Top 3 Tools For Boosting Your Productivity

Emma Bostian โœจ on July 30, 2019

"How do you get so much done?" This is a question I receive several times a week. And up until today my answer was always the same: "I'm struggling... [Read Full]
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I really love using Markdown for notes, and I found Typora a really nice solution. Notion is lovely, but I find it difficult to stick to one app (I've got half-notebooks spread across Notion, OneNote, GitHub Gists and repos, numerous half-used physical notebooks...).

I also use Freedcamp. It's a multitool project management / todo list / kanban board / wiki. Similar to Basecamp but at a fraction of the price.


I use Inkdrop for my MarkDown notes. If you set up a CouchDB instance, you have control over all of your data. I find it to be the most polished tool with sync capabilities.

I love org mode, but I don't know Emacs enough to stay productive with it. Something inevitably breaks and I realize I am spending more time messing around with Emacs than I am doing real work.


Ticktick and Onedrive(Markdown files) here.
I also love markdown for notes.
Finished notes I export to PDF or word so Onedrive handles them better.
Onenote I use from time to time for quick notes or meeting notes.

I also use different apps at times but my rule is to always export finished notes and save them in onedrive. Notes in draft are written in the app of the moment :)


I concur I have divorced myself from all proprietary note taking apps: Notion, Evernote, . . .

I use Markdown for notes and use Github private repos to back up. Then I can use Vim to my hearts content.


Thanks for Freedcamp!
I'm using Basecamp for a job and wanted something like that for my own team, but it seems a bit overkill.


I use LanguageTool since it was recommended to me here. It also offers extension for Firefox, Chrome, Google Docs, MS Word, ... but is a bit cheaper compared to Grammarly.

It also has some easter eggs ๐Ÿ˜‰:


Oh, I didn't know about this one. I was using Grammarly and Hemmingway. I'll check this one out!
Loved the easter eggs :)


Notion is a great tool, but I was spending more time organizing my workspace rather than getting things done. It's a challenging tool for perfectionists ๐Ÿ˜…. I find Trello, TickTick (todo app) and Standard Notes enough for my workflow.


I agree. For me managing notion is a job in itself. When I bought a year subscription I was very excited but I couldn't maintain it.

For now I use TickTick and still looking for a note app. I'll give Standard Notes a try.

I use Toggle to track my time.

Bookmarking is done by Pinboard, I've just started using this so don't have any tips.


Standard Notes is good, but not the best note taking app. The reason I use it because notes are encrypted. I don't have any sensitive information, but I believe in online privacy and try to support people/companies/etc. who fight for it.


I wish they would make it open-source, I feel like it would unlock so much potential. They have been talking about releasing a public API for many months and have it near the top of their roadmap, but won't say anything about it. It was fun for a minute, but I kept hitting walls and it is another Electron app eating my memory.


I have now abandoned spark (and Airmail before), because of some missing mails and Spark's force to use mail threads (which I haaate)

But as I still do inbox zero I rely on fut.io for snoozing mail and landed in the arms of Mac Mail (and iOS mail respectively).

Never heard of notion, I may give it a try. Thanks, Emma.


fut.io seems super interesting. I should try it out. Thanks for the recommendation!


The good thing is, that it's completely client-agnostic.

Right. When I saw it, Iโ€™m ๐Ÿ˜ฒ.
โ€reply allโ€ at the starting step(to get the options) was quite neat as well.


I've been wanting to get up and running with Notion as I've heard great things about it! Like you, I've found actually getting started a daunting task because there's so much you can do with it. So thank you for the tutorial and showing me your setup! Definitely maybe going to set it up now or later today (see, I really need it).

Do you use some sort of time tracking? Or is time boxing your calendar enough?


I actually don't use any time tracking mechanism! I probably should... haha


I use TopTracker to do all my time tracking. It's designed for freelancers but I mainly use it for tracking my studying hours.

Also WakaTime has a nifty VSCode extension for tracking time spent on different projects, or languages. Now I know I spend most of my time on markdown files in my note-taking Gatsby repo instead of real programming. ๐Ÿคฃ


I really like Timing for time tracking on Mac. It tracks what apps you use and you can assign apps to certain activities.

As such you can then pretty much automatically track on what you spend time during the day. It's nice because it simply does it's thing in the background. Ofc only for digital activities.

They have a trial, so check it out! timingapp.com/


I'd love to hear suggestions for one because I definitely should be using one ๐Ÿ˜‚

Hey Mike,
I made an app specifically for timeboxing tasks/plans (especially if they repeat multiple times through a week). Iโ€™m not sure if thatโ€™s what youโ€™re after, but I thought Iโ€™d mention it. Check it out at potentapps.com :)

Iโ€™m working on tonnes of new flexibility within the app (and some redesign work) so if itโ€™s close to what youโ€™re after, let me know what does/doesnโ€™t work for you!


