Whether you need them for a better organization, to track your productivity or help you manage your team’s productivity, note and to do apps and productivity tracking apps are great to become more productive, more focused and waste less time. Besides apps like Evernote or Google drive, there are the best productivity apps of 2017, with a productivity toolkit for everyone, in the form of an Android or iOS productivity app.
Different people organize themselves in different ways, so choosing the best productivity app depends on the kind of person you are. It is therefore important to know what you want from your app and what features are important to you, otherwise you will get lost in the variety of existing apps. To help you find your productivity toolkit, we have compiled a guide explaining the most important features that should be taken into account when choosing an organizing or productivity tracking app.
There are basically two kinds of productivity apps, providing different services, due to their specific goals. Some productivity apps aim to help you organize your tasks and help you keep track of what you're supposed to be doing, through, for example, to do lists and notes in a calendar. Other apps want to challenge you to work harder and increase your productivity by tracking your working habits or your productivity over time, so that you know for how long you worked on what. In the following we present the most important features for both kind of productivity apps.
1.1 Productivity apps to organize and manage tasks
To help you organize your tasks, organization apps provide different useful features. Note and to do apps usually allow you to sort tasks in your lists by using various criteria, for example by deadline or by priority, or organize tasks into projects or folders. Within most apps you will also have the possibility to label your tasks taking into account the location and/or the type of activity, for example: home, work, errand, phone call and set a priority either for the task, list or folder. To help you find your lists or tasks, organization apps often have a search function. Simple organization apps are, for example, Things (iOS), Clear and Google Keep.
Some apps provide features for team management or are specifically designed for workplaces, allowing team members to add and edit tasks, assign tasks, and add comments. Other useful features for team and work organization are task and list sharing options as well as the option to attach long notes to your tasks. Attaching long notes is especially helpful when you need to write down a lot of information about a task. Apps that provide these features are Evernote, Wunderlist, Asana, Basecamp 3 and Trello. Many apps that offer team organization features will also offer productivity tracking features, like goal tracking, tracking the status of tasks or even the time spent on tasks.
1.2 Apps with productivity tracking
Apps with productivity tracking usually also have organization features and offer additional features that help you improve your productivity. For instance, these apps allow you to set your goals and track your progress. You can add tasks for goals, set deadlines for the goal or the tasks that need to be completed in order to reach the goal and get reports to see how close you are to achieving them. To help you keep track, some apps allow you to mark the status of your tasks, such as "active", "postponed", “complete”, etc. Time tracking features allow you to keep track of the time spent on a task by giving reports and/or sending notifications to tell you how much time you have left (Get Shit Done!, Toodledo Gold, RE.minder).
Some apps even provide push notifications (Wunderlist, Asana), which means that you get alerts on your device even when the app is closed, while other apps provide periodic alerts, allowing you to set an alert that reminds you of your task every 10 or 20 minutes, until you have completed it.
Did it ever happen to you that you forgot about a task and remembered just before the deadline? For this cases apps like Evernote, iProcrastinate and Wunderlist Pro would be very useful, since they send a reminder when a task is due. Some apps even send reminders via e-mail, in case you are away from your phone. Another useful feature is the location based reminder, that sends a reminder for a task when you reach a certain location (for example, you can set the app to send you a reminder to walk the dog when you get home or call someone when you arrive at a place). Apps that provide this feature are for example: Google Keep, Any.do and Apple Reminders. If you are someone who often gets distracted by websites or social media, apps like Freedom or StayFocusd might be interesting for you, since you can actively block the sites you are frequently visiting and that distract you from your work.
If you are really serious about boosting your productivity, there are apps that go a step forward in terms of tracking your work. The Productivity Challenge Timer, for example, will let you lose or earn rankings, depending on your performance. It lets you set the time for a work session, at a minimum of 10 minutes, and you are not supposed to pause, be interrupted or finish the session earlier, trying to get you to work harder. It also tracks your productivity over time, informing you during which days of the week and hours of the day you are most productive.
The more features an app has the more complicated it gets, therefore a minimalist design is a useful aspect for keeping a good overview. It is aesthetically pleasing and results in a simpler and easier to use interface. Apps with a more minimalistic design are, for example: Any.do, Todoist Premium and OneNote. Some apps allow you to customize the design by choosing different themes or colours, for example Any.do or TickTick. If personalization is important to you, apps like Toodledo Gold or Evernote might be interesting, since they allow you to add widgets to the home screen, enabling you to have more flexibility and to see information at a glance, without going into the app.
When choosing an app, the first thing you need to check is whether the app is compatible with your device. Most apps are compatible with Android and iOS, while with the Windows phone compatibility it gets a bit trickier. Some apps allow you to sync your data to standard calendar applications, such as Apple’s Calendar or Google Calendar, which can be handy when you want data, for example, from a team management app on your personal calendar app. When it comes to workplace organization or tasks that require lots of writing, apps with a cloud syncing feature (Wunderlist, Asana, Any.do) or the option to export files to e-mail are very useful.
Do you like visualizations and handwritten notes? Then apps, like Evernote and Asana, that allow you to add images and attach files might be interesting for you, enabling you to take photos of your handwritten notes, drawings or drafts and add them to the app. Images can be edited and the handwritten notes are searchable, thanks to the character recognition algorithm. If you work a lot on documents, the option to attach files to the app might be an interesting feature. Apps, like Google drive allow you to easily upload and download any file, share and structure files and folders and view different kinds of documents, especially with google products.