There’s a growing body of research out there that shows how technology may be making our lives more stressful and distracted. We’ve put together a list of productivity tools to help you reverse that trend in 2018.
Of course, what keeps you from being productive may not be the same as what keeps me from being productive. Whatever your challenge(s), the odds are good someone’s come up with an app that purports to solve it. In this post, we round up ten tools to help boost your productivity in the new year, broken down by category.
According to a 2014 survey from Salary.com, 89% of American workers report reported feeling distracted at work, with more than 50% of those respondents saying that they waste an hour or more each day. If this sounds like you, here are some apps designed to help you cut down on distractions and get down to business.
- Momentum (iOS and Mac) is a barebones app designed to help you build and strengthen good habits by forming “chains” or streaks of good deeds. For every day you do what you’re supposed to (floss, write, call your mom) your chain will increase. That’s pretty much it. As simple as it sounds, though, there’s something strangely satisfying about keeping a chain going. Don’t believe it? Just ask Jerry Seinfeld.
- Focus (Mac) is a highly configurable menu bar tool that lets you block distracting websites and apps with a single click. You can create custom lists of things to block, schedule blocks of productivity time (and breaks), and synchronize it across other Macs.
- FocusWriter (Linux, Windows, Mac) is a minimalist word processor that blocks other apps and websites and lets you set timers and alarms and saves your work automatically. That’s pretty much it, which may be exactly what distracted writers are looking for.
The increasingly digital and distributed nature of modern work can make it difficult to stay on top of things. How do you know how far along a project is, or who’s responsible for getting it over the next hurdle? Fortunately, there are a number of great options for managing and simplifying your workflows.
- Trello is a deceptively simple, yet powerful way for individuals and teams to keep track of what’s going on. It’s easy and satisfying to move cards from “in progress” to “done” but that same interface also makes it a great way to keep track of personal tasks and goals.
- Asana is a workflow management tool that places a special emphasis on routine tasks rather than one-off projects. Just create a template for something you need to do regularly (create a weekly report, write a blog post, etc.) and you can quickly and easily replicate this task day-to-day or week-to-week. Another feature lets you turn unread emails into tasks which you can then rename, add to projects, and assign deadlines.
- IFTTT (short for “IF This, Then That”) is a nifty tool that lets you string together tasks involving different services into easy but powerful applets. For instance, you can create an applet that creates a Slack message in a particular channel whenever you finish a task in Asana.
Taking and Organizing Notes
It’s hard to improve upon a good pen and notebook, but as more and more of our work migrates to apps and the cloud, it can be useful to have all of your thoughts in one, easily searchable place. That’s where this next batch of apps comes in.
- Evernote is an app you’ve almost certainly heard of, and despite some controversy over the service’s recent price hikes it remains the king of note taking apps. It has a ton of features, so you can always customize it to fit your workflow. A few of the cooler features include the Web Clipper extension, the ability to merge (or even encrypt) notes, and the nested tags feature.
- Zoho Notebook lets you create different types of notes (called “cards”) depending on what you’re doing, from regular old text to checklists, sketches, videos, and more. It also syncs across the cloud and all your devices and comes with a slick UI as well.
Decluttering Your Inbox
Plenty of apps have tried to kill it, but email hasn’t gone away. So whether you’re going for Inbox Zero or Inbox 5,000, here are a couple of tools to keep you on top of your email.
- SaneBox (Mac/iOS, Android, Windows) analyzes your email history and re-sorts your inbox into important messages and stuff that can wait until later. It can also set reminders so you don’t forget to reply to important messages.
- Microsoft Outlook (iOS and Android) is actually a rebranding of the beloved inbox app Acompli. What sets Outlook apart from other email apps is its Focused Inbox, which presorts your email into messages you’re likely to find important (i.e., those directed at you by real people) and everything else. It supports a slew of email services, including iCloud and Gmail, and synchronizes with file management services like Dropbox and Google Drive.
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