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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Wrike is an award-winning, easy-to-use productivity software trusted by 20,000+ organizations worldwide. The tool is suitable for teams of anywhere from five team members to an unlimited number of members. It’s highly configurable and allows users to customize workflows, dashboards, reports, request forms, and more.
Wrike’s simple interface enables users to switch between Kanban boards, interactive drag-and-drop Gantt charts, and traditional workload views, allowing them to choose how to visualize their priorities.
Wrike is available on Mac and Windows operating systems, and also features task lists, subtasks, schedules, shared workflows, file sharing, and real-time communication and collaboration. Unlock advanced insights with performance reporting tools, resource management and allocation, and more.
Wrike has an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and navigation with distinct spaces, folders, and tasks. Toggle quickly from the home screen between timesheets, dashboards, calendars, reports, and activity stream.
Wrike offers 400+ pre-built native integrations, including integrations with the most popular file management software from Microsoft, Google, and Dropbox, along with sales and marketing software from Salesforce and Marketo.
Pricing starts at $9.80 per user per month. There are four different price points, including a free version and plans which offer the ability to invite free external collaborators.
monday.com is an easy-to-learn project management app that doubles as a productivity tool with key features that that help you manage tasks and the workflows that carry multiple tasks from start to finish. It's a great team productivity 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 project management tool that lets you quickly toggle between multiple views of work even for repetitive tasks(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, set reminders, 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 costs from $8/user/month and comes with a free 14-day trial. They offer a free plan for up to 2 users.
ClickUp is a productivity app that helps you and your team stay aligned on day-to-day tasks, projects, and company goals, among other things. Their platform brings your team together in one app to communicate, collaborate, simplify the work, and get more done.
You can work smarter as a team with real-time chat. Tag individuals or groups, assign comments for action items, and link tasks to ensure nothing gets lost in the daily grind. Stay on track to hit your goals with targets for task completions, numbers, monetary values and more.
Advantage: you can use it in your browser, as an app on your desktop or through its mobile application for both iOS and Android.
ClickUp offers native integrations with Slack, G Suite, Dropbox, and many more tools, as well as over 1,000+ integrations through Zapier.
ClickUp is free with limited storage for an unlimited number of users. Paid plans start at $5/user/month and offer a free-trial.
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).
Kintone is a customizable app platform used by teams at Volvo Trucks North America, Japan Airlines, Shiseido, and over 23,000 organizations worldwide. Their unique approach allows you to build a wide variety of customizable “apps” either from scratch, using templates or from your existing spreadsheets, for data management, business processes, and workflows. Kintone apps can be customized for project management, sales CRM, customer databases, expense reports, shared to-do lists, equipment management, product feedback, and much more.
Kintone lets you build no-code task management apps by dragging and dropping elements that you want to see onto the page: rich text fields, date fields, drop-down menus, number fields with built-in calculations, spaces for attachments, user or group selection menus, related data from other apps, tables, and more.
Once you’ve built the app you want, you can use it to more easily manage whatever data and tasks you and your team need to track. And with custom notifications and reminders as well as detailed permissions settings, your project tracking solution can look and work however you want it to.
What makes Kintone particularly great for project tracking are the features to filter and prioritize tasks by data field or team member to generate custom reports or dashboard views, as well as the ability to automate reminders and handoffs between team members for multi-step workflows.
Kintone’s built-in communication features also allow teams to discuss projects directly in the app and in topic or project-based threads. Dedicated “spaces” organize everything your team needs for your project, including task-tracking apps and searchable conversation threads.
There are so many ways to customize Kintone it can be hard to know where to start. Read the starter blog “What Can You Build with Kintone?” or watch Creating an App from Scratch for a quick look at how the drag-and-drop builder works.
Kintone lets you expand its capabilities with both free native plugins built by the Kintone team as well as integrations with other tools like Slack, Gmail, Google Calendar, Outlook, Tableau, Dropbox, Salesforce, HubSpot, Eventbrite, WordPress, QuickBooks, MailChimp, and many more through a paid plan with Zapier or via API integrations.
Kintone costs $24/user/month with a minimum requirement of 5 users. They offer a 30-day free trial (no credit card required) and discounted prices for nonprofits and educators. Kintone’s team also offers a free custom app build as part of the free trial process.
IFTTT (which stands for “if this, then that”) is the freeway to get all your apps and devices in sync. If any of these productivity apps can make a major difference in your “digital life”, IFTTT is it. The sky is really the limit on this one—IFTTT is free to use and lets you save time and brain cycles by letting you set up automation between your various apps. For example, you set it up so that photos you post on Instagram are automatically saved to Dropbox, or so your workout data is automatically entered in a Google spreadsheet. Using IFTTT, there are endless possibilities to offload and automate tasks of all kinds
IFTTT integrations include everything. This app is designed to sync apps and devices, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tool that it doesn’t integrate with.
IFTTT is available on Android and iOS.
Blink is a communication tool for the unique needs of deskless workers, who, until now, didn’t have the same quality technology as their colleagues in HQ. It's an app that includes workplace messaging, a social media style company Feed for top-down communications, directory, cloud storage, workplace analytics, polls, and a few other useful features.
Blink is built around the concept of workplace messaging as the central functionality, so peer-to-peer direct messaging, group chats, and top-down communications via the company Feed all play an important role. Moderators and admins who post in the company Feed also have the option of turning on and off push notification for each post depending on importance. Blink also features polls, powerful integrations, and digital forms for reporting.
Analytics for admins features prominently through the app: post by post analytics, Org-wide, and Team analytics within the Admin Portal, and Hub analytics that measures interactions and adoption within the document storage and reporting section of the app.
Blink is a straight-out-of-the box SaaS communication software; no technical knowledge is necessary to get started and to invite colleagues to the platform. Its user-friendly, brandable interface is designed with familiar social media style features (think emojis and like buttons) that encourage engagement from employees—even less tech-savvy ones.
You can use existing integrations with 3rd party systems such as Jira, Trello, Office 365, and G-Suite or build new integrations to your existing systems using Blink’s public APIs. Blink supports Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, and you can access Blink via your browser.
Blink costs from $3.40 user/month. They offer a free 14-day trial and you can book a demo through the homepage.
Trello is a Kanban board app that can be used to organize tasks visually. It’s user-friendly, with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to learn. This popular tool can be used to help you visualize your deadlines, items in progress, and completed tasks, enabling you to make informed decisions about what to work on next according to the big picture. It integrates with dozens of other apps, making it a great addition to an established toolkit of communication, file sharing, and productivity apps.
Trello integrations include Slack, Google Drive, Jira, and dozens of other apps for development, productivity, project management, marketing, design, analytics, finance, file management, etc.
Trello offers a freemium account and costs from $9.99 for a business account. It’s available on all operating systems.
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.
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A social media management app for scheduling and tracking social media content
Best for a clean, simple, and easy-to-use interface
Best for managing remote and field teams
Social media maintenance app with campaign automations
Keep track of personal and professional to-dos
Best for social media automation
- Remember The Milk
Organize and categorize tasks, and set corresponding reminders
- Things 3
Best for drag-and-drop task lists
- Focus Booster
A productivity app that makes use of the Pomodoro technique to improve concentration
Best for integration with Salesforce
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.
Related List of Tools: Hive Competitors And Alternatives