How To Create The Ultimate Productivity System (2023)

In today’s digital age, endless productivity tools and apps are available at our fingertips. And, with so many choices, it can be hard to know where to start when creating a productivity system that works for you. Life moves fast, and it can be easy to fall behind on your work if you are not utilizing a productivity tech stack.

This how-to guide will discuss the framework for developing a successful, custom productivity system that works for your lifestyle. We’ll look at the apps and tools I used to create my productivity system.

What Is A Productivity System?

There’s no doubt that the productivity system you’re using in 2022 is quite different from the one used a generation ago. The digital era has ushered in a new slew of apps and tools, offering many other options.

You may have heard of many “named” or “branded” productivity systems like Getting Things Done, The Eisenhower Matrix, The Pomodoro Method, and countless others. While each of these productivity systems offers helpful tips, they may not all be a perfect fit for you and your work style. To create a sustainable production system that you’ll use long term, it needs to be customized to you.

Creating a productivity system that works for you may require trial and error. Part of the journey is finding what works and what doesn’t. It’s taking pieces of each of the different apps, tools, and systems you encounter in your productivity journey and slowly implementing them into your system.

Now that we’ve defined what a productivity system is, let’s look at my philosophy behind my productivity approach, as well as the different tools & apps that make up my productivity system.

Productivity Systems, Methods & Workflows

I like to define productivity systems, methods & workflows as how you work. Because everyone is unique, this will vary from person to person. For example, optimal work can be achieved by manipulating the following variables:

  • Time of day when deep work is completed
  • How deep work is broken up throughout the day
  • How comfortable someone is with technology
  • How much does someone like using technology
  • The type of work being completed
  • The amount of time someone wants to commit to work versus leisure
  • Incorporating one or parts of different productivity systems (i.e., Getting Things Done, Eisenhower Matrix)

Depending on your habits, routines, and personality, this will look very different, so it is essential to experiment with different workflows to see what works best for you.

I live and die in my calendar. The only way I get work done is through adequate time blocking & utilizing the Pomodoro Method for extremely long sessions. I plan my days & weeks out using the philosophy of monastic & rhythmic deep work scheduling to get things done, which ends up looking like this:

This allows me to be very intentional with my time and get into a flow state more easily because I know exactly what I need to work on.

The Core-Satellite Approach: Productivity System Edition

You may have heard of the “Core-Satellite” investing approach if you’re an investing nerd like me. In this approach, you first build a “core” investment portfolio in low- to medium-risk long-term investments such as bonds or ETFs. The “satellite” portion of your investment portfolio refers to equity-based, higher-risk investment options such as stocks, options, cryptocurrencies & real estate.

The core-satellite approach represents a potent analogy for how I have set up my current productivity system. I have a few apps that comprise the “core” of my productivity systems that I have been using for 5+ years. Then, there are other smaller “satellite” apps that I am constantly moving in and out of until I realize their workflow works for me, at which point I integrate them into the “core” of my productivity stack.

So, with that said, let’s look at the productivity apps & tools that make up my “core” productivity system.

The Core of My Productivity System:

Evernote – Note Taking & Reference Material

The heart of every productivity system is a good note-taking app. I have tried a lot of different note-taking apps over the years, and Evernote is the one that has stuck with me. It’s flexible enough to be used for everything from taking notes in meetings to storing reference material for later use.

I also use Evernote as my “Quick Capture” tool. Some people will use a separate app to “quickly capture” information like receipts & pictures, but I’ve found Evernote does the trick for me.

Suppose I need to capture a receipt for taxes/expenses. I take a picture of the ticket in Evernote and move it to my “Receipts” folder.

If I find an interesting article that I want to read later, or it’s an article I want to save to reference years down the line? I use Evernote’s Web Clipper to save the article to my Evernote account for future reference.

Was I taking notes from a meeting at work? Open Evernote, and type away. I can even integrate it with my Google Calendar and create a message for the specific calendar event, with custom templates that show who attended the meeting, when it took place, etc.

Do I want to export my Kindle Highlights from various books I’m reading so I can quickly look up that topic from a book if I forget it? Evernote has Open APIs, so you can use an app like to export all your Kindle Highlights into Evernote.

Evernote works on all my devices and everything syncs in real-time. I can organize all of my daily/weekly journals in Evernote. I can write out my journaling for the day on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet and export the image into Evernote.

