My Productivity Stack: 10 Apps That Help Me Get Things Done

written by Dan Silvestre

productivity stackBelow, you’ll find my productivity stack. This is the combination of digital apps that help me manage my daily life and be more productive.

I’ll include the main categories and my app of choice. I’ll also give you other recommendations you can use to achieve the same result.

My productivity stack has evolved through the years. Sometimes, it comes down to a personal preference. As long as you’re getting your work done effectively, the tool doesn’t matter much.

So it’s helpful to think first “What do I need to achieve?” and only then look for a tool. From experience, most people do it the other way around. They try a tool first and then get frustrated that it doesn’t fit their needs.

I like my tools to be simple, easy to maintain, and have one purpose only.

For example: I’m not interested in an email app that allows me to have email, calendar, and a to-do list. For an email app, I am only going to use it for email.

I highly recommend that you use my recommendations below to craft or optimize your productivity stack.

A great productivity stack:

  1. Increases your leverage. Allows you to be more effective and work on your highest-leverage activities
  2. Makes work more enjoyable. Working with the right tools makes work fun
  3. Optimizes your efficiency. If you get more done with less input, you are more productive. Simple as that
  4. Saves you time. Automate repetitive tasks and free up your time to focus on high-value tasks
  5. Makes you more organized. You find what you need quickly and reduce your overwhelm

Let’s go.

#1 Task Management: Thingsproductivity stack things

I don’t work from my to-do list but rather use it as a capture tool for all the tasks I might do.

For my to-do list, I use ​Things​. It’s super simple to use and great at quick capture, which is the main thing I’m looking for

I add everything here:

  • Main tasks
  • Small admin work
  • Emails I need to reply to
  • Personal errands I need to do

One feature I love about Things is the ability to add notes to a task. I add notes and reference links. This is helpful when I do need to work on the task.

I have a keyboard shortcut set up for quick capture of a new task. This allows me to add a new task while staying focused on what I’m doing.

It helps to see everything that’s on my backlog, especially when I’m doing my weekly planning​. And I use it again a lot when doing my weekly review​.

Whenever I have a new task, I immediately add it to Things. I’m not taking any action on it right away. I’m just writing it down. I just take it out of my brain and into the app.

If I don’t see value in doing an activity in the next few weeks, I move them to my ​Someday List​.

For the ones that I do intend to work on, I use the next app on this list.

Other recommended options: ​todoist​ or ​2Do​

#2 Calendar and Scheduling: Calendar

productivity stack calendar

The calendar is the most important tool in my productivity stack.

Everything takes time:

  • Writing this article for ​my newsletter​​ takes time
  • Meetings with coaching clients take time. Preparing for those meetings and writing notes afterward also takes time
  • Processing my email and getting to ​inbox zero​​ takes time
  • Personal errands and recreational activities take time

And because everything takes time, everything needs to be on my calendar:

  • When I’m working on a specific task, and for how long
  • Coaching sessions with clients
  • Personal errands I need to do
  • Deadlines for specific things
  • Deliveries I might be receiving that day

If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen.

I ​​time-block​​ my tasks during weekly planning​. I give myself buffer time between big tasks. And I add breaks​ as well.

I also add reminders for my most important tasks and events. So whenever I’m working, I don’t need to think about the next things I’m going to do. That decision has already been made. My calendar tells me what I’m working on next.

I use Fantastical on my phone because of their widget. It’s a freemium app but the free version is enough for me.

Other recommendations: ​Fantastical​ or ​Google Calendar​

#3 Project Management: Notionproductivity stack project management

I know lots of people use Notion primarily as a note-taking tool. I don’t — more on that below.

I believe the area where Notion really shines is Project Management.

It’s simple to set up a ​Kanban board​ and use the cards. You can add links, people, and notes specific to that task. And it’s also easy to move the cards around during your project phases.

So I use Notion to plan big projects that can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months. And I use it for recurring tasks I’m doing every week.

For example:

Above, you see a Kanban I used to plan my YouTube videos​.

Whenever I add a new idea, I could simply create a card and name it with the idea. As the video gets into “production”, I can expand that card and change the title, add notes, and links to useful materials.

And I would move the card as the video went along the journey — from idea to published. And yes, very much like a factory producing widgets.

If you need tables, Notion is your go-to place.

Notion is also where my ​Productivity Vault​ and ​Brain OS​ live.

Other recommendations: ​Asana​ or ​Trello​

#4 Email Management: Gmailgmail

My inbox lives on ​Gmail​. It’s enough for my needs. I do get a bit of email every day but a lot less than most people. This is by design using a system I’ve developed over the years.

I get to inbox zero​ every day. If there’s a task in the email, I add it to my to-do list.

If it’s something important, I add it directly to my calendar, with a link to the email.

I have three email “windows” to ​batch-process​ email:

  • After I complete my biggest task of the day. This is normally around 11 am
  • After lunch. My ​energy levels​ are a bit lower​ so it’s a prime time to do some shallow work
  • Before ending my workday. This ensures nothing falls through the cracks before shutting down

During these windows, I’m focused on taking 1 of 6 possible actions on each message:

  • Reply. If an email requires immediate action and I can answer quickly, I handle it right away
  • Archive. If I don’t need to do anything else about it
  • Add it to my Calendar. For meetings and any time-specific events
  • Add it to my task manager. When the email contains a task, I add it as a to-do
  • Send it to my notes app. For anything I want to save for future reference
  • Send it to my Read Later app. For content I want to process later

More on how I use Gmail effectively on my ​GTD Email course​.

