Our daily lives can get hectic to the point of feeling outright unmanageable. Sometimes you lose track of your to-do list, and as soon as you’ve crossed out one thing in your mind, another appears, making it even harder to catch up. Thankfully, tools that can help you stop feeling like a modern day Sisyphus are at your fingertips – in the form of productivity apps.
Whether you need help with managing your time, keeping track of daily tasks, or simply blocking out distractions, you can find tools that will make your life easier. Today, we’re covering 15 best productivity apps to make your work and personal life easier, ranging from time management and organization to secure password storage. But first, let’s talk about productivity in the workplace.
Why productivity matters
We’re starting with a pretty philosophical question – why is productivity so important to us? Well, how productive we are is reflective of how much we can accomplish in a certain amount of time. When it comes to workplace productivity, we usually measure it day by day or week by week, comparing our progress to our past results or those of our peers.
That said, personal productivity isn’t something you can measure objectively – it varies for everyone. Doing less in a day than someone else doesn’t necessarily mean a person is unproductive – merely that their pace is different.
Another thing to note is that multitasking isn’t necessarily the same as productivity. In fact, some psychologists argue that multitasking can do more harm than good to your brain. According to research by Kevin Madore and Anthony Wagner, attempting to juggle several tasks at once leads to slower brain activity and worse performance while working or studying. Essentially, multitasking might actually make you less productive.
So, what can you do to stay productive without burning out and losing your steam? It sounds pretty simple – plan ahead, don’t try to do too many things at once, avoid distractions. And once you’ve found the tools that work best for you, it becomes achievable.
Productivity app categories
While many productivity apps offer multifunctionality in terms of organization and time planning features, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every single user, simply because everyone has different needs. Some need more help planning their tasks one by one, others look for a way to mute distractions. So to make it easier, we’ll be using a few categories to group our productivity apps.
The main categories that we’ll be taking a look at today are:
- To-do lists
- Note-taking apps
- Time management apps
- Pomodoro timer and focus apps
- Distraction blockers
- Screen recorders
- Password managers
Some of the apps can do more than one thing – for example, a time management app might also come equipped with a note-taking feature. So the apps are listed based on their primary feature, but other useful tricks will be mentioned in the descriptions.
Best productivity apps for iOS and MacOS
You don’t need to download or buy apps to up your productivity game. If you look around your iOS and Android devices, you’ll spot tools that you can use to boost your work performance. So, what productivity apps can be found on your Macbook or iPhone?
Apple devices come with built-in software that’s easy to synchronize between devices, meaning that some of your productivity apps for iPhone will also be accessible on a Mac or an iPad. Let’s start with something as simple as Calendar. You can use it to keep track of your meetings and set up your daily routine. Reminders allow you to create and schedule to-do lists. Notes and Freeform are what you need to write down your thoughts and sketch out brainstorming ideas. Similarly, Voice Memos can help you store your concepts if you don’t have time to write down everything.
In addition to the built-in productivity apps, Apple devices offer a native distraction blocker. If you want to focus on your work and mute notifications and other attention stealers, you can go to your system settings and enable Focus Mode. You can customize your Focus Mode settings to whitelist certain apps or determine a schedule to run it automatically.
Best productivity apps for Android
So we know what iPhones come equipped with, but what productivity apps can you use if you have an Android device? Well, things are a bit trickier here. The range of Android phones is pretty broad, and different providers may have their own native apps.
The default Android productivity apps that you’ll find across the devices regardless of the model are, of course, Google Suite features like Calendar and Docs. Another useful tool, Google Jamboard, is a digital whiteboard that allows you and your team to brainstorm and share ideas in real time.
We’ll use Samsung as the common denominator for built-in apps. However, your model provider probably has a similar option, so simply look through your apps list. The Notes app lets you add lists or memos. You can even use a stylus pen to make notes in your own handwriting, and the Notes app will transcribe it to an editable file.
Like iOS devices, Android phones let you set up a distraction blocker mode. You can select Work mode in your settings or create your own template for focusing. The mode can be adjusted to turn on automatically during your working hours.