I'll check it out! Let you know what I think of it :). Thanks

I've used toggl for quite some time. Dead simple time tracking. And free plan available.



I've been using Notion but it's just for personal use only. When it comes to team collaboration, I myself prefer Trello for Boards and Quire for infinite to-do lists. Quire is a relatively young team compared to Trello and Notion, but they have quite an impressive package of features.

Trello is good if you're a diehard fan of Kanban board but it's lack of a list option. I prefer Quire because they have the infinite list that you can add as many subtasks as you wish. Notion isn't very good for collaboration and tbh when it comes to a task management app, Notion is still very primitive compared to Quire.

As a designer myself, Quire impresses me with its minimalist interface. Everything looks clean and super intuitive. Kudos to their designer team!


I started using Quire a few days ago and it's made a massive improvement in my productivity. Thank you so much for recommending it!


I love Forest which is in the vain of the Pomodoro technique which helps in increasing productivity when working by doing it in short bursts and resting in between. Basically for every time you complete a cycle you get to plant a virtual tree and every time you cancel a cycle you have a dead tree in your virtual forest and I find that so motivating. It also (at least on Android) blocks you from closing or switching to another app while the cycle is on unless you cancel the cycle which kills a tree (well; a virtual one but you get the gist).

yes... It's quite a cruel app but it's motivational as well so yea...


I was looking for this comment! Didn't know growing a pretty garden was so satisfying and it's also a great environment-friendly app :)


Yeyyy, glad it helped you ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š. I should honestly try and use it more myself...


Love your suggestions. My list is:

  • todoist for todos;
  • Evernote for long term notes;
  • Spark for email;
  • AI writer for writing;
  • Fantastical for the calendar.

For checking my writing, I also use grammerly, hemingwayappa.com and grammarlookup.com combined.


I also use Spark for e-mail on mobile, but Thunderbird on the desktop. I use Antidote for grammar checking since it supports both French and English, and it integrates with several applications including Thunderbird. I've also found it better than Grammarly.

I use OneNote for organizing notes.


i use wpeditor.md plugin for markdown in wordpress, I've gotten used to always typing in markdown (GitHub,Trello,Dev,reddit) and frankly felt slow when using WordPress to write.

Trello is still my number 1 baby, but I also recently configured wekan on my server so I can have a backup, pretty similar - a few bugs.

Grammarly free + Hemingway writer is what I use if i need my writing edited. I use quillbot to rearrange sentences that are considered hard to read and edubirdie for plagiarism checks.

pymato is a cli python pomodoro logger. Useful for me. I use bluemail for email.

Buffer for Instagram, Tweetdeck for Twitter, schedule for the week then forget.


Have you tried Todoist, Emma?

I have been using it for a long time and it's hands down the best to-do list app that I have ever used.


You should give it a try. Let me know if you need my help with tips and tricks. ๐Ÿ˜


I guess if you like Todoist, you might also like Workflowy or Quire.


Thank you Emma for writing this.

I had given up on Notion too quickly but after reading this post, I decided to give it another try. Glad to say, Notion is everything I needed. It does need bit more time to get used to but it is worth it.

Thanks again.

  • Instapaper - can save medium.com articles (Pocket cannot) - sends saved articles to my Kindle daily
  • Markdown & GitHub for longer notes
  • WorkFlowy for structured lists - packing lists - knowledge base - nutrition etc.
  • Microsoft ToDo - basic ToDo list for everyday tasks

I would love to know how did you achieve the Medium -> Instapaper -> Kindle automation. Does it work with the Medium mobile app? I've been trying to do this for a while now.

EDIT: I just found how :) , link:


Nice list of recommendations Emma, tnx for sharing. My personal problem is trying to getting focused and stay focus. For tools i use kanbanflow.com (which has a implemented promodoro timer) Its is totally free.


I can't go back to life without Notion & Grammarly & Spectacle.
I only have 4 active e-mail accounts and It's manageable with default mail & calendar app so far.

Even though I love Notion, I'm still daily using some extra apps as well.
Todoist for to-dos. I just have used for a too long time (maybe +5y?), and love the keyboard shortcut. So really didn't want to stop using it.
Clockify for time tracking. I don't like micro scheduling, so just wanted to check spent time with an actual result. Since Pomodoro technic didn't work for me, I also use it to bind myself ensuring minimum time spent.

I heard TweetDeck but haven't tried. I should check it out.
Basically, I prefer default apps/functions. But should come back to this post again when I feel needed.
Thanks for the recommendations!


