There is, put simply, a ton of crap to get done. Keeping track of all of it can be a real nightmare, which is why you may want to set your sights on a productivity app.
Increasing your productivity means something different to everyone. Maybe you often feel overwhelmed by the tasks in front of you and want a way to sort them into categories. Maybe you want a to-do list that’s better than a Google Doc. Maybe you want to split tasks into smaller, more manageable goals: a method that makes big projects seem less daunting and can also Speaking of distractions, maybe you want to decrease the time you spend scrolling through social media during the workday and increase the time you spend working.
Whatever your needs, there’s likely a productivity app that’ll give you a little boost — or at least some insights into your current behavior.
What is a productivity app?
For the purposes of this list, we’re defining productivity apps as tools to help individuals spend their time according to their own priorities, whether those are work-related, hobby-related, or just a general decrease in social media use or screen time. There are also productivity apps available for business use — even versions of some of the tools on this list! — but we focus on personal productivity options here.
Most of the options on this list are available for iOS, Android, and desktop. Only one — Stayfocusd — is a browser extension; the rest are downloadable apps. Our top productivity tool, Todoist, is cloud-based, which means it syncs across multiple devices. If you work across several operating systems or expect to switch frequently between a desktop app and a mobile app, this might be a good option for you.
Free versions vs. premium versions
While the “21 days to form a habit” thing is , it does take time to get used to new practices — and to figure out what actually works and what you’re just honeymooning with.
With that in mind, we generally recommend starting with the free version of your tool of choice for a month or so, then moving up to the premium version if it has features that you feel would improve your experience.
Some tools on this list, like the list-making tool Do!, require a one-time purchase to get rid of ads. That’s generally worth it. Ads are extremely annoying (and not good, we surmise, for productivity).
It’s important to note that even the best productivity apps are not an instant panacea for all your work-related problems. Even the tools you’ll end up liking will probably require troubleshooting and tweaks along the way as you figure out your ideal workflow. Give it time. And don’t forget to take breaks, hydrate, and prioritize sleep — you can’t app your way out of basic needs.
Here are our picks for the best productivity apps.
Streamlined UX • Cloud-based • Premium version is fairly affordable
Limited to 80 projects in free version
Both the free and premium versions of Todoist are great for time management, but the premium version will get you a smorgasbord of features.
Todoist is the mother of all to-do list apps, with plenty of features to play with in the premium version.
- Free version: Yes
- Premium version (paid monthly): $4 per month
- Premium version (paid annually): $3 per month
Reviewers praise the productivity app for its clean look and ease of use, as well as its ability to sync between devices and apps. “It’s easy to navigate and use and the fact that it works on all my devices and syncs the creation and completion of the tasks is one of the things that helps make it a must have app!” writes one App Store reviewer. “I have been using it for a few weeks and find myself appreciating the native features that makes entering tasks a breeze.”
The first tier of Todoist is free, but a premium account costs $36 per year (billed annually) or $48 per year (billed monthly). In the premium version, users can invite other users to collaborate on tasks, set reminders, and write comments, among other things. If you’re new to the tool, we recommend using the free version for a while, then bumping yourself up a level if you love it. For the number of features you get, it seems to be a pretty good value.
Plenty of people use Todoist in conjunction with Getting Things Done, a book and task management system by consultant David Allen. If you’re struggling to make sense of the tool, consider approaching it from that angle.
Best website blocker
Easy to use • Useful “nuclear option” feature • Highly customizable
Can’t set time limits for individual websites • Only works on Google Chrome
Though it does have limitations, Stayfocusd is a solid website blocker for the good-faith procrastinator.
Perusing r/relationships instead of working? Stayfocusd will help you stay off distracting social media and on top of your actual tasks.
- Free version: Yes
What sets Stayfocusd apart is its “Nuclear Option” feature, which lets you block a website for a certain amount of time regardless of the hours you’ve selected for unobstructed browsing. It’s called the Nuclear Option because it’s irreversible — once Twitter is blocked for 24 hours, it’s blocked. There’s no getting around it.
Otherwise, Stayfocusd’s major downside is that it’s easily overridden. It only works in Chrome, so if you really want to give into distractions, all you have to do is open another browser. But you’d never do that. We have faith in you.
Best for accountability
Fun premise • Effective motiva
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