Productivity Tools Thread

null pointer

So, let's play this game and let's try to stay away from design software. What software productivity tools do you use most often? What are your staple note-taking, to-do and calendar apps? Any others?

I'll start:

Evernote - Project notes, site photographs, and technical information. I keep a notebook full of DOB-related material, and little summaries of everything I do which might be relevant to a future project (sizing plumbing, zoning interpretations, links to manufacturers of particular items, room finish schedules for projects I'll need to refer back to.). The best part is they can be accessed from anywhere.

Toggl - Timing my tasks for billing purposes. Still on the free version, but I've been using it for over a year. It's great.

WaveApps - All firm financials and invoicing.

Sunrise Calendar - I hate the stock calendar on my iPhone. I use this and sync it with my Google Calendar.

GoogleApps - All of our office email, calendars and even our server. Everything is sync'd to a GoogleDrive.

CrashPlan - Redundant back-up strategy.

GitHub - Version control for grasshopper scripts, processing work and the odd C# grasshopper module.

Your turn. What's in your productivity tools arsenal?

Sep 20, 15 10:59 am

how big is your office null?

i was going to say evernote, but you already did

autodesk's sketch program, and probably some sort of remote file access to your server

Sep 20, 15 12:40 pm
null pointer

Running solo with adjunct freelancers here and there as required (I hate surveying as-builts).

Sep 20, 15 2:54 pm

my problem with evernote was the necessity to get the paid app after like 10 mb, which is like 5 dollars monthly. 

I've been using Slack in lieu of Microsoft Lync (now rebranded as Microsoft Skype) for communication between team members, as it seems to deal with image sharing and so on in a very tidy fashion. 

It never occurred to me to use GitHub to search for grasshopper definitions... I always defaulted to the Grasshopper forums. 

Sep 20, 15 10:46 pm


We have two Wacom cintiqs and several tablets for drawing right on the screen--eliminates need for constant printing, scanning and trace paper all over the place.

We use fresh books for clouds accounting invoicing and time keeping.

Sep 20, 15 10:58 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

google sheets. ms excel. outlook.

Sep 21, 15 7:27 am

I'm starting to use Evernote more and more, and get tired of the limited functionality and the 60 MB monthly limit on the free version ... and I'm cheap so I don't want to upgrade. 

I'm looking at using Microsoft's OneNote with OneDrive (which gives you 15 GB for free) in lieu of Evernote. Still all free, for all your devices, but offers space for 250 months of free Evernote. Any dedicated OneNote users out there?

Sep 21, 15 5:39 pm
null pointer

Buy the small Evernote Moleskine and get 3 months for free.

I have a stack I got on sale. Makes each month cost like an effective buck and half.

Sep 21, 15 5:48 pm

You're on to something there null. It pencils out ... as long as you are already purchasing and using a similar Moleskin notebook.

  • One year of the premium subscription from Evernote = $49.99
  • Cheapest option for Moleskine notebook with 3 months of the premium version free = $16.95 (2 notebooks)
  • The closest similar product from Moleskine looks like this one = $13.95 (3 notebooks)
  • Buy 4 of the Evernote notebooks to equal 1 free year = $67.80 (8 notebooks)
  • Price per notebook of the comparable notebook without the Evernote stickers = $4.65
  • Price for 8 of the similar notebooks without the Evernote stickers = $37.20
  • $67.80 gets you 1 year of Evernote Premium plus 8 notebooks when purchased as a package (and stickers).
  • $87.19 gets you 1 year of Evernote Premium plus 8 notebooks when purchased separately (and no stickers, I couldn't find if you can purchase the stickers separately).
  • Saving $19.39 when purchased together.
  • However, if you're like me and don't buy Moleskine notebooks ... you're paying $17.81 more than just forking out 50 bucks a year, plus you have 8 notebooks you wouldn't have purchased otherwise. Not to mention, I'm not sure what the functionality is with the notebook and the app. Is it worth $17.81 though?
Sep 21, 15 7:17 pm

MS OneDrive storage vs. Evernote Premium storage

Sep 21, 15 7:30 pm

I didn't find that I used Evernote very much.

The only apps I use consistently for work-related non-email stuff are Genius Scan, UB Reader, and GoToMeeting.

