There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of productivity apps available, but which ones are truly worth it?
I’ve broken down this list of my favorite productivity apps and tools by category, but many of these apps fit into more than one category—especially if they offer integrations with other apps, or bill themselves as cross-category options.
Table of Contents
- Productivity Apps for Tracking, Measurement, and Analysis
- Productivity Apps for Email Improvement
- Productivity Apps for Focus and Distraction Elimination
- Productivity Apps for Notes and Scheduling
- Productivity Apps for Collaboration
- Productivity Apps that Just Speed Up Certain Tasks
- Finding and Balancing Your Productivity Apps
Productivity Apps for Tracking, Measurement, and Analysis
The most important part of any productivity improvement strategy is tracking, measurement, and analysis.
That which gets measured gets improved.
The following apps let you track and measure you and your team’s productivity throughout the workday.
Yeah, yeah, I know. #biased. But I’m including EmailAnalytics at the top of this list because email is one of the most important factors for understanding your productivity.
The average professional spends 28-52% of their workday reading, writing, and managing emails. And for the longest time, all those hours have been a black hole of productivity.
EmailAnalytics illuminates the black hole and visualizes your email activity, showing you metrics like emails sent & received, email response time, busiest days and times of day, and a whole lot more. If you use email, you should be using EmailAnalytics.
Even better, you can use EmailAnalytics for your whole team and see top performers, re-balance workloads, and provide data-backed suggestions for improvements.
Asana is a project management platform with a focus on tasks and subtasks. Managers can get a high-level overview of the status of assigned tasks, and keep communication organized within each task. Asana allows you to integrate with dozens of other apps, so you can use it with apps meant to help you stay on track, or apps that allow you to track time.
We love Asana and created an ultimate Asana guide!
Next up is iDoneThis, a relatively simple app that helps you keep tabs on you and your team’s productivity over the course of a day. Each evening, the members of your team will get a reminder asking them to reply with a digest of the tasks they got done, the tasks they got blocked on, and tasks that still need to be accomplished.
It’s a good prompt to monitor your historical performance, and can help you proactively identify the obstacles that keep you and your team from doing their best.
DeskTime is a real-time time tracking app with built-in features that help you keep your projects on budget (as well as on time). The differences between most time-tracking apps are related to usability and other superficial elements, so you’ll need to experiment with different ones to see what works best for you.
ProofHub is a project planning software designed for teams to collaborate together in one central workspace online. It integrates task management, centralizes task-specific communication, and provides workflow overviews for managers to keep projects moving forward.
It helps track billable hours and much more. It’s an all-around fantastic team collaboration platform.
RescueTime is specifically designed to help you keep track of your habits, both in your personal and professional life. This app runs in the background, so you’ll barely notice it, and tracks the time you spend on various apps and websites.
At the end of the day, or a period of your choosing, you’ll get a detailed, visual-heavy report analyzing how you’ve spent your time—and what you can do to improve.
ZoomShift is an employee scheduling software designed for hourly employees. It enables restaurant managers and owners to track employee time, swap shifts with ease, prevent timesheet errors, and run payroll in minutes. The drag and drop schedule builder makes it easy for you to create your schedules in minutes.
It allows for better time management so that milestones can be easily viewed and can create shift schedules in minutes. Employees can clock-in for assigned shifts using the web time clock or mobile time clock and management can edit timesheets on the fly from the free iOS and Android apps.
Productivity Apps for Email Improvement
Now let’s dig into some specific email productivity tools designed to help you get more done in a day—rather than just tracking your actions and helping you determine which areas need the most improvement.
Be sure to also see our separate post on email management software for more email-specific tools you can use to get a handle on your email workload and maximize productivity.
In addition to EmailAnalytics, these are some of the best email-related productivity apps to use:
UnrollMe is perfect if you feel like you’re constantly overwhelmed with marketing emails and newsletters from places you don’t really care about.
Rather than forcing you to wade through individual emails and manually unsubscribe from each of them, UnrollMe lets you see all the email lists you’re currently subscribed to, so you can conveniently unsubscribe to all the unimportant ones, all at once.
The interface is expandable, so you can customize which features you use, and you can rely on it to manage multiple email accounts at once—complete with color indicators, so you’re never confused on which account you’re using.
SaneBox was created to make email organization easier for the average professional. With it, you can create and manage multiple different filters that automatically separate your emails based on content, importance, and whether or not the email has gotten a response.
