Wait. It’s 4:30 already? When did that happen?
Where did the day go?
We’ve all been there. In a flash, it’s like your entire day just… evaporated.
There are plenty of viable explanations for the hows and whys.
Maybe you were so busy, so overloaded with work, that you didn’t realize time was passing you by.
Maybe you were so distracted, so lost in notifications and communication, that you lost track of what you were doing.
In any case, losing track of time means you’re not in control of how you’re spending your time. It could mean you need the help of one or more time management apps.
Table of Contents
- The Problem With Time Management
- Time Management Apps: Time Trackers
- Time Management Apps: Project and Task Management
- Time Management Apps: Miscellaneous
- The Road to Better Time Management
The Problem With Time Management
Of course, there’s a problem here. The solution is obviously better time management. But most of us can’t make ourselves better time managers through sheer force of will. We don’t have a switch to flip to “time management mode” that instantly makes us better at managing time.
And if you do have this switch, let me know.
I get it. It’s tough.
But if you do want to be a better time manager, there’s good news. There are dozens of time management apps you can use to improve your time management skills.
Here are some of the best time management tools, all in one place.
Time Management Apps: Time Trackers
Part of time management is simply being aware of how much time you’re spending on different projects.
Did your work on that sales presentation take a few minutes? Or an hour? The answer could tell you a lot about why your workday seemed to fly by.
Time tracking apps help you by allowing you to measure how you’re spending your time. From there, you can identify sources of time waste. You can pinpoint your most time-consuming responsibilities. You can even use them as a platform to set goals and chart a path to better time management.
EmailAnalytics helps you track time spent on your emails, which is one of the biggest time sucks of a modern professional’s day. Use it to track all kinds of activities in Gmail, including the number of emails sent and received, top senders and recipients, email response time, and more. Once integrated, you’ll be able to quickly analyze where you’re spending time and how to spend it better.
2. Rescue Time.
Rescue Time is one of the most popular time tracking tools because it helps you track your productive time as well as your distracted time. It’s also automated, so you don’t have to worry about constantly monitoring your in-progress timing. Rescue Time also offers a “productivity challenge” class, and can be used to manage time within a team, rather than just an individual.
3. Time Doctor.
There’s also Time Doctor, which allows you to track your time like any time tracking app. It also allows you to take periodic screenshots, so you can see what you’re working on and when, and can track your web usage as well. This is perfect if you frequently find yourself distracted by entertaining websites. Use it to keep yourself on task!
If you want a simpler, less expensive option, try Toggl. You guessed it—it’s another way to track how you spend your time throughout the day. Like with other time tracking tools, you can use it to see how much time you’re spending on various tasks throughout the day, and you can produce regular reports to see how your time management is improving.
Clockify is best used for keeping track of time within a team, but you can use it to boost your own time management skills. There’s a free version if you’re on a budget, and you can use it to scale to an unlimited number of users.
Time Management Apps: Project and Task Management
Time trackers can be great, but they’re a bit too granular to be comprehensive time management solutions.
For example, let’s say you use a time tracker and discover you’re spending too much time on distracting websites. That’s all well and good, but what does that tell you about your project priorities? How does that help you break down your tasks more efficiently?
Most of us work better with a good project or task management tool to keep us in line—and help us set higher-level priorities.
I’m putting task management and project management tools in the same category, though you could nitpick and try to distinguish them. In any case, the time management apps and tools in this section will help you stay organized and focused on what matters most.
6. Any Calendar app.
Any Calendar app? Yes. Any Calendar app. Google has a great one, Apple has a great one, and you probably have dozens of other options immediately and freely available to you. Be honest. Are you using one? Or are you kind of shambling your schedule together and hoping for the best? Any time management improvement strategy should begin with a commitment to using a single, central calendar (preferably a digital one) on a consistent basis. Use it to schedule everything, even your breaks and downtime. It will be much easier to see how you’re spending your time, and of course, to make time for all your important priorities.
Project management platforms are almost always similar in function. They help you organize projects. They help you create and organize tasks. And they help you communicate with others. Used correctly, they can help you manage your time much more efficiently—and get more done throughout the day. Asana is the classic example here, with oodles of integrations, an easy-to-learn interface, and straightforward time management tools built-in. Don’t miss our complete beginner’s guide to Asana!
8. Remember the Milk.
Forgetfulness and time management are inextricably linked. If you’ve ever forgotten to pick up the milk on the way home, you’ve probably also dealt with time management issues. Never fear! Remember the Milk is an app that can help you stay organized. It’s basically an online task management system, coupled with time management tools you can use to execute those tasks more efficiently.
