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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

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Seven Tools I Used in 2014 that Made It My Most Productive Year Yet

Andrew Hitz

Looking back on 2014, I am happy to report that on many fronts it was the most productive year I've ever had.  When things are going well in any aspect of my life I try to notice what I'm doing so I can continue doing those things.  As Mr. Jacobs would say "Catch yourself doing something right."

The following is a list of tools (most of them apps) that I used all the time in 2014 that helped me to stay organized, stay inspired, and kept me productive.  If you have any tools or apps that you use to stay productive I would love to hear about them in the comments!





I use Evernote to keep track of absolutely everything.  I have music stored here, notes from practice sessions, notes I've taken in master classes, important paperwork for gigs, EVERYTHING.  The best part about having everything in one place is that you always know right where to find whatever you are looking for.  You can even take a photograph of a document and it is completely searchable by text - even handwritten! 

Evernote seamlessly syncs across the desktop, phones, and tablets so whatever you are looking for is always where you need it.  I can't imagine my life as a performer, teacher, or entrepreneur, without Evernote.


Wunderlist is the best app I've found for making lists - and I've tried a whole lot of them.  Like Evernote, it seamlessly syncs across all platforms and you can also share lists with other people, as I do with Lance LaDuke for our Pedal Note Media action items.  You can set reminders for individual tasks and also "star" important ones.  This app keeps me focused on the important tasks I have in front of me.


The Due app is what I use whenever I need to quickly set a specific reminder for a task.  The best part of this app is that when a reminder goes off, with one tap you can either "snooze" the reminder 10 minutes, 60 minutes, or 24 hours.  It dings every minute until you tell it to go away or until you tell it when to bother you again.  

I am always nagging my students about setting reminders specifically for when they can actually accomplish what needs doing.  This app is perfect for that.  It is also great for setting regular alarms for things like paying your credit card bill, quarterly IRS payments, even remembering people's birthdays.

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I have only been using for a few months and it is awesome! You log into your email account (or accounts like I have) and it scans them all for any email subscriptions you have signed up for.  It found over 100 in my inboxes! Some were things like Jeff Nelsen's Fearless Performance Newsletter which I am happy to be signed up for (and you should too!) Others were multiple lists that the Toyota dealership where we bought our minivan (yes, I am officially old) signed us up for without asking.  This service lets you deal with each one individually. gives you three options for each subscription: unsubscribe, add to roll up, keep in inbox.  Unsubscribe is one click! No more going to websites, finding where you have to click, entering the right information, etc. takes care of all of it.  I don't know how and I don't care but it's awesome.  Anything that is added to your "Roll Up" comes in one message that is sent once a day at a time you choose.  This means you still receive them but your phone or desktop is not dinging or vibrating all day long.  It has helped me to write, to practice, to be present as a father, all due to not diving for my phone every 10 minutes due to an email alert.  And you can always choose to have any important subscriptions go right to your inbox as they always have.  This thing is magic! 


Audible has been enormously helpful to me.  Now that I am chasing an eight-month-old around the house I don't ever have time to sit and read a book.  But with Audible, I am able to listen to all kinds of books and am actually consuming more of them than I did before I became a new dad!

In the past year I have listened to countless great books relating somehow to my approach to my profession: The Talent Code, Mindset, Never Eat Alone, Outliers, Blue Ocean Strategy, and many more.  I doubt I would have gotten through a single one of those books with my current schedule if they weren't audio books.


Mailbox is an app available for both iPhone and Android phones as well as a brand new version for the Mac.  It enables you to get to "inbox zero", which is something I thought made no sense until I got there myself and felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.  By simply swiping, you can "snooze" an email by having it come back to you on a specific date at a specific time when you will be able to deal with it.  You can also easily separate your emails into lists.  I know it doesn't sound all that impressive but the ease of use and how organized it can make you are worth checking it out.


Insight Timer

I finally stumbled upon the benefits of meditation once I hit my mid-30's.  What a difference even five minutes of simply sitting quietly can make on my playing, my teaching and my life in general! This app keeps track of your stats of how many days in a row you have meditated and how long your sessions have been which has been a great motivator for me.

If you've never tried meditating before, it is hard! A healthy brain is an active brain and it can be hard to shut it off.  One nice thing about this app is that there are guided meditations, some as short as five minutes long, that have a narrator help you along.  If you have any problems with performance anxiety I can not recommend meditation any more highly.  It has been incredibly helpful to me in all aspects of my life.