The making of: My productivity stack
Often times, us developers talk about the tech stack they’re using for their projects, and we often use fancy acronyms like MERN or MEAN. However, if you’re a student like me, your productivity stack should be equally important. I’ve created an efficient and optimised stack that can help you get the best note-taking, organisation and productivity experience in any situation. Lets dive in!
The NOAT stack
Notability is arguably the best note taking app for the iPad, with great Apple Pencil support and handwriting recognition. If you have an iPad, this should undoubtedly be part of your arsenal. It costs £7.99, but to enjoy the full experience I would recommend purchasing the handwriting recognition and math conversion plugins for £1.99 respectively.
I use Notability on an iPad Air with an Apple Pencil 2 and use it exclusively for hand written notes. I generally stick with a lined paper present, on a white background.
If I want to view these notes in Obsidian, I can just Export them to my iPad Obsidian vault, and then use Working Copy & Obsidian Git to sync this across my devices.
This is the single biggest part of this system, and the glue that holds everything together. Obsidian is a comprehensive note-taking system loosely based on Markdown and ideal for building what lots of people call a Zettelkasten. For a lot of people, this spot would be taken by Notion. Don’t get me wrong, Notion is great (and somewhat more stable), however, Obsidian is faster, more flexible and just overall better for my note-taking style.
If you want to read more about the individual features of Obsidian more in-depth, take a look at this great article. But otherwise, here’s the rundown of my workflow:
My favourite plugins
- Day Planner: An agenda widget that shows my events for the day and can sync with Google Calendar (with a lot of tinkering).
- Flashcards: This is the big one. This lets me write flashcards while I’m taking my notes (in the format “front::back”), and let me add them all to Anki with a click of a button.
- LanguageTool Integration: A spelling and grammar checker that works similarly to Grammarly, and has an attractive appearance.
- Outliner: I use this to make it easier to take notes using the outline method (my chosen note-taking technique)
- Spaced Repetition: Schedules note reviews based on how difficult I label them as being. (It has flashcard support, but I find Anki more efficient and more cross-platform)
- Todoist Plugin: Allows me to add a Todoist frame to my notes. I combine this with the template feature to make sure it’s added to my Daily Note.
- Obsidian Git: A free way to sync Obsidian between all my devices. To sync with the iPadOS version of Obsidian, I use Working Copy (guide)
As discussed earlier, I’ve closely integrated Obsidian with Anki, via Flashcards and AnkiConnect. Anki is well respected as being one of the best learning and spaced repetition tools for students, allowing spaced repetition and recall of facts.
Currently I’m using the default settings and default plugins. This is a relatively new tool in my arsenal, so if you have any suggestions, leave a comment.
Everyone needs a good to-do app, and after years of trying and failing to use many different apps (including Google Tasks, Microsoft Todo and Habitica), I landed on Todoist. It’s interface is clean and uncluttered, adding tasks is a breeze, and it syncs perfectly with all my devices. It’s premium tier is reasonably priced, although it is definitely not required, and Todoist can be used very effectively for free.
I use the Todoist + Google Calendar integration and it works perfectly, meaning I can see my tasks not only in Todoist, but alongside all my other events.
I also use the projects functionality to group together tasks from different classes, and more broadly, from different areas of my life.
These 4 tools are my primary and most commonly used tools for staying organised and productive, however there are a bunch more tools I use less frequently (or that aren’t that interesting) that I would also highly recommend:
- Google Drive: No brainer! Gives me a place to store miscellaneous files and archive old projects.
- Google Calendar: The best calendar app. It syncs across all my devices, and I’ve written code to integrate it with my schools homework planner platform
- Cold Turkey Blocker: A great tool that blocks distracting websites and is impossible to get around (trust me, I’ve tried!) The premium tier is well worth it, and if you are prone to getting distracted like me, this tool is a life saver.
- Habitify: Now, to be honest I mainly like this app because of it’s design. It’s a great habit tracker and it looks amazing. They’ve also got a nice student discount.
- Bitwarden: Not strictly productivity, but it’s a vital tool that I use everyday. It’s a free, open-source password manager that works exactly as advertised.
That was my productivity stack, hopefully you enjoyed the article (be sure to clap if you did), and I hope some of these tools will help you stay organised and productive. Leave a comment if you think there’s something I missed!