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16 Online Tools And Resources for More Productive Planners

You manage multiple projects, plans, and engagement processes. You collaborate with colleagues, partners, and stakeholders. You report to your boss, council and the public. Is there a way to wring some productivity to get more done?
November 20, 2014, 8am PST | Simon Lapointe
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Mike McCune (mccune 934)

You manage multiple projects, plans, and engagement processes. You collaborate with colleagues, partners, and stakeholders. You report to your boss, council and the public.

You get a ton done when you’re at your computer, speeding away on the day’s latest planning project or engagement strategy.

You do this all day, day after day.

Is there a way to wring some productivity to get more done?

Which app or services are best for people trying to optimize output?

How can you work smarter and faster everyday? It starts with having the right tools.

I give a huge number of tools a test run and I’ve collected a big sampling of some stellar tools and applications that offer a wide variety of uses and cover a number of common needs.

Some of these tools are fast, free and easy to use. I hope you find one or two useful. More importantly, I hope you do something with it.

Here’s the first in a series of blog posts covering some of my favourite tools that I use everyday.



1Password puts all your passwords in one place and keeps them secure with just a few clicks.

I use 1Password everyday to login to all my accounts and to generate strong secure

Passwords. With 1Password, there’s no need to remember any of them anymore.

It works on my desktop, my iPad and my iPhone. And I can even share a vault to share some passwords with my co-founder so that both have access to our main administrative accounts. It’s amazing.



Alfred is another tool that I wouldn’t be able to live without. I use it 100 times a day everyday. Minimum.

Alfred allows you to find applications and files and launch them without lifting your hands off the keyboard. You can search the web, perform quick calculations, search your contacts, and find files in your email. It’s extremely useful and I’m lost every time I use a computer that doesn’t have Alfred.



Asana puts conversations and task together in one place so that you can see what everyone else is doing. When you work independently, you really don’t have much need for a task manager that handles communication and collaboration. But when you work in teams and your team works remotely, having a place to collaborate without using emails is amazing.

What I love with Asana is that it allows users to create Workspaces and insert projects and tasks within them. For example, I have a Professional Workspace, which contains individual projects and tasks that are work related. I have a Personal Workspace that contains personal projects that I’m working on. I also have a Family Workspace that contains family related projects and tasks that I can share with my wife. That way, she doesn’t see all my other work related stuff that doesn’t impact her.



Bitly is a tool that allows you to shorten your links to keep them short and clean. It also provides real-time analytics, bookmarking your favourite sites and tracking clicks. Bitly works on every social media platform including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others.


Much like Hootsuite, Buffer is a social media account management tool that makes sharing and scheduling social media posts throughout the day via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ easy to do. I’m a huge fan of the Buffer app. It’s elegant, easy-to-use and incredibly useful.

Buffer also provides some great analytics about engagement and reach. Buffer will even suggest topics to share and allows the addition of feeds from your favourite websites. I use this tool everyday for all my social media networks related tasks.


If you haven’t tried Canva yet, you should do it now. It’s incredible.

Canva is an online design tool that allows you to create professional looking graphic designs. It has more than one million pictures, graphics and fonts. If you’re like me and like to create compelling visual content to supercharge your documents or presentations, then this tool is for you.

Through experimentation and iteration, I’ve found that including images increases engagement across the board. So I use Canva to add beautiful visuals when sharing to social media, blog posts, and newsletters. I also use it to create appealing graphics for online engagement, posters, flyers, invitations, and other planning-related documents including draft plans and reports.

Try it today. It’s an incredible tool and it’s free.


Easelly is another tool that allows you to create and share amazing visual ideas.

Creating compelling visuals used to take significant planning, graphic design skills and resources. With Easelly everyone can create amazing visuals by choosing from thousands of free infographic templates and design objects.

I use Easelly to create charts and concepts in an easy-to-follow visual form for all my planning projects and planning related documents (including proposals). With Easelly I can create my own infographics as a way to convey information and data analysis on the web or in reports.

It’s simple enough that my 9-year-old daughter uses it to create infographics for some of her class presentations without any adult assistance.


Evernote is a cross platform app that serves many purposes. It can be used as a digital file cabinet, a note-taking tool, a daily journal, a recipe book and much more. Evernote is kind of like a universal inbox that allows you to store anything you can imagine in one place including web pages, pdfs, articles, blog posts, business cards, phone numbers, contacts, images, videos and to-do tasks.