As you can see – the possibilities are endless. Evernote is your “second brain.” It’s your encyclopedia, the app that documents your knowledge base, and an app that grows with you over time. In the digital age, there’s so much information to work effectively; it’s inefficient to try and keep it in your working memory. Since we all carry phones in our pockets and can access information at any time – give your working memory a break and store that info in your second “Evernote” brain.

Pro Tip: Set up an “Inbox” Notebook in your Evernote that will be the place where all “new notes” or “quick captures” are captured. Schedule time weekly or monthly to go back and sort all your scattered/random notes in the Inbox into organized, categorized folders.

Alternative Options

ToDoIst – Task Management

Another app that should be at the core of every productivity system is a task management app. Evernote has a task functionality that can be used instead of ToDoIst – but I vastly prefer ToDoIst’s approach to task management and prefer having my tasks separated from my knowledge base in an easy-to-view app.

It’s important to have tasks and reminders separate from your notebook and quick capture system so essential tasks that need to be completed don’t fall through the cracks.

ToDoIst syncs across all devices. It acts as a “Quick Capture” tool for my tasks. I can open up ToDoIst and create a new task in my “grocery list” project.

Has a menial task at work been assigned to me that I can’t complete until tomorrow? I can quickly transfer a new task, “Pick up supplies for an office party,” under my “errands” project.

ToDoIst works alongside my calendar – at the end of each day/week, I look at all of my outstanding tasks and “batch” similar tasks together, so I am not context-switching between deep and shallow work throughout the day, and I can get things done!

For example, if the grocery list is piling up, I’ll block an hour to drive to the grocery store and shop. If I have a bunch of small admin tasks at work that I need to get done, I schedule an hour to complete all of the admin tasks together, so I’m not context-switching between menial tasks and deep work.

ToDoIst also integrates with your Google Calendar; if you assign a time to a task in todoist, it will create an event for that time/study on your calendar. I do this for essential functions that quickly arise that I know I will not miss since it’s on my calendar.

Pro tip: If a task takes less than 3 minutes, do it immediately. If it’s going to take more than 3 minutes, log it in ToDoIst and “batch” it with other admin tasks later.

Alternative Options:

Google Calendar – Time Blocking & Scheduling

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’m a big fan of time blocking and scheduling. I use Google Calendar for this productivity method.

Google Calendar shows me my work schedule, personal appointments, and reminders all in one place. When I’m at work, I can quickly glance at my calendar and see what tasks need to be completed.

Google Calendar is my favorite calendar app because it integrates with my email and every major productivity app on the market, and I can access it on any device. I can incorporate calendars from multiple email accounts (i.e., work email, personal email, business email). The workflow is second to none if you are a Gmail user.

I also use Google Calendar to block my day. I’ll schedule an hour for lunch, two hours for deep work, and 30 minutes for a coffee break. I have a “skeleton” calendar where I plan recurring events (i.e., Workouts, Lunch, Morning Routine, etc.).

I highly recommend using Google Calendar (or another calendar app) to time block your day. It’s a great way to increase productivity, get things done, and hold yourself accountable for doing what you said you would!

Alternative Options:

Manual Filing Cabinet System – Physical Organization & Planning

One system that is often overlooked in the present day is the use of a manual filing system. Believe it or not, some people actually still use paper documents (shocking, I know), and you might still get mailed things from time to time. Sure, you could always quickly capture it into Evernote, but I find it’s good to have an analog, real-life filing cabinet for important documents.

I keep any tax receipts I need to use for the following year in different folders labeled for the tax year. Any certification documents that I’ve completed over the years go into here as well.

I don’t use it that often, but it’s good to have a place to shove essential documents instead of having them scattered all over the place.

Alternative Options

  • Pick the one that looks the coolest to you. Or better, the one that is the most functional for your needs.
  • Quick capture every physical document/receipt you get into your quick capture app of choice.

Gmail – Email App

Won’t spend too much time on this one, but it’s essential to choose the right email client that fits your stack and that you like the workflow. Since I use Google Drive, Docs/Sheets & Google Calendar, a big reason why Gmail is my email app of choice is that it exists within that ecosystem. Also, I genuinely believe it’s the most versatile & “snappy” email app on the market – it has the best user experience by far.

I’ve used Outlook & Yahoo Mail as well. Outlook loaded extremely slowly & had a confusing mail sorting system. Yahoo Mail was just not up to par with Gmail, primarily due to the poor user experience and infiltration of ads within the email.

