These days there's an app for everything. They can range from the truly weird (like Nothing – literally a screen that shows the word "nothing" on it and does, well… absolutely nothing), to the utterly infuriating, yet fascinating (try Do Not Press The Red Button, where you seemingly have to avoid pressing a big red button. Why? No reason!).
But in this blog post, we're going to look at 15 great apps that can boost your productivity and, hopefully, make your life that little bit easier!
Asana is just one of the multitude of project management apps that have entered the market in recent years. But it is particularly brilliant at what it does because of the flexibility and simplicity that it offers. The vast number of features means that you can set up projects using a variety of different formats to suit your unique team needs – from simple lists and notes to more complex Kanban Boards and Calendar templates. You can even use it to set up Agile and Scrum workflows.
It can take some time to get used to the vast range of features the app offers. But, once you do, you'll find it so much easier to track, delegate and prioritize your team's tasks and workflow, all of which can significantly reduce the time you spend on email updates, reports and meetings.
And if all that’s not enough, the Asana developers have even been tinkering with new "hack" features to make your life even easier. For example, you can snooze your inbox for an hour, add a keyboard shortcut for your favorite feature, or try an Extra Delight – a surprise celebration when you complete a task.
If you're anything like me, you've probably experienced days in the office when, no matter what you do, you just can't seem to focus. Everywhere you look there's a distraction – sales calls, loud meetings, the printer, your neighbor's terrible choice of music (yes, you can still hear it through their headphones!).
Well, worry no more about such things, because the people behind Focus@Will reckon they've cracked it. The app promises to help you to "focus, reduce distractions, maintain your productivity, and retain information" using a powerful combination of music and neuroscience. In fact, according to the app's developers, it can increase your focus time by up to 400 percent!
It does this by giving you access to an exclusive library of instrumental music that has been edited and curated to prevent your mind from getting distracted and losing focus. You can choose from several different music channels, or take a short quiz (based on the Big Five Personality Traits Model) that automatically curates a playlist based on your personality type.
The Premium version of the app is ad-free and also allows you to set session timers, skip tracks, and track your progress.
Want to know where all your time goes in a day? Then Rescue Time may be able to help. It works in the background on your computer, phone and tablet to show you how you spend your time. For example, how much you spend on specific apps, websites or projects.
This can help you to optimize your time and use it more effectively. It also enables you to pinpoint the times of day when you are most productive, and identify the apps and websites that distract you the most, so that you can avoid them when necessary.
You can use the free Lite version of the app to track your time across sites and set goals, but the full paid version gives you access to a number of additional perks, such as a "distraction blocker" feature, real-time alerts, and offline time tracking.
If you want to try something a little bit different and a little bit "off the wall" to save time, Lightdogs might just be the solution. It uses gamification to prevent you from getting distracted by your phone.
It works by giving you points, or "joules," for time spent off your phone, which you can then use to build up your own pack of genetically engineered superdogs – otherwise known as Lightdogs. You can use your joules to hatch new pups, evolve them into adults, and breed them to create hybrids. And there's plenty of scope, with over 100 unique specimens for you to collect.
You can set timers for how long you want to spend away from your phone. But if you open an app before the timer is up you lose your points and have to start again.
It's a bit of a struggle to get behind the idea of Lightdogs. It seems counterintuitive to stop yourself getting distracted by your phone, only to go back and play a game on your phone. But, ultimately, it does encourage you to spend time away from your device, which should help you to free up more time for work or relaxation.
Online voting tool Vevox allows you to create and publish live polls that participants can vote on instantly using their phones or laptops. Live polls are a great way to boost engagement in meetings and presentations, but they also provide a simple and effective way to gather instant feedback from co-workers.
Vevox is easy to use. Users can access a Vevox session via a URL and by entering a unique session ID. You don't need the app to participate – although, if you're a regular user, it's probably a good idea to get it to save yourself some time!
You can then vote on live polls, ask questions, participate in surveys, and give feedback. What's particularly great about the app is that people can share ideas or comments anonymously, which can encourage them to share their thoughts honestly and openly. You can then organize the feedback you receive into an insight report, which can help you to analyze responses and take more informed actions.
Apps like 15Five aim to remove the need for practices such as annual performance reviews, and replace them with a review system that gives a fuller picture of employee performance. It's based on the 5-15 reporting system, in which reports should take just 15 minutes to write and 5 to review.
The app collates feedback by encouraging a 360 Degree Feedback system, which allows employees and managers to give praise, flag challenges, and view progress on key objectives. All of this information is added together to provide a rounded view of an employee's quarterly performance.
Team leaders can also use the app to plan their one-on-ones and integrate OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) into weekly check-ins. Other features include Pulse Checks, which allow you to make quick assessments of how people are feeling, and High Fives and @mentions, which allow colleagues to give praise to their peers.
Although the app works well on desktop, functionality appears to be limited and occasionally temperamental on mobile devices. However, 15Five is very much a work in progress, with new features and better functionality to be added in the future. It's also worth noting that apps like 15Five will likely become more commonplace in forward-thinking organizations, as businesses continue to digitize their HR processes. Definitely one to watch!
One of the key trends in the workplace of late has been "wellness" and, in particular, mental wellness. Luckily there are plenty of apps out there designed to help improve your mental health using mindfulness and meditation.
Calm claims to be the leading app for meditation and mindfulness, with over 50 million downloads to date. And it's true, it does stand out from the crowd – mainly because of the sheer volume of content that it offers. This includes over 100 guided meditations, a huge library of music designed to improve relaxation and focus, and a range of Sleep Stories narrated by famous actors (such as Matthew McConaughey and Stephen Fry) that supposedly improve the quality of your sleep.
