My Top 20 Productivity Tools That Help Me Get Stuff Done Fast

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

I spend around 10 to 12 hours a day in front of my computer.
If you know me, then you know I’m trying to squeeze as much out of my time as possible. I’ve only got one life, and I want to be as productive as possible so I can create more free time to do things I enjoy.
One way I do that is to use software that significantly increases my productivity and efficiency.
When you’re spending all day on the computer like I am, the right software can make your life easier and help you get a lot more done.

  • I brainstorm much easier because of MindManager
  • I effectively communicate and assign tasks to my team with Wrike
  • I have unique passwords for each login, and it takes me a single hotkey to enter my password for any website because of 1pass.

I strongly believe that being more productive by using the right software is a SERIOUS competitive advantage. It’s the difference between someone that can speed type and someone that has to hunt and peck to type.
Bottom line: I can get more done than my competitors, which helps me get ahead of them.
I’ve tested out hundreds of software the past few years and these are the ones I use every single day.

  • A lot of this software is Mac only. I’ve been using Mac for the past 8 years so I’m not sure what the Windows equivalents are.
  • Some of this software can be expensive – there are usually cheaper or even free alternatives out there. 

Productivity Software #1: Wrike

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Wrike is how I manage my team and my personal life. It’s how I ensure that I get everything done AND that my team is always on the same page. Honestly, there’s no way we could accomplish what we do without Wrike.
I prefer Wrike over Asana, Basecamp, and all the other tools out there. Yeah, I’ve tried them all, because I’m obsessed with getting things done in the BEST possible way.
Just a small warning: this tool is probably overkill for most people and teams.
I recommend starting off with Trello until you outgrow it.
But I love it because it allows me to…

  • See ALL my tasks across every part of my life in a single glance
  • Keep track of what’s been done and what is still due
  • Assign tasks with a single click
  • Keep all my docs in the same place
  • Keep track of any conversations that are happening around a particular task

The last thing I want to do is have to flip between a bunch of different websites or software. Wrike keeps everything in one place.
I also keep my personal tasks in Wrike over Omnifocus, Wunderlist, etc.
The main reason is because I have an executive assistant on my team who helps me with personal tasks. It’s much easier for us to have just ONE command center for both work and personal tasks.

Productivity Software #2 – Bear (Evernote Replacement)

This is where I store my permanent notes and articles I want to archive.
Basically, this is where I dump EVERYTHING that I want to remember. I don’t want my brain cluttered with a bunch of stuff that will keep me from focusing on my most important tasks.
So when I need to remember something important, I put it into Bear. It’s kind of like my external brain. It keeps my mind from being distracted with trying to remember everything.
Why don’t I use Evernote? The software started getting too bloated, and I had concerns about privacy.
Plus, Bear has a really nice, clean, feel. It’s not loaded with all kinds of unnecessary features like Microsoft Word. It focuses on content, and nothing else.
What kinds of stuff do I keep in Bear?

  • Important business documents
  • Articles I want to read for the rest of my life
  • Checklists
  • My journaling
  • High level notes
  • Etc.


I use this as my daily notes, scratch pad, and brainstorming.
It’s small and fast, which is exactly what I want.
Honestly, most writing/note taking software is wayyyyy to complicated. Too many features, too complicated to use, too much of a learning curve, uses too much computer power, etc. They’re just a bloated mess.
When I write, I want to focus ONLY on writing. I don’t want to mess around with a bunch of formatting or storage options. I’d rather let someone else handle any formatting problems (which I assign in Wrike).
nvAlt let’s me give all my attention to creating content.
How do I use nvAlt AND bear?
Think of NValt as the software version of a desktop memo pad, while Bear is a permanent leather journal on in my bookcase.

Productivity Software #4: Slack

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When it comes to communicating with team members…
…email SUCKS.
You end up with these giant email threads that are impossible to follow and don’t happen in real-time. Plus, my email inbox is open to more people than my team.
When I want to communicate with my team, I don’t want to be distracted by spam emails from the deported Prince of Saudi Arabia who will give me half his fortune if I send him the small fee of $200.
And don’t even get me started on Skype.
Can you tell that I’m all about focus?
Slack let’s me chat with my team members without distraction. Plus, you create separate channels for different subjects so that lines don’t get crossed. We’ve got channels for this blog, products we’re working on, random conversations, etc.
And when I really want to get deep work done, I can turn off notifications.