It’s a nice idea, isn’t it? MyLifeOrganized attempts to help you take your life and, well, organize it. Use it to create streamlined, simple to-do lists, drag and drop your priorities to organize them, and figure out the best way to manage your time each day.
Todoist is a specialized to-do list management system, and one of my favorite options in this section. It integrates with a bunch of apps you’re probably using already, so you shouldn’t have any trouble making it fit in your life. Once you start using it, you can conveniently keep track of all your tasks, so you waste way less time.
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You could also try Trello. It’s another project management app, but with a different kind of interface. Using cards and boards, you can easily visualize your tasks and reorganize them. This way, you never spend too much time on the wrong priorities. It also cuts down on time waste trying to parse complex paragraphs of project information.
Another fan-favorite project management platform is Basecamp. Use it to schedule all your tasks, chat with your team, manage your to-do list items, and automate check-ins so you always stay on task.
Remember when I told you to use a calendar app? Well with TimeTree, you can create shareable calendars. It’s basically a calendar app, but it’s designed to facilitate communication and collaboration with other people, such as friends, family members, or colleagues. It’s a great way to manage time as a group.
Time Management Apps: Miscellaneous
Now for the fun part.
Time trackers and project management tools serve important functions. But if you want to get actively better at managing your time, you’ll need a little more help.
At least, I know I do.
Check out some of these time management apps, which I can only describe collectively as “miscellaneous.” I guarantee there’s at least one on this list that can help you become a better time manager:
14. Screen time settings.
Do you ever find yourself spacing out and spending way too much time on a social media app or mobile game? Me too. I wouldn’t believe you if you said no. We’re all at least occasionally guilty of excessive screen time. But what if I told you that there are probably built-in settings on your phone designed to help you track, limit, and manage your screen time? Head to your Settings menu and look for a “screen time” function (it may be under a parental control section, depending on your device).
15. Focus Keeper.
If you have an iOS device, you can use Focus Keeper. It’s an app designed to help you set timers, monitor your performance, and track how your productivity improves. It sports a visually pleasing, easy-to-understand interface, so you’ll get the hang of it in minutes.
It’s the best note-taking app there is. Period. Evernote has long been the name in note apps, and for good reason. Use it to keep track of your meetings, organize your to-do list items, and of course, take miscellaneous notes. You can also use it across all devices, so you can save time and remain organized.
Have you ever shouted this phrase in frustration? I haven’t either, but you get the idea. With FocusMe, you can manually restrict yourself from visiting certain sites or set time limits on the things that distract you. It’s a convenient way to force yourself to stay focused on the work that matters.
How much time do you spend each day manually entering passwords to log in to various services? 1Password can save you that time. Use it to manage all your passwords to save time. You can also use it to create stronger passwords, increasing your security.
Forest is a unique app on this list. It functions as a kind of passive game; the longer you keep the app open, the more trees you’ll see grow on your screen. It’s a peaceful reminder to put your device away whenever you’re distracted by it. It also encourages long periods of exclusively focused time.
I often get distracted by interesting articles I find online. I want to stop what I’m doing and read them! After all, who knows if I’ll be able to find them again? Pocket gives you a solution. When you find something interesting, use Pocket to put it away. You can find it again later, and read it when you have free time.
You could consider Quire as a project management platform, but it’s more focused on collaboration and productive teamwork. Use it to keep track of your to-do items, assign tasks to others, and map out your thoughts. That way, your productivity will never decline because of a lack of focus, a lack of organization, or a lack of proper time management.
The Road to Better Time Management
Time management apps are fantastic additions to help you stay focused, set priorities, and be aware of how your attention changes throughout the day.
But of course, downloading an app or changing a setting on your phone isn’t going to magically make you a more productive person.
No, these time management tools are best used as part of a bigger, more comprehensive plan to boost your time management. That means identifying problem areas. It means training your mind with exercises and meditation. It means exerting willpower to become more focused at work, and cutting out the distractions holding you back.
Whew. That all sounds intense. But don’t worry. It’s all incredibly easy as long as you do two things:
- Be consistent, and keep pushing yourself to do better.
- Take things one step at a time, one baby step if necessary, and avoid overwhelming yourself.
And if you’re not sure what “time management” means to you or how to start improving it, make sure you check out our guide on the 21 time management skills every professional needs to master. It’s a great place to start!
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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.