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  • Writer's pictureAaron Neinstein

The Tools That I Use For Productivity, Creativity, and Research

As an early-adopter and a bit of a productivity nut (I am a big believer in David Allen’s Getting Things Done), I use a lot of different tools in my day-to-day life.  Friends, family, and colleagues know this, and often ask me what I use and what I like.  So, here it is, my list of the digital productivity tools and medical tools that I use and like (I put them into categories but there is some overlap):

** Please note that I have no financial stake or conflict of interest related to any of these companies… I’m just passionate about useful tools and these are the ones I happen to use.  To cement that point, I am purposefully not providing links to these sites so that you can be sure that I am not getting any kickbacks or free space from clickthroughs!

Tools for Personal Organization

Evernote, multi-platform: A Swiss-army knife of a productivity tool.  This is my peripheral brain, and I use it for just about everything.  I use it for taking notes (or photographs of hand-written notes), clips from web pages and blogs, saving important emails and receipts, travel documents, favorite recipes and bottles of wine, magazine articles, and a whole lot more.  Everything is taggable and searchable (including characters recognized within photographs you import) so I can always find it later.

Omnifocus, Mac and iOS: What I use for task management and to-do lists.  There are a lot of other good ones out there like Asana, Nirvana, and Things, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Workflowy, web and iOS: The newest addition to my suite of tools.  Useful for outlining, as in preparing a lecture or article.  Useful for shared task lists and brainstorming.  It is fast, lean, and an incredibly flexible tool.

Tools for Content Creation

Google Drive, multi-platform: Collaborative document creation and editing.  If team members are going to be editing a document simultaneously, this is the tool to use, where Dropbox fails in this regard.

Dropbox, multi-platform: File sharing of all types among a group.  Collaborative document editing that allows you to use a more formal and powerful tool like Powerpoint or Word than does Google Drive.  Cannot simultaneously edit documents, however.

WordPress: For writing this blog!

Tools for Content Consumption and Discovery

Pocket, multi-platform: I have a friend who, before leaving home for the airport, always opens 25 web browser windows with different articles to read on the plane.  Pocket solved this problem (sadly, not for him, because he doesn’t use it).  Any time you find a blog, article, video, etc on the web that you want to read later (the company used to be called ReadItLater), you just send it to Pocket and it is there for you to read at your leisure.  A lot of people also like Instapaper, which does essentially the same thing.

Reeder, multi-platform: A nice cross-platform tool for browsing and reading items in your Google Reader RSS feed account.  If that sentence was in another language for you, go to Google Reader and sign up and then come back.

Docwise, iOS: Despite being an early adopter, I had not owned an iPad until last month.  The feature I really wanted an iPad for was to be able to collate articles from all the different medical journals I like to read into one place.  I heard about Docwise, and then I bought an iPad.  Docwise allows you to mark any number of journals as your favorites, to browse articles from those journals and add them to your reading list, and then to come back when you want and read the items in your reading list.  Note that you still need your institutional library EZProxy or VPN to get access to full-text articles, though you can do this inside Docwise if you have such access.

Instacast, iOS: A very simple and straightforward iOS app for downloading and organizing podcasts.

Much of my web content discovery is done through Twitter and an increasing amount through LinkedIn.

Research Tools

Papers, multi-platform: A few years ago while in the midst of a research project, I purchased and tried using EndNote to manage my references.  It was a pretty miserable experience.  Luckily, a friend suggested Papers, and I have not looked back.  The easiest explanation is that it is like iTunes for your academic PDFs (without so many headaches as iTunes).  You can tag and store your journal articles here, and add annotations like notes and highlights.  This is really great on the iPad.  Their newer version really blew everything else out of the water because it allows you to insert citations and references from your Papers library into any document and it will create footnotes and a reference list for you.

Google Scholar, web: A great tool for starting a literature search.  I always use this in conjunction with Pubmed (below).  I find this to be more “sensitive” than Pubmed, ie the search results might be less relevant, but you get more of them.  An especially nice feature is the “cited by” feature, which shows you the list of articles that have cited the article you are looking at.

Pubmedweb: A must-use for any literature search, I use this in conjunction with Google Scholar (above).  I find this to be the more “specific” of the two tools, ie if you don’t use the proper search term you might find nothing, but if you have better search skills, you will be much more precise in what you find.

I hope some of you find this helpful, and if there are any tools out there that you use that I did not list, I would love to hear about them!

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