Productivity Software #5: 1Password

Because I use a ton of different software and websites, I have tons of different passwords. I can’t remember all these passwords, and I’m not going to use the same one for each site. I’ve seen too many people get hacked doing that.
This software securely stores and encrypts all my logins, credit card numbers, billing addresses, etc. It’s an amazing feeling to press a few keys and my billing address and credit card information are filled.
And when I sign up for a new service, it will generate a super secure password for me and then store that password.
Honestly, you can’t really afford not to use a password service these days. If you’re still using your birthday for your password, you’re gonna get hacked. No doubt about it.
A big plus is that it’s also on the iPhone so it makes it super easy to enter in PW’s on mobile sites.

Productivity Software #6: TextExpander

Are there certain phrases that you type over and over again?
Instead of typing the same things AGAIN and AGAIN, why not use a shortcut?
Here’s an example.
I get meeting requests all the time that I forward to my assistant to help set up. Rather than type it out everytime…
…I can type “;meet”.
TextExpander automatically translates this shortcut into a full reply I’ve created:
Hey [First Name],
I’d love to meet with you.
I’ve CC’ed my assistant Rachel on this email and she can help us coordinate a time.
I look forward to meeting with you!
– Charles
Details for Rachel:
Ideal Time:
Additional Notes:
Another example is instead of typing out my phone number, I can type ;ph and it spits out 1-234-567-8910 in half a second.
This may seem like a small thing, but small actions add up to big chunks of time. Would I rather spend my time typing my phone number or hanging out with my girlfriend? Definitely girlfriend.

Productivity Software #7: Google Suite

I use the Google Suite which includes Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides.
I find that most of my work is collaborative these days, and the Google system makes everything way easier.
Because let’s be honest: Microsoft sucks when it comes to collaboration. You write a document, then you have to email it to other people and they make changes or suggestions. Then they have to email the changed document back to you and you have to make more edits.
It’s an incredible waste of time.
Google Suite let’s everybody collaborate in the SAME document without any need to send stuff back and forth. In fact, if I’m in a document at the same time as another person on my team, I can see the edits they’re making IN REAL TIME.
I can also see any comments they’re making as they make them.
This simplifies things so much and let’s me create content much faster.

Productivity Software #8: MindManager by Mindjet

I use mind maps a lot when it comes to brainstorming. There are times when I just need to dump a bunch of ideas into one place and then figure out which ones are best.
This is my favorite software for creating mind maps. It’s a little expensive, but keep in mind that there are tons of free mind mapping softwares out there.
For more info on how I use mind maps, read this.

Productivity Software #10: Fantastical

I schedule almost EVERY part of my life. It keeps me on track and helps me stay focused. So I want a calendar software that’s super easy to use.
I like Fantastical because I can add events by talking like a normal person.
Most calendar software is overly complicated, requiring me to fill in every little detail in a bunch of different slots. It’s a pain in the ass.
Fantastical is much easier to use.
I can type “Study for an hour Thursday night at 7pm” and it automatically fills it. I don’t need to locate the time slot, type the title, drag and drop details, etc. like most calendar software.

Productivity Software #11: JiTouch

I use a Magic Trackpad instead of a mouse for my laptop.
This software powers up the trackpad and gives it more functionality. Basically, it let’s me create a bunch of shortcuts that I can trigger with a motion on the trackpad.
Instead of trying to find the minimize all windows button my laptop, I can just tapping 4 fingers at once and JiTouch automatically minimizes them for me.
I can tap a certain way to move between tabs.
This is all about getting into “flow state”. When I’m in a flow state, I’m totally focused on what I’m doing. I don’t want to be taken out of that state by having to press buttons on my keyboard. I want to be able to swipe my fingers a certain way and get where I want to go.

Productivity Software #12: F.lux

Being in front of a computer monitor all day isn’t great for my eyes. There’s a bunch of scientific research that shows that the blue light that comes from monitors is hard on the eyes. It can cause headaches, mess with sleep, etc.
F.lux allows me to customize how much blue light comes from my monitor.
This is ESPECIALLY important at night.
Using screens at night is bad for your eyes. The blue light is tricking your mind into thinking that it’s still daytime, so it makes it harder for you to sleep.
We KNOW we shouldn’t be using our computers at night, but we can’t help it sometimes.
Flux is a piece of software I use that turns my screen slightly “yellow” at night to help me sleep better.

