If you’ve spent any reasonable amount of time surfing the internet, you will know that online productivity apps are a dime a dozen these days. You may even have tried several already, possibly in the hopes that some magical productivity software – rather than sheer will-power and solid self-discipline – would save you from your incessant procrastination and spark you into “producing like a pro”.
Unfortunately, productivity apps (also known as productivity tools) are not magical, and they certainly won’t do your work for you. The good news, however, is that for all the thousands of different tools out there, there is a handful of genuinely useful apps that can dramatically increase productivity in all aspects of your life. And best of all, most of these apps are free!
So without wasting any of your precious time, here are the six best productivity apps guaranteed to make your life easier by preventing information overload, organizing what’s on your mind, and increasing productivity in almost any situation you can imagine.
What is Todoist?
A beautifully simple and easy-to-use personal task manager and to-do list app that integrates with very nearly any device on the market.
How do I use Todoist?
Sign up for your online Todoist account once, and take it everywhere you go. Todoist’s claim to fame is its minimalist design and rejection of all things bloated, leaving you with streamlined software that lets you tackle your to-do lists and complete your tasks quicker than you can say “Usain Bolt“!
Todoist works with Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Chrome, Firefox, Outlook, and any other device with a web browser, so you’ll never forget your shopping list at home ever again. If to-do list apps were jewelry, Todoist would be the gold-coated, diamond-encrusted Ring of Power. It’s not exactly magic, but compared to other task management apps on the web, it’s close enough.
What is Evernote?
A web-based note creation and bookmarking app, often likened to an “external brain” that you can use to store ideas and information you would like to remember later.
How do I use Evernote?
Simply create an account and start taking notes. Evernote syncs all your notes and bookmarks to a central web server, which allows you to create, edit and retrieve notes from your virtual notepad on the web from almost any device – computer or mobile.
As long as you have internet access, you will be able to keep track of your ideas wherever you are, as well as any relevant web pages, images or other online media you come across. All your saved notes are instantly searchable, allowing you to spend less time on organization and information retrieval, and more time nurturing your creativity.
Evernote can be integrated into your ordinary research and idea-creation habits, ensuring that you never find yourself trying to remember all those great ideas and research that you might lose (whether your PC blows up or your mobile gets stolen). With Evernote, your ideas are kept safe, accessible and organized... Forever.
What is NextUp?
A clean, minimalistic web app with one goal: to make you stay on schedule.
How do I use NextUp?
Although it is intended for meetings and similar business engagements, NextUp is a great time management hack that can be used in nearly any situation where you would like to manage your time more efficiently. NextUp allows you to plan all your meetings beforehand by creating a list of the topics you want to cover and setting exactly how much time you want to spend on each.
If you find that you are constantly getting distracted by the non-essentials in business meetings (small talk that goes on and on, not sticking on topic, etc.) NextUp is for you. For everyone else, NextUp can be used when conducting creative brainstorming sessions, researching or even studying. Simply decide on the amount of time you want to commit to each aspect of what you are working on and you will stick to any deadline with ease.
What is Screenr?
Screenr is an online collaboration tool that records your voice while at the same time captures in video format whatever is happening on your computer screen.
How do I use Screenr?
Imagine you had the power to conduct business presentations remotely anywhere in the world, without the use of a projector. That’s what Screenr can do for you. There is an infinite array of creative collaborative applications for this software as you are able to walk your intended audience through your own thought processes and explain yourself and your highly nuanced ideas much more productively than a static Powerpoint presentation.
Screenr is incredibly user-friendly and allows you to easily share and collaborate on anything from business presentations to complex, step-by-step tutorials. Need to give critical feedback on a design or creative concept? Use Screenr to record verbal annotations and comments as you are dealing with the material right in front of your (and your audience’s) eyes.
What is Focus Booster?
A web-based time management app based on the principles of the famous Pomodoro time management technique.
How Do I use Focus Booster?
If you already use the Pomodoro Technique, you will have no trouble getting started with Focus Booster. For everyone else, the concept is simple yet extremely effective: focus on your work for just 25 minutes, then immediately take a short break from what you were doing (about 5 minutes). Rinse, and repeat!
The main principle behind the Pomodoro Technique is to force yourself into a “flow” consciousness with no distractions for a set amount of time, in order to increase productivity within that time period. The 5 minute break between Pomodoro sessions helps to keep your mind ordered and to more easily assimilate what you’ve been learning or working on.
Focus Booster is free and runs online, but you can also choose to download the app to your Windows PC or Mac for off-line use.
What is Lumosity?
A state-of-the-art brain boosting exercise program that combines cutting-edge neuroscience research with fun.
How do I use Lumosity?
While Lumosity isn’t an actual “productivity app”, strengthening your thought muscles by playing Lumosity games can increase productivity in many profound ways. Fully stocked with over 35 games, puzzles and challenging mental exercises, a subscription to Lumosity provides you with a number of exciting options to get your brain into optimal shape. The exercises – which test you on cognitive function, attention, and memory – are easy to pick up and learn yet extremely hard to master, ensuring that you never get bored.
Lumosity training also puts emphasis on bolstering your brain in the areas it might not be strongest and in doing so, it increases your capacity for creativity and learning new skills or concepts. Over and above making you smarter, regular playing has even been shown to slow down (inevitable) mental decline in later years. So whether you’re a numbers-person or a words-person, Lumosity exercises will both hone your existing mental prowess and round out any weaknesses you may have – improving personal productivity in everything you do.