The Best Productivity Apps for Getting Things Done

Look, we all lead hectic lives, right? I do. I’m constantly juggling between work and home life. It’s a challenge keeping up with all the daily activities that I have to get done, let alone the things I want to get done. And I’m not the only one. According to this article, the average American has about 4.5 hours of spare time per week!

With technology today, and all the myriads of distraction that come with it, it’s no surprise that we struggle to stay organised and productive. The screens we stare at all day are screaming for our attention, and we happily oblige. But when we do, we fall into a trap of endless scrolling, and before you know it, you’ve just spent an hour looking through r/battlestations. When you finally get back to reality, you’ve completely forgotten what it was you were meant to be doing!

But screens aren’t all bad. We’re fortunate nowadays that we have a plethora of apps to help keep us organised and productive. As both a productivity and tech nerd, I’ve spent far too much time tinkering with apps throughout my quest of trying to find that one perfect app that solves all of my many problems. That app doesn’t exist of course!

In this post, I’ll be sharing the apps that I use to stay productive. These apps help reduce friction so I can get focused and organised. Importantly, the combination of these apps helps me create a productivity system that I trust. There are other choices in the categories, but these are the ones that suit my way of working. Hopefully, you can use this list to create your productivity suite of apps. I should caution that most of the apps you see here are for the Apple platform (macOS and iOS) although I’m sure some of the ones listed will work on other platforms as well.

Task Manager – Things 3

There is one app that I simply can’t live without, and that’s Things 3. It’s the first widget I look at on my iPhone each morning and it’s the app that is always running on my Mac. It runs my life. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but in all seriousness, this is the one app that I credit all my productivity to.

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with anxiety about all the things you need to get done? It’s known as ‘Racing Mind’ syndrome, and that was me every night for years. I accepted it for such a long time until one day I figured there must be a root cause to the problem and surely I can try to gain some control over it. My issue was that I didn’t have a system in place to take note of things such as ideas or tasks and so I was keeping everything in my head. As David Allen puts it:

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

I searched for a solution for my issue and my research suggested that I needed a task manager tool; something where I could unload all the tasks and ideas from my brain into a central location. Two tools were frequently recommended: Things 3 and Todoist. I tried both, but Things 3 captured my attention when it was featured by Apple as one of the best-designed apps, and I see why.

Things 3 is a beautiful app that I quickly realised is more than a simple task manager. I use it to manage entire projects, from simple things like planning a trip to more complex things like the process of creating a new YouTube or Skillshare video. Combine it with the PARA and GTD productivity systems and it’s a force to be reckoned with. I will do a more in-depth post on how I use GTD with Things 3 but for now, you can check out my Skillshare class of it here. The most impactful usage for me is being able to quickly capture new tasks and ideas into Things 3’s Inbox. I’ll do daily and weekly reviews of my tasks to add detail and organise tasks. It’s an effective way to take ownership of your tasks and projects. Since using it, I’ve drastically reduced my midnight-racing mind.

There were other task manager apps but they lack the sheen of Things 3; its user interface makes it a joy to use. Just take a look at their introduction video and tell me it’s not sexy!

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Some will consider the upfront cost a barrier, and you have to pay for each device you use. However, purchase it once and it’s yours to use forever (they offer a free trial that I’d recommend before purchasing). Secondly, it’s an Apple platform only. Not a problem for me as a Mac user, but if you’re all Windows or Android, then Things 3 isn’t available to you and you’re better off opting for TickTick (see honourable mention below).

Honourable mention - TickTick

I stumbled upon TickTick as part of my exploration into task manager apps after trying and disliking Todoist. It’s a fantastic app that has a tonne of features when it comes to helping you with tasks and project management. The main benefit it has over Things 3 is that it’s available on Windows and Android as well as Apple devices. I still use it today for my work-related projects because my work laptop is Windows.

If you want more info on TickTick, I did a YouTube video of my top 5 features. They’ve since added many more features so be sure to try it out for yourself.

