level up your productivity

Best Productivity Apps in 2021: Workooze’s Top Picks

Want to level up your work productivity?

Are you a lazy person, like me?

So, what shall we do about our little problem? Hm.

If only there was an app for that!

Everybody working from home, or just plain working, has the same objective always on their mind — how to increase productivity. This question upsets the minds of the most productive people I know, constantly. It is what bosses mostly think about when they are not on the phone or in a meeting.

It is comforting to know that we are all in it together. So, smarter people than me must have already come up with a solution.

As a lifelong procrastinator, working from home isn’t very easy. Honestly, it’s actually excruciatingly hard to be productive with all the modern-day distractions. Sometimes, you really don’t feel like working after binging the whole season of The Boys, and so many new TV series popping up, you know?

I feel that to level up my work productivity I need all the help I can get. This is where productivity apps save the day. They are truly a godsend.

So, if you are working from home, join me on the journey of sprinting through workload faster than A-Train with these productivity apps.

Best to-do productivity apps

Everybody uses Evernote and Todoist, so there’s not much new to write here. They have been around for ages. Since it is 2020, we decided to spice things up.

Have you tried Twobird and TickTick already? Workooze team thinks they are newsworthy productivity apps.

TickTick

Tick tick productivity app screenshot
Screenshot TickTick

As a big Minimalists fan, I was naturally drawn to the TickTick productivity app. It is simple, clean, and easy. Yet, it is packed with functions. Its main advantage is compatibility though. You can start a list on the iPhone, finish it on your computer, and easily edit it on the iPad using drag & drop.

It features an integrated Calendar, which is a big plus, a Pomodoro Timer, and Habit. It can even Plan your Day. It’s free to use, but only for nine lists, so you will quickly upgrade to Premium, just like us.

Twobird

Twobird productivity app screenshot
Screenshot Twobird

Twobird is a useful and free app that puts all your emails, to-do lists, shopping lists, notes, and reminders in one place. You can share notes with other people, create projects, and discuss.

It is very simple which makes it irresistibly appealing.

“You have made email inviting to read. Never thought that’d be possible.”

— Joyce Tan, Twobird user

Best Note-taking apps

Evernote

Screenshot of Evernote productivity app
Screenshot Evernote

Evernote is a highly versatile productivity app. You can write a short note, record an audio note, take a photo, scan an article, or even use it as a catalog of your favorite recipes. I rely on it daily, for almost ten years now. You can share notes, use tags, and integrate it with other platforms, like Google Drive for example. Some people don’t like the organizational limitations of notebooks, but writer Michael Hyatt gives useful tips on how to organize Evernote for maximum efficiency.

I stuck with Evernote mostly due to its highly functional scanner and search feature. It is difficult to find what I need in a sea of notes, so I just type in a keyword, and voilà!

Google Keep

Screenshot of Google Keep productivity app
Screenshot Google Keep

Google Keep is one of those productivity apps you should keep on your phone. It is probably the best free app there is. If you are already a Google user, you can sync easily with other platforms. It is easy to share notes with your contacts. Google Keep can convert text on images into searchable text. If you dictate your notes, Keep can transcribe them into written notes. Notes can be in different colors and with tags to help with organizing. Google turned Keep into a powerhouse with many features to explore and master.

Dragon

Dragon productivity app screenshot
Screenshot Dragon

There are situations where typing is close to impossible. Sometimes, I simply don’t feel like typing. It’s nice to lay back, put your feet up, and dictate your emails, like a boss.

Dragon lets you do that, with 99% recognition accuracy. Dragon is fast, accurate, and convenient which brings it to the top of work productivity apps. The best thing is there are no time or length limits. You can dictate for as long as you need.

It doesn’t come cheap, but the Workooze team thinks it’s worth it. Watch it in action and see for yourself:

Best Habit tracking productivity apps

“Don’t break the chain!”

— Jerry Seinfeld

Habit trackers are productivity apps actually inspired by Seinfeld’s Don’t Break The Chain technique. Seinfeld himself invented the now famous technique to help him write new jokes every day. He put a yearly calendar on the wall and put a big red X when he completed his daily goal.

“That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!”

