In this article, I’m going to share 34 of my favorite productivity softwares, apps and tools.
- Best Thinking Tools
- Favorite Creation Tools: Writing, spreadsheets and presentations
- Preferred Project Management Software
- Top Organization Tools
- Best File Sharing Services
- Top Efficiency And Effectiveness Tools
- Best Scheduling Tools
- Top Distraction Killers
- Favorite Automation Tools
Best Thinking Tools
1. An inspiring notebook and a smooth pen
It’s really hard to beat sitting down with a good looking notebook and a slick pen. It is the preferred business tool of most of the top entrepreneurs and marketers I know. The preferences aren’t just because of aesthetic reasons.
One of the reasons is due to the unlimited possibilities of pen and paper.
“Word-processing is a normative, standardised tool,” says ClaireBustarret, a specialist on codex manuscripts at the Maurice Halbwachs research centre in Paris. “Obviously you can change the page layout and switch fonts, but you cannot invent a form not foreseen by the software. Paper allows much greater graphic freedom: you can write on either side, keep to set margins or not, superimpose lines or distort them. There is nothing to make you follow a set pattern. It has three dimensions too, so it can be folded, cut out, stapled or glued.”
The benefits don’t end there.
Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva, “Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought.”
Operating a keyboard is not the same at all: the number of neuro patterns is only a fraction of those created by handwriting.
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.
“And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.”
Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, used a scanner to see how handwriting affected activity in children’s brains. Dr. James found that when children drew a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three significant areas of the brain, which didn’t happen when they traced or typed the letter.
Want to improve your learning?
One of the most effective ways to study and retain new information is to rewrite your notes by hand.
That’s because putting ink to paper stimulates a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System, or the RAS. One study from 2010 found that the brain areas associated with learning “lit up” much more when kids were asked to write words like “spaceship” by hand versus just studying the word closely.
There is one inefficiency with pen and paper and that is when you want to share your thoughts with others. It’s a lot easier and faster to share digital ideas then pen and paper.
Rocketbook helps solve that problem by giving you a printed notebook that has some cool digital upload features.
All you need to do is, black out some symbols on the bottom of the pages and use the Rocketbook app to take a picture and it uploads your image wherever you want: Google Drive, Evernote and many other options.
Rocketbook is quickly becoming a staple tool for me to use because I get the benefits of pen and paper combined with easy digital capture.
Whiteboards are basically massive sheets of paper and are perfect for scoping out big ideas or brainstorming as a group.
I’ve got an entire wall of whiteboards in my office
John Reese once installed whiteboard inside his entire office. He layered a roll-on whiteboard on every wall of his office and called it “The War Room”.
Whiteboards are some of my favorite Power-Thinking tools. (Read the chapter on Power-Thinking in my 3X Your Productivity Book — get it for FREE here: LINK TO 3X REPORT)
This is absolutely one of my favorite tools for recording audio. It gets rid of ALL the friction by automatically loading the file into a Dropbox folder.
Speaking is a form of thinking. For some people, they can think very well by speaking things out. Dropvox makes this process insanely efficient.
Then it’s easy to share that file with your team. If you want share the Dropvox folder with your assistant so she can manage the tasks related to your audio recordings.
Flowcharting VS. Mind-mapping
Before I share some of my favorite softwares for flow-charting and mind-mapping, it’s powerful to understand the differences between them and when it’s best to use each one.
Flow-charting is the optimal choice when you have a specific process you want to capture and share with others. Flow-charting has specific forms and shapes that are universally understood. This means there’s a lot more specific information communicated with a flow-chart. Here’s an example…
Mind-maps are very crude compared to a flow-chart. Mindmaps are very good for doing rough thought cluster organization. One of the better uses of mind maps is to organize and capture the ideas in a book. Here’s an example of a mindmap for this article…
Best Flow-Chart Software
Always use online collaboration tools when possible. Most of my top choices in this article are because of the live collaboration possibilities.
My #1 flow-charting choice is: The online Google Drive version of Lucid Charts.+
Lucid charts is well-known, widely used flow-charting software. The Google Drive version is awesome! You can share the link with your team and work on it together in real time.
There’s a freemium level and a paid level. The freemium option gives you up to 5 Lucid Charts. The Premium has far more options.
It’s best to use Google Chrome browser when working with Lucid Charts on Google Drive.
Best Mindmapping Software
MindMeister for Google Drive
For the same reasons as Lucid Charts for Google Drive, MindMeister’s online functionality makes it a clear winner.
Again, you need to use Google Chrome when working with MindMeister for Google Drive.
Best Creation Tools
Now, I’ll share what I think are the best softwares and apps for writing, video, numbers and presentations.
Best Writing Software
When I’m writing I want to remove all the distractions from my browser. It’s one of the keys to maximizing focus and flow. I don’t need all the bells and whistles for a full blown word editor. It’s vital for me to separate writing and editing.
Best Distraction Removing Writing Software Goes To: FocusWriter
FocusWriter is a simple, distraction removing writer that has just enough features.
One of my favorite features is the writing goals. You can set a daily writing goal (in words or time) and it will track it for you automatically.