Notes - Bear

I never saw the real value in a fully featured notes app, and that’s mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever been a good notetaker. Whenever I have needed to take notes, it’s always been with pen and paper. There are many times I ought to have captured a detailed note but would just save it in Apple’s notes app or as an email and file it away, only to never be able to remember where I’d saved it.

When I consider it, I’m surprised I never spent time capturing notes properly before. I realise now that I ought to have spent some time trying to create my own PKMS (personal knowledge management system).  For years, I’ve relied on Apple’s own notes app simply because it came pre-installed on my Apple devices. It’s lightweight and easy to use, and a big bonus for me was the ability to quickly share notes with my wife. But I never really used it effectively and, because I used it mostly as a braindump, I could never find notes because they weren’t organised.

I’ve recently started using Bear; a beautifully designed app that is frequently touted as one of the best note apps available. Bear is a joy to use. Its slick and subtle animations make it fun to use. You can customise the app to your suiting by changing themes and fonts. The default font is Avenir Next which is, in my opinion, one of the most visually appealing fonts to read on a screen. You can also write in Markdown which is a plus for me.

What I especially like about Bear is the way it implements tags to organise your notes rather than the traditional folder method. It’s helpful because it means you can add numerous tags to a note and it’ll appear in all of those respective tags in the sidebar. I set my tag hierarchy to match my Things 3 and email sidebars so that there’s a consistent organisational structure across all my apps.

My Bear setup
My Bear setup

A few things to note though. Firstly, Bear is a subscription-only app, but I don’t mind the $14 annual cost for the value it gives me. Secondly, the developers have been working on version 2.0 of the app for a very long time. Thankfully, at the time of writing this post, the developers announced the first proper public beta of v2.0 and so it’s only a matter of time before the new version is released. Truth be told, I haven’t spent a lot of time looking into what v2.0 will bring because the existing app does everything I need it to and does it well. Final point, it’s only available on Apple devices.

Content Management System - Notion

I mentioned earlier that I use Things 3 for project management, and that’s true. Things 3 helps me keep on track with my projects by laying out all the necessary steps required to complete a project. Notion on the other hand is where my projects live and breathe. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s where all the details of each project are stored - things like research notes, scripts, and descriptions all live within a Notion project page.

I’ve used Notion since 2019 when it was doing the rounds on social media as a game changer amongst the productivity YouTubers. Back then, it was a simple and relatively straightforward application but has since expanded significantly in terms of the features it offers. My use case for it hasn’t changed since when I first set up my dashboard. I have a database that stores my project pages for this blog, YouTube, and Skillshare. I love that I can see all of my projects on a page.

The one feature that I’ve used since day one and continue to love is the Kanban board. As a visual learner, seeing where my current project sits in all the various stages of the Kanban board is easily digestible for me. It’s also great that I can customise the layout to suit me. For example, I can apply filters to just show things I’m working on for this blog with a click of a single button. Or I can show/hide specific properties rather than seeing them all (Properties in Notion are like attributes or tags for a page. For example, the typical properties I use for my projects include start date, publish date, category, and stage).

The Kanban board in Notion is a great way to organise projects
The Kanban board in Notion is a great way to organise projects

Aside from project management, I also use Notion to manage my reading list in what I call my ‘Library’. Here I add books or audiobooks I want to read. These books will sit in my ‘Up Next’ list and will move to ‘Reading’ when I’ve started them, and then to ‘Finished’ once done. Within each book’s page I add properties for things like genre, the author’s name, the number of the book if it’s in a series etc. and I’ll also add a small review of the book once finished.

I use a Notion database to keep track of my reading list
I use a Notion database to keep track of my reading list

Notion is a great app and best of all it’s free to use. You can upgrade to paid plans, but I haven’t found the need to.

Notion can be intimidating to get started with. When you first open it you’re greeted with a blank page that doesn’t tell you much. I had to watch a few YouTube tutorials to get started. In fairness to Notion though, they offer a wide range of free templates you can duplicate with a one-click button. Notion also has a huge community of highly devoted users who will often share their entire dashboards that you can then tweak to your liking.

