In the pursuit of workflow zen, I’ve been simplifying things a bit. It’s been a positive change so far.

Data is everywhere. We create and consume vast quantities of data everyday without giving a second thought to how much. Emails, tweets, posts, pictures, videos, messages and audio are just a few examples of the data that we interact with on a daily basis. And there’s no shortage of software to manage your data either. For each type or format of data you have, there could be hundreds of different options available to you to manage that data. Apps, web applications, scripts, services, products.

Not only are there tools that mostly persist and manipulate your data, there’s a new type of service available that pushes your data to other services based on triggers. Services like Zapier and IFTTT have the means to collect and distribute your data to other places depending on the triggers and services you specify. It can become mind boggling and complicated.

It was last year when I realised that I was pushing more data around different services than I needed. I started making some changes:

  • I stopped using a dedicated bookmarking service and instead opted to routinely drop a list of formatted markdown links into my blog.
  • I stopped using Evernote and instead starting using text files to manage lists and collections. Evernote is a great tool for keeping all your data together but I found it difficult to keep my data organised. The idea of notebooks and groups is good but I just couldn’t make it work. This isn’t a complaint against Evernote, it’s a great tool, it’s just not for me.
  • I started using plain text files for a lot of things. Check-lists, ideas, outlines and anything else that I needed to keep a note of.

After doing this I noticed a change. The number of places I need to check to find something was greatly reduced. I had a collection of files in my Dropbox that I used on a daily basis. Then there was my task manager, my reading list and a few boards on Trello. I didn’t have to search anywhere else beyond that. Then the number of tools I needed started to fall as well. I started uninstalling apps from my MacBook and cancelling some subscriptions.

It’s been a refreshing change. Gone are all the connected services and triggers I used and instead I have a low maintenance set of tools that I can use easily. I can find the data I need for easily and most importantly I do less moving about of data.