— Kenny Bania from Seinfeld

Such a simple, yet genius practice infected people worldwide. Habit tracking productivity apps let you do that without piercing your walls, which is always a plus for renters.

These work productivity apps let you check off something you do every single day, and over time you can see the progress you’ve made. There are tons of habit tracking productivity apps but these are the Workooze staff use and recommend. If you are keen on learning more about how to ace habits and form positive routines I recommend reading an insightful book — Atomic Habits.

Habitica

Screenshot of Habitica productivity app
Screenshot Habitica

Habitica is a free productivity app that treats your life like a game. Since I can’t say no to fun and games, I instantly started using Habitica as my go-to habit tracker app. With Habitica you become a Player with an avatar. Just like in a game, there is a bar with your health and experience levels. You can check off tasks, level up, unlock magic skills, go on quests, and battle monsters with friends. You earn rewards for good behavior that you can use in the game, sorry — app. Whether you want to track habits or to-dos, Habitica is a creative solution. Not many productivity apps are so inventive.

Habitify

Screenshot of Habitify productivity app
Screenshot Habitify

You shouldn’t confuse Habitify with Habitica, because they are completely different productivity apps. Habitify has a sleek, minimalist look with a clear visual representation of your habit streaks. It is free, easy to use, and very effective because you can add a lot of details to each habit. You can be very specific about the time reminders, start date, frequency, etc. Visually, you see blue streaks on a calendar that motivate you to keep building a habit.

It just works!

Best Time tracking apps

If you want to know how much time you’ve spent staring at a project, or how long your short break really was, you should use one of these time-tracking productivity apps.

RescueTime

Screenshot of RescueTime productivity app
Screenshot RescueTime

RescueTime productivity app tracks how you spend your time online and offline and gives you a detailed report so you can study your weak spots. You don’t need to manually start it, everything is automated.

You can block websites, set daily limits, and set FocusTime which is an undisturbed period.

“I started using RescueTime and I was absolutely shocked by what I saw. I started making changes immediately and experienced big improvements within weeks.”

-Colleen Doran, NYT bestselling cartoonist

Toggl

Screenshot of Toggl productivity app
Screenshot Toggl

Toggl tracks time online, offline, and across multiple platforms. It’s easy to start with just one click and then, forget about it. Do your work without interruptions. It is especially useful for businesses as it is easy to track billable hours, get reports, project timelines, progress, alerts, etc.

“Toggl runs our whole business in terms of how we bill clients and generate revenue.”

-FullStack Labs 

All the data syncs across all your devices, so you can start the timer on your phone and stop it in the desktop app. Other productivity apps should watch out.

Best Project management productivity apps

Trello 

Screenshot of Trello productivity app
Screenshot Trello

According to Lifehacker, Trello makes project collaboration simple and kind of enjoyable. And who are we to disagree?

I started using Trello years ago just for making my To do, Doing, and Done lists. Then, we at Workooze started using it for different work projects. It is easy for many people to join in on projects, add your own ideas, edit, add checklists, attach pictures and files, and see it all visually come together. It is highly customizable and parts can be automated with a Butler function.

It is useful to learn some Trello lingo beforehand. In Trello, a project is called a board, and list items are cards. Trello is free to use, but for business use, you should upgrade to Business Class or Enterprise to get an unlimited number of boards and more MB of uploads.

Basecamp

Screenshot of Basecamp productivity app
Screenshot Basecamp

As you may have already noticed, I try to keep up with Gwyneth Paltrow’s recommendations. Since Basecamp is her productivity app for all things work-related, I had to give it a shot.

There are many versatile and unique features that I didn’t see in other apps. Actually, it’s like a Swiss Army knife of apps that can replace many other apps and save you a lot of money in the long run. I like the real-time notifications all in one place, a group chat called Campfire and Pings which are Basecamp’s instant messages.

What I liked best is setting Work off-hours so I don’t get any emails or notifications during the weekend. I guess that’s everyone’s most used feature.

ClickUp

Screenshot of ClickUp productivity app
Screenshot ClickUp

Productivity apps are great for managing projects with lots of different tasks, and teams. After testing ClickUp we concluded that it is probably the most useful app for project managing. You can use different views to look at your tasks, Trello and Gantt (timeline) style included. You can describe tasks in detail; add subtasks, checklists, due dates, assign people to a task, etc. Basically, there are more options than you’ll ever need or find with other productivity apps.