There’s so much you can do in Notion that I’m very aware that there will be people reading this who could have done a much better job at singing its praises. But for me, I try to keep it as simple as possible. Over time the developers have added more features but I’ve intentionally chosen to ignore most of them for now because the app’s currently doing what I need it to. You see, it’s very easy to let Notion become overwhelming, and you can find yourself spending far too much time tweaking the appearance of your dashboard than actually making it useful (just checkout r/notion and you’ll see hundreds of posts of people showing off their dashboards). But that’s another great thing about Notion, it’s up to you how much you want to tweak it or how complex you want your CMS to be. My dashboard has a lot of pages that are useful but are rarely used, and that’s because I stick to the essentials in terms of what I need Notion to do for me.

My Notion dashboard setup
My Notion dashboard setup

Writing - Ulysses

I grew up with Microsoft Word. It has always been there throughout school, university, and now in the workplace. It’s a fine word processor, but it’s not a writing app. At least not for those serious about writing, i.e. those who write for a living such as book authors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure those people could get the job done with a word processor, but a true writing app comes with several benefits that a word processor doesn’t.

Since I started to take my writing more seriously, I’ve learnt that I need a completely distraction-free environment to get into the flow of transferring words from out of my head onto paper (I emphasise ‘paper’ because I do all my writing digitally, so what I mean is ‘screen’). Microsoft Word is the complete opposite of a distraction-free environment. The toolbar is a constant reminder to you to edit your formatting or to add fancy headers, and your grammar and spelling mistakes are flashed at you like traffic lights. Okay, I hear what you’re saying - yes you can change the settings to hide most of these distractions and that’s a fair challenge. But you want the writing process to be as frictionless as possible. Your first draft has no place for worrying about what your text looks like or whether you’ve made grammar errors. That comes after your second draft (or however many drafts it takes to get your piece into a good place).

If Ulysses does something well, it’s the ability to create a completely distraction-free writing environment so you can just focus on getting words down. No need to think about formatting or spelling or grammar. No toolbars to get in your way. Just you and your words. Ulysses achieves this in several ways. Firstly, you can hide away the various sidebars so only your sheet shows. Mac has a full-screen mode that automatically removes all sidebars and toolbars from view, but Ulysses lets you do this in regular window mode when you go into the ‘Editor Focus’ view. This is useful if you want to use Ulysses side-by-side with another app, like Notion where I store notes that are useful to what I’m writing about. Making these changes leaves you with a beautiful writing experience so you can just focus.

Talking of beauty, Ulysses is yet another app that has a gorgeous UI that makes using the app fun. The default theme is great but if for any reason it’s not to your style, you can customise nearly everything; from the font you use, line spacing, and even the colours of various syntax and page backgrounds. And if you can’t be bothered to do that yourself, no problem. Ulysses has a themes library where you can quickly install new themes to try out for yourself. I now have no excuses when I open Ulysses to write because I’ve customised it to my liking. I typically hide all sidebars and menu bars the majority of the time I use it, and I’ve custom tweaked a theme leaving what I think is a simple layout that doesn’t look to distract me.

Ulysses' focus mode removes all the distractions so you can focus on writing
Ulysses' focus mode removes all the distractions so you can focus on writing

The app is great for bloggers because it has direct integration with most of the main blogging platforms. This means you can publish your content to your blog without having to leave the app. You can set your blog title, add tags, and a custom excerpt for SEO purposes, and you can even edit published articles after going live all within Ulysses. It’s a great feature that removes the need to manually copy and paste into your blogging platform editor.

I could honestly write so much more about why Ulysses is a great app (I haven’t even mentioned its use of markdown, built-in grammar checker) but I’ll save that for a future blog post.

Journaling - Day One

It feels like journaling went through the social media popularity list in recent years, especially during the pandemic. And that’s no bad thing. It’s often recommended for reducing anxiety and stress. Journaling has been around for years. Some well-known advocates of keeping a journal include Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett

I’ve tried paper journaling so many times but it never stuck. I’m not entirely sure why but I was unable to build a regular habit of writing my thoughts into a notebook. If I think about it, it might have something to do with my misconception about journaling versus keeping a diary. The latter, in my mind, is something you had to do at the end of each day to record what you did during the day. Journaling on the other hand wasn’t just about capturing your day; it’s also about taking time to think about your feelings, what you’re grateful for, or how you might change your approach to a certain situation if you could do it all over again. Journaling for me is an environment that lets me take time to think deeper about how I go about my life, not just a place to record my life. Perhaps I have it all wrong, and journaling and keeping a diary are one of the same things. What do you think?