Top productivity apps
Before we present third-party app recommendations, let’s briefly talk about security. You can find thousands of apps on your preferred app store, but not all are built with good intentions. Unfortunately, some apps can be used for data mining or worse – act as malware. So always make sure you’re downloading from the official provider and check the permissions that the app is asking for. You can find out more about keeping your device safe from unauthorized apps here.
To-do list apps
Let’s tackle daily tasks first. If you’ve developed a habit of trying to keep all your tasks in your head, you need a to-do list app to take some of that burden off your shoulders. They make organizing priorities easier, and you can be sure you’ve checked off all the boxes at the end of the day.
Todoist is a simple-to-use, intuitive app for organizing your work and personal tasks. It allows you to sort your tasks based on priority, making it easier to manage urgent matters without getting overwhelmed by the less important tasks.
You can use Todoist to manage both one-off and recurring tasks. Your list will be automatically organized based on the due date and priority level. Todoist offers task sharing, allowing you to manage your to-do list with your whole team.
Todoist is available with a free or a paid plan on iOS, Android, and Windows devices and offers cross-platform synchronization.
If you prefer a Kanban board-style of task management over bullet points, Trello may be the choice for you. Trello is a team-focused task management board that lets you see everything on your to-do list in one place – from what’s coming up to what’s already been ticked off.
In addition to the classic Kanban board, Trello allows you to view all your deadlines using the Calendar mode, giving you a clear preview of your monthly productivity.
Trello extensions can be downloaded for free for browsers including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and the app is available for Windows, iOS, and Android devices. You can also upgrade to the Premium version.
Many of us have made the mistake of waiting until later to write down our genius new idea only to get our hands on pen and paper and realize it’s vanished from our mind. Note-taking apps are a quick way to save your ideas as soon as they pop up in your head.
Evernote is a multipurpose organization app and web software. Calling it just a note-taking app really doesn’t cover its features – but this function can’t be overlooked either. It allows you to type, format, and share your notes, as well as create checklists and daily tasks. You can easily create and use various templates for your meeting notes, daily reflections, or research. With Scratch Pad, you can take a quick memo that can later be converted into a permanent note.
Additionally, you can work with PDFs, audio recordings, and images and even scan files directly on the app. Evernote can also be used for scheduling reminders for your tasks and can be synchronized with Google Calendar.
Evernote is available as a website and desktop application as well as on iOS and Android devices. You can use it for free as an individual or try the one-month free trial for teams.
Notion is a digital notebook for creating, managing, and organizing your projects. It uses drag-and-drop mechanics to let you freely create your personal journal. However, you can also check out user-created templates. It’s a flexible tool for your work and personal life – and it’s also a lot more than just a platform for quick notes.
Notion allows you to set up a calendar, track your habits, and create digital wikis. You can import files and use the digital environment to work on your coding projects. Recently, Notion introduced AI assistance, allowing you to accelerate your work by getting writing suggestions, edits, and translations.
Notion is available for free on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices and offers cross-platform synchronization. You can also upgrade your plan with a monthly subscription to share your workspace with up to 250 guests.
Time management apps
Time management is one of the most difficult tasks to get a grip on. No matter how much you plan ahead, one delay can derail the rest of the schedule. Nevertheless, you can work on your time management skills with the next couple of productivity apps.
RescueTime is an app that helps you optimize your time management. It’s an intuitive tool that takes your daily habits into account to help you set up your schedule. RescueTime analyzes your time log based on your daily events – be that meetings, focus sessions, or breaks – and provides suggestions on how you can plan your tasks to suit your needs best.
The app analyzes your screen time data and lets you enable distraction blocking to stop yourself from checking apps that pull your focus away from your work. You can receive a live data feed of your productivity and set up weekly focus goals.
RescueTime is available to be downloaded for a free two-week trial as a browser extension and desktop software, as well as an iOS and Android app.
Toggl is an app that aims to help you manage your daily schedule and boost your productivity. It creates reports of real-time data performance for the whole team. However, it doesn’t just keep track of time – it lets you check in on your health and burnout levels as well.
