Welcome to a new series on productivity. As part of the Friends Who Write challenge, I'm going to be writing about the way I make my days more productive, from the tools I use every day to the actual techniques or workflows I have developed these past few years. Today, I will talk about the tools that make me productive every day. I want to make it very clear from the very beginning that while the tools are very important, productivity is all about how we use them.

I will be focusing on the tools I personally use, but that doesn't mean that you have to use the same tools to reach the same levels of productivity. There may be cheaper or even free versions of the tools I use, or others that have more features. I have ended up using these because they work for me, and so the main takeaway from today's post is that you should find a set of tools that works for you. At the end of the day, we all work on different things and our work requires different tools and workflows.

Before delving into the tools I use, I want to clarify that I have never been sponsored by any of the companies behind them. Through years of experimentation, I have come to appreciate and rely on these tools. I just want to share why I find them valuable so others can benefit as well.

Let's now explore the tools that aid my daily productivity:

MacBook Pro M1

This laptop is where I do 95% of the work and so it is fair that it's the first tool I mention. I keep the folder structure very simple, as all the important files are stored either on iCloud or on GitHub. This allows me to be up and running with a new machine very quickly. The other 5% percent is done on my iPhone (maybe I will write a post about how I use my iPhone for productivity).

Please, take into account that the tools I will mention on this post may not be supported on other platforms. If you happen to use a different platform where any of these tools aren't available, please share it in the comments and I will try my best to help you find an alternative.

Now let's dive into the software I use.


Raycast is the Swiss knife on my Mac. It's one of those tools that you don't realize you use that often until you're given a computer that doesn't have Raycast. Then you're reminded of how slow doing some actions can be. If I had to put it into a single sentence, I would say Raycast makes me faster at pretty much everything related to my laptop without having to lift my hands from my keyboard. It is not just a Spotlight alternative, it comes with so many cool features and the community plugins are so so good, that you can do pretty much everything you can think of using Raycast. I have it set up to open every time I press ⌘ space. Anyway, let's have a look at my favorite features and plugins:

AI chat

Probably everyone knows about ChatGPT nowadays and most people use it through the OpenAI website, and there's nothing wrong with it. However, I like having Raycast's floating AI chat available no matter what I'm doing on my laptop, by simply invoking it with ^ ⌥ ⌘ A.

Screenshot of Raycast's AI chat.

File search

This feature is probably the fastest way to find files on my laptop. And it's not like it only finds them, but Raycast allows you to copy them, or copy the path to them! No need to get lost using Finder, just type in the name of the file you're looking for and Raycast will give it to you. I have set ⌥ F as the keyboard shortcut to quickly open File Search.

Screenshot of the file search feature.

Emoji picker

Everything is more fun with emojis, isn't it? However, finding the right emoji on Mac is a mess. Apple's emoji picker is quite bad once you've used other alternatives and Raycast's emoji picker is one of those alternatives. It even uses AI to find the right emoji based on what you're looking for. I use the ^ ⌘ space keyboard shortcut for it.

Screenshot of the emoji picker in action.

Window management

Window management on Mac is a mess that only looks good on Apple commercials. For the mortals, having to manually drag the corners of the windows to resize them can be quite an annoying experience. Raycast allows you to resize windows to specific sizes as well as to move them around with a simple command or keyboard shortcut. My favorite one is probably the Almost Maximize command, which does exactly that. It maximizes the window your active on but leaves some space to enjoy the wallpaper on the edges. I love how I don't need to use another app to take care of it to be honest.

Screenshot of the window management commands.

Snippets & Quicklinks

I probably don't use the snippets and quicklinks often enough but I do see the value in them. So far, I've been using them to avoid typing things too often like my personal website, my personal link to schedule meetings, or my partner's address when I want to buy something for her. I also use it to store commands that I don't remember, like to close the VPN I use for work that can only be closed through the terminal. Snippets and quicklinks are definitely the perfect tools for these cases. If I had to choose my favorite ones, I would probably go for the quicklink to open the Downloads folder, and the quicklink to search for articles and authors in Google Scholar using this URL: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q={Query}.

Screenshot of the "search snippets" menu.

AI commands

Another cool AI feature that Raycast offers is AI commands. These are basically prompts you create for specific use cases and and inputs. What makes this feature cool is that anything on your laptop can be an input to the prompts: text you have copied from a website, text you have selected from a manuscript you're writing, etc. The biggest use case for me is improving my writing, not only when I write manuscripts or blog posts, but also when I write emails. Raycast already has some useful AI commands available but you can make your own, which makes this feature very useful.

Screenshot of the "search AI commands" menu.

Clipboard history

Having a clipboard history is very useful when working with text and images. I often copy figures from my research analysis and paste them into Tana for personal notes or Slack to share with colleagues. The process involves copying, opening the clipboard history with ⌘ ⇧ V, selecting the desired content, and pressing enter to paste. It's all about the peace of mind of knowing that whatever you have copied can be easily found.

Screenshot of the clipboard history menu.