It learns from your preferences and offers lots of customization, so if you spend time on it, you should end up with an inbox that practically sorts itself.
If you’re into the idea of setting up automatic prompts to follow up on emails, Boomerang is another great option. With it, you can draft emails you want to send in the future and schedule them to automatically send at your desired time (for more ways to do this, see our in-depth blog post on how to schedule an email to send later in Gmail).
You can also use it to set reminders for yourself, including reminders to follow up on an email if you haven’t gotten a response by a certain time or day.
There’s a lot to explore with this app, and it has the potential to make anyone more productive.
Productivity Apps for Focus and Distraction Elimination
One of the biggest threats to your productivity is distraction, since it takes 23 minutes or more to fully recover from one. If you’re able to stay focused on your tasks for a longer period of time, without getting distracted, you’ll be able to accomplish more during the course of any given day, and stop wasting so much time.
These productivity apps and productivity tools are perfect for reducing the number and severity of the distractions in your life:
OmniFocus is a task management app designed to help you stay focused on whatever’s most important in your list of priorities. You can use it to create “actions” and “projects,” then conveniently view those actions and projects so you always know what the next most important task is.
You can also use “perspectives” to review your progress and learn from your past habits.
Forest is a unique app available on mobile devices, and if you use it, you should be able to dramatically cut the time you spend on unproductive and time-consuming apps. The app coaches you to plant a digital tree, and as long as you keep the app open, that tree will continue to grow.
The tree will be killed if you leave the app for any reason, so it encourages you to avoid other digital distractions.
StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that allows you to set limits for yourself, setting a firm upper limit for how much time you can spend on time-wasting websites. For example, you might limit yourself to spend only 30 minutes on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
Once you’ve used up all your time, you’ll be blocked from accessing that site for the rest of the day. It’s completely customizable, so you can set your own time limits and block only the websites that waste your time the most.
Be sure to see our list of the best Chrome productivity extensions for other great apps like this one!
30/30 is an app that uses a timing system to help you stay on task. It has a gesture-based interface that makes it easy to learn, and with it, you can create an unlimited number of tasks, then time those tasks.
It alerts you when your designated time periods have ended, and helps you stay focused on a single task at a time—rather than get lost when you’re distracted by new to-do items.
EmailAnalytics Visualizes Your Team's Email Activity
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- Salespeople spend an average of 13 hours per week on email.
Noizio doesn’t force you to change which tasks you work on or block unproductive websites. Instead, it uses the subtle atmosphere of ambient noise to cultivate a better, healthier, more productive work environment for you.
With it, you can customize the right level and mix of ambient noise for your work style, and get more done than you could in total silence or with the distraction of typical music.
A Chrome extension, Momentum allows you to customize your “new tab” page with a list of to-do items, quotes for personal inspiration, and other items of your choosing (including the weather, if you so desire).
If you find yourself frequently opening a new tab to visit some distracting website, this is a great way to break your habit, since you’ll be reminded of what you should be doing instead.
HazeOver is a “distraction dimmer” currently only available for Mac. It’s a simple app that automatically highlights whichever window is in front of your others, dimming the others so they’re less noticeable.
It’s ideal if you need to have lots of windows open while you’re working, but if you only need to focus on one at a time.
If distracting websites are the bane of your productive existence, you might also consider trying Freedom. It’s another website blocker that allows you to restrict access to certain sites during a schedule you have full control over.
For example, you could block your most common culprits for distraction during office hours.
Be sure to check out our guide on how to stay focused at work for more ideas!
Productivity Apps for Notes and Scheduling
It’s hard to be productive when your systems of note-taking and collaboration are a chaotic mess. If you keep track of your appointments on three different apps, or if you don’t have a convenient way to keep track of your notes, you’ll be stuck wasting time.
That’s why these note- and schedule-focused productivity apps are worth trying:
Evernote has been around for years, and it’s become a top name in the note-taking app world for a reason. It offers features to take notes, create tasks, manage projects, set deadlines, and take control of your productivity, automatically syncing all your information across all devices.
It also offers strong collaboration features, so your team members can share files and notes with one another.
21. Google Keep.
Google Keep is another note-taking app, and possibly a more convenient one, since it’s already integrated with Gmail. With it, you can automatically turn your emails into notes and to-dos, and share notes with your colleagues. There aren’t many bells and whistles, but it comes with Gmail, so it’s ideal if you’re looking for something simple.