I use a Skype chat app I wrote as a side project to track my time spent. Just enter task description text and time then it generates a report for me on demand.

Task list maintained as entries in my calendar (outlook for work and Google for home)


I'd like to add OneNote to this list. I am using a windows laptop and an iPhone. I use sticky notes a lot on my laptop to take quick notes. It gets automatically synced with the OneNote app on my iPhone. You also get the other perks off using OneNote. For people using Windows and iOS, check out Microsoft apps. They are on par with Google services.


I'm still trying to figure out the best way to organize myself, and all the tools that work best for me. It's... an interesting struggle.

I haven't heard of a couple of these, so I'll have to give them a peek! Thanks for the great post.


If you love using Markdown to take notes and track your tasks, you can consider using Quire. They have a very clean user interface and the workflow is very smooth. They have pretty much every feature that a small team needs for a task management software: Kanban board, task list (infinite nested task list), attachment, sorting and filtering.

My team uses Quire at work alongside with Github to track issues. They work like a charm together.


I recommend trying the iSmartLife app. I use this app to planning my goals, tasks, projects. This is a very simple and free web app. You can see the demo and decide whether it suits you or not...


Bear App

I absolutely recommend Bear for those of you looking for a notebook-like application in Markdown. It also uses tags to categorize your notes, which can be exported in a variety of formats. As a bonus, it has a very clean UI.


I have been using Todoist for my personal task. Lately, I am trying to find a project management tool that can help my team and I improve our work productivity. Todoist is not suitable, I think it's more of a personal use app, and the other reason would be the price cost.

I found about Quire a while ago, it's a wonderful to do list app or project management software, whatever you want to call it. I love its clean and simple interface. Overall, Quire helps me put my personal tasks and work assignments together in one place.


I didn't know Notion, I always tried to fit several apps into my daily life, to get organized, but it never worked out because the information was separate, which is boring, not productive.
But Notion is all I needed, thank you so much!


I'd love to try Spark but I'm on Windows ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข

I used to use (and love) Lightshot Screenshot, but now I use ShareX and it's way better. It includes more editor features and more options for post-screenshot workflows. Also, it comes with a great simple screen recorder for videos or GIFs.


Love those tips. I was already using spark โ€”Best mail client for Mac I've used everโ€” and had given a try to Notion after I've read this.

I am using notion now as digital replacement of "passion planner". Also for planning stuff that I want to share like a travel. I always felt I needed some tool like confluence but more "observablehq-esque" and for personal things. ๐Ÿ‘Œ


I love Spectacle, use that all the time. Also, Alfred for mac is really handy.


I like the n-days-later method 1. But unfortunately up to now I could not find a mail user agent who supports this.

Does anybody know a mail user agent where I can do +N. Which hides the mail for N days?


LightShot seems nice, but the upload part seems a bit "insecure" since it is really easy to guess new links... But I guess once you know this, you do not upload anything that shouldn't be publicly available...


Wow! Thanks for posting this! I've been looking for a calendar I actually, y'know... like, so I'm definitely going to check out Fantastical. And I already love Spark on my phone, so that one was an easy sell, too.

I'm surprised that nobody here has yet mentioned TextExpander. It's an amazing snippet tool that can expand little keyboard sequences into bigger text blocks, control keys, etc. And it'll run shell scripts or JS & emit the output. For me, it's absolutely indispensable.


Hi Emma,

I really agreed with your previous article about productivity and was curious about Notion since I wasn't satisfied with neither Google Keep nor Evernote.

After this article and the overview of Notion, I decided to give it a try and use it to organize all my ideas and personal projects.

Thank you for giving feedback and advices on this tool and on productivity in general. I'm looking forward to your next article



Great list! I've tried Notion in the past but found it a bit too much for my use case, and like others found myself spending more time setting up and tweaking the ideal workspace. I might revisit it in the future if things scale up, but for now have been making do with Makepad (Similar to Trello but geared primarily for solo devs), TickTick for my todo, and Bear for any larger notes or writing.

Fantastical 2 looks interesting, I will have to give that a try! I've kind of been bouncing between Apple's own offering and the calendar built into the Spark mail client so far

100% agree with you on TweetDeck, makes Twitter a much more enjoyable and powerful experience - being able to follow multiple tags at once, or filtering out retweets etc.

