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With so many workplace tools available, it can be difficult to find the best productivity apps for your needs.
If you work in marketing, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “tech stack” or “technology stack.” Your marketing tech stack is all the tools/software/services your business uses for marketing-related activities.
It’s a stack because of the evergreen number of marketing tools/software that keep popping up and have yet to consolidate, requiring you to use different tools to post to social, WordPress, send emails, etc… you get the picture:
Marketing isn’t the only industry this is happening in. It’s happening right before our eyes in the productivity space as well, but no one has created a “productivity tech stack,” or a comprehensive framework of how the best productivity apps work together.
We thought this was a damn shame, and so, we decided to create one ourselves.
The question is: Where do you even begin? And that’s probably where most people got overwhelmed and gave up. It’s easy to do since there are so many different productivity apps to increase your productivity, and they just continue to multiply.
To pile onto this problem, there’s an infinite number of productivity techniques/methods, and no one system works for everyone since not everyone works the same.
With that being said, we decided to break this stack up based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done — not because we think it’s the only system out there that works, or that everyone can use his method successfully.
But rather, we decided to take inspiration from his five steps to productivity because no matter which techniques and productivity apps you use, you will experience these five steps and therefore need a productivity stack to accommodate them.
I’m sure you’re wondering, what are these steps am I talking about? Who is David Allen? What’s GTD?!
All great questions! We have answers.
First, let’s talk basics, and then dive into the stack and our favorite productivity apps going into 2020.
The Getting Things Done (GTD) Framework
The Productivity Stack: Your Must-Have Productivity Apps
Now that you have a high-level understanding of GTD, let’s review our stack and recommended productivity apps, inspired by the steps in David Allen’s methodology.
The collection phase can happen whenever, wherever, so it’s important your collection tools are seamless across devices — so you can always access them.
This phase is for collecting things like: ideas, reminders, tasks, ideas, articles — you name it.
You can have as many collection tools as your little heart desires but try to keep it simple.
While there are a ton of fancy notebooks out there, including the massively popular Erin Condren Productivity Pages and notebooks, we’re most productive when we have a bunch of blank pages that we can organize how we see fit.
For this, we highly recommend an XL Moleskine notebook, with either blank or lined pages so you can customize it to your liking.
- The Note-Taking Habits of Highly Successful People
- The Feynman Notebook Method
- I Carry One Notebook Everywhere. My Whole Life Is In Its Pages.
- Getting Started with Bullet Journal
If you prefer to use a productivity app instead of a paper notebook, OneNote is for you. The beauty of OneNote is that you’ll always have your notebook(s) without having to carry around multiple notebooks because the app is seamless across devices.
You can get OneNote for free if you use its online app, and the only difference between a paid and free account is the amount of storage you get.
OneNote is one of the best tools on the market for collecting all of your ideas and thoughts in one place. The best part is your notes become searchable and shareable.
- Why You Should Start Writing Digital Notes
- The Idea File System: How to Capture and Organize All of Your Ideas
- OneNote Review
Evernote is the popular alternative to OneNote.
Premium is $69.99 per year, and you can view the benefits of each in the screenshot below:
- Yes, I still use Evernote. Because it’s still the best way to get s**t done.
- Make Evernote Fit Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type
- 4 Effective Strategies to Organize Evernote
- Uncovering Templates, the Hidden Gem of Evernote
- How to Use Evernote for Your Creative Workflow
- Evernote: The smart person’s guide
- Evernote Review
Rocketbook Everlast Notebook
We haven’t personally used this hybrid notebook system, but it looks pretty legit.
For $34, you can take notes in a traditional paper notebook, and scan them so they become digital. The coolest part? You can tag your notes to automatically send to your favorite productivity apps, such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
Todoist is one of the simplist productivity apps that allows you to group tasks together based on projects, and you can filter by tags, which you can color code.
A favorite Todoist feature is its “Karma.” Karma is basically its way of gamifying productivity so you keep using the app. It assigns points to tasks you complete and other things you do in the app.
View your Karma in the top, right-hand corner of your app.
Todoist is free for basic, personal accounts and supports up to 80 active projects and five people per project. The premium version, which offers extra features and more projects/people, is a mere $28.99 per year.
- Todoist Review
- A Comprehensive Guide to Using Todoist
- A Quick and Easy Guide to Completing Any Project in Todoist
- 11 of the Fastest Ways to Get Tasks Off Your Mind and Into Your Todoist
- 9 Ways to Use Todoist Labels to Manage Task List Overwhelm
Microsoft To Do
Microsoft To Do is what Wunderlist used to be, since the company acquired it a few years ago.
It’s free for all users with a Microsoft account, is seamless across devices and works similar to Todoist or any other list app.
- Microsoft To-Do vs Wunderlist: Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft’s New Task Management App
If you have Google Drive, Google Docs is a quick and easy way to make messy (or organized) lists to capture random thoughts, ideas and tasks to organize later.
Consider adding a link to a G-Doc in your bookmarks bar for even easier access.