Sep 21, 15 7:38 pm

laser measuring tool + laptop cut down on as-built time

Sep 21, 15 8:55 pm

proto do you draw as you measure? That would take me forever, so if you have a trick, I want to know it. My field measure workflow is to draw on 1/4" grid paper, use a laser measure for most everything and a tape for a few things that the laser does not work for. I have a few conventions of sketching that make it go a tiny bit faster, but I did spend 7 hours surveying and measuring a medium sized church last week. 

I use Toggl (free). It's amazing. For time tracking. 

Nozbe for to do lists. checklists and basic project management.

That's it other than email and the drawing software. I can't imagine how I'd use evernote, sounds fussy to me. 

Carbonite for backup. 

Sep 21, 15 10:10 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

gruen and proto - for whatever reason paper and pencil are still the fastest for me.  7 hours is a very long time, but I'm not sure how you gauge this because I don't know how detail you were surveying. 

sometimes I care about all the MEP and sometimes it matters little, but generally between photos and, pencil and paper, 5000 sqft office space can be done in 1-2 hours, single family dwelling 1 hr....but then again the other day I spent 15 minutes surveying 4 door panels....

if laser and laptop are faster would like to know how?

Sep 21, 15 10:20 pm

I'm usually taking 2 hours to do a single family - photo and measure. I budget 3-4 hours total including transportation. If I do a cruddy job sketching then it goes faster :) This is for a home up to approx 2000 sf. If it's a monster I just add on time. 

The church had a bunch of additions, full basement, some weird angles. 7 hours included transportation, so probably 6 hours at the church. I did extra work to figure out some exterior details I want to replicate, and had to get on the roof for inspection too. But yeah, that's long for me. 

I'd love to measure and draw (CAD? Revit?) at the same time, but I think that would make it even slower. 

I do love my bosch laser tape - about $100 at home depot - great tool. 

Sep 22, 15 9:03 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

with ya gruen on sloppy. but lately I have others draft it so either i spend a little extra time on my 1/8" ruled pad or re-sketch when in office. one enginwer i occasionaly survey with does it like a logic puzzle,he will tak like 4 key measurementa and then go - figure out the rest from that.....but you can never trust existing structures..........null i use Post-it notes and if i do not rememeber something it must not be important

Sep 22, 15 9:32 am

Oh - if the home or business owner wants to chat while I'm doing the field work, then it takes FOREVER. I am often telling them up front to leave me alone and let me work. 10 hours once to do a single family home because of the owner following me around the whole time. 

Sep 22, 15 9:43 am

For an existing space, i photograph each wall in each room and then measure each space, locating and sizing all openings. Drawing on the laptop has made that go faster because I don't come back to the office and then draft what I just measured. It probably is longer than by hand for the measure itself, but, overall, I feel like it's a savings since I'm not drafting it twice (by hand & then on cad). I save existing sections/elevations for the office and work off of the photos with some key vertical measurements taken on site. A 2,000sf house plan measure can take 4hrs, but I've got plans ready to use when I get back to the office that are fairly reliable.

Sep 22, 15 3:16 pm

update: just started using an ipad w/ acad +'s a slow learning curve from the fast cad typing I'm used to, but it makes the process more mobile [& cramps the hell out of my pad-holding hand!]...i don't think it was slower by too much & am anticipating getting faster with it


Proto - very interesting. I'll have to try it on my next small measureup. I'd want to put it into REVIT, not sure how that'd affect my time. 

Sep 22, 15 3:45 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

ha gruen,yeah I hate that,i often take the survey measurement twice or 3 times because they do not stop talking......I never let a person fresh out of school survey or freelancer, I don't trust it and all it takes is a few inches to screw the whole thing up and everyone comes down hard on the Architect! hard is it to measure? time this realtor, young kid thought he would look good in front of the client and help me take measurements. everytime i got to a door i tried to explain what you measure and he kept getting it wrong, then he would sloppily run the tape at angles and rattle off the wrong dimension, finally he quit helping me and admitted "this architect thing is hard"! .................another story, so at this older ladies house to do an addition, her grandaughter or grandson's 20 something girlfriend was at the pool in a bikini and came to mingle with us (client,GC, and I). clealry proud of herself in the bikini strutted around in front of us as we carried on professionally. later, we go down the hall to discuss door changes and the girl is laying flat on the bed ass up pointed in our direction, GC gave me a holy shit look and the older lady quickly closed the door. later this girl exclaims loud enough for us to hear she will be taking a shower,right before i start surveying. I get to the bathroom door and its slightly open 4" as I hear the shower water. i take two more measurements, find the older lady who had gone off to locate the survey and get the fuck out of there!

