The Apps I Use For Daily Productivity

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Chip Martens and I am from Steinbach, Mantioba. I work as the Marketing Coordinator for one of the largest independently owned building supply companies in Canada. I also run a small freelance design operation. I am passionate about providing simple, intelligent solutions to serve a diverse range of clients and contexts.

What is your current setup?

I’m using an early-2013 MacBook Pro ( 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5 ) fitted with 8GB RAM and a 500GB SSD. I run a pretty lean setup, and this machine is still performing amazingly, given it’s age. I have it paired with a Dell 24″ UltraSharp with PremierColor monitor, both at home and at work.

I have a makeshift standing desk, based off of the OriDesk, that I had our companies cabinet department put together. I really think that it’s lack of adjustibility was the reason for my recent success in switching to standing full time ( going on 3-months now ).

I use Apples Wireless Keyboard paired with a Logitch M705 mouse. I’ve been using both of these items for years and have yet to find anything comparible to replace them.

A good keyboard and mouse is worth it’s weight in gold.

I’m extremently particular about having the same computer setup at home as I do at my office. Most of the computer time at home happens on my kitchen island, but when I need I’m working on a larger side project, I need my home office to feel like I’m at my real office.

Where can we find your OS X wallpaper?

I was running Apple’s “Solid Gray Pro Ultra Dark” for about 2-years, as I find that desktop wallpapers add too much “visual noise” to my workspace, however I recently re-discovered Apple’s “Earth and Moon” wallpaper and am rocking it on both my MacBook and my iPhone.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

Browsing

  • Apple Safari: My browser of choice on OS X and iOS. I like the consistency of using the same browser on both systems. I do run Chrome and FireFox, as well as Parallels with a few versions of Internet Explorer for browser testing websites.

Calendar & Task Management

  • Apple Reminders: I recently converted back to Apple Reminders from Wunderlist. This is my go-go reminders app, mainly used for syncing family lists with my wife, including groceries and household tasks.
  • Fantastical 2: I’ve been a Fantasical user since it first came out for iOS. This is the most powerful, yet simple, calendar app out there for OS X and iOS both. Simply type in your event and it will parse it out into the correct fields ( ie. “Meeting with Jane at Starbucks from 12:00 until 1:00 /c ) The “/c” at the end lets the program know to put it into the “clients” calendar ( /f=family, /w=work, etc ). They recently updated it to work a little more friendly with Exchange calendars, which was a nice change.

Coding

  • CSSEdit: Sometimes when I’m down to the wire, or really trying to sort out an issue with my code, I can get a little sloppy. CSSEdit is there to clean up my mess, re-organize and re-alphabetize it once I’m done.
  • MAMP: I prefer to run a local copy of all of the websites I’m developing. If I suddenly am working out of wifi range, hindered by a poor connection, I’m on a flight or just trying to focus and disconnect from the internet altogether, this app allows me toget stuff done.
  • TextMate: The text editor I’ve been using to edit websites for the last 8-years. Simply put, it gets the job done. Over time, I’ve developed a few handy TextExpander snippets to make things run even more efficiently.
  • Transmit: My main FTP client. It’s fast, reliable, and it supports a range of different services.

Communication & Networking

  • Airmail 3: I recently switched from Apple Mail to Airmail 3. The keyboard shortcuts were a big selling feature. It also has a much more intuitive design, and the features just make sense.
  • Apple Messages: It’s the default choice on my iPhone, but it was a game changer when the released iMessage for OS X. Being able to send/receive messages from my MacBook saves me boatloads of time throughout the day, and it’s much less of an intrusion in my workflow compared to picking up my phone.
  • Flume: Social media is a distraction. Period. I’ve tried to close as many accounts as possible, but I’ve found that I still enjoy browsing Instagram. This app does everything that the iOS app does, including upload, without the distraction of being on your phone.
  • Slack: Sometimes, you need something with a little more functionality than iMessage, maybe it’s for work, or maybe it’s for an interest group. I personally use it to connect with a small group of people from my church. I also sit on my cities Chamber of Commerce where I’ve started to get a few members on board to test it out to see if we can roll it out on a larger scale for our entire body of members.