Pushbullet

Screenshot of Pushbullet productivity app
Screenshot Pushbullet

This is one of those productivity apps that you won’t be able to live without. Pushbullet is a smart app that lets you share links and files across all your devices. You’ll never email yourself again.

Best Calendar apps

Using a calendar is a must in the modern world, not just for busy adults. If you don’t want to miss a birthday, you better put it in a calendar.

Google calendar

Screenshot of Google Calendar productivity app
Screenshot Google Calendar

This has become a standard work app. It integrates with all the other productivity apps. Creating events is easy whether you are on your phone or computer, and syncing is spotless.

For Gmail users, it automatically creates events from your emails. You’ll never lose track!

It’s free which is always a big advantage over other productivity apps.

Woven

Screenshot of Woven productivity app
Screenshot Woven

Woven is a great app that offers interesting features other more traditional calendars don’t. It markets itself as a place for all your calendars and events. You can sync all your calendars and see them clearly via Woven.

For busy workers, you can see other people’s availability, schedule meetings with Public Scheduling Links, and manage and join video meetings with Zoom and Google Hangouts. You can even schedule by voice command with Siri Shortcuts.

You will love using the Smart Templates for recurring events because they save time. If you want to analyze your time management, there is real-time analytics.

For today’s remote workplace, this is a great all-in-one solution.

Timepage

Screenshot of Timepage productivity app
Screenshot Timepage

Timepage by Moleskine Studio is a great choice, and not just for Moleskine fans. As a bullet journal user, I am familiar with Moleskine’s fame. They are a top quality brand, so I expected a lot from the Timepage productivity app. And it delivered! The look is modern, elegant, beautiful, and customizable. The integrated weather report is refreshing. The Heat map lets you see the busiest parts of a month. It is easy to use, just swipe left, right, scroll…

The Workooze team definitely recommends.

Best Writing apps

Google Docs

Screenshot Google Docs app
Screenshot Google Docs

Google Docs is a go-to writing app for all writers I know because of its automatic syncing to the cloud and collaborative features. It is free, reliable, and therefore irreplaceable.

Dropbox Paper

Screenshot Dropbox Paper
Screenshot Dropbox Paper

Why we love Dropbox Paper? It’s a serious alternative to Google Docs. It’s easy, simple, uncluttered, and integrates nicely with Dropbox file storage. If you link documents together, you can create a table of contents, which is a feature we haven’t seen in other productivity apps. I also like creating a mood board with pictures you can easily move around the screen.

You are welcome to join the Dropboxforum community (1063902members) and learn how to get more out of Dropbox.  

Notion

Screenshot Notion app
Screenshot Notion

This productivity app is not only for writing. Notion is a powerful personal and team management tool. For personal use it is free forever, so you should give it a chance.

You can start using it for notes, categorize them in a to-do, doing, and done. Make simple checklists. Then, you could make a recipe collection or add articles to your reading list. Many available templates will help you get started.

Or just start writing, which is its basic purpose. You can make your pages public — your own Notion website. You can use a free template to get started. Tempted? You should be.

Best Anti-distraction apps

Freedom

Screenshot of Freedom app
Screenshot Freedom

Freedom is a distraction blocker designed to keep you focused on the task at hand. This productivity app is available on all devices. It does allow you to block the entire Internet. This is what it looks like:

“Take a deep breath. You are Free.”

– Freedom

Through the Freedom dashboard, you can add your devices, start your session, set timers, and choose which distractions to block. You can create your personal blocking lists by adding websites and apps you want to avoid.

Cold Turkey

Screenshot of Cold Turkey app
Screenshot Cold Turkey

It is amazing how much you can get done when you eliminate distractions. Cold Turkey helps you with that. It can block websites, apps, whatever you like. It is customizable; you can schedule when to limit distractions via Pomodoro-style breaks and easily block anything when editing your block list. Remember, quality time is found offline.

For writers like me and amateur procrastinators, it is great because you can tell it your daily writing goal (mine is 1000 words) and it will block everything until you meet the goal.

Best Read later apps

Pocket

screenshot pocket app
Screenshot Pocket

Pocket is an excellent reading app that allows you to save articles you want to read for later. In fact, it stores them on your phone, so you can also read them offline.

