We’re using all sorts of productivity apps designed to help us do more with less effort.
From freelancers to managers to entrepreneurs, if you’re in digital work, you’ve probably tried out some form of productivity software to boost your work. What is productivity software? Productivity tools cover a range from simple to-do lists to productivity tracker tools that measure how much you get done on a given day to desktop tools that eliminate distraction to increase your focus.
When thinking about apps that’ll work well for you, remember that the best organization apps or best reminder apps are only the “best” if they help you, in your specific case, to do the right work in a way that consistently works well for you.
In short, the best productivity apps are tools that help you effectively get sh*t done.
But how do you put these productivity apps to use? Below, I talk about how to prioritize and become more productive by being strategic in planning your time and activities. You’ll also find a comprehensive overview of each of the productivity apps and what it helps you do.
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monday.com is an easy-to-learn productivity tool that helps you manage tasks and the workflows that carry the task from start to finish. It’s a great tool for getting a clear view of the work that needs to be done and the status of each task at a glance.
monday.com is vaguely similar to a spreadsheet at its core, but a much nicer-looking one that lets you quickly toggle between multiple views of work (view as a list, on a map, on a Kanban board, in a spreadsheet, and other views). It also provides alerts, notifications, and the ability to attach files and communicate with colleagues.
monday.com’s features include a customizable task board for managing task status, assignee, due date, hours spent, etc. Users can upload and attach files to cards, make comments, mention teammates, and more. You can measure your productivity through reporting dashboards that can collect data from multiple boards.
monday.com’s integrations include Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Dropbox, Typeform and many more, accessible via Zapier. For help setting up integrations, the company’s customer support is available 24/7 by phone or email.
monday.com pricing starts at $17/month for two users.
Todoist is similar to Wunderlist, providing a simple interface for creating, sharing, and prioritizing tasks. You can collaborate by sharing out your lists and assigning tasks to others, and you can use labels and priority tags to bring organization to your task lists. They have also rolled out a smart rescheduling feature that suggests an optimal time to schedule tasks that need to be pushed out to a future date based upon past behavior and what you’ve already got on your plate.
Todoist integrations include Google Drive, Google Maps, Dropbox, Apple Maps, Calendar Sync, Slack, Zapier, and hundreds more apps.
Todoist offers a free basic plan, but if you need more options you can upgrade for $29/user/year. It is available for MacOS, Android, Windows, iOS.
Zapier moves info between your web apps automatically, similarly to IFTTT, so you can focus on your most important work. You can use this to create automated workflows from any app—for example, you can set it up to automatically save attachments from incoming emails in a Dropbox folder and then create an alert in Slack reminding you to check out the file. This tool is designed to help you delegate the more mundane actions of managing tasks so that you can focus on more important work!
Zapier integrations include just about every app under the sun because that’s what it’s designed to do (Google Drive, Gmail, Trello, Twitter, Slack, MailChimp, and hundreds more).
Zapier costs from $20/month and is available on all operating systems.
If you’re doing a lot of task management and delegation within a team, Slack is a best-in-class tool for team collaboration. Slack provides a platform for you to communicate with team members-this includes private chats and group channels, file sharing, tagging and mentions, and loads of integrations with productivity apps in order to sync up your activities. You can use this tool to break out of endless email threads and enjoy a more transparent, easy-to-follow flow of communication and resources between you and your collaborators.
Slack integrations include Teamline, Workstreams, ClickUp, Asana, Sentry, SimplePoll, Trello, and dozens of development, management, communication, finance, media, marketing, design, wellness, and other apps.
Slack offers a free version with limited functioning, and if you want to upgrade, it costs $6.67/user/month. It is available on macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, Windows Phone (beta).
Similar to Missinglettr, Buffer is designed to save time managing social media, letting you schedule posts, analyze and track their performance, and manage multiple social media accounts from within a single interface. For any business that struggles to keep up with social media or to maintain a consistent presence, you can build campaigns in advance and automate many of your social media activities with this tool.
Buffer integrates well with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram.
Buffer offers a free plan for up to 3 social media accounts and 10 scheduled posts. Anything more than that costs from $15/month. It is available for iOS, Android, and as a Chrome extension.
If you struggle to keep up with your social media plan, Missinglettr is a great tool for offloading and automating some of the tasks involved with maintaining your social media. Missinglettr scrapes your website for new content and automatically generates a social media campaign, which you can customize with text, images, and hashtags (similar to Buffer). You can choose from their pre-made drip campaigns (6-month, 12-month, blast, etc) and simply toggle on and off the social media platforms, you’d like each post to be shared on.
Missinglettr integrates with your blog and your social media accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter in order to automate your social media drip campaigns.
Missinglettr has a free version if you have one site, and for more sites, it costs from $15/month. It’s a SaaS solution, so it’s available anywhere on the web, but there’s no mobile app (yet?).
Upflow is designed to automate some of the burden of keeping your social media accounts active. This tool help you curate content, putting your campaigns on autopilot, automatically add the right hashtags, and schedule social media content across all major platforms. The analytics features on this social media tool are fairly basic but provide useful charts for tracking engagement rate and seeing how your campaigns perform over time.
Upflow integrations include social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, and its competitor social media scheduling app, Buffer
Upflow has a free Hobby version, and the paid plans cost from $29/month.
Another way to delegate some of your social media-related tasks is to employ other people to promote your content for you. QuuuPromote is an app for connecting with influencers who are paid to share your content (articles, videos, podcasts, infographics) across various social media platforms. When using this tool, you still have to do some of the grunt work to set up your campaigns. However, once you’ve set it up (your related links, relevant topics, etc), other people help in sharing out your content, hopefully reaching a wider audience than you could reach on your own.
QuuuPromote costs from $40/month .
9. Just Say No
Just Say No is one of the more unconventional productivity apps—this tool is designed to help you “say no” to tasks or habits that you need a little help turning off. This app helps you set up goals for getting rid of pesky habits and set yourself up for success with inspirational quotes and images. It even allows you to set up shortcuts to reaching out to friends who can keep you accountable to your goals. Whether it’s saying “no” to drinking, nail-biting, or impulse buying, or staying at the office late, Just Say No provides a platform to track your progress and your money saved by breaking bad habits.
Just Say No is free and is available on iOS.
- Free 15 day trial
- From $49.99 for Mac, $9.99 for iPhone and watch $19.99 for iPad macOS 10.11+, iOS 10+
10. Things 3
The productivity app Things from Cultured Code has undergone several iterations, evolving into one of the best organization apps out there, with a beautiful aesthetic that simply feels good to use. Things 3 isn’t a productivity tracker, per se, because it doesn’t really attempt to measure or analyze your ability to cross things off your to-do list. Instead, this is a dynamic to-do list app with an intuitive drag-and-drop organization and a refreshingly simple interface that allows you to create and organize your task lists in whatever way makes the most sense to you.
This top Productivity app is fully integrated with all the latest macOS technologies: Touch Bar, Today Widget, Calendars, Siri Reminders, Share Extension, Handoff, and AppleScript. If you need more integrations, use Zapier to connect with 1000s of other apps, including Trello, Gmail, Slack, Evernote, Asana, Jira, and the list goes on.
Things 3 is available for macOS 10+ and iOS 10+ and it costs $9.99 for iPhone and watches, $19.99 for iPad, and $49.99 for Mac.
Summary Of The Best Productivity Apps
Other Productivity Tools
I haven’t had a chance to review all of these tools in depth, but here are a few more to check out if the ones featured in this review don’t fit your needs:
Productivity Apps Selection Criteria
When you look at productivity software, it’s important to keep one thing top of mind: because productivity relies a lot on your attitudes and personal habits, the productivity tool itself is only so effective.
That said, when we reviewed these tools, we used the following selection criteria in this list of apps for productivity:
- User Experience: Is the interface simple and is the app’s system easy to learn? Do the features clutter the app, or are they useful? We only chose apps that are truly easy to use, without adding hassle!
- Organization and Prioritization: For to-do list apps, does the productivity app have a clear system for organizing and reorganizing tasks? For marking priorities and managing the most important tasks?