Based on the data available on Toggl, companies can accurately calculate payroll and analyze project profitability. Time report data can also be shared with clients using automatically generated, easy-to-follow graphs.
You can download Toggl as an iOS and Android app or on Windows and Mac devices to start the free 30-day trial.
Pomodoro timer and focus apps
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Pomodoro technique, it’s a way of managing time by breaking it into work-break segments. A typical Pomodoro technique is 25-5, where you work for 25 minutes and pause for 5, but the durations may vary based on your preferences.
Forest is a unique app/game that combines a timer with a distraction blocker. At first glance, it appears as any other Pomodoro timer – you set a timer to focus on a task. Here’s the twist – with each completed task, you grow a tree. The more tasks you complete, the bigger your forest grows. However, if you exit the app in the middle of a sprint, your trees will wither and die.
Additionally, Forest also works as a distraction blocker. You can select which app notifications you want to block and which ones to blacklist when you activate the timer. That way, if you’re waiting for an important call or message, your trees will keep growing once you answer.
You can download the Forest extension for free on the Chrome browser or install the app on your iOS and Android devices.
At first glance, Pomotodo is a classic Pomodoro timer tool – you set up a timer for a work session and focus on your task until the timer runs out. However, there’s more to it under the hood. As you might tell from the name, Pomotodo combines the Pomodoro technique with your to-do lists.
You can set up a separate timer for each of the tasks on your list. It uses simple syntax to prioritize tasks – for example, you can write #Priority next to your most urgent duties. At the end of each day, you can receive a productivity report that compares your day-to-day performance and recommends optimal focus hours.
You can use Pomotodo for free as a Chrome extension, a web app for Mac and Windows, and a mobile app on iOS and Android devices or upgrade to the Pro plan to unlock advanced features.
9. Focus To-Do
Focus To-Do is a time management and Pomodoro-style app for your daily productivity at work and at home. You can set up timers for work sprints, receive daily performance reports, and create reminders to stay on top of everything.
Got recurring tasks? Instead of checking in manually every time, you can set up an automatic reminder. As an all-in-one tool, Focus To-Do lets you add personal notes and memos. To aid your organization, you can split each of your tasks into smaller subtasks. That way, you’ll be less likely to get overwhelmed and more likely to achieve your goals.
Focus To-Do is available for free on all major app stores for mobile and desktop devices and as a Google Chrome extension.
Did you know that music (and noise) can make or break your productivity? Well, the developers of Focus@Will do – making it one of the most unique entries on this list. This app breaks up your work into 20-minute segments with sessions that last up to 200 minutes. During each session, you’ll be listening to music that stimulates your brain activity, so make sure you have your headphones plugged in.
Focus@Will was created using scientific research and has been reported to be helpful for people with ADHD. The sound catalog includes instrumental music and atmospheric backgrounds. With each 20-minute session, the music slightly changes to keep your brain stimulated without getting distracting.
Focus@Will can be found on app stores for iOS, MacOS, Android, and Windows devices. You can sign up for a free 28-day trial or subscribe to one of the plans for individual users or your workplace.
Do you get overwhelmed by a constant stream of notifications? Do you find your thumb hovering over Facebook or Instagram too frequently for your liking? We live in the age of distractions, most of which come in the form of social media apps. To help tackle this problem, distraction blocking apps have emerged.
Some of the timer and focus apps we’ve discussed, like Forest, also come with built-in distraction blockers. So keep that in mind when you test different platforms.
BlockSite is a focus tool and a distraction blocker for workplace and personal productivity. The principle is simple – add the URLs of websites that keep you distracted, and BlockSite will keep them denylisted for as long as you need to stay focused. You can also block specific keywords and even set up redirect pages, so even if you try to get around the restrictions, you’ll be able to maintain your focus.
Tempted to just disable it? BlockSite is ready for it – the settings are password protected, meaning that each change will require you to enter your password again. You can even create your own custom page to remind you that it’s currently time to stay focused, not browse Facebook.
BlockSite can be used as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, a desktop application for Windows, or an app for Android and iOS for free
Sometimes you try to escape your work by looking for distractions on your phone. