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The Best Productivity Apps of 2018

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Get off email. Stop wasting time in meetings. Work smarter, not harder. You’ve heard it all before. The advice and mantras all over the internet about making yourself more productive could fill libraries. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to being more productive. It depends so much on who you are and how you process information, not to mention the details of your work and life.

That’s why this list of the best productivity apps is so varied. Some productivity tools help you manage your ever-growing email inbox. Others automate various aspects of your life so you can focus on the work that requires actual thought. With the right productivity apps and services at your fingertips, you can easily improve your workflows and your life.

What Are Your Productivity Goals?

People are obsessed with productivity these days, but few think about what it actually means. In the traditional sense, the phrase “increasing productivity” means making more money, goods, or both. But being more productive now has a much more personal meaning. Ultimately, it’s about achieving goals and making the most of your time.

Your goal could be anything from maximizing profits in a business to getting a nine-to-five job done faster so that you have some mental and physical resources left over to pursue personal interests at home. Some people want to get out of the office faster each day to spend more time with their family. In a broader sense, productive people determine how they want to live and take the necessary steps to make that possible.

What Is Productivity Software?

Productivity software makes your work and personal tasks easier and more efficient to complete. Although office suites and business applications still have a prominent role in our lives, this category of software has expanded far beyond those buttoned-down fields.

Whatever your profession or personal ambitions, the right productivity app will help you reach your deadlines and goals faster and for less money. From browser plugins to services that help you maintain important relationships, productivity apps do it all.

Productivity Apps for Individuals

In this age of DIY solutions and self-reliance, plenty of productivity apps overlap with self-help apps. Time-tracking programs help you identify your work habits and patterns so you can adjust your behaviors for the better. Tools that minimize or prevent distractions let you impose rules on your web surfing behavior, blocking sites that prevent you from getting work done.

Task-management and to-do list apps are also popular. With the ability to share and sync data over the internet, it’s easy to make lists of chores for your partner and kids, assigning them tasks anytime, anywhere. Mobile devices are a huge part of the productivity movement and make it easy to stay on top of responsibilities whenever you have natural downtime.

And while we’re on the subject of getting lots of things done at once, forget everything you think you know about the perils of multitasking. A growing body of research shows that multitasking, in moderation, makes you more productive, not less. Periods of natural downtime, such as while stuck on a train or at an airport, are perfect multitasking opportunities.

Productivity Apps for Businesses

Of course, plenty of productivity apps exist specifically for the workplace. Project management services, for example, help teams keep track of work and assets, reducing the need for meetings. These platforms also give employees greater visibility into all the moving parts of a project, including who is responsible for what task.

Invoicing and billing solutions—and really all kinds of online business accounting apps—do wonders for productivity, especially for very small business owners and sole proprietors. When you’re a one-person shop and time is at a premium, you can’t afford to waste time messing around with accounting. You need tools that work efficiently and that get it right the first time, every time, so you can get back to the real work.

And let’s not leave out traditional office suites. In our list of apps, we include plenty of suggestions for word-processing programs, spreadsheet apps, and presentation tools as well. The best ones are collaborative, letting multiple people work on the same document simultaneously. Quite a few are free and include a good chunk of cloud storage. We also highlight a few content creation solutions for more specific tasks like writing a novel or creating charts.

Problems and Solutions

At the heart of every great productivity app is a solution to a specific problem. Some look toward efficiency, aiming to take an existing product, such as email, and make it easier to use. Others seek to silence the noise of the net, bolster collaboration, or unite disparate data. Ultimately, however, all the productivity apps in the world won’t help you if you don’t make a concerted effort to actually get things done.

The software and service on this list are among our favorites for helping anyone be more productive, from office workers to students. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but we hope it provides useful suggestions for your daily tasks as well as introduces you to some hidden gems. Make sure to leave a comment if we missed your favorite app. We keep this list current and might include your entry in the next revision.