I use Evernote to record tasks at meetings using my iPad or my iPhone. I use it to take a picture or a snapshot of something I wrote on a board, attach it to the meeting note I just created, tag a location to identify the meeting place and share my notes with my colleagues. I can even schedule reminders to follow-up on certain actions items that arose during the meeting.

Basically, you can dump anything and everything in Evernote and retrieve it all later. It rocks note taking. It’s amazing for archiving and retrieving documents. It works across platforms and it integrates with Pocket, IFTTT, and Feedly. Great tool and wouldn’t be able to live without it.


Goodbits is a simple web application that allows you to create beautiful newsletters from curated content and links from the web in your Mailchimp Newsletter. Links can be added from Twitter, Pocket of Feedly and shared with your list. So if you’re organization has a website or a blog and you want to start sharing some of that content with your community and citizens, simply click on the content you want to share, pick and crop a thumbnail, edit the description and Goodbits will do the rest for you.

Google Drive

Not much to say here other than Google Drive is Google Drive and that I use it a lot.

Google Drive allows you to save any file format and reach them from anywhere using your phone, tablet or computer. You can share files and folders to collaborate with others. If you’re tired of sending documents around via emails then Google Drive is the tool for you.


Hootsuite is a social media management tool. It supports social media integration for Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, Foursquare, TrendSpottr, and Mixi. Hootsuite is a reliable aid to planners involved in social media.

Founded in 2008, Hootsuite is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canadian company has over 7 million users. Hootsuite offers a free, pro and enterprise option. If you’re looking for the best, this is it (and I’m not saying that only because I’m Canadian). It makes scheduling posts, assigning tasks to team members, and add RSS feeds from your favourite websites easy to do. Hootsuite comes with excellent built-in analytics that allow you to report on campaign results.

IFTTT (If This Than That)

IFTTT is a service that lets you create powerful connections (called recipes) with one simple statement: If This Then That.

IFTTT let’s you connect popular apps and services together and make them work for you. You can connect Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Buffer to SMS, emails and phone calls. For example, you might ask Facebook to save all the photos you uploaded to your Dropbox or send you an SMS message every time you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook. 

It’s super simple and the possibilities are endless. Plus there are hundred of thousands of shared recipes available to help you get started. And, it’s free.


Pocket is an awesome way to quickly save an article from any device so that you can read it later. The internet is a distracting place. Pocket’s web browser extension allows you to save a web page, a video and anything else. Pocket doesn’t ask questions, it just saves it for later. I like how Pocket lets me mark content as read. It’s easier to keep my Pocket from getting too cluttered with stuff.

Skitch (from Evernote)

Skitch is a screen capture app. It allows you to communicate ideas, share feedback and collaborate with friends and co-workers. I use Skitch to add an arrow, shapes or write my thoughts on an image, a PDF showing a map or design concept, or a screen capture of a document.

I do a lot of GIS and mapping. I’ll often send my products to co-workers and ask for feedback. If every one I work with used Skitch to give me comments on the maps I just shared it would make my life much easier. Take note if you’re a colleague and reading this blog. :)


Trello is a powerful project management application. You can use Trello to collaborate by organizing projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what and where something is in a process.

Trello is super easy-to-use. You create lists and then drag cards to lists to show progressions. You can even upload files from Dropbox and Google Drive.

You can create a board for a community or a planning group to follow your planning process, project and deadlines and allow these people to see progress. I’ve used Trello for my own projects and I’ve never used it with the public in a planning related project. That said, I’m planning on trying it out in a project that’s coming up soon so more on that in a later post.


Unsplash is one for the bookmarks. If you’re like me and love to use photos to improve your message, add context and meaning to a story then Unsplash is the tool for you.

It’s amazing how by just taking a quote from a participant in a planning process, a tip or a greeting, and putting it on a background makes the difference between a plan or a document that gets barely noticed and one that gets a ton of attention.

Unsplash is a collection of free high-resolution photos. It releases 10 new photos every 10 days and they’re all released under the creative commons public domain license. Unsplash is arguably the top free stock photo site out there.

Are there any tools here that you might try? Any of your favourites that weren’t included?

As mentioned earlier, this is the first in a series on tools and resources that I use to improve productivity. I’m going to write another blog about some other tools I use often and I’d love to build the list out even more, and your input would be excellent! Share your favourites on Twitter @simolapointe.


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Published on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 in Civicly
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