My Essential Productivity Tools – 2016 Edition

It has been a while since I wrote about my productivity tools. The last time I wrote about them was in 2010. Things have changed since then, so I think it’s a good time to write about them again.

One major change I have made since 2010 is that now I use Mac while at that time I used Windows. Accordingly, some of the apps below are only available on the Mac. I’m sure there is a Windows equivalent for each though.

I also use other apps in addition to the ones below, but these are the apps that I consider essential.

Without further ado, here are my essential productivity tools (in no particular order):

1. Google Calendar (cross platform)

I use Google Calendar to organize my schedule and keep track of appointments. I also use it as a reminder for doing things in the future. For instance, I use it to remind me to send donations and pay some bills. I like the fact that it’s synchronized between my computer and cell phone.

2. Microsoft OneNote (cross platform)

I use OneNote for detailed notes and planning. When I’m working on a project, for instance, I write everything related to it in OneNote: things to do, research notes, and other stuff.

My favorite feature in OneNote is expanding/collapsing an outline. This allows me to hide irrelevant parts of a note so that I can focus on the part that’s relevant to me at that time.

3. HabitMaster (iOS)

HabitMaster is the app I use for building my habits. I use it to build daily, weekly, and monthly habits. I spend my days mostly based on the checklists in this app. I built this app myself.

4. Short Notes (iOS)

Short Notes is the app I use for recording and organizing my ideas. Unlike OneNote, I use it to record short ideas, usually in the form of a few sentences. It’s also an app that I built myself.

5. Chronos (Mac)

I use Chronos to track how much productive time I have. Chronos is a time tracker. Whenever I do a productive activity (e.g., writing), I start the timer, and whenever I do something else (e.g., checking emails), I stop it.

The nice thing about Chronos is that I can easily see how much productive time I have on a certain day or month. This allows me to see whether my productivity is increasing or decreasing.

6. TextWrangler (Mac)

TextWrangler is a text editor that I use for my to-do list. In the past, I used more complex apps for my to-do list, but now I just use a text editor.

I like TextWrangler because it allows me to open several text files at once from different locations. My to-do-list file is synced across my devices through Dropbox.


These are the tools that work well for me. What about you? What productivity tools do you use?

Comments here.


  1. Great post! I’ve been thinking about switching over to a Mac for a while now. I’ve heard it will be better for blogging but, I’ve been holding it off. I think because I didn’t want to waste time trying to learn the controls (I’ve always used windows even when I studied animation design at University).This post has made me decide that I will now switch to the Mac. Habit masters sounds interesting. I need an app like that. Excellent list of awesome apps for organisation. Thanks Donald!

  2. Saurabh Srivastava
    Saurabh Srivastava

    Hi Donald,
    I too want to share a tool that has greatly helped me. It is the ‘Pocket’ app which allows me to save different articles that I find around the web, and then read them (or listen to them with the inbuilt reading program) in my free time.

    It is a very resourceful post. I shall surely try these awesome tools. Glad to see a post written by you after quite a while.

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