Productivity Apps: How to Stay Focused in a 24/7 World AND Get Sh*t Done
Did you know there are more than 2.2 million apps in the Google Play store and almost 2 million in the Apple App Store? It’s a lot to search through, especially when you’re looking for an app to keep you focused, motivated, organised and, most importantly, productive.
Who has the time, right?
So we’ve done the research for you and put together a stack of our favourite apps that we use to keep you on top of your game.
CLEAR YOUR MIND
There’s a saying that “Cooler heads prevail” and it’s not wrong. In a world that’s “on” 24/7, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and left feeling cranky, frazzled and burnt out – especially when tackling the endless needs of your small business. Let those feelings wash away and revitalise your mind with these handy mindfulness apps.
Beloved by people in more than 190 countries, Headspace is unequivocally the most listened to mindfulness app on the planet. Run by one of the very few teams that draw from meditation and mindfulness research that’s validated on a clinical level, the app offers a plethora of meditations to soothe and calm an overworked mind: a series of beginner guided meditations, techniques to understand the mind and body and reflect on emotions, lessons on overcoming obstacles and more. If you’re feeling like you’re simply too busy to take on a full on meditation sesh, there’s mini meditations that last for 1-3 minutes – perfect for taking a moment to breathe and re-centre yourself between tasks.
Another great app for meditation and relaxation is Calm. Similar to Headspace, there’s guided meditations and tools for getting off the thought wagon and falling into a restful sleep, but Calm takes relaxation to a new level with Scenes and Body sections. Scenes offers up a variety of nature sounds so you can relax while taking a break, dozing off to sleep, or having sounds in the background while you get on with your work, while Body is a series of videos that will teach you about mindful movement and gentle stretching – perfect for your breaks between tasks. The free version offers you a few different things to get started, then you’ll have to sign up to a paid subscription to gain access to more.
STAY ON TRACK
How often have you lamented about how there never seems to be enough time in the day, or how hours have flown by and what did you do during them? These apps will help you take control of your time and allocate it effectively so you can stay on track with your tasks and remain productive.
We have a number of apps we like for this, but our favourite is Forest. Based on the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks down tasks into intervals with short breaks in between, the app allows you to set a timer but also attempts to block out any attempts to sneakily use other apps on your phone. During your work time a little digital sapling grows into a beautiful – just don’t leave the app before you finish your task or your tree will die! Argh! The harder you work, the more lush your forest becomes over time, earning you points, different types of trees and spurring you forth with motivational messages. Tag your tasks accordingly so you can track your forest progress, and up the stakes by teaming up with friends and family (in order to make the tree grow this time, no one can use their phones during the timer or the tree will die!) As we’re living in a time of climate change and environment consciousness, it’s not only creating greater awareness of nature’s plight, but also a cute and colourful way to motivate you to work that bit harder.
Feel like there’s never enough time? Keep track of how long your tasks are taking with Toggl. This app allows you to categorise your work via projects and relevant colour-coded tags, and then begin the timer with the simple push of a button. To get the most out of it, use it for a week, then download your complete report to get a detailed look at what you’ve been working on – it’s a fantastic examination of where you’re devoting your time so you can allocate and adjust as you go. It’s also exceptionally great if your small business offers a service that requires you to report back to clients on the time your projects take. Best of all, it works across all devices – desktop, tablet and smartphone – so you can keep track of your time wherever you’re working.
It’s harder than it sounds. Especially if you’re running your own business and working from home. The fridge is just right there, and so is the TV, and you can wander over to them any time you like… In short, not having someone around to keep you accountable can seem liberating, but often it means we’re not as productive as we could be. Stay on top of your tasks with a little help from these clever apps.
Writing your tasks down by hand is a powerful thing; after all, there’s nothing more satisfying than drawing a nice, thick line through a task once it’s completed, right? That said, it’s also very easy to lose a handwritten list, to find yourself continually rewriting them when they’re not completed or to simply forget about them altogether. Oops. Todoist cuts through that, allowing you to keep track of all your tasks in one place and saved online. Its bright, clean interface makes adding tasks easy, so you can map out your projects and goals step by step with project sections and subtasks, then highlight what’s important with colour-coded priority levels. And, unlike your handwritten list, Todoist will keep you accountable and motivated with Karma points which, once accumulated, will chart your progress to see how you’re faring and measure your overall productivity.
For a more complex note-taking and to-do list system, Evernote has got your covered. Kind of like Todoist on steroids, Evernotes is about so much more than just text-based note taking; the app lets you do it in sketches, images, documents, web clippings, audio and more, which you can then transform into notebooks and checklists using the Evernote’s series of clean and functional templates. “But what about all those hard copy documents and lovingly handwritten scribbles I’ve got lying around?” you ask. You can digitise and import them with the simple click of your camera. Pretty neat, right? Other cool features include being able to sync your notes across devices and setting up your Evernote in dark mode to lower the effects of blue light.
When it comes to getting organised and keeping all your data in one place, Google Drive is your super awesome and super reliable best friend. Not only can you store virtually any type of file – think images, recordings, videos, documents, PDFs, presentations, and more – its syncing feature means you can also access everything you’ve uploaded from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Boom! Share it with your teammates or clients, invite them to edit and add to your file, leave comments or download to keep a copy for themselves. Know you’ll need it in a place sans internet? No worries. You can set your folders and files to be available offline so you can access them literally any time. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing that everything is backed up and saved on the cloud, so you’ll never have to worry about a file going missing from your computer again. Oh, and the best part is you get a whopping 15GB to start – for free.
PHOTO EDITING ON THE FLY
There are approximately a bajillion photo editing apps out there – or at least that’s what it feels like when you’re looking for a decent one. Then, once you think you’ve narrowed it down, there’s paid vs. free apps – is the difference really worth the cost? I’ve done some digging to find some super cool apps that will make your photos look fab without a ridiculous price tag attached.
Adobe Lightroom CC
From professional photographers to newbie Instagrammers, Adobe Lightroom CC is the creme-de-la-creme of in-app photo editing for all. For starters: it’s free. And for free you get a staggering amount of cool features. One of the most handy offerings is the Preset feature. It’s a series of edits you’ve used to craft a single shot, all rolled into one, which you can now use to amend other images with a single touch. Another is the Pro-Level Camera, which enhances your phone’s current camera capabilities by unlocking exposure, telephoto lens, overlaying presets, and more. For time saving, Bulk Edits makes it super easy to edit a series of photos in your favourite look – say, an album’s worth – in one go, to achieve a consistent look across all your pics. And that’s just a handful of the freebie features. Of course, with most things these days, you can upgrade to the premium version for things like the Healing Brush (remove things from your photo), raw editing capabilities (import from your DSLR) and cloud storage, but if you’re on a budget the free version will be more than enough to get your photos popping.
The Afterlight catchphrase is “One price forever. Zero in-app purchases. Zero subscriptions” and we’re here for it. Like Lightroom, Afterlight 2 has a library of powerful features to make photo editing on the fly a breeze; however, a one-off purchase fee and free updates from there-on after means you’ll have access a lot of wicked features – which, in other apps, would be considered ‘bonus’ and therefore have an additional price tag attached – without ever having to pay for an annual subscription #winning. Some cool features include being able to blend photos together via double exposure, adding text and artwork to your images, overlays to create beautiful effects like dusty film, light leaks, and more.