Best Productivity App Categories:

Best Apps for Collaboration
Best Apps for Creation
Best Apps for Management
Best Apps for Mobile
Best Apps for Organization
Best Apps for Security and Storage
Best Apps for Social Media
Best Apps for Troubleshooting
Best Apps for Voice & Accessibility
Best Apps for Workflows


Best Productivity Apps for Collaboration

Asana

Asana


Free; $119.88 per user per year for Premium

Workplace tools for collaboration and communication are transforming how teams get work done together, and Asana was among the first to make a real splash. Asana helps teams keep track of what needs to get done and who is doing it. Unlike project management platforms, Asana is capable of handling ongoing work (project management is meant for projects with an end date).


Microsoft Teams Change Theme

Microsoft Teams


Free; From $5 per user per month

Microsoft Teams is an excellent messaging platform for the workplace, with top features such as Office 365 integration and great organization tools. Team members even get audio and video calling options that help reduce the need for unnecessary in-person meetings. Microsoft also recently launched a free version of Microsoft Teams, further cementing it as a worthy alternative to Slack.


Podio

Podio


From $9 per user per month

Podio is a business collaboration and work management platform that’s super flexible and customizable. It’s a hub where work gets done. You add apps to it, such as those for invoicing or project management, to design an online workspace that meets the needs of your business. The ability to customize the platform by adding the apps you need is Podio’s main strength. Podio is one of the most comprehensive productivity tools for small business communication and work management.


Slack

Slack


Free; From $8 per user per month

Slack is a messaging platform for teams, facilitating discussions (and banter) across collaborators who are not necessarily in the same place at the same time. Great search functionality helps you find relevant messages that you may have missed the first time around. Slack can also integrate with a ton of other productivity apps and services.


TeamworkProjects

Teamwork Projects


Free; from $45 per month for paid accounts

Teamwork Projects, an Editors’ Choice in the project management category (alongside Zoho Projects), is affordable and easy to use. Not all project management platforms are either of those things, much less both. Teamwork Projects actually makes project management quite easy to handle because the interface is self-explanatory. This app’s flat-rate pricing for an unlimited users is also a huge plus. For teams that are on the small side, it’s an excellent value.


Trello

Trello


Free; $119.88 per user per year for Business plan

Trello is a kanban-style work management app. It helps teams visualize their workflow. In Trello and other kanban apps, you create cards (think of them as sticky notes on a board) and arrange them into columns. Each column can represent whatever you want. You move the notes to different columns as the work progresses or you can design your own ad hoc methods. Trello’s charm comes from its simple interface and fun stickers, all of which add a touch of lightness to even the heaviest kinds of work.


Wrike

Wrike


Free; from $117.60 per user per year for paid plans

When you need a project management service yesterday, turn to Wrike. Wrike offers a flexible solution for small businesses and enterprises alike that isn’t as feature-rich as some other options, but lets you get up and running extremely fast. With plenty of ways to integrate with other apps and services and a quick setup, Wrike is a great project management platform for small businesses.


Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects


Free; from $25 per user per month for paid accounts

Zoho Projects has kept pace with the world of project management extremely well, freshening up its look and adding features that all teams need to work collaboratively. It offers a truly free level of service, so you can try it out fully and without any time restrictions before you buy it. Zoho Projects is a great productivity platform with ample add-on tools and services to grow with your team or business.

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Best Productivity Apps for Creation

Abbyy Finereader

ABBYY FineReader


$199.99

When you need optical character recognition (OCR) help, that is to say, turning pictures of words into actual typed text, ABBYY FineReader is the number-one tool to use. In the OCR software category, it may be the one and only app worth your money. One amazing efficiency of this app is that it lets you start fine-tuning the results almost instantly, instead of waiting until the app has processed an entire document. While ABBYY FineReader is working on the final pages of a document, you can give it feedback on earlier pages, and that’s a boon for your productivity.