Productivity Software #13: BetterSnapTool

I work on a 30” monitor. Usually, I have a ton of different windows open and my Mac doesn’t make it easy to organize them. Normally I would have to click around if I want to switch between windows, which is a waste of time.
BetterSnapTool makes it easy for me to resize and manage my different windows.
If I want one window in the corner of my screen, I can just drag it there and it will snap into place. This let’s me set up my screen for max efficiency and productivity.

Productivity Software #14: Hazel

What does your downloads folder look like? It’s probably a mess of old torrents, PDF’s, and videos (nothing pirated, of course ;-).
Wouldn’t it be awesome if all your files were automatically organized?
That’s what Hazel does. Think of it like a “roomba” for your computer.
I have a set of rules to organize my files by type. Any PDF’s I download automatically go into the documents folder.
Whenever I download a .DMG software, I’m probably going to be installing it. I have a rule that all .DMG files get sent to the trash after 1 day. After 7 days my trash gets automatically emptied.
I don’t want to waste time trying to find and organize files on my computer, and Hazel does it automatically for me.

Productivity Software #15: Alfred

Alfred is my personal digital butler. It allows me to set up hotkeys for tons of different actions on my computer. Instead of using my trackpad to open the finder and then launch an application, I can use Alfred to launch the application. The same goes for finding files, automating workflows, etc.
This may sound insignificant, but when I’m doing deep work, I don’t want to break my focus by having to hunt for a file. Alfred lets me stay in the zone.

Productivity Software #16: HideMyAss

Are you connecting to public wifi like at Starbucks, and airport, or an affiliate conference? If it’s an unsecured wifi, people can hack it and see what you’re typing.
If you enter credit card info or passwords, hackers could steal them. Identity theft is a nightmare that I can’t afford to deal with.
I think of VPN software like a condom that protects me online.
HideMyAss is a solid VPN software makes you anonymous and hides your information.
Basically, it gives me an encrypted connection to a server in another part of the country (or world), which hides everything I’m doing AND disguises my location.

Productivity Software #17: Self-Control

Few things are more distracting than social media sites. You know how it goes. One second you’re working on something important, the next you’re taking a “Which Pulp Fiction Character Are You?” quiz on Facebook or Buzzfeed.
Self-Control lets me block any website that will distract me for a set period of time. And when it comes to blocking, it’s hard core.
Even I restart my computer…
…the websites are blocked. I can’t be distracted even if I want to.
Is this kind of extreme? Yeah. But I know that I’ve got bigger, much more important things to do than watch random videos on YouTube.
Self-Control keeps me on track.

Productivity Software #19: Grammarly

I write a lot, and I still haven’t mastered the rules of grammar.
Plus, I write fast, which means it’s easy for me to make a mistake without realizing it.
And to top it all off, I want my writing to be good. I’m not okay with writing stuff that’s full of grammatical errors and typos.
Grammarly has my back.
Think of this like an automatic spell check software, except designed for grammar. If I make a mistake, it highlights it in red and makes suggestions.
This gives me the confidence to know that I won’t come off as a moron in my writing.

Productivity Software #20: Screenflow 

Screencasts are great for training employees. The next time you’re training someone, why not easily record a screencast?
They can reference it if they have any questions instead of asking you.
Also, future employees can watch your screencast instead of you training them again.
Plus, there are times when I just want to show someone how to do something but I don’t want to write out every step.
Screenflow makes it really easy for me to record and share screencasts.
A few clicks and I’m good to go. If I need to edit something, I can do it right in the software rather than messing around with iMovie or Quicktime or something else.

Other Software

I don’t use a Pomodoro timer app. I have an Amazon echo in my room and I say “Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes.” Once it rings I have a whiteboard in my home office that I’ll mark a tally.
I like to keep it simple.
For email, I just use the Gmail web interface.
No need to overcomplicate things.

Invest In Yourself

I spend a fair amount of money every year on all this productivity software. But for me, it’s all about ROI. I know that the more productive I am, the more money I’ll make and the happier I’ll be.
Plus, using these apps lets me avoid doing stuff I hate and focus on the 20% of activities that actually move the needle.
Bottom line: I’m a big believer in investing in yourself.
The more you invest in yourself, the more you’ll be able to produce and the better your life will be.
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