Crafting your own tools

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been obsessed with tracking and managing what I’m working on.

In the beginning when Trello first came out, everything was broken down into cards and a little bit of chaos ensued.

Probably like most people who subscribe to some sort of get things done-esk framework, I started trying to impose a perfect way to mange everything.

Labels, specialized columns. All the things were tracked and religiously updated.

As soon things were on their way, I started feeling that I needed something a bit more focused and rigid.

Then came Club House, but it was a little heavy handed.

Spent a week or two here working out of Things, Todoist, and even went all in Workflowy.

Even decided to get in the habit of creating a daily journal with my own work terminal app.

work: a tiny app that lives on your terminal.

Embrace the methodology not the tool

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had is despite churning through all these todo list apps, I’ve never took a at my own process for managing work.

Normally I’d dive in and just churn through item after item, hoping the tool would guide be to some promise land of extreme productivity.

It got to the point that I almost thought about building yet another todo list.

Luckily a good friend talked some sense into that idea.

In the end I’ve finally found a decent way to work: focus.

It’s not about the tool, but rather about the process.

I’ve sticking to just three rules:

1) Do one thing at a time.

2) Don’t edit, add it and forget about it.

3) Automate + Archive.


I’m officially back to using Trello but I’m not focused on keeping things extremely simple. To labels, to complicated cards. Things are small and in shippable chunks.

I'm following a slightly automated version of Amy Hoy's JFS Trello Setup.

I’ve also added a few Butler rules to help auto archive done cards on a weekly basis and purge anything older than a month (when my Inbox grows to large).

For the most part this covers my two core rules pretty well, but to get closer to that more mindful state of just jotting down potential todos, I’m actually using two different tools.

Alfred Trello Workflow

I’m using a modified version (gist) of @MikoMagni’s Trello Workflow for Alfred.

Trello Workflow for Alfred, slightly modified.

This allows me to easily create new cards from my mac, allowing me to quickly capture todos without needing to think about how to get distracted.

Essentially, I can just type:

t Card Title

And I’m done. If I’m wanting to work on the task today, I’ll simply add Today like:

t Card Title; Today; Card Description

Normally I don’t bother including a description. I find it a bit too much.

This works great when I’m on my mac but on the go it kinda sucks.

As soon as I have to open up Trello I jump into navigating outstanding cards and jump to trying to clear out my Inbox.

A simple ReactNative App for creating Trello cards on the fly

This weekend I hacked together a super quick app for easily adding todos wherever I’m at.

Inbox, is a super simple ReactNative app built for just my one Trello board.

Inbox follows my rule for just creating cards, there isn’t an option for descriptions or labels since I don’t use them.

It’s super speedy and just works. Sometimes the best tools are the ones glued together in an hour or two.

If you’re curious what it looks like or want to create your own version, here’s what the App.tsx looks like.

My original plans for Inbox was a complicated ReactNative app with a GraphQL powered API that would help iron out some sharper parts of the Trello API, but honestly it’s just too overkill.

If you ever want to talk dev productivity or strategies for managing your own time get in touch!