The ease of switching between different accounts, the search functionality, and the ability to use Google Calendar & Drive with Gmail makes it the best email client for me. The ability to filter emails from different addresses to be sent to folders helps me automate a lot of the “busy work” that comes with triaging your inbox and getting to the important emails you want to read and respond to.

For those that are fans of the “Inbox Zero” approach to email management, Gmail is also the best client to use for this approach due to the extensive filtering, labeling & categorizing features.

If you need high security or remain anonymous, it’s a good idea to set up a ProtonMail account. ProtonMail offers end-to-end encryption on all emails, meaning neither hackers nor ProtonMail employees can look at your emails. Gmail does not provide end-to-end encryption.

If you have to use another email app – for example, perhaps your work forces you to use Outlook because they are a Microsoft shop – you can look into cross-platform email clients that will amalgamate all emails from your different accounts and email apps in one place. Some examples of cross-platform email apps are Mailbird, Thunderbird, Postbox, and eM Client.

Alternative Options:

Google Drive – Cloud Storage

A cloud storage & backup service is essential to any productivity system. It allows you to access your files from anywhere, on any device.

I use Google Drive for all of my cloud storage needs. As mentioned previously, the fact that it exists within the Google ecosystem is a big reason why.

Using your Google Drive is an underrated time saver. Download a PDF to your mobile device, but you want to view it on your desktop? No thumb drive is necessary. Pop it in your Google Drive & it’s immediately on your desktop.

Because Google Drive is also perhaps the most popular cloud storage app, it has several different integrations with various apps. For instance, I have an app that automatically backs up all of my SMS & Phone logs on my phone into a file that gets saved on my Google Drive. This is a lifesaver if you lose your phone, as all your important conversations are backed up and can be quickly restored.

Little instances and use cases like this make a cloud storage app a must-have in your productivity stack.

Alternative Options:

1Password – Password Management

A password management app is a must-have in 2022. I checked my 1Password and I see that I have 375 logins. If you don’t want to get hacked, you must utilize solid passwords and different passwords for each login. Trying to remember 375 different passwords is a nightmare.

1Password solves this. The time saved, my god, the time saved is real – for instance, take a look below.

  • Only having to remember one password for all 375 of my logins has saved me from devoting brainpower to any passwords, allowing more time to be spent thinking about more important tasks.
  • Randomly generating a password saves time because you don’t have to think about a “strong” password yourself.
  • You don’t have to type out the passwords & usernames – 1Password auto-fills it for you.
  • You’ll never forget a password because it’s all stored in 1Password. Say goodbye to wasting time clicking “Forgot your password?” and having a password reset link sent to your email.

Since I use 1Password probably 10-20+ times a day, if not more, on my phone and desktop, I’d be curious to calculate how much time 1Password has saved me since I started using it. I’d imagine it’s at least a 30min+ time save per week. Also, the “stress save” of not having to remember the passwords is highly underrated. It doesn’t sound like that much, but it adds up over years of use.

The peace of mind of knowing that all of your passwords have military-grade security is lovely, even if you aren’t super paranoid about getting hacked or you don’t have a lot of valuable email accounts.

1Password has the superior UI and UX of any password management app on the market. Add a password manager to your stack. You won’t remember passwords!

Alternative Options:

The Satellites of My Productivity System:

Now, look at some of the productivity apps that act as my “satellites.” I use these apps regularly, but not as consistently as the apps in my core stack.

Appointment Scheduling – TidyCal

Working in sales, I have a lot of appointments & internal meetings I need to schedule. Rather than playing email & Slack tag with people to lock down a time, I use an app called TidyCal, which integrates with my Google Calendar and allows people to see all the available times on my calendar. They can then submit their email and schedule a time with me with a Zoom link in the calendar invite.

TidyCal eliminates all the back and forth of email tag, trying to lock down a time, and checking your calendar to see what times you have available. You simply drop your TidyCal link and ask the person you’re speaking with to book in with you. Or, you can provide a link in your email signature so anyone can book in. Or finally, you can enter a prospect’s email and contact information for them – this saves the time of making a mistake as you don’t have to cross-reference with your calendar manually. You can simply look and see what’s available.

I purchased this app from a lifetime AppSumo deal a while back, and it’s been working surprisingly well. It’s very barebones, but it gets the job done.

Alternative Options

Time Tracking – Timely

I’ve only recently started using an app to track my time, and I’m unsure how I ever lived without it. The app is called Timely, and it’s fantastic.