22. Just Press Record.
An app that delivers what its name promises, Just Press Record is a simple app that allows you to record and transcribe your voice. It makes it ridiculously easy to transform your thoughts into written words, and allows you to organize all your notes so they’re easy to find later.
Nebo is a note-taking app that focuses on manual, written entry—so if you like the feeling of taking notes and drawing diagrams with a pen, it’s an ideal app for you. With it, you can jot down notes in your natural handwriting, or sketch flow charts and diagrams so you can visualize your thoughts.
ClickUp is an all-in-one app that allows you to take notes, create tasks, and manage your to-do items, both in a personal and professional context. You can even share and exchange lists with your coworkers so you can see what you’re each working on.
Productivity Apps for Collaboration
If your job requires frequent engagement and collaboration with others, you should consider making use of these collaboration-focused productivity apps. And for a comprehensive list of online collaboration tools, be sure to click that link to see our full post on the subject!
25. Google Drive.
By now, you’re probably already familiar with Google Drive. It’s a cloud-based storage app for all your files (and your team’s files). With it, all your team members can have separate accounts, but you can rely on shared folders, and readily exchange access to those files with one another.
Depending on how you’re using it and how much space you’re taking up, it may be free. It can save your team time and frustration as they attempt to collaborate on the same projects and tasks.
Dropbox belongs in the same category as Google Drive, and offers many of the same collaboration features. Dropbox is faster in some respects, and you may find it easier to manage, but ultimately, which one you use comes down to personal preference.
Slack took over the world of team chat a few years ago because of its seamless, easy-to-understand user interface and its ability to be used for just about anything. You can create different chat groups for different teams, chat one-on-one with colleagues, and set a personal status so people don’t contact you when you’re away from your desk.
It also has tons of integrations, so you can customize your team’s Slack experience.
There are hundreds of choices here—these are just some of my favorites—so definitely do some digging if you’re looking for a solution for your specific needs. Be sure to check out this list of online collaboration tools from AllThatSaas for more ideas!
Productivity Apps that Just Speed Up Certain Tasks
Automation one of the best ways to improve your productivity, since it takes a previously manual, demanding task and handles it automatically. Again, there are many potential examples to call on here, but these are some of the most useful and most accessible:
Lumen5 turns text into social media videos in minutes. It does this automatically by analyzing the text through AI and putting the best music, video, and images together accordingly.
It’s perfect for re-purposing content in multiple formats, all while saving you a ton of time.
1Password is a password storage app that keeps track of all your passwords in a single place. It will automatically log you into all your most used sites and apps, so long as you identify yourself.
That may not seem like much, but even if you save five minutes a day by automating your password entries, that can add up to hours of savings over the long run.
Eventbot works with Slack, and it’s an ideal way to keep your team’s schedules automatically aligned. Within the chat app, you can create new events, offer RSVPs to the events of others, and create a shared calendar where all participants can see all the events they’ve been invited to at the same time.
You can also schedule recurring events to keep team members on point for things like meetings, and get automatic reminders in the chat app to ensure you don’t miss any important events.
An app with “bot” in the title is a pretty good indication that it’s going to save you time. Scanbot specializes in scanning tangible pieces of information and cataloging them in a digital format. With it, you can take a scan of just about anything, including business cards or documents, and automatically upload them to the cloud and/or share them.
It saves a lot of time if you’re trying to digitally capture the details on tangible works.
I’ve saved IFTTT (short for “if this, then that”) for the end because of its sheer versatility. It’s a completely free system that allows you to create your own automatic shortcuts, and automated processes that make your life easier. It offers support for thousands of apps and devices, enabling you to establish notifications on your phone or tablet when certain conditions are met—like when the weather changes, or when you complete a task on your project management app.
If you’re creative, you can think of hundreds of ways to use this to your advantage, and take several daily tasks off your plate so you can focus on more important things.
Finding and Balancing Your Productivity Apps
One more thing to note: adding more productivity apps and productivity tools to your repertoire isn’t always going to strictly improve your performance. Even though apps may, independently, be able to save minutes to hours of your time, they also require time to set up, time to maintain, and time to organize.
Take your time experimenting with these productivity apps to see which ones work best for you, and only keep the ones that are most effective.
You can find even more apps to boost your productivity in this big list of productivity tools from our friends at Pixpa!
If you’re interested in taking EmailAnalytics for a spin, you can sign up for free today!
The sooner you start tracking your progress, the sooner you can start making improvements.
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.