Either way, I wasn’t able to truly create a journaling habit until I started using Day One. It’s a digital journey app available on Apple and Android devices but was also recently made available in beta form on the web. With Day One, you can create new journal entries, have multiple journal books, and you can add tags and media to journal entries. It shows your journal entries in chronological order, you can search by tags, or you can even view journal entries on a map as each journal entry automatically uses your device’s location to establish where it is journaling from (if you allow it to).

My approach to journaling is to capture thoughts or events that I think are important enough for me to want to look back on one day and reflect upon them. That includes good days and bad days. I don’t journal every day but that’s okay. I’ve learnt that every day journaling just isn’t for me. Day One can help you with this though with journal prompts. Rather than just sending you a notification reminding you to journal, Day One will give you a prompt to help get you started. For example, it might ask you questions like ‘What was the last movie you watched at the cinema?’ or ‘What’s your idea of a perfect day out?’. These might seem a bit cliche but they do help if you’re struggling to build a habit of regular journaling. Day One has taken what felt like a chore and turned it into something I’m already finding useful.

I talk about my favourite features here but here’s my top three features:

On this day - By far the best feature for me is when Day One reminds me of journal entries I’ve made ‘on this day’ in the past. I’ve only been at this for around 3 years and in that time I’ve created 168 journal entries, but even then this feature has allowed me to recall memories and brings back how I was feeling at the time, whether it was good or bad.

Adding media - The majority of people today have access to a camera in their pockets everywhere they go. With two young kids, I’m constantly pulling out my iPhone to take snaps. What I love about Day One is that I can quickly pull media from my phone’s photos app into a journal entry. It’s not something I could do with a paper journal.

Full-screen mode - You’ll know from my section on Ulysses that I love a clean, distraction-free layout. It’s the one feature that Day One lacked. Or, at least I thought it did. It turns out, Day One does indeed have a distraction-free writing layout. You just have to double-click on a journal entry to move it to a new window. It’s not quite as clean as Ulysses’ focus mode, but it’s good enough for me!

Day One has two usage tiers; a free version and a premium which costs $2.92 per month. You can see a feature list comparison here. I pay for premium for the ability to add unlimited media to my journal entries and cloud backup with end-to-end encryption.

Mac Window Management - Swish

Years ago when I first switched to Mac from Windows, there was one feature that I missed which was window snapping. On Windows, you can drag and drop a window to a screen edge for it to fill that half of the screen. It’s a great way to work with two windows side-by-side. Mac doesn’t have a built-in feature for this, although some might argue that you can view windows side-by-side using split view but that requires the windows to be in full-screen mode. If you want to replicate the way Windows works on Mac, you’ll need a third-party app.

There are many available, but the one I use is called Swish. It costs £9 for a lifetime licence at the time of writing or you can get it through a Setapp subscription. I love Swish because of its gesture-based functionality which makes it so intuitive to use. On a Mac, you can use the touchpad or the magic mouse to simply swipe in the direction of the screen edge you want the window to stick to, and it’ll quickly move to that location.

This app changed the way I use Mac
This app changed the way I use Mac

You can arrange windows in halves, quarters, thirds, and even in a nine-window option if you swipe while holding a secondary function key. Furthermore, you can minimise, maximise, hide and close app windows with just a quick swipe. No need to waste valuable seconds clicking and dragging or resizing your windows. It works so well that it makes Windows’ window management feel archaic. I’m surprised (and thankful) that Apple hasn’t bought the app from the developer because it feels like an Apple-made feature that’s part of Mac OS.