You can try the app free for 30 days on the web or for seven days on your phone. After that, though, you'll have to pay $12.99 per month. This may seem a bit pricey, but if you meditate regularly and are a fan of mindfulness, it's worth it for the wealth and variety of content that Calm has to offer.
If you're not a fan of mindfulness or meditation, but you still want to improve your mental health, ThinkUp could be a great alternative. It aims to help you think more positively using affirmations. You can choose from a range of affirmations that suit you, from ones that will help you to quit smoking, to ones that are designed to boost self-esteem or relieve stress.
Once you've chosen the affirmations that you like, you can record them in your own voice, set them to music and play them back when needed from your own playlist. You do need to speak loudly and clearly when recording your affirmations, as it can be difficult to hear your voice over the music. But, if you prefer, you can switch off the music entirely.
Repetition is key if you want affirmations to truly work. You can set up daily reminders to listen back to your playlist at a time that suits you.
While the app is free to download on the iPhone and Android devices, if you want to add more than three affirmations to your list, you'll need to upgrade to a Premium subscription, which costs $12.99 per month.
Evernote has been around for some time now, but it continues to be one of the most comprehensive note-taking apps on the market. It's an excellent platform to store all your notes in one place.
Evernote's best feature by far is its wide range of templates. Meeting notes and performance reviews, To-Do Lists, strategy and marketing plans, and even gratitude journal pages – Evernote caters to pretty much all your note-taking needs. You can also use it to capture and store other media that you want to keep, such as presentation slides, PDFs, web pages, and even handwritten notes.
The Basic free version of the app is perfect for personal use. But, if you use it a lot you may soon find that you run out of storage space (which is limited to 60MB). If this happens you can upgrade to the Premium version for $7.99 per month, which will increase your storage allowance to 10GB.
If you want to use Evernote within your team, you can also sign up for the Business plan, which is priced at $14.99 per user per month. This also gives you access to a whole range of collaboration tools, such as setting up team projects and workflows, and virtual bulletin boards, among others.
If writing is a key part of your role, or if you simply want to improve your writing skills, Blurt could be a useful tool. It encourages you to focus when you write – for example, by hiding your interface so that you concentrate solely on your words. But it also helps you to improve your own writing style by identifying hard-to-read sentences and suggesting edits.
Another great feature is Writing Sessions, which allows you to set up writing sessions based on time or word count. You can even commit yourself to weekly word counts or set up email reminders to write.
Blurt is definitely worth a look – at least for the free 15-day free trial. After that you'll need to sign up for a subscription, which starts at $14.99 per month. But if you're a dedicated writer or a budding author it could help you to keep your work on track.
Got some dead time and don't know what to do with it? Why not fill it with a "book in blinks" – a bitesize text or audio version of a top nonfiction title that's been compressed into an easily digestible, 15-minute session.
You can choose from over 3,000 nonfiction titles, in a range of genres including science, entrepreneurship, personal development, and creativity.
Although the current library of titles is still relatively small, 40 new titles are added every month. And the app is growing, with 11 million users already signed up! Accessibility is also easy. You can use Blinkist on your phone, your tablet, desktop, and on your Kindle.
You can sign up for a seven-day free trial, but this only gives you access to one free title each day. If you want unlimited access, you'll need to set up a subscription, which can be paid annually ($79.99), or monthly ($12.99 per month).
If you're anything like me, you probably get sent loads of links to really interesting articles that you mean to read, but somehow you just don't get around to it. Then, when you finally do have some spare time, you've forgotten the article name or lost the link. Well, fear not, because Pocket is here to help.
You can use it to save articles, videos and stories from any online publication, page or app. So, when you finally do get a minute to yourself, you'll have no problem finding the information you want.
The app is available across all devices, which means you can save links on your desktop web browser and access them later from your phone or tablet. It's available for free, though there is a Premium version, which is ad-free and includes additional features such as full-text search and premium fonts. This is available for a monthly fee of $4.99, or an annual fee of $44.99.
Mind Mapping is a great way to record information, identify links between ideas and facts, and enhance creative problem-solving. So, if you're stuck for ideas or want to brainstorm some new concepts, you might like to use Simple Mind. You can use it to design your own Mind Maps all on one page, which you can share across multiple platforms, including Mac, Windows, iPhone and iPad, and Android devices.
The free version of the app gives you access to a range of Mind Map styles. But, if you really want to get creative, you'll probably need the full version of the app, which is priced from $6.99 on the iPhone App Store (prices vary depending on device type). The full version opens up a whole range of customizable options, and allows you to add other media to your Mind Maps, such as PDFs, images, links, and photos.
"Disrupt your thinking. Activate your imagination. Unleash your best ideas." These are the three core objectives that underpin creativity app, Brainsparker. It works by providing you with Brainsparker Cards, which act like creativity prompts to get you to start thinking about solutions to problems you might be facing.
The app itself is a great idea, and there's a fun element of interactivity – for instance, you have to shake your device to shuffle your back of Brainsparker cards. The problem is the prompts themselves. These can sometimes be quite funny – "eat chocolate," for instance – but they're sometimes a bit too general to actually be helpful – "join the dots" or "rearrange things," for example. Occasionally, however, there are some real gems that may actually help you to think "outside the box" – "what’s not needed?" for instance, and "what if you could not fail?"
Although the app is free, it does offer in-app purchases if you want to unlock new packs of Brainsparker cards. These include more targeted creative prompts. For example, there's a Blogger pack for budding writers, and a Positive pack, which provides 150 affirmations to help improve your frame of mind. You can also unlock creativity quotes and additional innovation cards, which cost 99 cents each.
Which productivity apps do you use? Share your recommendations in the Comments, below!
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