Perfect your craft: productivity and focus

There are countless apps, extensions, and hacks to boost your focus, productivity, and knowledge management. Here’s a comprehensive (albeit iOS-focused) list to get you started along with five ? for the true workflow game-changers.


Omnifocus ?

I’ve tried pretty much every to-do list, but none match the customizability and power-features (deferred start dates and a built-in “review function”) of this $140 app. I’m also an evangelist trying to get people over Omnifocus’ steep learning curve.

TextExpander ?

As the name implies, this utility expands any text (/cell -> 917-xxx-xxxx). I have close to 100 expansions for links, pre-canned emails, addresses, and even colors I frequently use. The mobile version sucks unfortunately.

Gmail Auto-Advance

This is technically a feature of Google Labs and a secret to Inbox Zero. Once enabled, it automatically opens the next message in your inbox right after you hit send. So if you start with your oldest message, it will bring up the next email right after you hit send. Be forewarned, the speed of this will be overwhelming at first.
→ No Site (How to set-up)


I use a lot of screenshots – in blog posts, on social media, for note-taking, and in texts. This toolbar apps lets me use a shortcut to grab a screen (of any size) and immediately brings it onto my clipboard (with the option of marking up the note).


StayFocusd ?

The key to managing my news and social media addiction. This extension lets you set a cumulative time limit for pre-determined sites before it blocks you. It also has a “nuclear mode” that I use for deep work.

Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator ?

The name says it best – I eradicated my feed the day after the 2016 election and haven’t looked back. This has been hands down the best productivity decision I made and it still enables me to use Facebook for birthdays, messenger, etc. (It doesn’t work on mobile, so I just deleted the app.)


I hate email and the cognitive “drip” it gives you. This (behind-the-scenes) plugin, uses Google’s filters to “deliver” your email at pre-set times and it’s magical. You quickly realize the uselessness of checking email in real-time.


With one click, close all browser tabs (and save them, if you’d like). When you’re overwhelmed, an easy way to reset your sanity.


Ever feel like you need to Marie Kondo the open apps on your desktop? Quitter will close (or minimize) apps based on a certain time setting (i.e. Close Spotify if unused for 15 minutes) and recapture that minimalist zen.



I’ve always preferred this read-later app versus Pocket due to the minimalist design, but mostly because of the highlight feature. The one shortcoming, is the lack of built-in discovery. (Tiago Forte has a great primer on Read-later apps.)


This chrome extension enables you to extract your Kindle notes into a text file (which can then be pasted into Evernote). Even if I do nothing with the extract, putting them into a digital notebook ensures that the contents will be searchable.

IFTTT append to Evernote

IFTTT is the Internet’s API (for non-coders) and this is yet another game-changer to help me organize everything I read on the web. It can be a bit finicky and so as hack, once I make my first highlight, I go into Evernote to make sure the note was created.
IFTTT (link to specific rule)

Send to Kindle

You’re reading a long article, you want it on your Kindle, you push this extension. Boom, on your Kindle. Pure delight.


I’m a bit late to the RSS game, but have swapped out of newsletters, in favor of Reeder (to limit noise of emails). This is a bit of a heavy tech lift, as I customize my feed using feedwrangler.

Best of the Rest

1Password ?

I now smile when I am faced with a new log-in and this app helps me manage all 116 logins of mine with extremely robust passwords. I’m paranoid about digital security, particularly for online banking assets.


Imagine Google Docs were created mobile-first. My go to for collaborating on any written documents thanks to its built-in chat, true cross-platform design and well designed notification system.


What on earth could make a calendar app worth paying for? Natural language processing. This app lets me type “Have lunch with Lisa” and it will automatically create the appointment at noon, significantly reducing the number of taps.


I’m a new convert to this note-taking app, predominantly using it as a place to store long-term “knowledge” and have been heavily influenced by @fortelabs (I use his PARA and Progressive Summarization methods). Also a key place for all my reading notes using Bookcision and IFTTT (see below).


This  Chrome extension plays a key role in “tagging” network and plugs into my Gmail window. FullContact acts an “overlay” to the tags field of Google Contacts and I describe my broader networking system here.

Google App

I know, huh? This ties to the 1password and those “pesky” 2-factor authenticators (i.e. the 6 digit codes). The app has a nifty trick where it “knows” you need to authenticate and just gets you to do it via an iPhone notification. (Full instructions.)
iTunes App Store

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