Mac Search / App Launcher - Raycast

Mac OS comes with Apple Spotlight built in. It’s a simple search bar for everything on your Mac which you can also use to quickly launch apps. It’s okay for most users, but there are alternatives that offer more advanced features, such as the ability to search from Google without having to first open Safari, or performing basic calculations and currency conversions.

Perhaps the most well-known Spotlight alternative is an app called Alfred. I’d been using Alfred for a few years but recently switched over to a free alternative called Raycast. Both apps do similar things but Raycast has one advantage (two if you count that it’s free!) which is the ability to add extensions to increase the number of things it can do. For example, want to quickly search for pages in your Notion dashboard? There’s an extension for that. Hear a song you like in Apple Music and want to add it to a playlist? There’s an extension for that. Want to quickly create a new note in Bear without having to open the app? There’s an extension for that. Want to…you get the idea!

For those wanting to maximise their productivity, Raycast is a must-have app. It saves so much time.

E-Reader and E-Books - Kindle Paperwhite + Amazon eBooks

During the pandemic, I rekindled (get it? 😏) my love for fantasy books and the device that’s made that enjoyable is the Kindle Paperwhite. The device is small, light, and has a backlight which makes reading a comfortable experience during the day and night. Naturally, I purchase my ebooks from Amazon. While there are other e-readers available (I had a Kobo Clara HD for a while which I highly recommend) I opted for the Kindle Paperwhite because I have Amazon Prime which gives me access to a library of e-books for free. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve ever found a book I wanted to read on Amazon’s free library, which means I typically pay for the Kindle version of the book I want to read anyway. I have no problem paying for a book I want to read though.

eBook Highights - Readwise

I’ve made numerous highlights in various books over the years but I could count on my fingers the number of times I took time to look back through them. And therein lies a big problem for me which I already mentioned above, and that is my lack of a PKMS system. Similar to my note-taking process, I would read passages or articles that I thought were worth saving only to have no central location to store them all. Enter Readwise.

Readwise is a service that offers the ability to gather your highlights and notes from various sources such as Amazon Kindle, Apples Books, and various read-it-later apps such as Pocket and Instapaper. It even lets you save tweets and podcast highlights if you use an app like Snipd (covered below). It does this automatically in the background and you can log in to your dashboard online or via the app to see all your highlights.

In terms of helping to build a PKMS, Readwise also offers a few methods of exporting your highlights and notes including some of the popular apps such as Notion and Obsidian. Now and then I’ll export to a Notion database for a backup which provides a neat way of being able to easily dissect all your saved highlights and notes on one page.

The feature I like most about Readwise is the Daily Highlights. A few times a week I will receive an email from Readwise with random saved highlights and notes from a mixture of my sources. You can set the sources and the frequency of the emails in the settings. It’s such an effective method of helping to recall book quotes or saved highlights. I’ll often read passages I don’t even remember saving, which is good in that it gets me to think back about why I saved it and in what context. You can even select books you haven’t read and Readwise will include its most popular highlights in the Daily Highlights. I found this to be useful for books I read years ago but didn’t make highlights on.

I’ll be completely honest with you, I put off subscribing to Readwise up until recently because I didn’t think the annual subscription cost was worth it for me. However, that changed partly because I’m making a conscious effort to read more and wanted to create a proper PKMS for myself, but also because the Readwise team released Reader (see next list item).

Read it later - Reader by Readwise

We live in a digital world that is built upon a framework of continuous scrolling. As a result, we don’t take the time to stop and digest what it is we’re consuming. One of the solutions to this is a read-it-later app which lets you save articles you want to read but don’t have the time to right then. You simply send it to the read-it-later app of your choice without having to exit the page or app you’re on and when you’re ready to read it, it’s waiting in a list alongside other saved articles in the read-it-later app.

There are a few apps that offer this service and the two I’ve flipped back and forth with most often are Pocket and Instapaper. Both are great apps in their own right and can be used for free or with a subscription that unlocks premium features such as unlimited highlights (otherwise you’re limited to around 3 per article I think). For the past few months, I’ve switched entirely to Reader and I couldn’t be more delighted.