Google Docs

Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides


Free

Google offers an excellent suite of online apps for creating and editing text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are fully collaborative, meaning two or more people can edit the same file at once. Google Suite also includes its own file-syncing service, letting you work offline.


Grammarly

Grammarly


Free; $29.95 per month

If you spend all day writing, you are bound to make mistakes from time to time. Office suites have their own spelling and grammar checkers, but Grammarly is unique in that it works most places on the web as well. Additionally, it is better at suggesting stylistic changes based on specific genres of writing. Also, check out Grammarly’s excellent mobile keyboard app for Android and iOS.


Lucidchart

Lucidchart


Free; from $5.95 per month for paid plans

Hands down, the best alternative to Microsoft Visio is Lucidchart. With this moderately priced app, you create diagrams for business, educational use, or even personal use. One of its main strengths is its ability to support collaboration, letting more than one person edit a diagram at the same time. An incredible template gallery gives you ideas for charts and diagrams you didn’t even know you needed. How about an emergency exit plan, for example? Lucidchart is PCMag’s top choice for diagramming apps.


OfficeSuitePro

Microsoft Office 2016


From $6.99 per month

Microsoft’s latest edition of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access (all part of Microsoft’s Office 2016 suite) are designed to work on touch screens, as well as on desktops and laptops. What that means for mobile users is they get the same app on a mobile device that they get on their computer. More uniformity across devices means less futzing around with a different interface, and that can only help your productivity.


Pages-Numbers-Keynote

Pages, Numbers, and Keynote


Free

Apple’s office suite comes in the form of three apps that are sold separately, but are included with the purchase of new Macs. The three apps are Pages for word processing, Numbers, an Editors’ Choice, for spreadsheets, and Keynote, also an Editors’ Choice, for presentations. Each one balances power and features with simplicity and ease of use. For macOS users, they collectively make up an excellent choice for an office suite.


prezi

Prezi


From $59.04 per year

If your ideas don’t come across well as a slideshow, stop trying to shoehorn your work into the wrong format. Try Prezi instead. With this presentation app, you create a huge whiteboard of material and move a camera around to highlight different parts. Making presentations with Prezi is more like creating a short film. It also has excellent collaboration features, similar to those found in Google Docs. Prezi is dynamic, and your presentations will be, too.


Smartdraw

SmartDraw Cloud


$179.40 per year

SmartDraw Cloud makes it easier than any other app to quickly create professional-quality diagrams. While its collaboration features aren’t as strong as those of Lucidchart, SmartDraw earns top honors for having the largest selection of templates and objects. If you spend a lot of time making diagrams and charts, however, this app is well worth the cost, since you’ll have a template (the templates are more like thorough sample documents) for practically everything you’ll ever need to create.


WriteRoom

Ulysses


$39.99 per year

Ulysses is an excellent distraction-free writing app for macOS that prioritizes writing above all else, which is exactly what a good writing app should do. It also supports Markdown text and can help you keep track of your writing goals. With Ulysses, you no longer have any excuses for not writing that novel.

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Best Productivity Apps for Management

Freshbooks

FreshBooks


Free; $14.99 per month

FreshBooks is the site to beat when it comes to managing and tracking invoices, time, and expenses for businesses that don’t need a full-blown double-entry accounting system. It’s ideal for owners of small businesses and sole proprietors.


Harvest time tracking app 2018

Harvest


$12 per month

Keeping detailed records of the time you spend on projects is an absolute necessity for freelancers. Harvest is one of the best services you can use to do so. It includes native invoicing and expensing capabilities, as well as support for team management and scheduling.


Toggl Mac app 2018

Toggl


Free

Toggl is a great tool for freelancers who want to keep track of the time they spend on tasks. Although you can pay for a premium tier, Toggl’s free account offers a ton of functionality and is a great option for anyone on a budget. Toggl also works with Zapier and supports all the common platforms.

