It is the holiday season and people are thinking about what gifts they can give to people that already have too much of everything. I like to give gifts that people will actually use and that will help improve their lives in some way. One of the things that everybody uses, but rarely thinks much of, is their writing instruments – pen and pencils. I thought that I would offer up some options if you want to improve your friend’s pens and pencils. Below are my favorite pens at various price points. You can find most of these pens at Amazon and all of them at JetPens (my preferred pen purchasing location!).
Listen, I get it. You have been waiting for me to write this. I have had countless friends, Tom, Jack, David, and others, hounding me wanting to know what I think the best inexpensive pen you can buy from most office supply stores. So I’m going to tell you.
The Pentel Energel Needle Tip in .5 is my go-to pen. It is cheap enough so I don’t mind giving them away or losing one, but a great writer on any paper. Surprise, surprise my favorite feature is the almost instant drying time. #leftyproblems But it isn’t just how fast it drys. Pentel’s blue ink is one of the most vibrant I have seen (apart from some Fountain Pen inks, I’m looking at you Noodlers Baystate Blue!). I have been pleased with all of the colors I have used, Black, Blue, Red, and Green. Although I have seen some bleed through on the green with some types of paper. Pentel gives you plenty of options in style, pen tip (Classic or Needle tip), and width of the line (from .38 to 1.0). You can learn more than you care to know about them at a great blog post at JetPens.
I would also add an honorable mention to the Uni-Ball Signo RT1 .38 for my favorite micro gel pen. You can’t get this style in stores in the U.S. (sorry Tennessee). I discovered both of these and more from Brad’s Pen Addict list of Top 5 Pens. It is really the place to go if you want to start exploring some other options. The Signo RT1 gives an incredibly thin line (I write small!) and looks stylish and distinct.
So to recap. Throw out your terrible Pilot G2. I know they are everywhere but so is trash and I don’t see you picking that up and writing with it! Spend $5 on a 3 pack of the Energel pens. If you don’t love them, mail them to me! I will gladly use them.
Well, I am back at it. With the new school year (and me finally being out of school!) and me now a few months into a new job (Pastor of Wrightsville First UMC), I am exploring a productivity system (i.e. GTD/To Do List/Project Management software) to help me thrive with my life and career. In the coming weeks (probably months) I will be back to reviewing and exploring various To Do apps and systems and will post my thoughts here.
The programs I am considering:
Asana: This has been my system of choice for most of the last year. But I have been continued to be frustrated with it’s poor mobile apps. As of today, this is what I have been using, but I am hoping that their are better options.
Nozbe: Recommended by Michael Hyatt which says something (he is a productivity nerd). It has some great looking features and has a great track record, pushing 6 years in the GTD “game.”
Remember the Milk: Some people love this software and the name. I hate the name and have been unimpressed with my limited (a couple of days) use. I will keep trying it. It does some things amazingly and some overly difficult.
Toodledo: I like the philoshpy of this system. It isn’t about “projects” but goals. But sometimes I just want to do a project. So, we will see.
Trello: A newcomer, only a couple of years old if that, but it really turns task management/to do’s on it’s ear to see what works best. Imagine comparing this as a church plant with Nozbe being First Church Downtown. It will be able to try things that the other apps won’t even consider.
Todoist: I don’t know how far I will get to in this. I don’t want to miss out on a simple system though.
What I have used in the past and won’t be revisiting:
Things: Mac only and while beautiful seems to improve VERY slowly.
Producteev: They were bought out about a year ago and I can’t figure what the point or their goal is. To help me GTD or to create a social platform.
Wunderlist: Pretty? Yes. Helpful for my needs? No. They continue to improve, but I just don’t think that they are heading in a direction I am going. I want easy, not simple.
What I value and want:
Great interface that has quick and through input without having too many choices I have to make for every single entry
Mobile apps that offer everything that I need to get things done while away from my computer
At this point, I am willing to pay for a GREAT system
I am currently using four platforms to work: Mac OS, web, iOS, and Android (thanks Nexus 7!) – I would like to have something that can talk and play nicely with each other!
I work alone currently. I don’t need to share my list and I don’t have a team that works together on projects.
Ok. The quest has begun. I will you know. Until then I recommend a great site: AlternativesTo. It will help you find some options which you might not have even heard about.
I have always had a soft spot for “To Do” list. I came across the book, Getting Things Done by David Allen in 2007. Since then I have been on a search for the “perfect” GTD/To Do application. In March of 2013, I have begun the search again. I realized that I might not be alone, so I have decided to share my thoughts and experience with the programs.
To preface this, I know some would argue that “to do” list and GTD proper are to two separate mindsets and workflows. Whatever. I am just a user who has dabbled in both and have found the following systems and apps to be helpful in creating an plan that helps me check off my list and get things done. I am currently using Apple products.
I have been a fan of Cultured Code’s Things for about 4 years. I jumped into the Beta early in the development process and even purchased the Mac application and iPhone app (totally around $50). It was and still is simple, easy to use, and powerful enough for my wants/needs. Things 2 came out in 2012 with a much needed upgrade to include Cloud syncing so all of your “to do’s” were up to date across the various apps.
