Productivity Series: The Best Productivity Apps
In the article series so far (which started almost a year ago, wow!) we’ve looked at many of the key changes you need to make with regards to how you think and act, but we haven’t spoken very much about tools. In this day and age of constant connectivity, I therefore felt it would be useful to also dedicate a few blog posts to this topic. In this article we will take a closer look at some of the best productivity apps on the market today.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t use all of these apps myself. If I did, I wouldn’t actually have time to get anything done. The list has been compiled from a combination of my own experience and lists presents on Lifehack.org, Business Insider, Forbes, PC Mag and other respected web sites.
Any list of the best productivity apps will be highly subjective and there are so many apps out there that it’s quite possible that I have missed some. There are also many which I haven’t included on purpose. Without futher ado, let’s get started in showcasing what I currently consider to be the best productivity apps.
The Best Productivity Apps for 2016
Microsoft Outlook (Android, iOS) FREE
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I never saw myself putting an app from Microsoft anywhere near this list, but if you are already an Outlook user (particularly on Exchange) this app ought to be your gold standard for handling emails, attachments, calendars, and contacts. It has a lot of powerful tools built in (best of all is the analytics feature, which sifts out the most important emails – even across multiple accounts – and brings them to your attention so it even helps minimise information overload) and it’s been optimised for use on touchscreens. What’s not to like?
Priority Matrix (Android, iOS) PAID
If you got so inspired by the article about prioritisation that you started using the Eisenhower Matrix, then this is currently the best app available for you. Like almost all productivity apps it still doesn’t help you create a link between your priorities, your tasks and your time expenditure but it allows you to create a useful snapshot of all of your tasks and to prioritise them! This app works an absolute treat on the large screen of the iPad (there is a separate iPad app), less so on the smaller screen of your phone.
Workflow (iOS) PAID
This app took a bit of time to grow on me and it was only because I read so many great reviews that I decided to give it another go. Now I can see exactly how addictive this could become, but in reality there are probably only a handful or two of really useful automation tasks that you can set – unless you’re a prolific social media poster and image sharer (in which case you probably won’t have a life after installing this app because it becomes so simple to shoot, edit and post that you’ll be doing it all day). I’ve now set up a couple of easy workflows in terms of helping me get to my next destination (based on calendar entries on the day) and a quick reminder every day for when I get home. With a 10 month old son I can also see myself using the laundry timer workflow sooner rather than later… You might also want to take a look at IFTTT (If this then that).
Asana (Android, iOS)
This was a very tricky choice as in team messaging and project management the field of apps keeps on getting stronger and stronger. Honeydew Health/Absencehub.com currently use Slack and Trello also has some great features. However, I’ve opted for Asana because of its fantastic overviews and strong enterprise features in the premium version. Simply put, it allows you a complete overview of all of your internal email threads and communications regarding projects. You can set up projects, assign tasks, set deadlines, and add comments/requests and cross-platform communication works a treat so it doesn’t matter if your colleagues are on Android, iOS or use the web app.
Evernote (Android, iOS) FREE with premium options
Evernote is the world’s most popular productivity app – and it’s not difficult to see why, although it’s definitely not for everybody. Simply put it’s a way of creating and annotating notebooks with all kinds of content, which can be synced and shared across numerous platforms. In general it’s great for grabbing stuff of the internet, sharing and commenting on it. However, it’s not until you start getting into the Plus or Premium features that it really starts to come into its own with searchable docs and offline working. Is it for you? Depends on how much stuff you need to share in terms of articles and/or notes as the free version only really is useful if you don’t share that often and then you need to determine whether or not you’re willing to fork out at least £20 per year if you want to upgrade.
MyLifeOrganized 2(Android, iOS) FREE with premium options
I have to preface my inclusion of MLO by saying that I haven’t actually tried it yet, but it’s probably the one app on the list that I am most excited about. Lifehack said: “This task management system helps you to target what you should be focusing on to reach your objectives” and that is exactly what you want from a task management system. From the description on the iTunes app store it says that “you will be able to manage not only tasks, but projects, habits and even life goals. Optional contexts, stars, dates, priorities, completely customizable filters and views make MLO flexible enough to adapt to your own system for managing your tasks.” Ambitious indeed and if they can improve the calendar integration, as some users have already pointed out, this could be the most important productivity app of 2016 as it integrates with a host of existing template formats such as Getting Things Done (GTD) and allows for myriad customisations. I’ll be downloading this and taking it for a proper spin in the next few weeks.
Dropbox (Android, iOS) FREE with premium options
If you’re already using Dropbox on your PC or Mac, this is a no brainer. Access all of your documents no matter where you are. The app used to be a terrible sidekick to the web and computer based version, but has steadily improved over its iterations and it’s difficult to see how its file sharing competitors are ever going to catch up with them. It does what it says on the tin and it’s the best cloud based storage, syncing and sharing solution out there. In recent versions it has also become even better for team collaboration, although the business version of Dropbox carries a rather hefty price tag so might not be right for all organisations.
Fantastical 2 (iOS) PAID
If you’re just looking for a great calendar app, which is a massive improvement on the one included under iOS, then look no further than Fantastical 2. Great event and reminder management and it couldn’t be easier to add a new entry as you can even speak to the app and then refine your entry after it has been analysed and translated into a diary entry.
I have one major caveat about including this app. The lack of a calendar function is frustrating bordering on the downright stupid – and until it gets fixed it’s only really useful for people with OCD who love making lists and reviewing their lists. A to do list without a clear prioritisation AND time set aside for when to do it is nothing but a list. Then you’re just as likely to get swallowed up whole by an ever growing list. I would recommend running a “done” list so you at least can feel some sense of accomplishment along the way, otherwise an app like this is more likely to harm than to promote your productivity. On top of this there’s less cross-platform support than it’s competitors and I feel The Verge’s statement about it that “Any.do is promising, but it feels half-baked” is a little generous. There is definitely potential there, though, so I’ve included it in the hope that the developers will put the focus where it’s needed to beat the likes of Wunderlist (Android, iOS) and Todoist (Android, iOS).
Which do you thinks is the best productivity app out there? What do you use? Do you have any suggestions of apps, which have increased your productivity? What is most important to you in a productivity app? Do you still prefer using paper based systems (I do to a large extent)? What would make the best productivity app in your opinion?
Please feel free to share your thoughts with us by dropping me a line.