- 40+ Google Docs Tips to Become a Power User
- Google Docs: You’re probably only using 10% of what this free word processor can do
- The 32 Best Google Docs Add-ons in 2017
Ulysses is a writing app for the iPhone, iPad and Mac. It’s lightweight and easy (and enjoyable) to use. The only thing that is less than optimal about it is its recurring subscription fee, which is $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year.
The simplest and least expensive way to capture your notes is with your computer’s built-in notes app, like Apple offers across devices.
- How to maximize Apple Notes using macOS and iOS
- 10 Hidden Apple Notes Features You Should Know About
- Apple Notes hides flexibility and power underneath a veneer of simplicity
Pocket is the best read-it-later app on the market. It’s totally free, although some of us support the app for $44.99 per year (its premium fee).
Premium is pretty much the same as basic, although you get “permanent copies” of articles, which can be handy when sites go down and don’t pop back up.
- How to Use Pocket and Zapier to Boost Your Productivity
- How to Maximize Small Pockets of Time
- Why you need to read, and how to do it efficiently
Don’t forget about your good old bookmarks bar. It can come handy for inspiration and organization.
- The Pros and Cons of Pocket: Save for Later vs. Bookmarks
- 3 Steps To An Organized & Simplistic Chrome Bookmarks Bar
- How to Organize Chrome Bookmarks
- How To Manage Safari Bookmarks Efficiently [MacRx]
“A smart way to organize all your links, files and notes into visual collections” (collections = folders).
Dropmark is a freemium app. You can take the premium version for a test run. The individual pro plan is around $50 per year and unlocks features like, tagging, unlimited folders, private collaboration, a custom domain and much more.
Regardless of whether you’re working for a large enterprise or a solopreneur, it’s likely you’ll experience Gmail for business.
- The Big Gmail Update—Here’s Everything Email Marketers Must Know
- A Guide to Optimizing Gmail: 30 of the Best Email Tips, Tricks, and Hacks
- The 25+ Best Gmail Add-ons, Labs, and Apps
- These 17 life hacks will change the way you use Gmail
- These Gmail searches can clean up even the messiest inbox
Astro is a “smart” inbox.
“Astrobot,” which is an AI-powered email assistant, is one of its biggest features. Here’s some of the things you can use Astrobot for:
I think we’re all familiar with the popular Slack app. While you’re probably a seasoned veteran user, we bet you’ll find some tips and tricks you didn’t know before below in the resources’ section.
- Advanced Slack Tutorial: 19 Tips on How to Use Slack
- What is and how to use Slack: the ultimate guide to doing anything.
- How to Build Your Own Slack Bot
- Start automating your business tasks with Slack
- How 7 news organizations are using Slack to work better and differently
- Slack Everything: How to Turn Your Team’s Communication App Into Central Command
If you’re an avid Gmail user, your chat app of choice may just be Gchat.
- Google Chat’s best hidden features
- 10 Gchat Tricks and Tips for Power Users
- Type These Words Into Gchat And Instantly Delight Your Friends
The process phase is when you begin sorting out everything you’ve captured, so you’ll need tools for context and providing you with more information.
Zapier allows you to connect hundreds of different productivity apps to automate your workflow.
The basic app is free, but if you want more features, like multi-step “zaps,” then you’ll have to pay between $20 and $250 per month.
If This Then That (IFTTT) is similar to Zapier, as it automates your workflow, but it’s more for consumers than businesses.
Because IFTTT makes money from “app partners,” it’s free for consumers.
You can do things like:
- Applet Collections
- The Ultimate Guide to IFTTT for Marketers
- The Beginner’s Guide to Putting the Internet to Work for You: How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day
Calendly helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails.
When you register for an account with Calendly, you’ll be asked to sync your calendar and choose time slots (15 min/30 min/45 min/etc) when you’re available.
Then, when you need to schedule a meeting, you would just give the person your Calendly link so people can choose the best time slot for them.
No back and forth. How amazing?
Assistant.to is a free Gmail extension sets out to solve the same problem Calendly does and the rest of the apps in this category do — make meeting scheduling easier.
I like this one because it requires less work for the other party, and you can choose the times that are best for you that week — not based on a predetermined schedule, like Calendly.
X.ai is probably one of the more well-known scheduling assistants on the market.
Its email “assistants” act as real people. They even have names — Amy and Andrew — depending on the sex you choose.
Here’s how it works.
When someone emails you for a meeting, just cc Amy or Andrew (They can even have your own email domain), and they’ll take care of the rest.
Highly is a freemium browser extension, which allows you to highlight the Internet. It’s perfect for reading articles and highlighting the most important parts for when you need to revisit the post later.
Nimbus is one of the best screenshot and screen recording browser extensions out there.
We especially like it because it lets you beautifully capture long web pages and then mark them up, if needed.
Often, project managers put together the perfect plan, but executing it and keeping the team updated can be a struggle.
In Hive, everyone on the team receives real-time updates on their projects. More so, every project can be viewed in multiple ways – as a Gantt Chart, Kanban Board, Calendar, and more. Updates are reflected across all project views so everyone can work how they want – and the whole team stays informed. Tasks assigned to you across all projects also populate in your own personal to-do list.