Downloads manager

Just like with the clipboard history, the downloads manager is particularly useful when you download many files that you need to open or copy immediately. The fact that you can do this without using the mouse or the trackpad still amazes me. The clearest use case for me is whenever I'm working on figures for my manuscripts. I work on them using Figma and export the high resolution images once I'm done. These images go either into a manuscript or a PowerPoint presentation, so with PowerPoint open for instance I can just type cd to copy and ⌘ V to paste into PowerPoint.

Screenshot of the downloads manager commands.

Empty trash

Who doesn't like having an empty trash bin? I love how I can very easily do that without having to use the trackpad. I have this command set as favorite so I always have easy access to it.

Screenshot of the empty trash command.


This is an extension the Raycast team built for themselves and which I have copied and adapted to my own needs. Just by opening Raycast I can now see what time it is wherever family members and colleagues are, without having to use yet another app.

Screenshot of the time zones custom plugin.

Wordsearch plugin

Doing research involves quite a bit of writing, and often times you see yourself using the same words to express a concept, especially if English isn't your native language. That's why I love the Wordsearch plugin. It allows me to quickly find synonyms to words from Raycast. Not only that, but if I find a synonym I would like to use in my text all I have to do is press enter and Raycast will paste it into my writing. Convenient, right?

Screenshot of the Wordsearch plugin when searching for synonyms.

Speedtest plugin

Have you ever wondered why your browser was being so slow or why your Netflix show kept freezing? Have you then thought it could be that your WiFi connection is slow? Then, you may have opened your browser, searched for speedtest.net and run the test. What if I told you there's a Raycast plugin for that? Yes, no need to take all those steps. I search for speedtest on my Raycast, hit enter and that's it!

Screenshot of the speedtest plugin being used.

The fact that I don't take 100% advantage of Raycast still blows my mind. I'm always hoping to learn new tricks and add new perks to my workflows.


Tana is where I do all my planning, journaling, and thinking. Ever since I got into the personal knowledge management (PKM) space, I've been working on my note-taking and journaling. I have gone from being okay at managing projects to never forgetting tasks and deadlines, better managing my time, and getting more things done.

What I like the most about Tana is how I can just write on the daily notes page and not think much about how my notes are structured. Tana takes care of bringing you the notes when you need them through the different queries and tags you can create and tune. I believe this is a very powerful feature, as it allows me to focus on what I'm writing at the moment.

Another thing I love about Tana, and similar PKM apps like Roam Research or Obsidian, is that it takes care of finding all the references I make to specific concepts or words. Let's say I'm reading about Productivity. I can very easily make a page based on the word productivity, which will then show me every reference that has been made to it, both linked (referencing the page itself) or not linked (the plain text reference). For instance, these are all the linked and non-linked references I have for the page productivity:

A screenshot of all the references made to Productivity in my personal Tana workspace.

These references give me the peace of mind to focus on writing and not on content retrieval, as I can later on just open the page for a given concept and find every single note I have taken mentioning it.

Tana also supports AI features via the OpenAI API. This means that you can connect your notes to AI and get responses based on your own notes. For instance, you could import an article into Tana and use AI to summarize it, propose new research projects based on it, and write a plan to make the projects a reality. Another possible use case of the AI features could be journaling. You could make the AI give you journaling prompts that are based on your mood score for the day and the activities you have done. Trip planning is another fun example where AI can be super helpful.

Unfortunately, I still haven't used Tana to do research in a multiplayer setting, but I cannot wait to come up with workflows and guidelines to use Tana with a group of researchers. The potential of creating a research lab knowledge graph is too good to ignore, and I believe it can make any research lab more productive and better. Imagine you want to do research on Alzheimer's disease, you could search for it in Tana and maybe a colleague has already take some notes on it. You could then build the lab's knowledge based on the already existing knowledge by adding new notes, correcting old ones, or adding new perspectives. This would also apply to reading articles. And let's not forget meeting agendas and notes! No more lost action items and meeting notes, as Tana makes sure you can always find them.

Finally, despite Tana not having a proper mobile app as I write this, I have to say I'm a huge fan of the Capture app. It allows me to take notes while on the go in text, image and audio formats. The audio format is the one I probably use more, as I often go on walks to think about my research and how to approach the different problems I may encounter. As I walk, I can easily talk to my phone and Tana takes care of transcribing the audio. I have to say, the accuracy of the transcriptions is very high. As a non-native English speaker, I barely see any errors in the transcriptions. That said, it doesn't work with English only. You can choose what language to transcribe the audios from. All I add to Tana with the Capture app goes into an inbox and I can take it from there then.

If you're interested in getting access to Tana, comment below and I'll get in touch with the steps you have to take to get access to the beta.

This was a long-enough post that has covered the two tools I use the most. I will be covering other tools I use to keep me productive on next week's post, which will be the second and last covering tools. Then I will discuss my project and time management workflow in Tana, along with my literature review workflow in the next two posts following this two-post series on the tools I use.

See you next week!

P.S.: I encourage you to share your favorite tools below so others can learn about them👇