Original question from Quora:

What app changed your life?

My Answer:

The app that really changed my life is a note taking/todo list app, except that it’s not really an app at all. It’s something stranger.

Allow me to explain…

Have you ever been overwhelmed with ideas, projects, and plans of stuff you want to do? A couple years I found myself having trouble focusing on making meaningful progress. Between work, home, side projects, family, friends, and about a million ideas a day, I was running in too many directions at once.

Then I heard Tim Ferriss mention on an interview that his daily todo list is a folded up sheet of paper where he wrote his three to five most important things he wanted to get done that day. A year or so later I had that idea reinforced by the book The One Thing, which presented a similar idea.

I started doing this, but I didn’t like folding a piece of paper. I tended to forget the paper, but when I remembered I got stuff done.

I love journals and notebooks, but most don’t feel like the right pocketable size. The best I could find was those tiny spiral bound pocket notebooks from Wal-Mart and elsewhere. They are super cheap, and they have a massive flaw…

The spiral binding would leave little strings of garbage paper in the binding. Also they seemed to fall apart and I didn’t love carrying them around. My friend suggested Field Notes and the similar style of notebooks, but they folded the wrong way and didn’t have tear out pages.

What I wanted was something that folded over reporter style, had tear out pages, and fit perfectly in my hand for managing my daily todo list.

I couldn’t find anything that felt right, so my friend Shawn and I decided to design our own. It was hard. We made prototypes by hand, tried different sizes, and went through a bunch of junk just to get it made.

It was quite the ordeal.

But on the other side, I found my constant pocket companion - The Unbranded Pocket Notebook.

It’s not an app, but it’s actually so much better than any todo list app has ever been for me. It’s low tech - pen and paper. It lives in my pocket and has the best user experience I could ask for.

Every day I write down the 3-5 most important things I want to do that day. As I do them I cross them off the list (which is quite satisfying), and at the end of the day or in the next morning I tear out the page and throw it away.

Every day is a clean slate. No backlog, no nagging feeling of work left undone. Only what is next up.

It keeps me with momentum and purpose every day. No app has ever done that for me and I doubt one ever will.

So, there you have it. My favorite app is a pocket notebook, it doesn’t sync with the cloud, but it helps me get stuff done every day and it’s 100% cross platform.


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