colour, circle, share with a teammate if you want. Use a template if you want. Move things around. It has a chrome plugin that lets you save random things on the internet to your boards. It’s perfect for how my brain works! The free version limits the number of boards you can use, the paid version is quite affordable and well worth it to me.

I sent them an email shortly after I joined asking them to please send me the source code the minute they enter talks to be bought out as for some reason, large tech companies really enjoy buying smaller tech companies that offer really great services that people like using…and then making the product unusable. I really don’t understand it, but now I live in fear of my favourite project management tool disappearing.

2: Focusmate Because I work best when I have a time and a place Focusmate has been an incredible resource. It is an online co-working platform. When I lived in Montreal I used a physical co-working space to get my admin tasks done. Now I use Focusmate for admin, production, practising. Whatever needs doing. I book a time, I get paired up with a buddy. A pomodoro is set, and to work we get. It allows me to write down what I need to do and when, and then I have the time blocked to do it. It’s $5 a month, which is waaaay cheaper than the rent for an office, and at the end of the year they sent me a message telling me I’m a Versatile Vole because I use it at different times of the day! Their free tier lets you have 3 sessions a week. (sessions range in time from 25-75 minutes) I used the free tier for about 3 weeks and then bought in for the annual fee.

3: Chrome tab groups I think this was an extension I had to install? I don’t remember now, but I use it daily. I kept finding myself either opening the same group of web pages to do some task, or completely forgetting to ever visit a website that I needed to be checking in on. Tab groups let you put a bunch of web pages together in a tab, save that group, and then open them all at once at a later time. I’ve grouped things like the artist access pages for all the streaming services my music is on. The websites for all the companies that collect my royalties, all the sites I use for communication, the sites I use to make my social media posts, all the social media sites I’m on, and most importantly, all the sites I need to visit daily to keep on top of my workload. This has been an A Plus discovery for productivity. The tab groups also allow you to have a whole bunch of tabs open, but you can collapse them into the tab, which is great for me as I often do need to have many tabs open, but I dislike the clutter. It also makes it easier to flip between tasks.

a shot of the top of a web browser showing colourful tabs for different tasks

— Kyla
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