Design

  • Adobe CC: This is the workhorse of my app tool belt, mainly Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. From editing photos and designing mockups in Photoshop, building flyers and corporate documents in InDesign or designing logos in Illustrator, I flex these programs on a daily basis. Typekit comes in handy as well.

Music

  • Sonos: I have never really been a music guy. I can’t remember lyrics, or which artist sung what, but I do know when I’m feeling a song. We recently purchased a Sonos Play:1 for our house and aboslutely love it. A much better experience from years of playing tunes over our TV speakers.
  • Spotify: My music subscription of choice. I gave the three-month free trial with Apple Music a go, but I just didn’t love their curated playlists. One of the biggest advantages of Spotify, personally, has been the ability to follow design agencies I love, and the music they play in their offices.

Notes & Writing

  • Apple Notes: A recent convert from Evernote, Apple offers a much more simple experience. For years they struggled to “get it right”, but I can finally say that I’m happy with Apples Notes app. Journaling, client notes, blog posts, devotions. Apple notes.

Read it later

  • Instapaper: I have used Instapaper as a catchall for the past 10-years. Finally at the beginning of this year I purged all of the stories I had saved and started over. Now, it’s a list of articles I have saved throughout the week that either get archived to my Notes app, or discarded when I go through my list on weekends.

Security

  • 1Password: There are a number of great password managers out there, but they’re only as good as the passwords you put in them. Ideally, you should be using a unique, randomly generated password for every site you visit. That way, if one site gets hacked, they won’t be able to use the same credentials to access your accounts on other sites.
  • Apple FileVault: This setting is built into Mac OS X and will encrypt your datea when the machine is turned off or suspended. Encrypt your hard drive using “Full disc incryption” to keep your confidental data protected.
  • BlockBlock: Notifies you if a program tries to install itself to run upon startup, even when it’s hiding itself in your system. Especially helpful for annoying programs in addition to malware or viruses.
  • Ghostery: Detects and blocks tracking technologies such as online advertising to help speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data. You’ll be amazed at what a site looks like with the ads blocked, and also at how fast the pages will load.
  • Link Liar: This software can spoof or randomize your MAC address, which is a fixed, unique hardware identifier of the network device within your computer ( never changes otherwise ).
  • Little Snitch: Allows you to detect and decide to allow or block when a specific application is making an outbound connection, and also shows where it’s trying to connect to.
  • Oversight: Mac malware often spies on users by recording audio and video sessions…sometimes in an undetected manner. This app lets you know anytime they’re activated.
  • TorBrowser: A free, cross-platform browser that allows you to browse the internet annonymously and helps defend against network surveilance. To do this it changes your IP address each time you use it as well as encrypts your network communication.
  • You’ll Never Take Me Alive: This is a great tool that will force your computer to hibernate if it is ever disconnected from AC Power, or wired Ethernet while the screen is locked. ( Think someone grabbing your laptop from a coffee shop )