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Best Productivity Apps for Mobile

Any.do

Any.do


Free; $28.99 per year for Premium

Any.do is a collaborative task-management app for iOS, Android, and Chrome. It’s a beautifully designed to-do app with one unique feature called the Any.do Moment. This feature helps you make a habit of reviewing your daily tasks first thing in the morning, every day, so that you’re never caught off guard by surprise meetings, tasks, or other obligations later. Developing a good habit that promotes productivity is extremely difficult, so we commend Any.Do’s efforts.


EasilyDo

EasilyDo


Free; $4.99 per month for Premium

EasilyDo is a personal assistant app that automates small tasks for you, everything from posting “happy birthday” on your friends’ Facebook pages on the right day to texting your significant other when you’re running late. EasilyDo is very easy to set up and use and comes with a wealth of functionality. For tiny time-eating tasks that you’d rather not get caught up doing, let EasilyDo take the helm.


Microsoft Outlook mobile

Microsoft Outlook


Free

Customizable swipe gestures, an integrated calendar view, and a Focused Inbox feature make Microsoft Outlook one of our favorite mobile email apps for productivity. And despite the app’s name, you can pull in email from other accounts, too. Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, iCloud, and IMAP accounts are all supported, in addition to those affiliated with Microsoft Exchange, Outlook.com, and Office 365. The Focused Inbox feature separates personal emails from marketing messages and others that are less pressing. It’s quite similar to the Inbox by Gmail app, except that it works on a variety of email accounts, rather than just Gmail.


Pushbullet

Pushbullet


$4.99 per month

iPhone users who also have a Mac know the simple joy of cross-device syncing and sharing with Airdrop and iCloud. But syncing starts to come apart at the seams when you mix and match operating systems. Pushbullet is a mobile app and browser extension that fills in the cracks. It lets you quickly push links, images, addresses plotted in Google Maps, and other information from one device to another in a matter of taps or clicks. It boosts productivity by facilitating sharing across devices and platforms.


SwiftKey 7.0

SwiftKey Keyboard


Free

SwiftKey Keyboard is one of PCMag’s favorite custom keyboard for Android, though it’s also available on iOS. When you install SwiftKey as your default keyboard, you can save typing time by swiping your finger around the keyboard instead of hitting each individual letter. The app’s predictive text feature is pretty smart and can tell what you’re trying to say, even with sloppy swipes. For answering emails, replying to texts, and writing documents from a mobile phone, it’s a great help.


Todoist

Todoist


Free; $29 per year for Premium

Todoist is a collaborative to-do app that would be impossible to use to any effect without the companion mobile app (for iPhone and Android). The free version of the app is good for single-person use, but to manage chores in a household or among a team, you’ll want Todoist Premium. Assign tasks to others, give them a due date, and get alerted when they’re done. We also like that it gives you color-coded spaces for managing certain types of to-dos, such as work, personal, and household.

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Best Productivity Apps for Organization

Doodle

Doodle.com


Free; from $39 per year for paid accounts

Let’s say five people need to find a time and date to meet that works for everyone. You could start an email thread and waste half a day tracking replies, or you could use Doodle.com. Doodle helps you effortlessly set up polls for scheduling. It’s free to use, and respondents don’t even have to join to add their responses. Doodle cuts down on needless email and streamlines scheduling big time. Paid accounts add some extra features, such as the ability to automatically send reminders before the appointed time and date and an ad-free experience.


Evernote

Evernote


Free; from $3.99 per month for paid accounts

Evernote is a wonderful productivity app with a variety of uses, although it lost some formerly dedicated users in 2016 when it drastically raised prices and changed what’s included for paid plans. Painful as the price hike may be, no other note-taking and syncing app quite measures up to Evernote. It continues to offer a more efficient and productive experience than its competitors, namely Microsoft OneNote. At its core, Evernote is still an app where you can create and sync all kinds of notes, such as text, voice memos, photos, and more. The paid plans add full-fledged business tools and collaborative features. Excellent search capabilities and OCR on images with text make Evernote indispensable for finding important information quickly.