Reader was created by the team behind Readwise and that comes with a major benefit in that the two work hand-in-hand effortlessly. I’ll do a deeper dive into my workflow for saving book notes and article highlights in the future, but at a very high level, I send anything I want to read later to Reader’s inbox. Usually, in the morning or later in the evening I’ll go through my inbox and read any articles I’m interested and will highlight passages I think are worth saving. Once read, if it’s an article I want to save I’ll transfer it to Bear, otherwise, I’ll archive it in Reader. Any saved highlights are automatically synced to Readwise, so I don’t lose my highlights even if I archive the article.

Honestly, the Readwise team have nailed it and I will happily give them my money in exchange for this amazing service. It has significantly enhanced my daily workflow and ability to build my own PKMS.

Podcasts - Snipd

Before the pandemic, I was doing a 3.5-hour daily commute to work. I’d read on the train or listen to a podcast during that time. Over the years I must have listened to hundreds of podcasts, mainly from Tim Ferris and Joe Rogan, and there will have been so many times I wish I could have saved highlights or snippets of the discussions just like how I can with Readwise. But apps like Snipd and Airr just didn’t exist back then. These apps use AI to transcribe the podcasts and allow you to save snippets of the podcast in text format with just a few clicks.

They’re not perfect and don’t always record all the passages you wanted to save, so you’ll likely have to review and edit your saved snippets after the fact. But I would have killed to have had this option back when I was listening to podcasts daily. I don’t get the chance to listen to podcasts as much today so I don’t use these apps as often but Snipd is my current podcast app and it does an okay job. Regardless of which app you use, you’re more than likely going to have to review your saved snippets at some point as it will often cut sentences or you might need to elongate your snippet if it didn’t capture all of the discussion points.

Snipd is a great tool for saving snippets of a podcast
Snipd is a great tool for saving snippets of a podcast

Audiobooks - Audible

Similar story to podcasts here in that I don’t get many opportunities to listen to audiobooks but, if and when I do, it’s through Audible. Complete transparency here, I am not an audible subscriber. I tend to take advantage of free credits when I can (here in the UK a lot of utility companies will offer incentives like free Audible credits if you sign up for their service) and then download the books I would like to listen to at some point so that they’re in my library.

I can’t say much about Audible as there’s not much to it. You open up a book and hit listen. I tend to listen at 1.5x speed just to save time. I don’t know what other services there are that offer the same thing, so I don’t have anything else to compare it to.

Mail - Apple Mail

Technology is a rapidly evolving industry. Each year we get a better-spec mobile phone, or our favourite apps are updated with new and wonderful features that we didn’t realise we needed. Naturally, the fast-moving competitive market and continuous development have seen several apps and tech fall off the cliff edge never to be seen again (I’m looking at you MSN Messenger!). But if there’s one piece of tech that I think will be a constant in human life, it’s email. Love it or hate it, it’ll always be the number 1 method of communicating digitally.

I’m not the biggest email user outside of work but it’s still something I check multiple times throughout the day. As I don’t need a multi-featured, complex email management app, I stick with Apple Mail. I’ve tried a few different mail apps and keep coming back to Apple Mail. I’m an iCloud user so I guess it makes sense. There are apps out there that do advanced mail management and I can see how that can help a lot of people. But for my email usage, Apple Mail works just fine for me.

Workout Tracker - Alpha Progression

I’ve been a regular gym goer for over 10 years now and have used various apps over the years to track my workouts. Tracking workouts is important to those who do resistance training (read: lift weights) so that you can ensure you’re making progress. How many times have you seen people enter a gym and wander around aimlessly, jumping onto any available machine just because it’s not being used, and repping the same weight week in and week out? Perhaps that is you!?

The only way you’re going to progress in the gym is by tracking your workouts to ensure you’re pushing yourself by gradually increasing the weight (or resistance) of your lifts. This is called the progressive overload principle and is a critical component of tracking your lifting progress. It’s also a great way to ensure you’re following a routine rather than working out aimlessly without a goal in mind.

