This summer, it will be 2 years since I started blogging consistently. This decision was one of the biggest of my life, and it has brought me many opportunities, the biggest one being the ability to interact with like-minded people who also blog, and who are much further along the path of success than I am.
I published over 50 interviews on Medium, and the wealth of information, knowledge and motivation I acquired through them has been invaluable. Not only because the tips given are practical, actionable, and proven to work by my guests. But also because every time, I took the opportunity to ask them about their favorite productivity tools. This enabled me to gather a list of 60+ tools, and I will share the most popular ones in this article.
This is not your generic “the best productivity tools out there” list. This is road-tested advice from real people who do real things, in real life. Most of the people I interviewed achieve more than average, and they do so thanks to these tools.
I hope this list helps you further your development as an entrepreneur, an online writer, or whatever it is that you’re working on with passion.
Across all 50+ interviews, this is the number one most mentioned tool/practice. There’s nothing like journaling to structure your day, your workflow, bring you more clarity of mind, and even reduce stress. What’s more, the consistent practice of journaling is considered a keystone habit by many.
“Keystone habits” is a term coined by Charles Duhigg in his bestseller The Power of Habit. They are defined as follows:
“Small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives”.
They’re so powerful on their own that they will positively impact your life by generating more habits as a byproduct.
I personally journal in the morning and in the evening, to plan the following day and recap the one before. I do this on my laptop, but I also have a physical notepad where I write down my ideas for content throughout the day. It’s also where I log random thoughts, quotes and ideas I have when my laptop is not around. I always bring my notepad with me if I have a backpack, and if I don’t I have a tiny A7 version that fits in my pocket.
I’m really not into the Pomodoro approach myself, but a surprisingly high number of people I asked mentioned it. This is not a digital tool, but a time management technique. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, and is very simple to put into practice:
Set a timer and work for 25 minutes
Have a break of 5 minutes
Repeat the cycle for as many times as you like
A variation of the method consists of taking a 5-minute break only for the first 4 cycles, and then take a longer break (15–30 minutes) before starting all over again. Of course, all the variables are adjustable to your own taste.
You can try this technique right away using the website pomofocus.io.
Notion is like Evernote and Google Drive combined, on steroids. It’s an extremely powerful tool, and I use it myself. It’s great for both team work and a one-man operation. The thing is, it has hundreds of features, and it’s pretty easy to get lost in them if you don’t know what you’re doing. I use something like 10% of the tool, and it’s more than enough for me.
The number one game changer in Notion? Everything is accessible from the “/“ key. When typing, it unfolds a contextual menu which you can navigate with the arrows on your keyboard, and it has everything you need.
Apple Notes is a great app to structure your thoughts more easily than in a paper journal. My writing, doodles and other scribbles tend to get all over the page, and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of my ideas afterwards. I use a specific notebook that has a table of contents at the beginning to help me cope with that, but nothing beats digital when it comes to organisation. When I need to take notes on my laptop, I personally use Textedit, and I don’t love it because I end up with dozens of separate documents on my laptop. I definitely recommend Apple Notes, it makes it super easy to sort everything out, and it comes by default on all Apple devices. Plus, the app syncs your content across all your devices.
Asana is a web and mobile application for team work management. Some of the people I asked did use it for personal productivity, but it’s really designed to work with multiple people. If you own a business with multiple employees, Asana can definitely help streamline workflows. If not, you’ll probably find it too broad for your personal use.
This is the integrated suite of productivity apps powered by Google. I almost only use the spreadsheet functionality from Google, because I find it a lot more convenient than dedicated tools like OpenOffice or Microsoft Office. I really dislike the Gmail interface, so I use Thunderbird instead.
Todoist is one of the most popular todo apps out there. I’ve tried it a lot in the past, but I ended up sticking to Ticktick, which is better in my opinion. The deal breaker is the “Arrange tasks” functionality available in Ticktick. I wrote exhaustively about this feature here.
Trello (Kanban boards)
Kanban boards are a very popular way of managing projects. Items of a project are represented by cards, and steps of the projects are represented by columns. A card moves from one column to the next as the overall project moves along. The system was developed by Toyota in the 1940s.
Trello is a web app that offers a digital version of Kanban boards. It’s very efficient, but it’s also a little bit rigged. You can only do Kanban boards with this tool, so if you’re not a fan of this approach, you won’t like it.
Grammarly is a digital writing assistance tool, and because I asked a lot of Medium writers and bloggers, it came up a lot in the interviews. The truth is, a lot of people use it for emails and written work in general, so you don’t have to be a blogger to increase your productivity (and professionalism) with this tool.
I use Google calendar for my 9–5, and Ticktick’s built-in calendar for my blog and personal productivity. Google calendar is great, but what I love about Ticktick’s calendar is the ability to switch from a classic calendar view to a vertical todo list organised by date. I use it all the time.
Dropbox is a file hosting service quite similar to Google Drive, except it’s a little more “social oriented”. It makes it easier to share the files with people outside of your email circles and with the rest of the world, and leaving comments and notes is also more user-friendly.