In my return to Things 2, I have found the stuff I loved about it, I still love (great looking, simple, and slick). My biggest frustration is it’s lack of customization. While on the surface it appears to have a robust set of options in the Preference pane, it wants to keep you doing GTD it’s way. I continue to find myself losing my “to do’s” under the numerous view options (Today, Next, Someday, Projects). Reoccurring or “scheduled” tasks as they call them, disappear in what I usually use as my main “to do” list (the “Next” tab). But they are curiously missing from the “Next” tab when I am trying to attack my day.
It also has an annoying habit of making me click things too many times! For example, when I schedule a task for today it automatically puts it into the “Today” tab. Not a problem. But then within the “Today” tab I have to confirm (1st click) that I want to do it, before I can check off (2nd click) that I have done it. It is a system that is made to keep me from missing a task, but it has me getting behind on my “clicking” and then have 10 items that I have to click twice to get my “to do” list cleaned up! Don’t get get me started if you happen to have a reoccurring task! When I returned to this app from a 5 month lay off, I literally had to click about 25 items twice to get a clean slate to begin using the app again.
I know these are petty complains, but when I am actually trying to get things done, I want to get them done! Not have to search for my list and click myself into aggravation. It is also frustrating to know that if I had to leave the Apple eco-system, I am out of luck and my financial investment is lost. No web services and no Android options stink if you are listening Cultured Code.
SUMMARY: Things 2 is an excellent app IF you can get over the fact that you are paying a lot of money for Cultured Code to tell you how to use their app. I also find it reprehensable that they charge $19.99 for their iPad app. The Mac program is $50 and it is another $10 for the iPhone app. But without any web interface available, you are really locked into doing Things the way they (Cultured Code) wants you to do Things!
Producteev came on my radar around 2011. This was during my first bout of frustration with Things. I wanted a full featured GTD/To Do software which was more than a simple list (i.e. Google Tasks), but not as controlling as Things. I used this for about 4 months in 2012 as I continued my search for the right app using the Mac app and the iPhone app.
In my experience with Producteev in March, I have just about the same program, but with some improved number features. My one word to describe Producteev is: overkill. Again, I realize this is only my opinion, your usage might vary. I have found that it is all just too much!
When you create a new task you are offered the chance to: determine it’s priority, put it in a specific workspace, assign colleagues to the task, pick a due date, insert any tags, and attach a file to it. I am tired just typing all that!
While the customization is nice (I remember I just complained about NOT having customization…I am an enigma). Usually, when I am creating a task, I want to unload the item out of my head and get it into my task manager. I feel like creating a task in Producteev is more work than it should be.
It isn’t all bad. In fact, it is an excellent system. Producteev has iOS apps, Android apps, a Mac App, and a web interface so you can find your list wherever you are. And for the most part, any individual will be able to use it for free. It really is a full featured system. You can sort your list just about anyway you want, share your task, and set alarms/notifications. You can also create tasks from emails and Producteev has Evernote and Google integration to boot.
SUMMARY: Producteev (version 3) does a lot right. But it is everything that can trap me in my GTDing. It has more bells and whistles than I need and thus I spend all my time playing with them, instead of doing my tasks. If you want a powerful “to do” task manager that is free (will be for most individuals at least) and can do just about everything you could need, then consider Producteev.
My experience with Wunderlist came just before I found Producteev in 2011. Wonderlist 1.0 was a basic “to do” list manager. For what it lacked in features it made up for in ease of use and simplicity. It is a sleek and clean app that is easy on the eyes and doesn’t take a degree in GTD to create a list. While I enjoyed my first time using it, it was only for a few weeks. I quickly saw that I wanted something with more features and substance in my “to do” system.
During my time with Wunderlist, this time as Wunderlist 2, I have found that while my needs have changed a little, the app has changed a great deal. Wunderlist has improved its options while maintaining its minimalistic design. It has added the option of having sub-tasks within a task that help you create multi-step projects. This is an added bonus for my workflow, as some of my list are more than “Call Bob,” but instead “Plan Event A.” Being able to quickly create and flesh out a group of “to dos” and then move on to the next is huge for me.
It does still lack some important features. It doesn’t have a lot of options in sorting tasks and or tag options. But in the end, I don’t think that is a deal breaker, just a sacrifice. It has excellent iOS apps, Android app, Mac App, and web interface that are synced via the cloud (but what apps don’t at this point?).
SUMMARY: You will be hard pressed to find a simpler list manager. It does what it offers and doesn’t promise to be anything more. If you want something that will let you create a task in a second and has some elements that will help you manage your “to dos,” then you can’t go wrong with Wunderlist.
Final Thoughts: I am going to go with Wunderlist. At this point, I am not creating HUGE projects with teams, I am trying to get things out of my head and onto a list. And then actually do the list.
My recommendation is to try them out. Things offers a free trial, but I would recommend you begin with the other two. Producteev & Wunderlist only take an email and a few minutes to sign up for. All three are outstanding systems and applications. For what it is worth I also spent a little bit of time with a couple of other apps but did not find them enough to my liking to say much about them. Here are those and my thoughts: