I’m a productivity nut. I’ll try any productivity apps that have the ability to help me or our team get more done in less time, because every minute counts when growing a startup. Over the past few years, I’ve tried dozens of productivity apps and frameworks to maximize my time, most of which I haven’t yet shared publicly.
In this post, I’ve compiled the best productivity apps that I’ve personally used and can stand by. These tools have shaved off dozens of hours every month, and hopefully they’re just as helpful for you.
Here they are, ranked in order of preference.
One-sentence Benefit: Have a distraction-free workday by blocking websites.
Freedom prevents the guilty pleasures that we all have of checking our emails, social media, or other websites that distract us from getting things done. What’s useful about this productivity app is that you can use it on any of your devices (i.e., mobile, tablet, desktop), and it allows you to schedule blocked-off times ahead of time.
8 AM to 10 AM is usually the time of the day when I schedule time to write for the blog or write a guest post. While I’ve developed a healthy habit of staying committed to the schedule, whenever I do find myself distracted or unproductive are the times when I’ve forgotten to turn Freedom on.
One-sentence Benefit: Replaces your friend’s vacation photos with inspirational quotes.
I know I probably don’t need to dive deeper on this topic, but scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed can be a workout on its own. While I love staying up-to-date with my friends, I haven’t felt the need to depend on Facebook to do this.
While there’s no data to back this up, my level of productivity and overall happiness seems to have increased since I’ve stopped consuming what others are up to, and started focusing on what I want to do.
One-sentence Benefit: It's basically your personal editor
Hemingway has been a dear friend of mine ever since I’ve started blogging back in 2013. While our relationship has been on and off, whenever I write an important post for Rype’s blog or my personal blog, I go to Hemingway to make sure my writing is error-free.
All you have to do is copy and paste your article into Hemingway, and it will analyze your writing from its readability, grammar errors, alternative suggestions, and so on. If you write often and struggle with the details of writing like I do, definitely check out this app.
One-sentence Benefit: Access your notes without interrupting your flow
Do you ever have a brilliant idea or an important task that you just remembered, while you’re in the middle of working? I can’t speak for anyone else, but what I used to do was pull out Evernote from my desktop or scramble to find a pen and paper to write it down. As simple as it sounds, it completely interrupted my flow, and studies show it takes us 22 minutes to get our focus back after being distracted.
With Papier, all I have to do is open up a new tab (Command + “T” on my Macbook) and write down my ideas or tasks, without interrupting my flow. It saves everything I write down, so all I have to do is open up a new tab to come back to what I wrote.
One-sentence Benefit: Save articles to read for later (also known as: de-cluttering your browser tabs!)
Does anyone else have a browser tab that looks like this?
That above is what my browser looks like on a good day. When there’s so much content out there to consume and absorb today, it’s hard to keep everything organized without cluttering your browser tab.
This is why I love using Pocket. It allows me to save anything that I want to read for later, and I can decide to come back to read it on my smartphone when I’m stuck in traffic, on the train, or taking a break.
One-sentence Benefit: Never forget your password again.
This is probably different from person-to-person, but I personally have multiple different passwords for different apps and tools I use. In the past, I used to save all of my password on an Excel spreadsheet or on my phone—neither of which I recommend for anyone reading this.
Lastpass saves all of my passwords and automatically remembers it the next time I log-in. All you have to do is download the extension on your browser, and it will ask you to save the password you’re using for that specific website. You want to change it or simply remember what password you used, you can log-in to your dashboard and access all of your passwords.
One-sentence Benefit: Meet the ultimate to-do list organizer.
I used to have one giant to-do list, where I would write down all of my tasks for the week. And boy did that list get long and intimidating. It didn’t quite occur in my mind that I should be creating different categories within my to-do list, in order to keep it organized and focused, until my friend recommended Wunderlist.
Now I have over 15 different lists, from personal, work, health, Rype, and so on, and it certainly gives me a peace of mind. I also have it pinned on my browser, so whenever I forget something, I’m one-click away from all of my to-do’s.
One-sentence Benefit: This provides relief for your eyes.
If you work at a job that requires working in front of a screen for long periods of time (probably many of us), then it’s likely you’re facing eye strain. Over time, it can cause eye irritation, headaches, and reduced focus.
f.lux is a handy tool that adjusts your screen’s lighting (mobile and desktop) according to the time of the day. For example, you may not mind the bright lighting during the day since you want to stay alert, but keeping the blue light on at night time may prevent you from asleep easily. What I normally do is set up a Candle light after 8 PM, which helps my eye and my brain rest before I hit the sheets.
One-sentence Benefit: Audiobooks on-the-go.
I know there are other apps out there, like Scribd or Audiobooks.com, that specialize in audio books. But since I’ve personally used Audible, I decided to make this recommendation. Audible is also owned by Amazon, so they also have the largest library of books available than any of the other players.
If you’ve ever found yourself having idle times (like when you're stuck in traffic, waiting in line, riding the bus), you can stay productive by listening to books from your phone. A powerful tip that I received from a friend, is to listen to audiobooks in 1.5x or 2x speed, which allows you to finish 2x the number of books in half the time. If this is your first time listening to books in accelerated speed, I recommend starting with 1.5x first, then moving up to 2x when you’re more comfortable.
10. One Big Thing
One-sentence Benefit: It helps you focus on what matters.
If you’ve attended any of our free live talks, you’ve probably heard us talk about the importance of finding the 20% of efforts that result in 80% of desired results. This applies to how you learn a new language, who you spend your time with, and what you do during your day.
The “ONE Thing” was introduced in the book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, which is that one task or activity that will make everything else easier or unnecessary, if completed. The truth is, most of the activities we do on a daily basis are not impactful to our end goals. After years of experimenting and facing hard lessons, I’ve learned that the top performers are experts at saying “No” to almost everything that comes their way, and masters at doubling down on the “One Thing” that’s delivering real impact.
In short, this app allows you to put this powerful strategy into practice on a daily basis, by asking you to pick your “One Thing.”
One-sentence Benefit: Your personal finance is now all in one place.
Since many of our readers are savvy-professionals, keeping your personal finance in order is probably a big priority. I normally do my personal finances on a monthly basis (although I should do it more often), and instead of going old school by taking out my spreadsheet, Mint has automatically laid out my expenses, income, and budget analysis for the month.
You can securely connect your banking information to their software, and Mint will automatically update your information for you, providing visual charts and pie graphs to help me understand it visually.
One-sentence Benefit: This helps you organize your emails.
One of my biggest goals for this year is to check my emails only twice a day. While it’s unavoidable on certain days, I’ve tried to check once in the morning (around 11 AM) and once in the late afternoon (around 3 to 4 PM).
To help me maintain this productive habit, I’ve been using Mailbox. Since the priority levels of our emails are all different, you can use Mailbox to categorize your emails to read on a later time, or on a later date.
One-sentence Benefit: This is your personal scheduler.
One of the biggest time-waster that I can think of is sending multiple emails back and forth to schedule one meeting. Now all I do is send the person I’m meeting with my Calendly link, which integrates with my Google Calendar, and the other person can choose a time that works for both of us.
In fact, we’ve even been using Calendly at Rype to make scheduling effortless between our students and teachers.
One-sentence Benefit: Automate your life online.
Note: I’m currently not a user of IFTTT, but it’s such a powerful productivity tool that I think many people reading this post will gain some benefit out of trying it out.
IFTTT stands for “If This Then That,” which sums up nicely what its purpose is. If you catch yourself doing the same tasks over and over again, this is a tool worth checking out.
For example, let’s say you write a blog post and you normally spend 15 to 20 minutes promoting the post on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or any other networks, you can set this automation task on IFTTT, and save yourself 20 minutes. I’m probably understating the amount of creative tasks you can automate in your life, but luckily IFTTT has a tab where you can find the most popular and trending “recipes” that you can use on your own.
One-sentence Benefit: Get things done with intense focus
I’ve recently adopted the Pomodoro Technique, which is a productivity method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Cirillo realized that our brain isn’t wired to work for long periods of time on the same task, and that we’ll get more done by working in shorter bursts of intense focus on one task.
Here’s how the Pomodoro Technique works:
- Choose a task you want to complete
- Work intensely on the task for 25 minutes
- Take a short five-minute break
- Repeat four times (steps 1 through 3)
- Take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes)
The goal is to complete 10 pomodoros per day, which is supposed to help you get more done in less time (10 pomodoro’s x 25 minutes = 4.2 hours). I’ve tried this myself, and I can certainly attest to the benefits of working in shorter periods of time with intense focus, because it prevents burnout and you’re much more focused on the task at hand.
There are several productivity apps that are specifically designed to help you run steps one to five on your phone that you can find online.
One-sentence Benefit: It's a meditation guide on-the-go.
We’ve written extensively on the benefits on meditation, such as increased levels of focus, enhanced happiness, and reduced anxiety. If you told me several years ago that I would take up meditation, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Today, I can’t imagine doing anything else to maintain my focus and relieve my stress levels.
The problem when I first started meditating was that I didn’t know how to start. I discovered Headspace after I started my meditation practice, but I’ve still been able to gain a lot of benefits from it. You can use the app by finding a quiet place somewhere, and turning on the app which will guide you through a simple meditation practice for 10 minutes a day.
One-sentence Benefit: A happier you in five minutes a day.
Building a startup can take a toll on your physical and mental health if you’re not careful. While the cure for physical health is around us everywhere, there doesn’t seem to be an abundance of tools available to take care of our mental health.
I’ve been using the Five Minute Journal to remind myself in the morning:
- What I’m grateful for…
- What will make today great…
- What my personal affirmations are…
Then I reflect my day before I sleep with:
- Three amazing things that happened today…
- How could I have made today better…
This last question is my personal favorite, because it constantly pushes me to make my next day better, by learning how I could have made today better.
Over to You
Which of these productivity apps will you try out? Are there any that I may have missed? Tell me on Twitter.
This article was originally published on Rype App. It has been republished here with permission.
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Sean Kim is the CEO of Rype, the first language platform to offer 24/7 unlimited private language lessons for busy people. He's also a contributor for Fast Company, Huffington Post, 99U, and several other major media outlets, sharing his thoughts on entrepreneurship, the future of work, productivity, and more.More from this Author