Personal Setup for Getting Shit Done in 2021

Inspired by The Setup, I’ve written my own “how does this person get their shit done” blog posts every other year or so, mostly to see how my setup has changed over time and to share some tips that work for me.

Some context — I’m Brian Doll, half of the go-to-market consultancy, Reify, where we help companies sell more software.

My goals are simplicity and focus. I want to have the right tool for each important activity, while freeing up as much of my time as possible to do fun stuff like ride bikes and hike around outdoors.


Time Management / Calendar

Work Apps and Tech

The reMarkable

I’ve only just started using the reMarkable but I’m very very stoked on it already. Its the kind of single-purpose product that I wish there were more of. It’s not an iPad or Kindle competitor. It’s a paper-like digital notebook. That’s it. And its awesome. Here’s a bit about how I use it and what modifications work for me.

Notes and Sketching

We tend to work with~20 client companies each year. Some are multi-month engagements, some much shorter projects. I have a “Clients” Notebook that uses the dot grid template. I write the name of the client in thick marker up top, and I just down notes and ideas and sketches on the page. Before a meeting with that client, I open that section in the notebook. For me, writing things down on “paper” is better for my brain than typing bullet lists in an app.

In the past I’d have a dot grid paper notebook for similar purposes, but I couldn’t organize it well. One client might have notes and sketches across 10 pages of the notebook. If I wanted to share a sketch I made (to inspire a diagram or design) I’d take a photo of my paper notebook, clean it up on my phone, AirDrop it to my Macbook and share it from there. Now I can just email it directly from the reMarkable.

Daily Journal w/ Custom Template

I’ve been on the “productivity system” bandwagon for a while. Franklin Covey, GTD, Habit tracking apps, etc. While I was waiting for the reMarkable to arrive, I started taking notes about how I wanted to use it. I wanted to start keeping a journal. I wasn’t sure what I’d write about, and I’m still not sure, but I do find the habit very helpful and it’s been nice to kick off the day with it.

I respect the Bullet Journal folks, but that’s just not my jam. As outlined above, I run my world through email, calendars, and documents. A giant todo list, regardless how it is organized or what apps may work for you, does not work for me at all. I do however want to get some important shit done every day.

And lastly, I want to start being more intentional about forming positive habits that I’ve had a hard time sticking to previously.

This is why I decided to create my own template for my daily journal. I use hyutilities to move my custom templates and graphics onto the reMarkable, and I also use that app to make backups, which are stored in Dropbox for now.

Here’s the template (linked, in case anyone wants to use it):

Custom Splashscreens

My Field Notes or Moleskine notebooks felt like important personal objects and I want this digital version to feel like that. Having custom splahscreens on the reMarkable makes it feel that much more personal. Using hyutilities it’s pretty easy to replace the existing graphics (like what is displayed when the notebook is sleeping, waking up, powering on and off, etc.). It’s best to download the existing files, edit them in an image editor however you like, and re-upload them.

Note: Custom templates and graphics will be overwritten every time the reMarkable gets a software update. That’s why hyutilities is so essential. You can quickly and easily re-sync your custom bits.

Pocket “Read Later” stuff

I’ve used Pocket forever to keep articles that I want to read “later”. The trouble is, I tend not to read much of what I put in there. pocket2rm is fantastic software. It lets you sync the last 10 entries in Pocket into your reMarkable tablet. It makes for a pleasurable reading experience and I can highlight stuff and take notes right on the page. There are similar programs for other “read it later” solutions, too.

A word about Kindle eBooks

Every reMarkable forum has a few posts a week from folks who seem to be very upset that you can’t (easily) read Kindle books on it. (DRM is a thing.) If you want to read Kindle books, you absolutely should do that on a Kindle and not a reMarkable. Yes some older books can be converted, yes there are products and hacks that say things might work, yes some books look like garbage anyway (allegedly). I absolutely love my Kindle Paperwhite. I don’t love that I’m so deeply tied into the Amazon ecosystem and I’ll do penance for that elsewhere but for reading Kindle books, buy a Kindle. Trust.

OK that’s mostly it. Let me know if you found this useful, have a question, or want clarification on something. I love reading this stuff so I’m happy to keep it updated.




I’m a story-driven marketer, a technology-infused strategist, and an entrepreneurial executive.

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Brian Doll

I’m a story-driven marketer, a technology-infused strategist, and an entrepreneurial executive.