4 Cloud Based Tools That Have Dramatically Increased my Personal Productivity

By Ron Pereira Updated on May 24th, 2012

As a business owner, husband, and father of 5 amazing children time is not something I have a lot of.

As such, being able to stay focused and productive is extremely important. A few months ago I realized I was not being as effective as I needed to be.

It wasn’t because of a lack of effort… I was working very hard. But there were certain things really holding me back.

So, after some personal hansei, I made some changes that I’d like to share in this article.  Oh, and as an aside, there are no affiliate links in this article.


The first change I made centered around better managing my daily tasks.

To do this, I started to use a free web based tool called KanbanFlow.

KanbanFlow allows you to keep track of tasks you need to do, plan to work on today, and are currently working on.

The Pomodoro Technique

There is another tool built into the KanbanFlow site centered around something called the Pomodoro technique for time management.

The Pomodoro technique promotes working with full focus for 25 minutes before taking a short break. Then work another 25 minutes followed by another break.

The big breakthrough for me was a simple one. During a Pomodoro cycle (which I am in now) I turn off email and any other application that may distract me.

Once 25 minutes is up (man it goes fast when you’re really focused) I accept the break and check email and tend to any urgent matter that may have come up. I also allow myself to sneak a peak at some of my favorite bloggers, or maybe check out my Facebook page, or read about my beloved Texas Rangers.

But, once the 5 minutes is up I do my very best to close everything back down while beginning a new Pomodoro cycle.

I’ve not perfected this and still need more discipline but I’m getting better.


At Gemba Academy we have LOTS of projects going on.

We’re working on things such as the launch of a formal School of Six Sigma, redesigning our website, and even experimenting with subtitles in Hebrew, Chinese, and Arabic!

Historically, we’ve done OK with project management by email communication and using things like Dropbox to collaborate and share files.

But, as of a few months ago, we officially hit a point where we just had too much to manage.

Enter Basecamp by the guys over at 37 Signals.

Basecamp is cloud based project management website that allows users to keep track of projects, assign tasks, and have discussions with team members.

With Basecamp, there is no need to “discuss” things via email… it can all be done in Basecamp allowing you to revisit a discussion you had 3 weeks ago quickly and easily.

I love, love, love Basecamp and can’t imagine how we ever got anything done without it.


Another cloud-based tool, also produced by 37 Signals, we just started to experiment with is called Highrise.

Highrise is a “simple CRM” tool that allows us to keep better track of customers we talk to and need to follow back up with.

We have used some other CRM tools in the past that were far more complex than they needed to be.

The power of Highrise and Basecamp is in their simplicity. They allow you to do the things you need to do and nothing more.

Organization & Focus

Really, when I step back to think about it, the theme of all the tools I’ve mentioned is is organization and focus.

By staying more organized I, and my Gemba Academy team members, are better able to focus. And by staying focused, we’re able to stay better organized!

So, hopefully this article has given you some ideas on how to improve your own personal productivity.

What Tips do you Have?

Since I’m always on the look out for better ways of working I’d love to hear your advice on how you stay organized and focused.

What tips and tricks do you use to manage your work?

  1. Stanley Amos

    May 24, 2012 - 10:04 am

    Great tips! We have used Basecamp for months and also love it. Never heard of Kanban Flow but it looks interesting and I plan to give it a try.

    One thing I do is write down 3 things I must get done each day. So no other project is focused on until those 3 tasks are done.

    • Ron Pereira

      May 24, 2012 - 10:17 am

      Yes, focusing on 2 to 3 most important tasks is very powerful! Thanks for sharing, Stanley. And let me know what you think of KanbanFlow.

  2. Avijit

    May 25, 2012 - 5:04 am

    Ron – Just wnted to add Replicon to the list. Its in evaluation stage right now in our company but all I can say is it looks good to start with. All tools are cloud based, as far as I know.

  3. Victor Valdman

    May 29, 2012 - 11:18 am

    Hi, Ron. Thanks for sharing these ideas. For last several weeks I try working with WeekPlan (weekplan.net). It was inspired by S. Covey’s famous book “Seven habits…” It helps me to focus on the most important issues during the week and add other tasks in between.

    • Sysadmn

      February 5, 2013 - 11:43 am

      Great suggestions – sorry to revive an old thread. I currently use Trello. If I had known about kanbanflow, I’d probably have used it. Trello is very similar, and also free.

  4. Jason Hull

    March 7, 2014 - 4:07 pm

    Here at OpenPotion, we are in the process of switching from basecamp to http://breeze.pm

    If you like Kanban/trello and Basecamp it is like the two had a love child. It adds a lot of features we were missing in Basecamp New like time tracking, setting time estimates, budgets etc.

    Really cool.

  5. Allie Cook

    May 28, 2014 - 7:04 am

    Pleased to know how you are using these tools for enhacing your productivity. I would like to suggest one other enterprising project management tool called proofhub for organized management over projects. It is a simple solution but quite effective for project management.

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