I am hyper-obsessed with being as productive as possible with my time, and I’m quite a bit of a gear junkie. This has led me down a dangerous rabbit hole of hunting for the best productivity tools available. I spend hours on end scouring the App Store for new tools, watching YouTube reviews, and talking to friends about the systems they use to keep their lives organized and their workflow concentrated. I’ve discovered and tried hundreds of productivity tools, and am excited to share some of my favorites that are used dozens of times a day.
Before sharing the best tools I have found that help make me as productive as possible while working, a couple of considerations:
First, not everyone focuses the same way. For me, removing disruptions isn’t enough to keep me from getting distracted. I find myself being someone who is constantly checking my phone even when it is on Do Not Disturb, and unable to focus on my main project until a task gets completed. I like the distractions to pour in as I work because it allows me to address tasks as they come in, making me less likely to forget to do them. Doing so breaks my focus on my main project, allowing me to come back to it with fresh eyes after a 5–10 minute break of shifting my focus elsewhere. Not everyone works the same way, so some of these tools may just be more of a distraction for others.
Second, not everyone has the same workflow, workspace, or work setup. I use multiple displays, hate wearing headphones while working, love my external mouse and keyboard, and often jump from task to task. If you work from an iPad at a coffee shop, how you work and how you organize your work may be entirely different.
That being said, here are the best tools I have found to increase productivity, improve the likelihood of completing a task, and allow me to breeze through repeat steps in my workflow.
The prices displayed are the prices I pay for the platform. Some have free versions as well, but if a price is listed, I decided the free version was insufficient for my uses. If you choose to try any of them, I ask you use the link listed here — I get a free month or some other perk from a few of the referral links here. Thanks!
1Password — $35.88/year
Having a good password manager is essential for everyone. If done right, it’s more secure than using the same password for every website, writing your passwords down in a notebook, or even using the standard iCloud Password Keychain. I’ve tried LastPass and 1Password, each for 18 months, and 1Password was undoubtedly the winner. It has fewer glitches than LastPass, a better UI/UX, and more features. Some of my favorite features are:
- Syncing 2FA codes across devices. You can use 1Password as your authenticator app, and your 2FA codes appear on multiple devices and autofill with the desktop plugin.
- The ability to secure your account with physical security keys (I use YubiCo keys).
- Customization to random passwords, and even a PIN code generator.
- Apps for every device, and seamless iOS compatibility.
- Almost immediate synchronization across devices.
- Great searching and categorization of passwords.
- Family sharing.
- Customizable auto-lock features.
- Storage of a lot more than password (credit cards, personal documents, etc.)
- “Watchtower” feature that shows you compromised passwords.
Manico — $5.99 for Pro version
It’ll be obvious by the end of this list that I am a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts. Manico allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for launching and switching apps.
I am constantly switching my attention and focus between apps and processes, and Manico makes it easy to do so. With just a quick keyboard shortcut, I can reliably open my email, iMessages, or jump back into a Word document. Finding these apps would otherwise take a lot longer to find under the clutter of my open windows, or would take half a dozen clicks to open using the command+tab function.
You can set the apps you want Manico to use in its dock, or have it mirror your existing dock. You can then create preset commands, so it’s always the same command for an app. I like the “custom” configuration, allowing me to create my own ordering and shortcuts.
Superhuman — $30/month
I’ve tried almost every email client known to man. All my emails use Gmail/GSuite hosting, and I have tried just about everything that supports Google mail accounts. Outlook, Polymail, Thunderbird — you name it, I’ve tried it. Superhuman certainly lacks some pretty big features, like a unified inbox that other clients have, but it is by far the most powerful — not to mention you can go through all your emails without ever touching your mouse. If you think keyboard shortcuts are a gimmick, it’s clear you’ve never tried them. I’m starting to learn that it’s really well-designed, and there’s a reason for the lack of some of the features you miss from other clients.
Some of my favorite features of Superhuman are:
- Keyboard shortcuts for everything. Ditch that mouse!
- Snippets — quickly use templates or hyperlinks in your emails.
- Split inbox — separate news, VIP, and other types of emails from the rest of your inbox.
- Tagging people in emails.
- Create calendar invites directly from emails.
My biggest complaints are:
- You cannot use a Superhuman-specific signature, you must have your signature formatted through the Gmail website, which is really difficult.
- Lack of custom fonts.
- No unified inbox, or search across accounts/inboxes.
- You can’t turn emails into tasks, or add email notes.
- No access to a contact book.
- No notifications for email tracking.
- No enhanced side-pane information like Polymail offers (quick access to links and attachments).
Motion — $15/month
I found Motion accidentally. For clarity, this is usemotion.io. I was previously using usemotion.com, and it sucked. I couldn’t reach their customer service to cancel my account, so I Googled “usemotion customer service email” and sent a very angry email to the first email address that popped up. I got a very kind reply from Patrick, the founder of usemotion.io, and he explained that people commonly mix up the support emails for the two platforms, and he invited me to give their platform a try instead. The fact that I couldn’t even find usemotion.com’s support email and the founder of usemotion.io was responding to my accidental email told me everything I needed to know. Patrick took the time to onboard me and show me the features of his platform, and I can say that it is the Superhuman of calendars (that’s a compliment).