Sep 22, 15 6:07 pm

Wait, Isn't that why you became an architect?


Lately, it seems my greatest productivity tool is calling out sick and doing some work at home so that I can actually focus on getting shit done instead of getting sidetracked by phone calls, meetings, stupid questions, and chit chat.

Sep 27, 15 10:52 am

Evernote is top of the list for me. Altho they seem to be getting some bad press lately for some reason.

Slack is an absolute must - our email load has just vanished and we've even started letting clients in as guests on certain channels. There's a good article here and here about using Slack for architecture PM.

XERO for invoicing with Stripe to handle payments. Our accountant has access too so keeps an eye on what's happening ;-)

We've started using Trello for PM. It seems easy enough to get to grips with. I'm on a MAC and run Time Track Pro in the background. It records time I spend in apps on my mac. Amazing the stats it comes up with at the end of the day... (Facebook ugh)

We use Skype for long distance - voiptalk for landlines. Our website site is on and we have a facility there to let clients access drawings that are in turn sitting in a Dropbox folder.

Oct 9, 15 4:29 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

Slack sounds interesting....the one day I was in the field all day, 150 meaningful emails, power on all my devices done by 3pm.....miss the landline and fax machine, ha

Oct 10, 15 10:41 am

gruen:  if you have a trick, I want to know it.

for in the field,  i find my app invaluable to do that, even if you have a laser, use laser to take one measurement, and this does the rest:

an iPhone/iPad app that will basically create an “As-Built” drawing from a photo Automatically. it even puts the dimensions on for you, it estimates the scale of the wall you’ve taken a photo of.. so you have something to work with, then once you correct one of the dimensions, all of them become correct. (then you can add more and move around existing dimensions too) it can even measure areas and perimeters right on that photo.

Nov 20, 15 4:10 pm

To increase my productivity I follow these 3 small yet important habits:

  1. After I get out of bed, I will do 3 push-ups.
  2. After I brush my teeth at night, I will floss 1 tooth.
  3. After I brush my teeth in the morning, I will drink a glass of water.

I know, I know, my habits are kind of boring, but this was as much a test of BJ Fogg’s system, as it was trying to make me do certain things at certain times. Also, I was curious as to whether using the same anchor for different habits depending on time of day would skew my results, but it seems to be okay. You can read more here:

Oct 4, 16 8:13 am


I'm passionate about improving productivity, my top productivity apps are: Asana, Slack, Keep, PomoDone and DataScope. I explain below how I use each one.


I'm using Asana to manage personal and work projects and their tasks and progress.

Google Keep and Calendar

I'm using Keep to write new ideas and remember things, now they added more features to connect with events in calendar and tags to group ideas. For example I'm using tags like #ideas, #software, #work, #personal and more


I'm using slack at work to connect with my team, there I have a place where I can have integrated all the tools I use directly in a chat, Actually I have integrated all the other apps here, that way you don't need to check every service you are using. Could to track errors, events,  performance and more.


This is to apply Pomodoro Technique ( inside Asana, this way you can focus more in a specific task and have more control of your time.


This mobile solution to replace the use of paper when you need to collect data, is like Google Form but you can use offline in a iOS or Android app. You can connect with Google Spreadsheets, export to Excel, PDF and collect more information as signature, photos, barcodes and more.

Dec 17, 18 11:56 am

White board for to-do's, wall calendar for appts, journal for time and task tracking, iPad pro and pencil for taking meeting minutes, Slack for chatting with colleagues, and Gdocs for other notes/docs (like a marketing plan) and spreadsheets.

Dec 17, 18 12:10 pm

These are my favorites. 

Feb 17, 20 8:10 am

find some good tools for me here, thank you

Feb 17, 20 11:43 am

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