If staying focused and on task was easy, everyone would be doing it, and we’d have no reason to write articles on productivity apps or how to not waste time online. But life is long and work is tough. Sometimes, falling out of the groove just happens.
It’s Monday morning. You’ve spent the entire weekend drinking all the drinks, eating all the food, meeting all the people, and having all the fun. Your weekend love interest (what was their name again?) just called an Uber home to wherever the hell they live, and you know it’s time to get up and grind. But where’s the focus? Where’s the ambition? Where’s the drive to get shit done? It’s gone, just like what’s-their-face.
Luckily, being productive and staying focused doesn’t have to be a solo show. There are a lot of things you can do to get back — and stay — in your work groove. We spend so much damn time being distracted by our phones everyday anyway, we find that productivity apps are generally the best way to make sure we stay on track.
What Are Productivity Apps?
What we appreciate most about productivity apps is that they come in all different shapes and sizes, and they all serve different purposes.
Some are geared toward making you spend less time on your phone screen — probably because we’re spending over four hours a day on the damn things — others are all about making sure you’re keeping up with deadlines, making your meetings, and knocking out your daily to-do lists. Others get super granular, helping you take big-sized tasks and deconstruct them into little accomplishments.
The list goes on and on, but the goal of these apps remains the same: to help you improve your workflow, keep your focus and knock out your to-do list in the most efficient way possible.
What Are the Top Productivity Apps?
While we enjoy the broad scope of productivity apps available, we’d be lying if we said we the industry wasn’t a little bit saturated. And like every other saturated market, some of these apps are awesome, but others are straight up trash.
We spent a painstaking amount of time drumming through the fluff so you don’t have to. Here are nine of the best on the market.
Let’s start things off with a little friendly shaming. You want to know just how much time you’re spending looking on your phone or at your computer screen every day? Want to see what apps you’re using, when you’re using them and for how long? You want to be disgusted by the sheer fucking amount of time you spend wasting your time on Instagram or Tinder?
Of course, it’s not all passive. RescueTime can help you set custom goals to help maximize your work schedule, prioritize your daily to-do list and cut down on the things that bog you down without even realizing it. Every penny saved is a penny earned, but every second spent on Bumble is stupid.
ToDoist is our hands-down favorite app on this list because it offers users everything. Not only can you use it to organize daily tasks the second they pop into your head (you can use hashtags to sort different tasks into different project categories, which ToDoist organizes for you), you can also highlight and prioritize daily activities with color-coded priority levels.
You can also set reoccurring alerts to remind yourself to do things like set the trash out every Thursday, call your mother on Sunday mornings or pay your rent when it’s actually due. You can also collaborate with other users on team tasks and projects, from grocery shopping to website and product development nerd shit.
The coolest part about ToDoist is that aside from helping you prioritize every aspect of your daily life, it’ll also give you daily and weekly progress reports to show you where you fell short, where you improved, etc. It’s free for the basic stuff, and premium features will cost you $36/yr. It’s worth every penny.
This tool is exceptionally helpful for a workforce dominated by contractors, freelancers and independent money makers. Like RescueTime, this intuitive little time tracker app will help you keep track of exactly how many hours you worked and what projects you worked on.
If you want to have detailed reports to send over to clients or business managers, or if you just want to know how you’re working — and not working — Toggl will help you get it done.
What makes Toggl completely unique is the fact that it will analyze our habits from previous time entries and make suggestions on when you should work, what you should be doing and what other metrics you can start tracking. It’s the do-all workhorse for professional workhorses.
One of our biggest issues with productivity apps for iPhone and Android devices is that, even if their functionality is simple, their interface and design are lacking. It’s hard to keep things neat and tidy when you don’t know how to use an app, can’t see all its features and have difficulty working your way around it.
That’s where Things 3 comes in. From a design perspective, this calendar app and task manager is considered one of the top productivity apps in the digital world because, aside from being absolutely seamless, it also does a whole hell of a lot.
You can create general to-dos or massage those to-dos into bigger tasks and projects. You can categorize them into different sections (“Work,” “Family,” “Grocery Shopping,” “Misc.” etc.), prioritize them any way you want, and get a general workflow going based on your sections.
We like Things because it also allows users to view their to-dos side by side with their calendars, which makes effective planning easy. You can also specify days, or start your day with the “Today” tab, checking over everything you have for the day.
Hours is another time tracking app specifically geared to help freelancers and contractors track their hours,
and figure out how much time they’re spending on each individual project they have for each of their clients.
Hours uses the old school timer system, which means users can pick designated times to start and stop working at their leisure. It also includes room for breaks so users can actually rest in between grinding. The app also tracks things like hourly pay, tips and mileage to make sure you’re getting every penny you earn, and allows users to enter custom notes of any length with time entries.
It’s essentially an old school time clock for the bare bones worker. But it also features built-in daily, weekly and monthly reports based around your chosen pay schedule, an excellent and detailed tagging and filtering system, reminders and automatic earnings calculations.
Taskful is consistently rated one of the best productivity apps on the web because it’s super well designed and easy to use. What makes it one of our favorites is that aside from being a general task app, it breaks each task down into a series of completed checks. Essentially, as you go through every task, you can mark down different levels of completion, based on certain parameters that you’ve set.
As you knock out your to-dos, your daily progress bar goes up, showing you just how far along you are. The app also sends cute encouraging messages to you throughout the day to remind you to keep pounding away at your list, which is strangely comforting.
You can also sync it with your email apps, which allows it to send you progress reports and task reminders throughout your day as you go along. However, be forewarned — if you’re easily distracted, these constant reminders may get a little distracting over time. All in all, though, we like it a lot.
This is our “no bull shit” productivity app on the list for those who need help curbing their screen addiction. Flipd is an app that essentially allows you to choose certain times to force yourself to unplug from your phone and focus on your tasks.
The cool part about it is that once you set it to “Full Lock,” there’s no way to undo it, even if you turn your phone off and on again.
It’s engineered to help users boost focus and remain engaged in whatever they’re doing — whether it be working, interacting socially, studying, reading, or whatever else you should be doing instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed — and maintain some semblance of technological disconnect while they do it.
You can send notifications to yourself reminding you to flip off for an extended period of time, and they also offer some mindful meditation features like white noises and other soothing sounds to help users re-center themselves and help align their focus.
It’s an incredibly smart little app, and if you need to force yourself to get away from all the bull shit for a little while, it’s perfect.
Another one of the top productivity apps for iPhones, Moment tracks device usage and allows users to set daily limits for the stuff they should and shouldn’t be doing.
It’s real handy in that users can set limits to whatever they want, and the app doesn’t just notify them about when they’ve exceeded their daily limits, but literally floods their screens with painfully annoying alerts and notifications when they try to open those apps again.
It’s also worth noting that Moment has a coaching function that allows users to learn how to modify their daily behavior in small ways in order to condition themselves to use their phones less and focus on the important things — family, life, work, mental health — more. The app also provides detail usage statistics that allow users to see just how they spend their time on looking at a screen.
And, if you have a family or group of friends that can use some time away, the app also allows you to set up “phone-free” times so that you can all disconnect together.
The Mindfulness App
There are countless studies out there that demonstrate that meditation for even just a few minutes a day can significantly improve your focus and attention span. The Mindfulness App is one of the most popular meditation apps out there because it offers everything from guided meditation sessions to exclusive content libraries to help you find all the Zen you need.
Some people prefer meditating from bed in the morning, while others find time to get theirs in inbetween working. Either way, The Mindfulness App has what you need.
Want to a deeper dive into the topic of wellness? The Dropcast got you covered.