Other recommendations: ​Outlook​ or ​Superhuman​

#5 Read-It-Later: Instapaperinstapaper

As a content creator, I spend a fair share of my time reading and researching. So it’s very easy to go down a rabbit hole and watch the hours go by. The internet is full of interesting things.

That’s why I’ve added a buffer between discovery and consumption of content. Whenever I find something I might think it’s interesting, I save it to ​Instapaper​.

Then, whenever I have some free time, I can open Instapaper and start reading. This way, I ​batch-process​ my reading, which is fantastic. I make my reading intentional.

The coolest thing about Instapaper is you can highlight specific parts of an article. Then, using​ Readwise​, you can export those highlights directly into your note-taking tool. More on this below.

This way, you’re not saving the entire article. You’re only saving the parts that resonated with you the most. This is one of the key principles of my ​Zettelkasten in Roam​.

I’ve used Pocket in the past but switched to Instapaper a few years ago. I found it easier to use and the highlight option does the trick.

Other recommendations: ​Pocket​

#6 Note-Taking and Knowledge Management: Roamroam

​Roam Research​ is the second app I use the most daily.

Inside, lives my ​Zettelkasten​:

  • Notes from articles, books, videos, and podcasts
  • Ideas for future projects
  • My weekly reviews, as well as strategy and plans
  • Free flow journaling
  • Resources for future newsletters

It’s the app that saves all relevant digital information for my work and personal life.

It’s where I capture all my ideas and transform them into long-lasting knowledge. I do this by leveraging what our brain does best: connections.

For smaller things, like a grocery shopping list, I like to use ​Apple Notes​ or ​Google Keep​. But for notes that I want to last, I always go with Roam.

I know these days most people prefer Obsidian over Roam. But it’s one of those types of apps that it’s hard and time-consuming to make a switch. I know because I did migrate from Evernote to Roam a few years ago. But it’s definitely a project on my someday list.

Other recommendations: ​Obsidian​ or ​Notion​

#7 File Storage and Sharing: Google Driveproductivity stack google drive

I use ​Google Drive​ for file storage and sharing. I pay for a small business plan so I can use Google Workspace with my custom domain.

It’s synced to my computer, which means I can use Google Drive folders directly from Finder. This way, I don’t need to open it on the browser every time I want to add something there.

Everything lives on my Google Drive:

If I need someone working on a specific project, I can easily give them access to the folder or file. So it’s also a fantastic collaboration tool.

Other recommendations: ​OneDrive​ or ​Dropbox​

#8 Communication and Collaboration: Zoom

I use Zoom for coaching sessions with clients as well as group coaching and workshops. It is by far the best communication tool today.

I love that I can press a button and record the meeting and have it ready after it’s over. After that, I upload it directly to Google Drive and share it with coaching clients. This allows them to watch our conversation again if they need to.

If I need to explain concepts with drawings, I use ​Notability​ and draw on my iPad using a pencil.

To set up meetings with clients, I use ​Calendly​. It’s easy to share with clients my available times and allows them to see it in their timezone.

Also, it automatically adds the meeting to my calendar, which is fantastic.

If I need to share something quick asynchronously with a client, I record a quick video using ​Loom​. And because Loom hosts videos too, so I can send the link to the client to watch it online.

Other recommendations: ​Teams​ or ​Google Meet​

#9 Writing: Google Docshemingway

I’ve used a lot of different apps to write. In the end, nothing beats the simplicity of ​Google Docs​. And since it’s in the Google ecosystem, it’s automatically added to my Google Drive.

Collaboration inside Google Docs is also easy. I use comments extensively to communicate my ideas.

I also use Google Docs for most of my presentations. This keeps things simple and the focus on the content rather than how great it looks. And that’s why I prefer it over Google Slides or Apple Keynote.

To improve my writing, I also use two extra tools:

  • Hemingway​. It helps keep my writing clear and concise
  • Grammarly​. For grammar and spelling mistakes. It also provides suggestions to improve style, tone, word choice, clarity, and readability

Other recommendations: ​Scrivener​ or ​Sublime Text​

#10 Spreadsheets: Google Sheetsgoogle sheets

Finally, I use spreadsheets for most things in my life:

So as you’d expect, I always have a spreadsheet open.

And again, nothing beats the simplicity of Google Sheets.

Other recommendations: ​Excel​ and ​Airtable​

Your Productivity Stack: 10 Apps You Need to Get Things Done

So there you have, my productivity stack. This is the combination of tools and apps that allow me to be more effective and efficient.

If you don’t have a productivity stack, I highly recommend creating yours now.

Here’s my productivity stack again:

  1. Task Management: Things
  2. Calendar and Scheduling: Calendar
  3. Project Management: Notion
  4. Email Management: Gmail
  5. Read-It-Later: Instapaper
  6. Note-Taking and Knowledge Management: Roam
  7. File Storage and Sharing: Google Drive
  8. Communication and Collaboration: Zoom
  9. Writing: Google Docs
  10. Spreadsheets: Google Sheets

What’s one app you’d add or change?

Tags:: Apps

Thanks for reading!

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