Utilities

  • Alfred: Apples built-in Spotlight has gotten considerbly better in the past year or two, but it still can’t compare to the power of Alfred. I’ve used this app to streamline my workflow in numerous different ways, enough that it warrants a future post.
  • Apple iCloud: I switched over to iCloud from Dropbox about a year ago now, when our company decided to no longer allow it within the building. It’s definitely not the best cloud storage solution out there, but it gets the job done. I’m really hoping they make improvements in the near future.
  • Bartender: Purely installed for the aesthetics of my operating system. I use Bartender to limit the number of menubar items displayed, only displaying a few essentials.
  • Countdowns: Maybe an odd reason for using this app, I have two timers on the go: 1. Years left to the end of this five-year goal season and 2. Years left until the end of my life. It lives in my Notification center on both my phone and mac and is a constant reminder that this life is short and to use my time effectively.
  • Flux: Think “Night Shift Mode” on your iPhone but on your mac. This app automatically will dim and adjust the hue of your screen during evening hours to cause less stress on your eyes, and to help you sleep. It work, try it for yourself.
  • KeepingYouAwake: Helps keep your mac from automatically going to sleep. Great for when working on a project where I want to keep my mac but aren’t actively using your machine.
  • SelfControl: Blocks distracting websites on your machine from a system level. Once you set a session time, there’s no turning back, even if you restart. This includes apps that access those sites, not just within your web browser. I’ve actually edited the apps files to allow myself to block website for up to one-month periods to help kill bad habits.
  • TextExpander: Set up convenient keyboard shortcuts to get things done more efficiently and stop filling out repetetive pieces of text more than you need to. I have a number of different snippets setup for common journal entries, current date/time, html/css, etc.
  • Waste No Time: If I want a less serious solution to block time wasting sites on my machine, I have a running session that blocks all blacklisted sites during work hours. Nice.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’m really quite happy with my current setup. Everything works the way it should, I haven’t had any issues and I still have all my ports. I’ve been tempted to up my iPhone to a 6S, for the force touch functionality, and get a beefed up MacBook Pro that still has it’s ports before it’s too late, but I probably wont. I’m content with what I have.

For the past 8 years I had an addiction to buying and trying out new apps. I didn’t do any reviews, and none of them were free, so it was all on my own dime. I would always end up going back to the same few apps. It was at the beginning of 2016 that I realized that I needed to put a stop to this habit. Recently, Apple has stepped up their game and added some noteable changes to their selection of Stock apps. Once they figure out a way to best Fantastical, I’ll probably switch over to that too.

What iPhone do you have?

Space Gray iPhone 6, 32GB, wrapped in a black leather Bellroy 3-card caseand dually serves as my wallet.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

  • 5-Minute Journal: The 5-minute journal was my gateway drug into maintaining a proper journal. If you struggle with journaling, this is the best place to start. 5-minutes when you wake up, 5-minutes before bed.
  • Apnea Diver: Relatively new to my recommended apps. We underestimate how important proper breathing is, as well as expanding our VO2 Max. Simply put, this app let’s you close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • Bible App: This app doesn’t require much explanation. I love how easy it is to switch between translations, and the “Verse of the Day” widget for the Notification Center is a nice feature.
  • Bodyweight Fitness: Based on the “Recommended Routine” put together by the Reddit community. This is a simple bodyweight fitness routine that I’ve been following for the past few months. The first bodyweight fitness plan that actually made sense to me.
  • Calm: I really started getting into the flow of a mindfulness practice at the beginning of this year, and this app is to thank. 15-minutes of Open-Medition in the morning, 15-minutes of Guided-Medition before bed.
  • Duolingo: I haven’t been giving this app the time it deserves lately, but this is the first app to make learning a new language fun for me.
  • Overcast: I’ve been getting into more podcasts lately, but who has the time to listen to a 3-hour podcast. This app lets you use it’s “smart speed” setting to speed up the podcast up to 1.6x without any latency. It’s still going to take a few workout sessions to finish one podcast though.
  • Scanbot: By far the best document scanner out there. Open the app and your ready to scan, it’ll figure out the best angle and snap when it finds it, then save it to your favourite cloud service.
  • Trello: I use Trello in an unconventional way, to track my 5-year goals. I have a list of “to-do” items, a list for the current 5-year goal period I’m in, and then 5-year goal periods setup for the rest of my life ( based on my estimate that I’ll live to 75 ).

Which app could you not live without?

Way of Life: It helps me track the progress of my daily routines and habits, and keeps me accountable. The UI isn’t the greatest, but it’s by far the easiest habit-tracker that I’ve tested so far.