Ah, productivity. The eternal bane of entrepreneurs, small businesses, large international conglomerates – a fickle creature, imbued with near-magical powers. The Holy Grail of success, the overthrower of self-doubt, the usher of dreamt-of days, the pinnacle of triumph.
How does one capture and captivate such a being?
Often with much difficulty, as is the case with any mythical beast.
There’s that prerequisite aid in most productivity-hunting arsenals: caffeine. Some have also practiced much harsher and self-inflicted methods: isolation, exhaustion, sleep deprivation. Of course, there are also the softer and more domesticated approaches: motivational videos, books, podcasts, conferences.
However, all of them pale in comparison to the mightiest weapon in a productivity-hunter’s kit: the productivity app.
In the year 2020, the production of the productive and productivity-inducing productivity apps will have reached unprecedented heights – and will have thus enabled many an ambitious fellow to bask in their light, and climb to the top of their own Everest.
We’ve already covered some of the best productivity hacks, but in this post we’re going over more actionable technology enabled tips, so here are the seven productivity apps you should consider hanging on your belt, to help you reach your desired results.
Sticking to our fantasy-meets-productivity theme, let’s open this list with Habitica – an app that takes gamification to an entirely unprecedented level.
The app lets you choose an avatar and embark on a quest to, you’ve guessed it, complete tasks and build healthy habits.
You will need to input your daily to-do’s and goals, and each time you tick one off, you will gain points, allowing you to level up and get access to rewards. They can also be set up to your liking: anything from an evening in with Netflix to a night out with friends.
The glorious bit about the app is that it is both completely personalizable (you get to create your own path in the game), and it has put to good use our love of games and our desire to level up.
The apparent downside of the ‘game’ is that you can, of course, cheat – but since you’ll only be cheating yourself out of a future self you would be proud of, try to stick to honest and diligent work.
Another app that has uniquely tapped into the human psyche, Forest is the ultimate focus app that will keep your mind in the present and away from your social media profiles, the news, or that funny video of two corgis chasing each other in the snow.
Whenever you want to tune in to work and tune out everything else, Forest has you plant a tree. And if you grab your phone before the task is done – that tree will die. A bit of unconventional motivation, but the 25 million app downloads are proof that the system works.
The app also lets you track the time you spend on your phone (and the data is shocking!), and comes with gamification features: you can unlock new trees, connect with friends, and move up in your focus skills.
The more you use it, the better your mind will grasp the simple fact of ‘leave your phone alone while we focus on this task,’ and the more productive you will become.
This might not be the kind of app you had in mind when looking to improve your productivity, but the fact remains that a calm, stress-free, and well-rested mind is the key to improved focus, enhanced productivity, and better results.
Calm is one of the two most popular meditation and mindfulness apps on the market, and its guided meditations can teach you how to tune in, tune out, and get back in touch with your thoughts and emotions. With consistency, these meditation exercises will help you better understand what gets you going and what slows you down.
As you become better and better at it, you will soon catch on to the negative thoughts that are interrupting your work and the preoccupations that keep barging in, and you will learn how best to overcome them.
Furthermore, Calm’s sleep stories will help you drift off to a more peaceful slumber, with the help of the soothing voices of Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey, to name a few.
One could argue that this is the only productivity app you need – as it helps unlock innate powers none of the others can.
One does need a time management and calendar app, and Woven tops the list of tools with similar features.
It allows you to streamline scheduling by sending out a link to those interested in having a meeting with you and enabling them to choose the time that suits them best. It also has a group scheduling feature, letting you find the best time for a chat when everyone is available.
The app also allows you to create custom templates for different kinds of meetings: i.e., with clients, with staff members, with your accountant, and so on. It will sync with all sorts of other calendar apps and let you know if you’re double-booking yourself for something.
You can find Woven at woven.com.
Pocket is an app that was made for the modern online user.
The more time we spend on the web, the more and more interesting content seems to crop up. Algorithms are getting smarter, bloggers and vloggers are getting more creative, and the internet keeps growing – and we simply have zero chance to keep up with the expansion.
Which means we tend to compile bookmarks that remain forgotten, notes to self that get ignored, and copious emails we send ourselves and never actually open.
Enter Pocket, a storage space for all those blogs, videos, and podcasts you would like to experience – later. But its true beauty lies in the fact that you will now know where you’ve saved something, meaning you neither have to read it right now (and ignore the flashing red button on your desk phone), nor completely forgo the experience of consuming it.
We all need a time-tracking app in our lives – especially if we’re not quite sure where the time we spend awake is spent (and who doesn’t feel like that sometimes?).
The problem with time trackers, however, is that they take up a lot of your time – you need to add in tasks, start and stop timers, make sure you don’t forget to switch between tasks, and so on. Overall, they simply depend on user input too much, often meaning they eat up more time than they save.
But RescueTime is different: it works in the background, keeping track of the apps and websites you visit and how much time you spend on them. You can label certain apps and sites as work-related, you can block some off entirely, and you can get a weekly roundup of how you’ve been spending your time.
True, this still leaves you in the driver’s seat, having to make a concrete change to your habits. If only there were an app that could help you do that.
(See item one on the list above.)
Finally, there’s the app that will help you curate all of your notes, reminders, lists, and other scribbles previously relegated to the post-its you keep stuck to your monitor.
Notion lets you create general categories for your notes and add subcategories to them, but its real value is in the way these notes look. With plenty of white space, minimally formatted text, and the ability to add in anything from images, videos, links, spreadsheets, and over 30 other media types, this app is the pinnacle of customizable and centralized note-taking.
You can also cross-reference your notes, share them with others, and, of course, you can sync the app across multiple devices and use its web clippers in your browser.
All in all, it’s a fantastic way to stay on top of all your worlds from a single dashboard.
There you have it: the seven apps that will help guide you through the desert of procrastination and help you live your best life: at home, at work, anywhere you choose to use them.
Do bear in mind that none of these apps is a silver bullet for laziness, and none of them will get the work done for you. They all depend on your input in one way or another. Hence, they should be treated as the tools they are, not as the magical solution suggested in the intro to this article.
Test them out, and find a combination that works best for your life and working style. If used correctly, you’ll likely see significantly enhanced results.