WoW 066: On tools for knowledge workers [Words of Wisdom]

I endeavor to write timeless wisdom. But some wisdom is very timely.

All tools develop out of a specific context to accomplish a specific task or solve a particular problem.

Some problems can only be solved by particular tools. A saw is not a good hammer. As my dad likes to say about some tools, "You don't need it until you need it, but when you need it, you need it."

Since most people reading this are knowledge workers, I wanted to share some of my favorite tools of my trade.

There are other tools, but these are useful for me. I hope you find one that helps you grow and create more value in the world.

My most-used tools

 Roam Research . For taking notes and developing networked thought. This tool serves as my digital second brain.

 Kindle . I currently have 427 books on my Kindle, which is catching up to my physical library. I committed a long time ago to not skimp on learning, and one of the most potent ways to do that is to be committed to  reading more books . As wonderful as they are, I don't use a library because I want immediate access to any book I've ever read.

Nothing beats the combination of Kindle's portability, accessibility to books, and lack of distraction. Yes, I can use my Kindle app on my phone, but that can also lead to distractions. So I use the Kindle paperwhite, which doesn't have an internet browser, so I'm focused when it's time to read.

The power of combining Kindle with tools like  Readwise  and  Roam Research  is unparalleled for reviewing, remembering, and creating from what you have read.

 Notebook . Don't underestimate the power of writing in a notebook. There is no faster, more reliable, yet lasting way of capturing your thoughts. I love moleskin journals . If you want to create an analog productivity system, consider a  Bullet Journal  or the practical  Clear Habit Journal .

If you want to use a digital notebook, love writing by hand, and want to avoid typing notes, consider the  Remarkable 2 Tablet . It's the closest thing to a digital notebook yet.

Here are other tools I use that I hope you find amazing.

Email, forms, customer service

 Convertkit  - An easy-to-use and useful email autoresponder for email lists.

 Tally  - A powerful modern survey tool.

 Calendly  A helpful calendar scheduling tool to end the back-and-forth of trying to schedule meetings.

 Helpscout  - A great customer support tool.

Documents, writing, collaboration tools  - An online note-taking tool with some database features.

 Coda  - Coda gives you the ability to create "a doc as powerful as an app." Build documents connected to data and other apps.

 Grammarly  - Online writing assistant to improve your grammar, tone, and word choice. Every newsletter, blog, book, or article I write is better with Grammarly.

 Asana  - Powerful task management tool for teams.

Video, audio, design

 Wistia  - video hosting & analytics, Currently free, $99/mo at 3+ videos - (necessary for course & podcast series)

 Descript  - audio editing and transcription tool.

 Pitch  - It's like a modern PowerPoint that can help you quickly build pitch decks and presentations.

 Canva  - A design tool to easily build basic designs and slide presentations and record.

Website builders

 Webflow  - Build beautiful websites with a highly customizable no-code toolset. If you aren't a designer, or you're not willing to learn, or you don't have a designer on your team, this isn't the tool for you. You'd be better suited to use something like  Wix  or  SquareSpace  which easily create beautiful and simple websites.

 Xperiencify  - A modern course builder with gamification tools to increase student engagement.

 Splasheo  - Subtitles for videos used in Facebook ads, on Youtube shorts, etc.

 Zapier  or  Make  (formerly Integromat)- Save time by automating repetitive tasks.

Tools to improve your thinking

 Miro  - An infinite whiteboard that helps you ideate and collaborate visually.

 Readwise  & Reader - tools to help you read better.

Readwise helps you remember what you read via spaced repetition of your highlights (in Kindle, Instapaper, Pocket, etc.) and syncs those highlights to your digital second brain, such as Roam Research, Obsidian, or Notion.

Reader, made by Readwise, is an exciting new read-it-later app built for reading everything from Twitter threads to PDFs, to books, to email newsletters. It is currently in private beta for paid customers only.

 Traverse  - A mind mapping and flashcard software built for learning. Popular with college students in the medical field. Currently, a bootstrapped software company built by a solopreneur.


"Keep your tools sharp; dull tools can be more dangerous."

Melanie Abrantes,  Carve 

"Your own reality—for yourself, not for others.” Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from traveling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.” Notice that he uses the word lead. Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward the cliff."

William Deresiewicz, Solitude and Leaderhip, a lecture delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009.


What tools improve your thinking and creating?

How can you use your tools to serve others?


As great as tools are, they are only as valuable as the one using them. Learn deeply, think for yourself, communicate powerfully, and love well; you will thrive, regardless of the tool.

Live wisely,


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