It also gave me the most flexibility for choosing backgrounds.
Honorable Mention: Ommwriter
I really liked Ommwriter, but unfortunately it’s bugginess made it unusable after a couple of days.
My writing process: I’ll create the initial document using FocusWriter and then I’ll dump it into…
The Best Full Feature Document Writer: Google Docs
Google docs is one of the greatest online tools for working on ideas as a team. I love using it to work on sales letters with my team… Create game plans and strategies and so much more.
This is what I suggest you use for the editing process, especially if other people are involved. Great features like ‘inserting comments’ make it easy to work together.
Honorable Mention For Best Document Creator: Microsoft Word/Apple’s Pages
Microsoft Word is the O.G. of the word doc world. It’s got tons of features. Apple’s Pages tends to hide the features a bit more and has a bit more of a learning curve from my experience. They are both very similar.
Best Video Editing Software Goes To: Final Cut X
Final Cut X was a major change in how video editing is done. At first, many editors were upset at the shift. However, once you get familiar with the new work flow it’s a positive upgrade.
Honorable Mention: Adobe
If you’re already using Adobe, it probably doesn’t make sense to change. The time costs of learning a new software and workflow is high. Unless it’s MAJOR upgrade, it’s
usually not worth it.
Best Spreadsheet Softwares
A lot of people are uncomfortable or even HATE spreadsheets. Learning how to use spreadsheets was one of the most valuable courses I took at University. I strongly suggest to you, to get a basic handling of spreadsheets. It’s a great financial planning tool.
Top Spreadsheet Software Goes To: Google Sheets
Google Sheets rocks. It can do 95% of what Excel can with live collaborations. My suggestion is go take a local excel course or go to Youtube and watch some tutorials while you play with it.
Honorable Mention: Excel
Even though I’m a big Mac fan, Numbers has always felt clunky, light on features and counter-intuitive user interface.
When I’m creating spreadsheets, I want power and options. And the options should be readily available. Excel is still solid.
Best Presentation Software
Most of us in the business world have to do live or virtual presentations. Preparing killer presentations is a great skill set to have.
Top Presentation Software: Keynote
With this app, Apple’s simple software design style nails it. The templates they include are beautiful and effective. Most of the transitions are cool without being corny. Keynote for the win!
Honorable Mention: PowerPoint
PowerPoint is another solid option. CONS: It is a bit more complicated to use and the templates aren’t that impressive.
I love online collaboration tools. They’ve completely revolutionized how people create together as a team.
They are far more efficient than desktop tools that require file sharing. Think about the time that’s loss, every time you have to export a file, attach it to an email and send it to someone. Then that person has to download the file and open it. This is several minutes of valuable time wasted EVERY TIME you need to share an update. What if you send an updated file 5 times? It adds up fast.
Google Drive: Google Docs, Sheets, Presentation, Drawings And More
I’ve already written about Google Docs, Sheets And Presentation.
Here are some more amazing Google Drive tools that you may or may not be familiar with or have used:
Google Drawing: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The truth of that quote hits you hard when you attempt to explain a design idea to a graphic designer.
Instead, it’s much faster and more effective to throw together (VERY ROUGH) Google Drawings with a few notes.
HOT TIP: Piecing together several partial screenshots is one of the fastest ways to communicate visual ideas.
HOT TIP: Integrate Dropbox with the latest version of Apple’s desktop OS software and when you screenshots it will automatically copy a shareable link to your clipboard. Then all you need to do is share the link. This has been one of the biggest workflow upgrades ever.
FOR PC: After your Dropbox desktop software has been updated to the latest release, take a screenshot. The first time you do this after the update, you’ll get a Dropbox window that asks if you want to enable automatic screenshot uploads. Click the “Save Screenshots to Dropbox” button.On PCs, screenshots will automatically upload to the Screenshot folder in your Dropbox. Pressing the Ctrl+Print Screen shortcut will upload the screenshot and copy the link to your clipboard.
Here’s how you take take a screenshot on the MAC: (SHIFT + COMMAND + 3)
Or my favorite a PARTIAL screenshot: a screenshot (SHIFT + COMMAND + 4 and then click the mouse and drag it over what you want to snap an image of and release the mouse button )
Here’s how you take take a screenshot on the PC: Press PrtScn.
Open Paint by clicking the Start button , clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, and then clicking Paint. In Paint, on the Home tab, in the Clipboard group, click Paste.
Best Project Management Software:
Best Team Project Management Tool: Red Booth
We’ve done a lot of comparisons and used most of the top project management softwares and RedBooth is our favorite tool and the one we use in our companies.
RedBooth is great for small companies and it’s built to scale.
Best Software For Team Communication: Slack
Lots of people love Slack because it’s the best app for COMMUNICATION between team members.
I’ve never been that excited about Slack because I’ve been creating different threads for all the various teams and sub-teams using Skype.
In this article, I’m going to share my favorite business softwares and productivity apps for maximizing my results.
Best Organization Tools
One of my good friends and uber successful lawyers, Joe Cantini, once told me “Organization is the key to efficiency.” This is truth. Being disorganized often creates massive waste of time trying to search for things.