Even better, Hive includes group chat, which is accessible easily in your dashboard. So if someone asks you to do something in chat, all you have to do is drag the chat onto your to-do list so you won’t forget.
- 6 Strategies for Choosing the Right Project Management Tool
- What is Hive? And How Can it Help Your Small Business?
- Now You Can Track Exactly When Your Employees Are Working–and When They’re Reading Kanye’s Tweets Instead
- Hive on Product Hunt
- 5 Strategies to Working More Efficiently on a Creative Team
ClickUp is a productivity tool that features process, task and time management capabilities. The tool features multiple views, like Gantt and Kanban, and internal analytics.
It offers all the features you’d expect from a project management tool — tasks, milestones, deadlines, messaging, time-tracking, Gantt chart views, Kanban board views, etc.
Need to brainstorm? Mindmeister is a great choice. It’s our favorite mind-mapping software out there.
You can use it privately, to map out your editorial workflow, or you can publish your mind maps to the web and share them as content.
- How to Make Mind Maps: Visualize Your Ideas for Better Brainstorming
- The Mind Map Technique: How To Set More Productive Goals
- Mindmap your way to a massive productivity boost
- Creating A Life Resource List To Help You Achieve A Goal
We like Streak for a CRM because it’s front and center in your inbox.
You can customize your flow however you want, or you could use one of the app’s “flavors” aka templates.
On top of the CRM, you get email tracking, mail merge, reminders, scheduling, and more features. You can track up to 200 emails per month for free, or pay a premium of $49 or $99 per month for more features and usage.
HubSpot free sales software is a CRM, like Streak, except it lives more outside of your inbox, than inside, although you will see little orange buttons appear in your email after you install the extension.
The best news? It’s completely free unless you want to upgrade to receive more email tracking and other similar premium features.
- HubSpot training docs
- HubSpot CRM: Best Practices and Pro Tips
- 10 Tips for Using Sequences in the HubSpot CRM
- Leveraging HubSpot CRM Deals: 3 Quick Customization Tips
- CRM Best Practices: How to Choose the Best Free CRM System
Google Drive seems to be the office suite of choice these days, as it’s quickly eating market share from Microsoft. Its arsenal of tools include: G-Docs, Slides, Spreadsheets and much more.
- How to Make the Most of Google Calendar with 7+ New Tools
- 50 Google Sheets Add-Ons to Supercharge Your Spreadsheets
- Google Drive Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss
- How to Make Google Drive Work Like a Desktop Suite
Microsoft Office 365
Office 365 is a complete suite of cloud productivity apps, including Excel, Outlook, Word, SharePoint and more.
- Office 365 Training Center
- Battle of the Mobile Office Suites: Microsoft Office vs. Google Docs
- How to Master Microsoft Office Word
- Here are 200 Excel shortcuts that’ll make your life a lot easier
- Top 10 Cheat Sheets to Help You Master Microsoft Office
Time Doctor can take screenshots of your computer while you’re working (optional feature), and can also provide various online and email reports to management which provide additional information on how time is spent in your business. The app is free for 14 days and then $9.99 per user / month.
Toggl is an app that makes it super easy to track your time.
The web app allows you to create projects, clients, teams and tags so everything is properly categorized.
When you launch the app, it’ll ask what you’re working on. Type in your current task, and if you’ve done the same task before, autofill suggestions appear.
Press enter or click the “start” button, and a timer will start recording your time. When the timer begins, you can add a description to your current task; associate it with a project; or fill in more details later.
Zonebox is one of our Mac timer apps of choice.
Inbox When Ready
Inbox When Ready is a simple Chrome extension that blocks out your inbox so you can focus on the emails you want to attend to first.
When you open Gmail, it will just show a blank screen, and in red text, it tells you how many times you viewed your inbox today and how long you spent in it.
Who said productivity apps are only about getting more done? Have you ever heard that certain music can help you focus? Well, it ain’t a myth. Music can help you focus, relax and sleep.
Brain.fm is an app that plays music designed for the brain to enhance focus, relaxation, meditation, naps and sleep within 10 to 15 minutes of use.
If you’re interested, check out the science behind it here.
Hive’s powerful productivity platform is now supercharged with analytics.
Using data from your team’s workspace, Hive’s interactive dashboards show you your team’s productivity and uses machine learning to proactively notify you about overdue projects, resourcing, and bottlenecks.
RescueTime tracks your every move on the computer to tell you how productive (or unproductive) you are.
Timing Mac app
Timing is one of our favorite productivity apps. It’s a phenomenal time tracker for Mac users. It starts automatically tracking when you turn on your computer.
By observing how you use your Mac, Timing categorizes your activities. You’ll see how you spent your time and how productive you were, with a gorgeous timeline that shows when you did what. It even automatically recognizes blocks of time that belong together.
Choose your productivity apps and build your stack
Woo! Still with us? Great. Now, it’s time to build your very own productivity stack, based on the productivity apps you use and how you work best.