Pocket

Pocket


Free; $44.99 per year for Premium

We all get distracted by articles online that are relevant to our work, but that we maybe shouldn’t read right now. When internet rabbit-holing seems imminent, just click on Pocket. Pocket is a service and app that saves online reading materials for you to read later. It can create pared down versions of online articles, too, getting rid of ads and excess graphics. Pocket integrates with so many services. So the next time a tweet with a link to a juicy article graces your eyes, tap that Pocket icon and get back to work knowing your article will be waiting for you later.


Sanebox

SaneBox


From $7 per month

SaneBox is the best service you’ll find for improving your existing email account. For a couple bucks a month, SaneBox goes into your email on the backend and puts into different folders all the messages that are probably not important. It can tell the difference between a “cold call” email and one from an acquaintance or business associate, although you help SaneBox learn by giving it feedback. Over time, it learns more about who and what is important to you and becomes even more valuable.


X1-Search

X1 Search


$49.95 for app; optional $24.95 per year extra for premium support

Some people don’t see the need for a desktop search utility like X1 Search. They prefer to rely on a carefully maintained, hierarchical folder structure and religiously adhere to it. Those people never lose their keys either. For everyone else, X1 Search is an ideal tool for finding what you need on your computer, from files to emails, with minimal effort and no wasted time.

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Best Productivity Apps for Security & Storage

Dashlane Main Window

Dashlane


Free

Dashlane wraps up all your password manager needs into a slick and intuitive interface. In addition to its password sharing and automatic password replacement tools, Dashlane also licenses VPN technology from AnchorFree. Make sure to check out Dashlane’s Dark Web scanning capabilities, which helps you determine if and of your accounts have been sold or otherwise compromised.


Dropbox Paper

Dropbox


Free

Dropbox, like Google Drive and Microosft OneDrive, is a great cloud-based storage service for consumers and enterprises. Dropbox’s stand out features are its comprehensive sharing and privlege options. Higher tier business plans also include the ability to track file events and device approvals, which limits file access to a set of pre-approved devices.


Google Drive

Google Drive


Free

Google Drive is an excellent app for storing and sharing files, including those that you create with Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. With the Google One storage plans, Google Drive is also a good vlaue if you decide you need more than the 15GB of space that the free account offers. The new Backup and Sync and Drive File Stream applications for consumers and corporations respectively make it easy to keep track of all your files.


IDrive

IDrive


Free; $59.90 per year for Personal

You’d be hard-pressed to find an online backup service as full-featured or versatile as IDrive, especially for the price. With this cloud-based syncing and backup service, you can get the most recent version of your files no matter where you are, which means you can be productive no matter where you are, too.


Keeper Password Manager & Digital Vault Main Window

Keeper Password Manager


$29.99 per year

Keeper Password Manager is a full-featured password manager with a focus on security and a Zero Knowledge policy. It supports high end features, such as two-factor authentication and secure password sharing. Keeper also works on the vast majority of platforms and browsers.


microsoft onedrive

Microsoft OneDrive


Free

Microsoft OneDrive has gone through many names over the years: SkyDrive, Live Mesh, FolderShare. Whatever you choose to call it, this service makes both your personal and office lives more productive by providing reliable file syncing and online storage. OneDrive includes attractive web and mobile interfaces, with offline capabilities, as well as music streaming, shared desktop-folder syncing, and perhaps most importantly, real-time collaboration in Office. It’s a wonderful service no matter how you use it or what you call it.

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Best Productivity Apps for Social Media

HootSuite

Hootsuite


Free; from $9.99 per month for paid accounts

Hootsuite is a social media management system, meaning it’s a one-stop shop for updating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and now Instagram, too. Hootsuite helps keeps social media managers and small business owners productive by giving them high-level tools for scheduling updates to their social network accounts, monitoring replies and feedback, and much more.


