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 stack

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.

The Getting Things Done (GTD) Framework

Productivity Apps Methodology

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.

Productivity Apps Infographic

Collection tools

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.

Notebooks

Paper Notebook

While there are a ton of fancy schmancy notebooks out there, 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.

moleskine

You can purchase this baby on Amazon for $23.84.

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OneNote

onenote

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.

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Evernote

evernote

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:

evernote premium

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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.

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List tools

Todoist

todoist

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.

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Microsoft To Do

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.

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Google Docs

Google Docs

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.

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Ulysses (Mac)

Ulysses (Mac)

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.

Notes

Notes

The simplest and least expensive way to capture your notes is with your computer’s built-in notes app, like Apple offers across devices.

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Bookmark apps

Pocket

pocket

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.

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Bookmarks bar

Bookmarks bar

Don’t forget about your good old bookmarks bar. It can come handy for inspiration and organization.

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Dropmark

Dropmark

“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.

Inbox apps

Gmail

gmail

Regardless of whether you’re working for a large enterprise or a solopreneur, it’s likely you’ll experience Gmail for business.

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Astro

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:

astro

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Chat apps

Slack

Slack

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.

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Gchat

Gchat

If you’re an avid Gmail user, your chat app of choice may just be Gchat.

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Process

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.

Automation

Zapier

Zapier

Zapier allows you to connect hundreds of different productivity apps to automate your workflow.

zapier

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.

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IFTTT

IFTTT

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:

applets

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Scheduling

Calendly

calendly

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?

Here’s more information on its pricing and features.

Assistant.to

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

X.ai

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.

You can read more about Amy and Andrew’s skills here.

Context

Highly.co

highly.co

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

Nimbus

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.

Organize

Project management

Hive

hive

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.

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Trello

Trello

Trello is a freemium Kanban board tool with maximum flexibility. Manage anything from your editorial calendar to your wedding.

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Teamwork

Teamwork

Teamwork is an online teamwork & project management software app that helps managers, staff and clients collaborate.

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.

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Brainstorm

Mindmeister

Brainstorm Mindmeister

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.

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CRM

Streak

CRM Streak

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.

streak

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HubSpot Sales

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.

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Do

Office

Google Drive

Do Office Google Drive

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.

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Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 is a complete suite of cloud productivity apps, including Excel, Outlook, Word, SharePoint and more.

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Timer apps

Toggl

Timer apps Toggl

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

Zonebox

Zonebox is one of our Mac timer apps of choice.

Focus apps

Inbox When Ready

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.

Brain.fm

Brain.fm

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.

Review

Hive Analytics

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.

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RescueTime

RescueTime

RescueTime tracks your every move on the computer to tell you how productive (or unproductive) you are.

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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.

No matter how you work, Hive has you covered.

Try it now for free. No credit card needed.