Timely integrates within all of your devices and tracks your web browser usage and time. It generates “memories” of various applications you have been using and tabs you have been surfing on the web. You can then assign each of these “memories” to different projects, allowing you to see how much time you spend on various tasks and projects so you can adjust your workflow accordingly.

Timely can also track your phone’s location so that you can log travel time. This is helpful for solopreneurs or consultants who need to keep track of time spent working for billing purposes.

Best of all, Timely has an anti-surveillance policy, unlike other time tracking apps, which means no keystroke monitoring or employee screenshots. This means that you can have peace of mind that your employer is not spying on you when you are using Timely.

Timely Alternatives

Cold Storage – Zoolz

As your career or business progresses, you’ll develop a vast database of files, software, and media. Some you may not use regularly, but you’ll still want to keep them for future reference. This is where Zoolz comes in – it’s similar to Google Drive, but rather it’s “cold” storage instead of cloud storage.

Essentially this means that the data is far cheaper, but you won’t have instant access to files. You’ll need to wait a day or two for the files to be “warmed up” so you can download them again.

This is a handy tool to have in case your computer dies. It’s essentially a backup tool for all of your data. You do NOT want to scour the internet looking for all this information again if your hardware fails. Trust me, it sucks.

Zoolz sits in the background applications of your computer and constantly monitors new files that will be added and uploaded to your cold storage, so you can have peace of mind that all your files are backed up and can be re-downloaded if something goes wrong.

Zoolz Alternatives

Autocorrect, Spellchecker & Plagiarism Tool – Grammarly

One of the critical productivity hacks I’ve learned is never to underestimate the power of a spell checker, autocorrect, and plagiarism checker. It will help you become a better writer and allow you to write more efficiently & appear more professional.

Grammarly is the best spell checker on the market, hands down. It integrates within your web browser and anywhere else you write and provides real-time feedback as you write. It will catch typos and grammatical errors and suggest style and voice corrections.

Grammarly also has a built-in plagiarism checker, which will compare your work against billions of web pages and documents to ensure that your writing is 100% unique. This is helpful for students who need to ensure their work is free of plagiarism or for writers who want to ensure their work is not similar to anything else on the internet.

Grammarly Alternatives

Pomodoro App – Forest

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that breaks down work into 25-minute intervals, separated by five-minute breaks. It’s a great way to stay focused and avoid burnout.

Forest is my favorite Pomodoro app because it’s simple, effective, and fun.

The app works by planting a virtual tree every time you start a Pomodoro timer. The tree will grow if you stay focused and don’t leave the app for the full 25 minutes. The tree will die if you get distracted and go to the app.

It’s a great way to gamify the Pomodoro Technique and stay motivated to stay focused.

I also love how you can buy different trees to plant with your “focus time.” And they also work with a tree planting charity, where you can exchange your focus time to donate to plant real-life trees.

Forest Alternatives

Video Meetings/Conferencing – Zoom

Lastly, no productivity system would be complete without a video conferencing tool.

Zoom is my favorite because it’s the industry standard for video conferencing. The biggest reason I use Zoom over other video conferencing software is that Zoom is a tool that most people in B2B are familiar with.

They offer a free version where you can hold up to 40-minute meetings, while the paid version is also reasonably priced at $200/yr.

Zoom Alternatives

So there you have it! I use these apps and tools to create the ultimate productivity system. Do you have any productivity hacks that you swear by? Let me know in the comments below.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the best productivity system?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best productivity system will vary depending on your individual needs and preferences. However, the productivity system outlined in this blog post is a great starting point for anyone looking to create a more organized and efficient workflow.

What are some productivity hacks that you swear by?

Some of my favorite productivity hacks include using a spell checker/autocorrect tool like Grammarly, using a Pomodoro app, time-blocking your calendar, and keeping “crystallized” information like notes & documents within a note-taking app like Evernote.

Do you have any productivity tips for students?

I would recommend using a tool like Grammarly to check for plagiarism and a Pomodoro app to break down studying into more manageable chunks. Also, time-blocking your schedule and keeping all course-related information organized in one place (like a note-taking app) can help you stay on top of your studies.

Is there a perfect productivity system?

No, there is no perfect productivity system. However, you can create a productivity system that works well for you by finding the apps and tools that fit your individual needs and preferences. The productivity system outlined in this blog post is a great starting point for anyone looking to create a more efficient workflow.

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