Mention

Mention


Free; from $299.00 for paid accounts

The search-and-alert program Mention is a social media and web monitoring tool. Mention actively searches the web and social media sites for key terms you choose, with advanced search criteria available, and in multiple languages. When Mention finds a new mention of your key terms, it alerts you in the app, by email, or via push notification in a mobile app. You can use Mention to follow up on the activity, or, if you’re working in a collaborative environment, assign someone else for follow up. If your job is to keep track of online mentions of your company or product online, it’s a wonderful productivity app.


SproutSocial

Sprout Social


From $99.00 per user per month

Finding a social media management platform with the right analytics tools for a small to midsize business can take months of expensive trial-and-error exploration. Sprout Social Premium can take the pain out of it. This beautifully designed suite of tools meets all the needs of a tech-savvy marketing pro. It also integrates with Google Analytics. Not only are the dashboard and interface stunningly well-designed, but the thoughtful lineup of partners, networks, and strong analytics tools, combined with straightforward pricing, makes it a PCMag’s Editors’ Choice.


Sysomos

Sysomos


Starting at $1,000 per month

Sysomos is an enterprise-grade social media management platform that includes tools for monitoring conversations, keywords, and social trends; identifying and organizing groups of influencers; and using that information to target social audiences. It’s one of the strongest platforms for very large businesses and brands at better equipping social media teams to tackle their jobs and be more productive.


Synthesio- Social ROI Analytics

Synthesio


Starting at $1,200 per month

For enterprises, Synthesio is the PCMag Editors’ Choice for social media management and tracking. This custom-installed software is designed for social media teams that handle branding and public perception, not just tweets and ‘grams. It monitors sentiment worldwide and can report on how the competition is doing, too.

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Best Productivity Apps for Troubleshooting

Freshdesk Mint - Dashboard

Freshdesk


Free

If you run a small business, you need a way to keep track of all the technical issues and incidents that are sure to crop up over time. Freshdesk is a highly intuitive system for managing and ultimately resolving these problems. Anyone on the support side may also appreciate Freshdesk’s gamification features.


GoToMyPC


$12 per month

GoToMyPC’s easy-to-use interfaces and apps allow you to remotely take control of another person’s system. Remote access software is great for productivity, since you don’t need to waste time writing or explaining steps; the end user can watch you work directly. GoToMyPC also allows you to drag and drop files across virtual desktops.


SnagIt!

Snagit


$49.95

When Photoshop is overkill for what you need to do with graphics and videos, Snagit is an excellent alternative app. It helps you take screenshots and video recordings, mark them up and add effects, and share them with others. Snagit gets those kinds of jobs done fast and on the cheap. A recently added animated GIF creator makes the app the perfect low-cost solution for bloggers and other online media creators.


TeamViewer App Interface

TeamViewer


$49.95

TeamViewer is a security-focused tool that lets you remotely access your own or someone else’s computer, amicably, of course. Teamviewer is primarily useful for remote software installations or troubleshooting with off-site users. You can even use its free version to solve all your extended family’s technical troubles, without the hassle of trying to explain steps over the phone.

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Best Productivity Apps for Voice & Accessibility

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon NaturallySpeaking


$99.99 Home; $199.99 Premium

Dictating reports and controlling your computer with your voice can be a huge productivity booster if you have an app that’s smart and extremely intuitive. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is one such app. It’s not cheap, but it’s the best dictation software on the market. With Dragon, you can start dictating practically any text from day one, such as emails and speeches. Give yourself a few days to master deeper features to control your computer and browser, and you’ll be flying through your work.


Duolingo web app 2017 exercise

Duolingo


Free

Want to learn a new language, but don’t have the money or time to take formal classes? Duolingo is your best bet to learn the basics of a new language for free. With clear lesson progression and apps on many platforms, Duolingo makes it easy to pick up some new words or phrases whenever you have a free moment.


