Personal productivity stack for the rest of us

Vlad Arbatov
Feb 18, 2017 · 5 min read

I must confess: I’m not the most productivity focused person. I suck at time management and I’m overwhelmed with tasks and meetings in many cases (pretty good advertisement for such an article, duh).

I’m not some sort of guru or productivity ninja who you would expect such an article from. It’s hard for me to adapt to new tools and techniques to stay on track because they quickly become more of an intrusion then a magic wand sorting all the mess out (which I wouldn’t mind to have). So I thought I’d share this tiny personal productivity stack for the rest of us — who just use only necessary stuff preventing us from being hit by an avalanche of everyday routine.

Workflowy

(free, premium $4.99/month)

My personal tasks / notes / lists making app since forever. It seems quite simple at first but can become a powerful tool that can be used the way you prefer with flexible and universal instruments. You’re fully in charge of how you build your flow. For example, I have a #Tasks list (which is actually just a tag among many other on the same page), which consists of projects, subprojects and tasks, which in it’s turn are tagged with #today to filter things that need close attention. I’ve tried everything from Todoist to complex solutions like OmniFocus/Outliner — it’s always a comeback to Workflowy.

Brain.fm

(free trial, $6.95/month )

Don’t forget about relaxation.

Nothing very unusual here — good old binaural sounds wrapped into some kind of music. And it actually works (or you persuade yourself that it does, which is the same thing after all). When you need to quickly switch to a focus mode, stay productive for a while and accomplish something that requires high brain activity — that’s your choice. And speaking about the music in general let’s not forget a nice service Mubert, generating electronic rhymes by a machine in real time, and there’s something bewildering about those AI tunes.

Lumosity

(free, premium)

Speaking of brain activity. This app measures your thought process by several parameters like attention, memory, problem solving etc. and helps you develop stronger intellection by playing games. That’s right, no boring exercises, just amusing, short and simple mini-games. 10 minutes a day. And the most exciting part: you can compare your “smartness” with all the app audience of your age on the chart (for example, my thinking speed is better then 42% of the people but I heavily lack attention — it’s 2% worse then average). You feel like you become smarter after every session, and that feeling alone is satisfying.

Headspace

(free, premium $12.95/month)

That’s a matter of personal preferences which meditation helper to choose. I stick with the popular app Headspace that provides guided meditation for both noobs and masters. Since I’m more of a first, this app takes it easy on me and gently helps to achieve more relaxed and pure state of mind. If you’re into trying meditation but really never had a chance (or time) to do so, I would recommend Headspace as a good starting point.

Calendly

(free, premium $8/month)

Since the horrific death of Sunrise Calendar (and Meet) after acquisition by Microsoft (seems like a common practice, but that’s another story) there was a deep hole in my heart and time management routine. This is where Calendly comes to the rescue. You set up your preferred meeting locations, daily availability time range, it integrates with your existing calendar and voila — you have the link to share with your contacts and they can “book” your time and make an appointment. Easy and useful. Of course there are more sophisticated ways to handle a timetable — like Clara (an AI-assistant) or a personal assistant (which I don’t have because with my really bad temper I’m however not an enemy to a human being and can’t punish anyone who breezes with managing this crazy mess).

Opera Beta

(free)

One reason to switch to Opera.

I must apologise as this one is a distraction but it saves your time after all. As most of us I’ve been with Chrome for many years and I’ve recently switched to Opera (for many reasons, let’s just say it’s better overall, good enough to say goodbye to Google). The one thing that’s pretty cool about it is Personal News tab; it’s basically an RSS reader which can be configured with media sources of your choice (I guess Safari has it too, but who uses Safari, duh). Nothing very fancy or extraordinary, but now knowing all the important news updates is just a matter of Cmd+T and a brief glance at the headlines. Nice little time saver.

MacID

($3.99)

This tiny app sits in your Mac tray and let’s you automatically lock (and unlock) your computer when you’re away based on an iPhone location. This is actually frustrating to type in the password (especially when this is an iCloud password and it’s supposed to be a good/lengthy one) to simply unlock your screen multiple times a day, so MacID handles that for you. I personally don’t use proximity wake functionality, but there’s other very cool feature I adore — it can turn your password into a gesture (did someone say Android?), so you just have to make a few taps here and there on a touchpad and you’re in. (And it can also send clipboard text to your iOS device, which is useful when you need to quickly share info between a laptop and an iPhone.)

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

I would love to know if you have your own little tools that make your life easier and more structured. Please leave comments!


This was not meant to be an advertisement in any way, but after I wrote this article I actually thought that what we’re building at arb.digitalSmart home automation system based on AI and micro-location — is also will be a productivity booster, transparently letting your personal living space to handle temperature, lights, security and many other things for you while you focus on more important matters. What a time to be alive! ;)

Vlad Arbatov

Personal blog of arb.digital founder :: https://arbatov.me

Vlad Arbatov

Written by

Founder @ arb.digital :: AI expert. https://arbatov.me

Vlad Arbatov

Personal blog of arb.digital founder :: https://arbatov.me