- Accessibility: It is available on multiple operating systems? There are several Mac productivity apps out there that aren’t available on Android, such as Slite. However, we tried to stick with apps that are available across more devices.
- Reporting: What kinds of reporting features does it include? Can you track time spent on tasks, compare productivity over time, or use analytics to measure whether it’s actually producing good results for you?
- Integrations: Does it integrate with some of the other best organization apps, best reminder apps, productivity tracker apps, etc? We look for apps that sync with other tools in order to automate as much of your task management as possible.
- Price: Does the price point make sense for the benefit that the app delivers? In most cases, you can use a freemium version for personal use, and paid plans tend to cost around a reasonable $6/month.
How To Be Effective & Productive
Too often, we focus on productivity as a question of volume: how much am I making, and how quickly? To truly do impactful work, we have to reposition our thoughts on productivity: it’s actually about making better use of your time.
How do you make better use of your time?
First, we have to work out the most productive ways we can use our time. Stop and ask yourself:
- What’s the impact of me not doing this seemingly urgent thing right now? (Because that urgent thing is actually probably not that important!)
- What are my highest value activities? What’s essential?
- What can I (and only I) do that, if done well, will make a real difference?
A good way to answer these questions is by using a priority matrix to map out tasks according to their level of urgency and importance. I like to use the matrix below, based on the Eisenhower Matrix:
Eisenhower Matrix Explanation
A simple breakdown of this chart tell us how to approach a task:
Priority #1: It’s Urgent And Important. Do it.
Your top tasks need the “do it now” rule. Along the same lines, if you see a task that’ll take less than 2 minutes to do, just get it done right away (Why? Because it’ll take more time to put it on your to-do list and then schedule and prioritize it).
Starting a high-priority task and persisting with that task until it is 100% complete is the true test of your character. It’s not easy, but it’s how you’re going to be productive. This takes self-discipline, but we can make it easier on ourselves with a few productivity tools.
Priority #2: It’s Not Urgent But Still Important. Decide on it.
If something is important but not necessarily urgent, you need to take a moment to decide on a proper plan for dealing with it. Stop getting sidetracked—plan to do the important stuff properly.
We can find ourselves feeling totally overwhelmed because we’re being pulled in too many directions – it feels like there’s too much on our plate and no way to keep everyone happy. In order to make decisions that make the most sense for us, our team, and our projects, we need to have a clear view of all of our tasks, priorities, and progress.
The following productivity apps are especially helping prioritize tasks—for checking what’s in the pipeline, tracking progress, and providing all the information to make solid decisions as we manage our work.
Priority #3: It’s Urgent But Not Important. Delegate It.
Some people have an easy time delegating tasks, while others feel a really strong impulse to just “do it myself”. However hard it may be to offload tasks to other people, it’s really pretty simple to hand off tasks to a machine. There’s tons of productivity apps that we can use to do more with less time by adding more automation to our workflows, letting an algorithm handle the busy work.
Priority #4: It’s Not Urgent And Also Not Important. Delete it!
Finally, we can sometimes be more effective by doing less. There are endless opportunities (and plenty of productivity apps to help you) to say “yes” to great ideas. At the same time, being able to carry them out requires you to say “no” to the right things. Learn to set boundaries and say no.
It’s great to be nice and kind and help people out. The problem is, we don’t always have the time. That leaves us wide open opportunity to under-delivering or not delivering at all. You’re not going to do anyone any favours if you commit to something you can’t actually deliver your best work on.
And yes, there are productivity apps that you can use to move tasks off your plate and develop boundaries by giving you a system for just saying “no”.
At the end of each day, spend 10 minutes planning out what your day will look like tomorrow—what will you do, decide, delegate, and delete?
Then, have a look at the productivity apps in this overview. I’ve chosen ones that can help you carry out the important work of being effective with your time by automating, tracking, syncing, and reminding—leaving you with more time to do the work that matters most, and do it efficiently!
What Do You Think?
What productivity apps do you use to stay organized and effective? Do you think these are useful, or do you prefer to use other prioritization methods? Share your thoughts on the types of tools we can be using to be truly productive.