Rev


$1 per minute

Rev is an affordable and highly accurate human transcription service that returns files quickly. Simply upload an audio or video file or submit a URL to get started. Rev also makes it easy to make any changes to the final transcript via its excellent web editor, which integrates accessible playback controls and editing options. You can also use Rev’s mobile apps to record and submit orders directly.


Rosetta Stone


$179 per year

Rosetta Stone is a premier language-learning app for anyone serious about mastering the foundations of a new language, The interface is top notch and features helpful activities and games to guide and. Users can even opt join online tutoring sessions for further instruction.

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Best Productivity Apps for Workflows

Do.com interface

Do.com


Free

Very few productivity apps target human behavior itself, but human behavior is the leading cause of bad meetings. Do.com tackles it head-on with an online service for making meetings better. If you hold a lot of meetings or are the assistant for someone who does, Do.com guides you toward better practices. It encourages you to write and distribute an agenda, time your meetings to keep them only as long as they need to be, and archive meeting notes. It also helps you assign follow-up actions and track whether they get done.


IFTTT

IFTTT


Free

IFTTT(rhymes with “gift”) stands for “if this, then that.” It’s a website and mobile app you use to create custom automations between various online services and devices, and the real beauty is that you don’t need to know how to code to use it. For example, using IFTTT’s simple interface, you could create this automation: “If there is an upcoming event on my Google Calendar, then send me a text message reminder with the event name, time, and address.” Another example is: “If someone tags a photo of me on Facebook, then save a copy of that photo to Dropbox.” IFTTT is very similar to Zapier, but Zapier is a little more focused on supporting business apps, while IFTTT is excellent for personal productivity and smart home hacks.


RescueTime

RescueTime


Free; $9 per month for Premium

RescueTime does for your productivity what calorie-counting does for weight loss: It brings incredible attention and insight to your actual habits. RescueTime is a time-tracking tool that records the apps you use, websites you visit, and breaks you take while working. This wonderful app does more than just create self-awareness through its reports. It also helps you stay on track while you work, blocking distracting sites and apps when you need to focus, and quantifying your productivity goals, such as spend less than one hour per day in email. It’s one of our personal favorite productivity tools, and we highly recommend every student and knowledge worker give it a try.


Stayfocusd

Stayfocusd


Free

Stayfocusd is a browser extension that keeps you productive by blocking distracting websites while you’re trying to work. You can set it to block distractions either for set times and dates that you choose (say, 9 to 5, Monday through Friday) or after a certain time limit (e.g., no more than 30 minutes of Facebook per day). It’s an extremely simple and free browser extension. And sure, you could get around it by simply using a different browser, but it’s still a great tool for helping you with your own self-discipline toward a more productive life.


Strict Workflow

Strict Workflow


Free

Any Pomodoro fans out there? In the 1990s, a new method for working called the Pomodoro Technique had people everywhere buying kitchen timers shaped like tomatoes (hence the name) to time 25 minutes of work followed by a short break. With modern technology, of course, it’s easier to just install a free browser plugin instead. Strict Workflow is the best one that’s loosely based on the Pomodoro Technique. It can also block distracting websites while you’re in a work phase. If you like to experiment with new methods of working more productively, snag this app for help.


Zapier

Zapier


Free; from $20 per month for paid plans

Zapier lets you create automations between apps and services you use, much the same way IFTTT does. For example, you can use Zapier to set up this kind of automation: “Every time I write a new blog post on WordPress, save a copy of that document to Dropbox.” The beauty is that you don’t need to know a lick of code to do it. Zapier differs from IFTTT in that it offers more connectivity among business apps (think Salesforce, JIRA, and the like), whereas IFTTT is better for personal use and smart home hacks. The two have plenty of overlap, however, and both are Editors’ Choice productivity apps.

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