My Productivity Stack - Part 1 - Tools

The tools I use to read and highlight content on the web, write down my thoughts, protect my time, and automate stuff.

My Productivity Stack - Part 1 - Tools
Photo by Jason Leung / Unsplash

This is an attempt to describe the evolving system I’ve put in place to do more out of my time.

Every iteration of the system comes from frustrations and setbacks, and I’ve often found inspiration by looking at what other people had built for themselves. I hope this article can help as well.

There will be several articles in this series, this one is about the tools I use. The next ones will be about rituals and what to do during bad days.

You only have 2 minutes? Too bad, but here is an executive summary of what works for me:

  • Matter to bookmark, read and highlight every single piece of content I find on the Internet
  • Obsidian to write my thoughts, organize my knowledge and store every highlights from Matter
  • Hera to protect and plan my time during the week
  • Raycast to automate everything

Now, for the story behind these tools... 👎

What would be the perfect system for me?

Every single system comes with a sets of pros and cons, that you often discover over time 😅

In my case, some underpinning principles have been surprisingly stable over the past four years:

  1. When I want to write something down or save something for later, I don't want ANY friction
  2. Especially, it should be incredibly easy to save something for later while on the go, on my phone.
  3. I ALWAYS want to rely on a powerful fuzzy search and loose tagging to find back something I’ve captured or written before
  4. I want a peaceful digital place to consume the content I’ve captured previously, read it, analyze it, and highlight it

Bookmark, read, highlight, store

I read a LOT of stuff on Internet: articles, blog posts, videos... It helps me stay sharp in my job, check my blindspots, and increase my knowledge on the topics I love or don’t know about.

Having a central place to bookmark, read & highlight content has been the biggest improvement to my system in 2021.

Everything readable gets saved into Matter

Matter is a great read-it-later app. I can subscribe to newsletters but I can also push articles — basically any URL — to it.

Every piece of content lands in my Queue. Whenever I want, I can pick an article from my Queue and read it.

The iOS app has a calm and focused reading experience, and the browser app is getting better everyday as well:

I heavily use the Matter Chrome Extension to save URLs to my Queue:

⌘+M to save a page to your Queue

To make sure I check my Queue, I’ve went as far as putting it as my default new tab, using Custom New Tab Url.

I know, I've some reading to do...

One of the core principle of my system is to have no friction to save stuff while on the go, on my phone. With Matter, it’s one tap away, as a share option:

The best about Matter? When I read an article, I can easily tag the article and highlight what I want to remember.

Long story short: I now systematically save every piece of content I want to read in it.

Every thought, draft, idea is written in Obsidian

Obsidian is a fantastic tool to build a personal knowledge base.

Every file in Obsidian is in Markdown, but you can super easily link different pieces of different notes together.

I keep at hand several starred files that I frequently access during the week, like the 1o1s with my colleagues.

The single most effective trick to remind me of writing is the Daily page.

Every day, Obsidian creates a dated page for me and I use it to write down my random thoughts during the day.

Using Obsidian powerful links I can write “Saw this nice tool [[]] for [[Product analytics]]” in my Daily page and I know that it will also automatically get linked to my other page Product analytics.

The best about Matter and Obsidian is that they integrate nicely: Thanks to this Obsidian plugin, every article I read and highlight in Matter is automatically transferred to a dedicated page in Obsidian. This page is automatically pushed to Obsidian by Matter ⤵️

This article is absolutely mind-bending by the way ☝️

Protect my priorities

To make sure I'm on top what I want to do in a week, I use the calendar app we are building: Hera.

I believe in blocking time for your priorities, and it's a native block of Hera.

In Hera,  I can define activities — smart event templates — and then instantly schedule them in my week. They are automatically colour-coded and look different than actual meetings, which helps avoid the overwhelming feeling of seeing a week fully booked.

Scheduling an activity is as easy as drag'n'drop:

It's as fun as it looks 🤗

Also, I use Hera to send a bunch of availabilities to people that I need to meet. It helps me stay in control of the balance between deep work and meetings.

My booking page in Hera – Yes, you can customize it.

Automate what I’ve done twice

There is a specific kind of thrill to be able to find back or do something in 20x less time than the first time you did it.

As a founder at Hera, I often find my self sharing the same link over and over again, or looking up the same info every day for several weeks.

Raycast has been instrumental to automate these kind of tasks. It’s by far the product I’ve enjoyed the most in 2021.

It’s the kind of product that you can use from day 1 and enjoy, and still discover new ways to use it 12 months later. It is incredibly intuitive yet extensible, making it a perfect tool for a long-term productivity system.

What Raycast can do for you? Glad you ask, here is what I use it for, on a daily basis:

  • Infinite clipboard history
  • List of snippets you can inject in any app
  • Window management
  • Easy control of Spotify
  • Search in my Obsidian notes
  • Set a Slack Status
  • .....

All of that, within a single command palette, with a powerful search and a consistent UX 🤯

Look at me, injecting an article we wrote on product development in an email: is a real thing

Raycast even helped me got a passport for my daughter...

I keep an always-growing list of snippets I often use:

Now that I've built muscle memory for it, opening up my snippets is a natural reflex whenever I'm looking for something.

Final thoughts – Areas of improvements

This current system works well for me right now, but I want to improve:

  • How I handle tasks — I lack a unified and sortable view of what I want to do at different time scale (week / month / year)
  • A quick, and accessible from anywhere, way to add something to my Daily note in Obsidian. I will most likely build a small extension in Raycast to do so.

Finding a good set of habits and tools to help me feel productive is a never ending process, but I like the journey and what I learn about my flaws and strengths along the way :)

Let me know on Twitter (@bruvgr) if you have a similar or a different stack, and what works for you!

You’re welcome on Hera if you want to try a better way to protect, plan and organize your time.