Thanks for the write up :)


This is my setup:

  • Notion: to-do list, note-taking, article clipping & high-level project management
  • Trello: deep-dive project management
  • Gmail for email
  • G Suite for spreadsheet/docs (I have a s/sheet for time tracking)
  • Slack for comms, file sharing with remote teams

I have a bunch of VS Code plugins specifically for productivity:

  • Angular Essentials and Angular Snippets both by John Papa
  • Peacock by John Papa - this is great if you regularly switch between projects
  • TODO Highlight - Wayou Liu
  • Paste JSON as Code (does what it says on the tin)



i haven't looked into most things like this because I worry about needjng to switch between 4 different computers plus phone, so I've stuck with various web apps for multiple emails, calendars, and such. Trello is filling in pretty well across all platforms as a project and list management system. my only other big tool is using org-mode in emacs, using a private remote git repo to sync things.

i am going to check some of these out. the biggest pain right now is multiple calendars


I would add SimpleNote simplenote.com as noting app. Doing one job and doing it very well. For several years of heavy usage, I never encountered a bug. That might explain why Matt Mullenweg , Wordpress founder, has loved it so much :).


Thanks for the notion video, Iโ€™ve tried it so many times but it just doesnโ€™t stick :( Do you have experience with it being clunky at times? I like Bear App because of the simplicity and how fast it is.



Spark looks very cool, how does it handle multiple email accounts? I can't find any information about that on their website.
Does it show them all together or can view them separately (kinda what GMail does).

I also noticed that Spark has a build in Calendar, is it any good? As a free option.


It puts them all in to the same inbox :) I like that though. I haven't used the calendar though!


Hi Emma

Did you ever tried Atlassian JIRA??

It will give a lot of features to help your day-to-day works and long term plans.


I use JIRA day to day and honestly don't love it...hah


Thanks for this, Emma. Have you ever used Bear and Airtable? And if so, how do they compare to the tools you use?


I've used both Bear and Notion, and Notion is definitely the more powerful of the two in terms of what you can do with it (all the additional features like calendars, layouts, etc). Bear is more a simple note-taking app.


I probably should have added this to the first question - don't want to create an unnecessarily long thread. But, does Notion take/accept code?

Yes! You can use the markdown shortcuts (inline and




Thank you very much for this article and for every comment! I'm always looking to improve my workflow and my productivity and I found here a lot of very interesting suggestions!


Brilliant blog, I'm always intrigued by what tools developer use. I specifically like the idea of TweetDeck; my twitter game is weak.


For those of you who have developed muscle memory for Vim keystrokes, I believe you'll love the Vimium browser extension and seldom find the need to touch your trackpad.



I don't really have a list. I manage my notes, tasks, writing, working, email accounts, calendar, etc. in Emacs using Org-mode :)


Thank you Emma for sharing!

So many things to be done that I feel overwhelmed and tired even before start it!

Hope your tips help me to be a bit more organized and productive :)


Love Notion. Still have a hand in Evernote, for writing mainly.

Also I meditate which is actually my ultimate productivity hack, keeps my mind straight!


I checked out Fantastical and I love it! Having too many calendars that I couldn't sync was a problem this solves. Being able to see my "hard landscape" all at once is awesome. thanks for the rec!


I recommend trying the iSmartLife app. This is a very simple and free web app. You can see the demo and decide whether it suits you or not ...


Thanks for this list! I just downloaded Notion and itโ€™s been a life saver already๐Ÿ™โœจ๐Ÿ˜˜


We have a cat named Luna as well :)

Great productivity guide, thanks for sharing Emma!


Forest App is great if you like to use the Pomodoro technique. You can adjust the work/rest timings too so you're not stuck to the standard 25/5.


Nice share! Notion looks pretty nice but too bad they don't have a Linux client. :(

Right now I take notes/make todos with MDX in VSCode, then push everything to a private/local Gatsby site :P


On arch based distros you can get it over AUR and if you use smth else you could take a look at the pkgbuild to see how it works. That's how I'm using it on my Manjaro install and it works flawlessly.


I use this calendar - mowglii.com/. Also its an open source and its pretty good and accessible via menu bar.


Hey Emma! ๐Ÿ‘‹
I just finished setting up my Notion workspace, thanks for the suggestion, I'll try to use it for one or probably two weeks hoping it'll help me to improve my workflow!
Thanks again ๐Ÿ˜


I love Notion! I've been wanting to reorganize my hierarchy in it, and this is giving me some good ideas ๐Ÿง

Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

This reads like one giant AD.


Cool, then don't read it? These are the tools I use. It's not an ad. If you don't like it, you can leave.

Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

Or I can stay and comment on how your using this platform to conduct business

How the heck am I using this to conduct business...?? I'm not making any money off of this?

And why do you even care? If people can make money on the content they produce, good for them! Who cares? I personally post all of my content for free and am not getting paid to promote things. I promote things I genuinely use. And it looks like a lot of people find value in that.

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