I use an app called Alpha Progression which uses AI to create and keep a log of your workouts. You can create custom workouts or the app can create a new routine for you after taking a few details about you and your goals. You can select the number of days you’d like to work out and can opt in to focus on or ignore certain muscle groups should you wish to. As you keep using it, it will use AI to automatically suggest changes to both weight and the number of reps for each exercise to help you progress towards your desired goal.

I’ve been using the app for the past 3 months and I can tell it’s working for me. I’ve added about 15kg of weight to my deadlifts, squats, and bench in the time I’ve been using it. That’s no small amount. And it’s reduced the amount of time and brainpower needed to create and track your workouts. It costs £8.99 per month or £53 a year. Well worth it if you take your fitness seriously.

Nutrition Tracker- Macrofactor

For those that don’t use or know what a calorie tracking app is, it’s essentially a tool that helps you determine how many calories you ought to be consuming each day to support your goal of either losing, maintaining, or gaining weight. You simply enter your body stats and goal and it will calculate your recommended daily consumption of calories for you. Each day you log what and how much you eat against your calorie allowance and, providing you follow it relatively accurately, you should be on your way to achieving your desired goal. It’s not perfect - it’s heavily reliant on accurate inputting (hence the importance of weighing foods and portions). But it has worked well for me.

The first calorie-counting app I used is also the most popular one - MyFitnessPal. I first started using it around 2012 to get in shape for my wedding and lost 16 lbs in the process. Since then I’ve become somewhat obsessed with nutrition and health in general. MyFitnessPal helped me to understand the importance of calories, macro-nutrients, and the importance of weighing food. Fun story - I would often impress work colleagues by being able to accurately guess the weight and calories of their lunch.

MyFitnessPal was great because it made logging super-easy, especially with its barcode scanner. Sadly though, it’s become more bloated over the years and is full of ads which can only be removed if you upgrade to their premium tier. More recently, they made their barcode scanner a premium feature only (although not in the UK for some reason).

I was listening to a podcast by Stronger By Science and they were touting their app, MacroFactor. It does everything MyFitnessPal does but utilises data and an intelligent algorithm to re-calculate your weekly calorie goal based on the proceeding week’s daily expenditure, calorie consumption, and any weight change on the scales. It costs around the same price as MyFitnessPal ($72 pa) and so I thought there was no harm in giving it a try. Thankfully I like it! It’s a clean, lightweight app and I’ve found tracking calories with it to be a breeze.

MacroFactor takes out a lot of the thinking for me (similar to Alpha Progression) in that I don’t have to worry about calculating and setting my macros, the app takes care of it all and will continue to do so on an ongoing basis as long as I track my daily calories and weigh in now and then.

Macrofactor is a great calorie tracker that provides great insight with the help of an intelligent algorithm
Macrofactor is a great calorie tracker that provides great insight with the help of an intelligent algorithm

Habit Tracker - Streaks

If you’ve read Atomic Habits by James Clear then you know how important building good habits are in realising your goals. I bought the Streaks app for iOS some years ago and have used it on and off since. It’s an okay app. It’s simple and does the job. You create a habit, set how often you want to do it (or not do it in the case of bad habits, e.g. if you’re trying to quit smoking), and then mark it off as you progress. The idea behind Streaks is similar to Don’t Break the Chain. Streaks has a calendar view which shows you how many days in a row you’ve achieved your habit. When you look at this back, psychologically you don’t want to break the chain as it goes. So it can be quite a powerful visual motivator for staying on track with your habit-building.

You can also get reminders either at a fixed time or randomly during the day to remind you to stick to your goal. I’ve recently been using the app as part of a 100-day no-drinking challenge with a friend. I’m on day 28 at the time of writing and I don’t want to break the chain!

Wrap up

One piece of advice from me is to use apps that help you create a productivity system. A proper productivity system supported by some good apps will help you remain disciplined by reducing friction in your day-to-day activities.

If you find yourself struggling with being productive, then give these apps a try. I’d love to hear if they work for you or if you use different apps that I haven’t got on my list.

Thanks for reading this post. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for productivity-related videos. Or if you want to learn more about how I apply GTD in a task manager app, then check out my Skillshare classes. You can also sign-up for my newsletter :)

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