Cute story aside, Motion is a really powerful tool for keeping your time organized and getting to all the tasks you aim to. More than anything, it’s lightning fast. Sending calendar invites, scheduling events, and joining video calls is so damn quick. My explanation for Motion won’t do it justice, it’s the kind of service you have to use to understand its value.
The best features are:
- Keyboard shortcuts for everything.
- The ability to time block tasks and schedule them on your calendar.
- Scheduled tasks prevent Calendly from booking at the same time.
- Tasks not completed get kicked back into your task feed.
- Tasks are removed from your task feed once scheduled.
- The ability to add notes and details to tasks.
- Really good availability sharing features.
- Fantastic UI/UX.
Improvements needed, that Patrick has promised to address, are:
- No official iOS app yet, but a TestFlight beta is available until the full release is out.
- Not being able to set events with free/busy status.
- No easy ability to make all-day events, although it is possible to do manually.
- Intuitive and powerful search for your calendar.
- No ability to separate or categorize tasks (work, personal, etc.).
- No ability to add files to tasks.
Calendly — $96/year
Everyone and their grandmother uses Calendly, and it’s for good reason. If you are scheduling meetings with repeat time blocks (30 min meetings or 1 hr meetings), you’re waiting your time. Calendly gives you so much power for customization, and syncs seamlessly with your calendars and video calling.
Things I like:
- Ability to easily reschedule.
- Automatic video call link generation with your platform of choice.
- Custom logo branding.
- Custom work hours.
- Ability to request custom info from participants.
- Checks different calendars for availability (personal, work, etc.).
Things I don’t like:
- It’s hard to schedule time off — you have to do it manually.
Krisp AI — $96/year
I’ve really put Krisp to the test. I’ve used it in loud coffee shops, restaurants, and in the outdoors. It does a remarkable job at removing the background noise for both yourself and others. The free version gives you 90 mins a day of noise cancelation, but if you find yourself spending more than that on Zoom, then the pro version is the way to go.
What I love:
- Post call summaries that show you how much noise was canceled and how much time you spent talking during that meeting.
- Cancels background noise of other meeting participants.
- Video backgrounds and camera filters for meeting apps that don’t normally allow it.
What I don’t like:
- Subpar customer support department.
- Talk time on Google Meet is inaccurate.
- No iOS compatibility.
BetterTouchTool — $22
I downloaded BetterTouchTool when I had the Touch Bar MacBook Pro, and it changed the game for me. I was concerned it would no longer serve its purpose after the Touch Bar was removed, but they’ve updated it nicely. It has tons of functionality for custom keyboard shortcuts, custom app preferences, window snapping, and so much more. For example, deleting emails in Superhuman is somewhat annoying, since you have to press shift+3 to move to trash instead of archiving. With BetterTouchTool, I set a rule for Superhuman where pressing the \ key will perform the same function as shift+3. You’ll find your own uses for it, but below is a screenshot of all the things you can set custom preferences and actions for:
HazeOver — $4.99
HazeOver gets rid of any confusion of what page you are currently working on, and blocks out the background distraction of other pages. It blurs/darkens the background of the windows not currently in use, and has great support for people who use multiple monitors. It prevents you from clicking away at your keyboard and wondering what window you just typed onto. You can adjust just about every piece of the experience to make it perfect for your liking. Plus, you can easily turn it on and off with a keyboard shortcut.
Rectangle — $9.99
Nothing sucks more than manually resizing windows. If you aren’t using window snapping, you’re living in the ice age. With rectangle, windows automatically snap to full screen, half screen, and other sizes by dragging the top bar to different parts of the edge of your screen. It’s never been easier to have side-by-side windows open.
Jettison — $3.95
Jettison is great for those of us who use SSDs connected to our workstation docks (see Anker PowerExpand below). With Time Machine backup disks connected to my setup, I’m hesitant to be pulling cables out of my laptop without ejecting my disks. Backups can get disrupted, and it could eventually wreak havoc on your precious backup disk. With Jettison, you can safely eject your disks and put your laptop to sleep with one menu bar click.
Honorable hardware mentions:
- My Logitech MX Master 3S for Mac makes work lightning fast.
- My Anker PowerExpand 9-in-1 makes charging, SSD backup, displays, and other connections possible through one cable.
- My cellular-enabled iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard makes for the perfect on-the-go companion.
- Most of all, I highly recommend a 16-inch MacBook Pro. Ditch the small screen of the 14-inch, and have a small second device dedicated for travel. If you’re spending a lot of time on your laptop, save your eyes and increase your productivity with a bigger screen.
We all strive to be more productive. Hopefully, these tools help you work a little faster and get more output out of the many hours you spend every day in front of your computer screen. As corny as it sounds, remember that true productivity comes from yourself. Focus your time on the things that matter, have a plan to organize your thoughts and goals, and prioritize the people and tasks that are important to you. Best of all, though, find work that excites and motivates you.
Now, go get s**t done, and don’t forget to use keyboard shortcuts to make it faster!
I’d love to hear the productivity tools you use every day down below in the comments!