I've recently fallen in love with a new productivity app called Sunsama. I came across it quite by chance, but after using it for the past few months, it's working out to be the closest thing to the perfect productivity tool there is out there. I've been a productivity fiend for a few years now. Personal productivity is still one of those things that no product does well and believe that there's room in the market to create something phenomenal. Over that time, I've tried many tools and have come to appreciate Todoist as my primary tool for quite a few years. Todoist does a lot of things well. However, Todoist is designed to be a task management tool. Being productive is a workflow that has to solve for a few things. It has to capture work from all originating sources and be able to prioritize and organize the tasks and be able to slot them into the appropriate time.

Product Overview

Sunsama tackles the need from a productivity process perspective and not just from a tooling perspective. I thought it was incredibly smart that it didn't replace other well-known tools out there but instead chose to integrate with them. In my use case, the integrations that matter to me are Google Calendar, Gmail, Trello and Todoist. It does have other integrations like Slack, Asana, GitHub, GitLab and Jira as well.

It's also unique because it has an opinionated point of view on how managing productivity should be, and it guides you through this process every day and every week. Fortunately for me, it follows a lot of principles I use on a day to day perspective to manage my teams and so it works how I strive to operate already.

Key Features I use

Channels

I use Channels as a proxy for categories. It allows me to allocate tasks and be able to do reporting. I love that you can assign channels to Slack channels and Todoist projects or labels. The way I currently use Channels is that I use a colour to represent a theme, and my channels are created in the format of [category]:[sub-category] so that I can have the breakdown that I do my daily and weekly analysis.

Integrations

Integrations are what make Sunsama powerful. It integrates with a whole slew of popular tools. They currently integrate to:

  • Google Calendar
  • Gmail
  • Slack
  • Asana
  • Trello
  • Todoist
  • GitHub
  • GitLab
  • Jira

Auto-archive

A smart feature is the auto-archive feature. It automatically archives them for you if something has been rolled over for a set number of days. I use this view to review it every week to figure out if I should be just removing the tasks or scheduling them differently.

Switching between Tasks view and Calendar View

This feature is one of the more powerful tools in productivity as it allows you to plan my time and by tasks. The time view is my preferred view as my day tends to be filled with meetings most days, and a lot of what I do is balancing that. However, when I'm doing planning, the task view is quite useful for that.

The Flow

Daily Planning

Yesterday-s-Review

My day starts with a planning phase. Every morning at a set time, Sunsama kicks off my day by forcing you to reflect and plan. The review screen presents a lot of useful information such as my total time that I've been productive, a pie chart of where I spent my time by categories, and the details of where I am using my time. If I see anything missing, I can always add it to my list to make it complete.

Daily-Planning
The daily view gives me a break down of where you spent your time yesterday. I love that it automatically moves all my unfinished tasks to today, and that creates an automatic backlog for me. I can also continue to add to it by adding work from other sources from my integrations. In my case, the integrations that I use the most are Trello, Todoist, Gmail and Google Calendar. Sunsama has recently added a new feature that automatically adds all of my calendar items of the day to my to-do list. This view comes handy to get an accurate daily review.

This daily planning view is where I spend most of my time in the process and where my love of this product stems. I use this view to ensure that all tasks and calendar items have assigned channels and ensure that my day is filled appropriately. One handy feature is the time allocation at the top. You can easily see if you're overallocated in terms of tasks. This view allows me to ensure that I have time allocated to all the critical tasks. My process is to ensure that all the appropriate time is filled up, but I also move any tasks that I think I can be opportunistic at the top of my list.

Backlog-Planning

The next part of planning is to allocate my tasks to the right time slot. I can move my tasks to tomorrow or next week. On the one hand, it can be frustrating that the time horizon is so drastic to be today, tomorrow or next week, but it also makes sense because it forces me to make some real priority decisions.

Finalize-your-day
I finalize my plan by reviewing it one last time. I see that my final screen is way more colourful after I've categorized my tasks and calendars with the right channels.

Day-Summary
Finally, at the end of the daily planning routine, it summarizes your day and creates an automated note for checking in with your team. This view is customizable. In my case, I also added time allocations for tasks that I find helpful. While I love the option to post to Slack, I don't need to do this yet.

Weekly Retrospective

Summary-by-Channel
Summary-by-Day
Screen-Shot-2020-05-15-at-6.55.26-PM
Another big part of planning is the weekly review process. At the end of the week, Sunsama summarizes your week for you. It gives you a breakdown by day for the week and then by channel for the week. The goal is to record your weekly reflections.

Other things I love about Sunsama

Outside of the way I love it works, the other thing that I've really appreciated about Sunsama is its responsiveness. Whenever I've faced questions or had issues, the team has been really good at responding with context and fixing key issues. The team usually responds within 24 hours or so.

Things I would change

There are no apps that are designed perfectly for what I would do. Every one of us is unique in terms of productivity. If this app was designed only for me, though, here is the list of things that I would change.

It's clunky to ensure that your previous tasks updated accurately

The way you ensure that your previous day's tasks are up to date is clunky as the only way to add a task in this view is to recreate it. The frustrating thing is that I can see the task on the next screen with all the details needed on the next screen. However, when I complete the task on that screen, it allocates it to today's lists.

Automatically add channels to recurring calendar items

I have to manually set the channel of the calendar every day, even if it's a recurring item. While not hard, it's just cumbersome and takes a bit of joy out of the product.

Not enough flexibility for reporting

I currently have two accounts set up: one for personal and one for work because I don't have an easy way to have the level of reporting that makes it meaningful for me. The way to solve it is to have hierarchical channels and summarize data by each level of channels.

Two-way sync on all integrations

I'd love to be able to have two-way synchronizations for all integrations. Being an engineer, I know that doing this well is incredibly hard, but Sunsama does this for a handful of integrations like Trello.

It's on the pricey side

I currently pay about $5 per month for Todoist, and Sunsama starts at $20 per month. The difference is that you have two accounts for $20 with Sunsama and Sunsama does more than just tasks management.

So What?!?!

Sunsama plays a big part in my productivity process. I firmly believe Sunsama is still the most complete planning tool today, making it the best planning tool. It looks at productivity as more than a series of tools but rather in a methodology of managing tasks and time. It also recognizes that people have different ways that work comes to them, and instead of fighting it, it incorporates it in the product. One of the direct impacts of using Sunsama is that it cuts down my planning time from an hour to between 20 to 30 minutes daily.

While $20 may be pricey, it has been a very worthwhile investment for me.