Voice Dream

Screenshot Voice Dream
Screenshot Voice Dream

Voice Dream productivity app is not at all about reading later, but hearing it later. We at Workooze love it because it completely transforms long commute. The newest addition is also a useful scanner feature.

Best Mind-mapping apps

Coggle

Coggle imitates well real-life mind maps. Before you doodled in your notebook, now you can do the same thing with Coggle. It’s simple, colorful, and productive. A nice bonus is unlimited image download even with the Free Plan, and real-time collaboration with colleagues. If you are more of a visual type, always doodling and brainstorming in color, this productive app is the right one for you.

Mindomo

Screenshot Mindomo app
Screenshot Mindomo

Mindomo is a very popular mind-mapping tool. One of the things I like about it is the multiple views of mind maps. With an outline view, you can see a bulleted list where you can add checkboxes if you like. There is a Gantt view available too. Mindomo is easy to use, you can drag and drop-boxes, and move them around. Everything is customizable — font, color, type of branching, etc. I use Mindomo for note-taking as well. You can add photos, videos, and links.

For teams, the Mindomo productivity app really shines. You can collaborate with others, share mind maps, allow comments, etc. It is great because it allows you to work both offline and online, on many platforms, without any trouble with syncing.

Productivity Tips

  • Introducing Monkey Brain. It’s a real thing, I’m not kidding. The American Institute of Stress recognizes the existence of the lizard brain and monkey brain alongside our human brain.

When the monkey brain comes in, it is Game Over. I could watch YouTube for hours without realizing or caring, to be honest. When my monkey brain takes the wheel, I will go from watching funny memes, finding inspiring quotes, over to Harry Styles version of Sledge Hammer on the Howard Stern Show, then dessert recipes, some photos of Norwegian nature, reading the latest celebrity gossip, and end with reading how to qualify for the Bermuda remote work visa to get away from coronavirus infested news. What an exhausting day with nothing done! Productivity apps keep you on track, make you accountable, and help you do your job without distractions.

  • Automatization. I always got more stuff done when I was calm and focused. What helped me achieve that most is automatization. Idle hands and over-thinking never got me the much-needed results. Here is where all kinds of productivity apps help a lot.
  • Challenge yourself. Set a daily goal. Then, set a monthly goal, and a yearly one if you’re feeling adventurous. Without challenges, you will not make progress; you will never advance in your career, or life for that matter. Some people think of their life as a game — you set different challenges that you have to conquer to proceed to the next level.

“You have to motivate yourself with challenges.

That’s how you know you’re still alive.”

Jerry Seinfeld

  • De-stress. Stress is one of the biggest productivity busters. Luckily, there are apps for that too, but it’ll have to wait for another article.
  • Get physical. Short high-intensity bursts of physical activity can help you when you’re stuck. Sciencedaily reports the latest research which proved that sport and memory go hand in hand. Intense effort is even more effective. A 2020 Swedish study proved that even a single exercise makes you smart. How do you feel about HIIT now?
  • Multitasking is out. Multitasking is bad. The Times warns about the dangers of chronic multitasking. A French scientific study found it’s actually making us less productive. Thank you science!

Conclusion

If you want to be more productive, you should work smarter, not harder. We are constantly bombarded with new tasks, deadlines, reports, emails, calls, etc. Working from home hasn’t made work easy.  

Put technology to use. Let productivity apps help you. Forget about scribbling on paper and getting lost in your email folders. You don’t need an assistant, just the right app.

Believe it or not, there are over 3.3 billion smartphone users in the world. According to buildfire’s statistics, there are 2.2 million apps in the Apple App Store, and 2.8 million apps available for download on the Google Play Store.

Nowadays, there’s an app for everything. You should try a few before you find a winner. Just don’t do it all at once, or you’ll drain your phone battery.

Then, you’ll be the virtual office hero, so productive you’ll be the envy of your remote co-workers. Give yourself a pat on the back!

Related posts: How to Survive Working From Home [Learn From a Pro], Best Apartment Home Office Setup [2020 Ideas & tips], Eating Healthy While Working From Home [8 bullet-proof tips], How to Waste Time Online Without Regrets

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