My toolkit

Vintage typewriterFollowing this post by Eugenie King on her personal and team toolkit, I thought it would be interesting to think through my toolkit, partly as learning out loud and because it may be of interest to some who read this.

Gmail and Google Calendar

One of the three pillars of my daily routine. I am reasonably good at keeping an empty or emptyish inbox but use Sanebox (the free version) to filter away most of the non-urgent stuff into an @Sanelater folder. I also use a little plugin called POP 3 Checker which speeds up the transfer of mail from my and mail servers to Gmail. I was finding it was taking up to 20m for an email sent to one of these to reach me, but I didn’t want to give out my gmail address to all and sundry. This tool pulls the mail over more regularly and you can do it with a click as well. I’ve recently switched from Firefox to Chrome in order to take advantage of Gmail’s integration with Todoist, and PowerBot for clipping full emails to Evernote.  To be honest I prefer Firefox to Chrome as Chrome constantly has loading and memory problems, but the integration is better.


My use of Evernote has evolved over years. I’ve gone from lots of notebooks to very few, now using tags extensively to make a folder-like hierarchy. That frees me from wondering which notebook to save a note in – I can now save it in lots of places at the same time. I used to keep my daily notes – plans, phone calls etc – on a handwritten pad, and try to remember at the end of each day to add anything I might want to find into Evernote.  Then for many months I scanned my daily notes with my trusty and well-used Scansnap (desktop duplex scanner) into Evernote.

Now I’ve arrived at a system that seems to work for me: a notebook for the current month with a note for each day. I type up what I’m doing, phone calls, ideas, etc, using the handwritten pad only for sketches, scrawls and phone messages I can dispense with. I lose a little time in occasionally retyping them to Evernote but gain the searchability, which was never great with scanned-in handwritten notes.  I make constant daily use of the Evernote web clipper when I’m roaming about the web, but am getting increasingly uneasy with the magpie mentality of collecting lots of ‘stuff’ I rarely ever refer to again.  As for other notes, I simply have a few folders – home, music, idea catcher, philosophy/psychology/politics and work for keeping track of other stuff and lots and lots  of nested tags.


The third pillar. I’ve been a todo-list junkie ever since discovering Getting Things Done ten years ago or more. Over the years I’ve spent about three to four months on each of ToodleDo, Nozbe, Zendone, Gqueues, ActiveInbox and Todoist. I spent the longest time with GQueues which answered most of my needs, but was recently seduced by Todoist, mainly because of its nice clean interface but also its integration with Gmail and Toggl as well as Evernote (which works well in GQueues). I spent weeks saying ‘No’ to myself about trying Todoist, as I knew I’d be fine sticking with what I had,  but gave in. And I like it – the little popup in Gmail and easy ‘add task’ in Gmail and the browser are fine and the interface hasn’t lost its appeal.


Toggl for keeping track of time spent on tasks – really good. Full review here.

Roboform for password management. May not be as slick as others but I’m familiar with it after many years use.

Tweetdeck for Twitter, but when I get Chrome memory problems it’s the first thing that I shut down. I have to declare dissension from the mainstream of the elearning profession by saying I don’t actually enjoy Twitter.  I use it when I have to, but I just find it like a going into a room where lots of people are shouting at each other all at once. I’m not saying I don’t find useful suggestions in it but I have to grit my teeth to go there! I’m feeling increasingly the same about Facebook so can clearly be written off as a social learning Luddite 🙂

Insightly (Customer Relationship Manager) was something I thought I’d use a lot as a freelancer, but find I’ve hardly used at all. I thought I’d have to keep track of multiple prospects until they turned into actual clients and keep a record of every conversation, and to an extent I’ve done that, but I find I can get all the info I need about my correspondents from Gmail and I’m tending to have fewer clients but more lasting relationships than I expected.

Feedly is a place I go every couple of days, usually on my iPad at breakfast, and read one or two articles from the many (way too many) blogs I’ve subscribed to. I keep a tab open to it in my browser for ‘relaxation’ between tasks but tend not to dive in during the working day. But give me that over Twitter any time.


UPDATED 30/04/2018 to include link to review of Toggl.


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