The Top 8 Apps on My Mac That Fuel My Productivity

I’ve been reviewing my apps on my MacBook Air to get a sense of what apps feed – and fuel – my productivity more than others. Some talk to each other seamlessly, others sync across platforms, some do both of those things, and others simply do things on their own that help in their own way. You’ll also notice that some could be used for something that I’ve tasked to another app. Here we go…


My email app of choice works well with TextExpander, talks to Evernote (which is where I put note-based emails), and thanks to a right-click action when necessary, can send things to OmniFocus as needed. While could do two of the three things listed above, it’s that Evernote integration that makes it unique in my workflow. (And Postbox has its own built-in features that save me time, which shouldn’t be discounted.)


This app speeds up communication more than anything else. Back when I worked for Lifehack I used it extensively for emails, I use it for quickly creating custom emails that I’m using for The Front Nine, and there are some regular snippets I use for certain repetitive text that crop up from time to time. I’ve saved over 30 hours with the app – and if I was still with Lifehack I’m sure that number would be much higher.


While I don’t use it for much beyond keeping notes – as opposed to what I tried to do late last year – I am actually using it more for notes since my experiment. Sharing notebooks with my wife and pal/colleague Michael Schechter (we used it as recently as this week to prepare for this week’s episode of Mikes on Mics featuring Jonathan Coulton), research for blog posts and other posts that I can keep locally stored, and much more. Now that I’ve decided that Evernote is my notetaking app of choice, it is getting used more often. A lot more often. (Again, if you’re having trouble wrapping your head around what Evernote can do for you, pick up Brett Kelly’s excellent Evernote Essentials.)


I switched to Alfred from LaunchBar recently, and the interface has won me over. I’m still tapping into all that it can do for me, but having a quick launcher like Alfred in my arsenal is an absolute. You should make it one as well.


The center of my productivity workflow, OmniFocus has a lot of power under the hood. It is where my day begins and ends – and is the one I use most across multiple platforms. Since I installed Shawn Blanc’s OopsieFocus (and also since CM Smith created the OmniFocus themes), I’ve been using it more and more on my MacBook Air. The thing about OmniFocus is that you can make it work in a way for you that is as simple as you’d like but iti s powerful enough to give you all you’ll ever need in an individual task management solution. And there’s no time like now to give it a try, because you can give OmniFocus on Mac a go while we wait for the arrival of OmniFocus 2. Not to mention that there is a wealth of resources both online (like Kourosh Dini’s excellent book Creating Flow with OmniFocus, Sven Fechner’s stellar site SimplicityBliss, and Asian Efficiency's recently-released OmniFocus Premium Posts package) and offline (like The OmniFocus Setup taking place later this month in San Francisco). You really can’t go wrong with OmniFocus.


Asana is the app I use for collaborative task management. Its barrier to entry is low for those who don’t traditionally use a task manager (read: it’s free for teams less than 30 in number) and it does allow the work to get done between myself and the few clients I have in a more efficient and effective way. That said, there is another collaborative task management app that I enjoy using more – and that’s Flow. The interface is aligned with that of OmniFocus, its web clipper is fantastic, and it just looks as good as it works. The only reason I don’t use it more is that it’s difficult to convince others to pay for it (it’s $9.99 per month or $99 per year). I use Asana out of necessity at this point – and I like a lot about it. But I use Flow because I enjoy using it – which is the ideal scenario when choosing apps for a productivity workflow.


I’ve always been torn between Fantastical and QuickCal. Admittedly, I’m not as torn as I am with Asana and Flow, because I’ve been actively using Fantastical for a long time. I don’t use the iOS version (I’ve got another app of choice there), but the natural language entry is what makes it the winner on my Mac.


I know a lot of folks that use the ScanSnap coupled with Evernote or have a Doxie as their paperless tool of choice, but I’ve become a big fan of Neat over the last year. I got my first good look at their line of products at last year’s Macworld/iWorld (and have a NeatDesk scanner), and with the arrival of NeatMobile and their cloud services, I have found my paperless product line of choice – bar none. (The fact that I can categorize receipts to comply with Canadian accounting practices makes it all the better in my books.)

These apps are the ones I’ve incorporated in my productivity workflow on my Mac – and don’t really include apps that are part of my writing workflow (although you could make a case that Evernote crosses over both plains). When you look at something like my writing workflow – or my podcast production workflow – you’ll find there are far less apps that come into play.

There are other apps that I use from time to time that also add some juice to my productivity (and others, like Keyboard Maestro, that I need to incorporate more). However, the ones I am using now elevate things to a level that not only lets me get the right things done – but also lets me get them done better.