I used to be an extremely disorganized dude. I’m constantly having to be vigilant in my organization. Here are some of my favorite tools:
Best Thought/Note Organizer: Evernote
Evernote is a brilliant, simple software that allows you to organize your thoughts, information, images and more across all your platforms.
The main key is to properly tag the things that you put in there. This will help you find your ideas later.
Best business card app for iPhone: ScanBizCards
Best business card app for Android: CamCard
Folderarchy is NOT a software or app… it’s a powerful, vital concept that makes your digital space nice and tidy.
It’s up to you how you organize your thoughts.
Where this becomes vital is to do some proper folderarchy for your shared folders. Your team will waste a lot of time searching for files if you don’t do this.
I have ONE top level folder: Matt.
2nd level: Key areas of my life: business, financial, marketing info, my music, spiritual.
3rd level: I’ll use business as an example: I create a folder for each one of my businesses:
4th level: This is totally up to you. I suggest creating folders for:
a) Each project
b) Each money move of your business (Read the chapter on “Money Moves” inside the 3X Your Productivity book. Get it FREE here: INSERT LINK
Best Files Sharing Services
Most of the file sharing systems are similar. What makes Dropbox a winner for me is the screenshot snapping/copy to clipboard feature and… softwares like Dropvox. I believe there’s more support out there for Dropbox. Dropbox rocks for things like: PDFs, images and videos.
Google Drive is the king of sharing for files that you will be working on together as a team: word docs, sheets and presentations.
Top Efficiency And Effectiveness Tools
The Power Of Two Screens
Microsoft did research on how much more effective people are with 2 screens instead of one.
The difference was EPIC: people using 2 large screens are 10% to 50% more effective than those with 1 screen, depending on the task they’re doing.
If you analyze how you work, it makes sense. How often do you change apps when you’re working on something? When I write articles like this, it’s normal for me to go go Google and do some research. If I’m on Skype and I have to schedule a meeting, I have to switch from Skype to BusyCal (my calendar).
If you only have one screen, it’s a low slower than having 2 screens. With 2 screens you can have your key programs open all the time. My main monitor is a 29 inch monitor, plus I use my laptop’s screen. This allows me to have 2 browsers side by side which is very valuable at times.
Bigger, Faster, Stronger Computers
ALWAYS INVEST IN SPEED. Even if you’re time is worth $10 an hour, you can save hundreds of hours over time with a faster computer.
Here are the critical factors to look for when you buy a computer:
1. RAM — you want at least 16 GB. If you’re doing video editing go for 32 GB or more. Why? Having loads of RAM will prevent the beach ball of death from showing up. Is there anything more frustrating than that?
2. Speed and CORES. The more cores and the faster they are, the better. This is especially true if you’re using any heavy software.
3. SSD hard drive: SSD drives can you save you 10 to 20 seconds every time you’re opening up apps or searching for files. That’s a big deal especially when you want to stay in flow.
4. Lots of hard drive space. Get at least 1 TB because you don’t want to be wasting time managing the hard drive space on your machine.
Best Email Management Tool
Inbox by Google
Google knocked it out of the park with Inbox. It’s the smartest, fastest email software I’ve ever used.
Some of my favorite features include:
i) Automatically organizing trips into a folder. Let’s say you buy a flight, rent a car and a hotel. Inbox is smart enough to compare the dates and location and group them together in one folder. I love how it displays the information also: clean and clear.
ii) Automatic programmed responses. WOW… This is HOT. Inbox analyzes the email you’ve received and give you 3 possible responses that you can reply with the push of a button. 75% of the time, the responses are solid and I use them. This is a major speed booster.
iii) The speed of cleaning up your inbox. Using swipes and (the mass cleaning) button makes having a clean inbox incredibly easy and quick. Probably the most efficient inbox cleaning process I’ve ever experienced.
Best online scheduler: Appointy, Calendly, and A Hundred More…
No lack of options here. I haven’t tried that many because they’re all similar in functionality. Just pick one.
Best Mac Desktop calendar: BusyCal
I don’t use iCal. Instead I use BusyCal. BusyCal is a bit more user friendly and I prefer the display. I just sync up: iCal, Google Calendar and BusyCal. I can use any of those 3 apps to schedule something and the meeting will be set in all 3 calendars.
Best Smart Phone calendar: Google Calendar
On my phone, I prefer the Google Calendar app. It’s display is amazing. And it’s smart, quick and intuitive like the Inbox app.
It’s impossible to get laser-beam focused and achieve a flow state if you’re bombarded with online distractions. This is why you should use internet blockers when you’re in creation mode. Here’s some of my favorites:
RescueTime is the winner, not just because of it’s ability to block the internet, but because of all it’s amazing other functionality. RescueTime tracks where you spend your time and gives you daily/weekly/monthly reports. You’ll see exactly how much time you spent on productive tasks vs. distraction websites.
Remember: “What you measure, improves.”.
Honorable Mention: Self-Control
If you want something more straightforward for blocking the internet, Self-Control is the answer. It’s a free app that does the trick.
The Champ: IFTTT
Here’s 110 highly rated recipes you can use IFTTT with: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2424077,00.asp