my systems

intentional tech

Our family has worked to implement systems that help us function efficiently with the goal of not adding extra burden to our daily lives. I realize that every single person has their preferred systems; I am not documenting this with the intent of changing what you do, but rather to share what has and has not worked for us.

Earlier in my career, I would switch apps and tools “trying” the next new thing! Now that we have solid systems in place, we have learned to trust the system and only tweak as needed. Here is how we work.

Level 1 – Critical Apps

Email – As we all know, email and the way in which it is managed, is necessary in today’s world. My wife and I chose to use Gmail many years ago for our family email system. I don’t subscribe to inbox 0 but rather inbox 20 (try to keep my inbox below 20 as that is what I can effectively manage).

Calendar – We use Google Calendar extensively. We track meetings, calls, events and family activities all within this app.  Here is our calendaring process.

Task and Project Management – Our family uses ToDoist for our task management. It offers enough flexibility and features to accomplish our tasks without adding complexity. Having a list of actions for projects at home, work and in my personal life is a necessity for me. I live by the mantra, “plan your work, work your plan.” Primary use cases for ToDoist include integrations with Gmail, Google Calendar, Amazon Echo and all of our mobile devices with a decent web interface. Here is how we integrate our To Do List and Calendars.

Cloud Backup and Storage

  • Google Drive is our primary source for document and photo storage. An app is available to download if you like the windows file management process and don’t want to manage documents on the web interface.
  • Dropbox is used for systems integrations (i.e., IFTTT) and easy sharing with others.
  • Amazon Drive is used for family video. You also can use Amazon for cloud backup and it interfaces with Amazon Firestick. When our family wants to watch our home videos, we can utilize the Amazon App for playback (the only problem is for video’s over 20 min – the buffering tends to be slow).

Digital filing cabinet – Our family always had paper around that needed to be filed (I hated taking the time to do this). So, we moved to a digital filing cabinet several years ago and now have minimal paper around the house. My wife and I can search and find needed docs on any device. We use Evernote for the work, and because there are so many options, here is a detailed post on how we use it.

Level 2 – Suggested Apps

Messaging – Again, in sticking with best practices in our professional lives, my wife and I have moved from text messaging to Slack so we can segment conversations and run cross-platforms. I love slack as it is super helpful for work. Plus, I don’t like the lack of workflow capabilities with standard text messaging apps.

CRM – We use FullContact so that our family has one common data source for contacts. FullContact is our system of record, with tour Christmas Card list being the strongest use case. All we have to do is update last year’s addresses and pull labels for the current year. FullContact syncs automatically to Google Contacts, Twitter, Outlook and it also pulls in LinkedIn data. Unfortunately, the Facebook integration is no longer available. The only editing I end up doing in FullContact is using the merge feature and managing Contact tags/categories. My wife has told me that FullContact is her favorite of all the apps we use to manage data in our lives.

System Backups – We have set up AllwaySync to run every week and back up documents, pictures, and videos from local PC to an external hard drive.

Family Photos – In 2002 we began the task of organizing and categorizing family photos. Over the years, the process has gotten a lot easier and we now use Google Photos.  The machine learning and auto image enhancement in this app is impressive. For example, I previously employed tags which were very time-consuming. Now, if I want a picture of a tree, I just go to my photos and search for the word I want. Pretty cool!

Level 3 – Nice To Have Apps

News – I have started using Feedly exclusively after Google Reader folded shop. It is necessary to manage RSS feeds because of the limited amount of time, but the vast amount of information available. I try to spend 10-15 min in the morning reviewing topics on Agriculture, #AgTech, Grain Markets, Technology and a few personal development/ productivity sites.

Proofreading – Writing is not my strength (in fact, my wife helped edit this post). While I keep working to improve, I would always ask my wife to help proof blog posts, etc. To cut down on this task, I implemented Grammarly. It checks grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Even with this tool, every-time I look at KevinHeikes.com I find another typo!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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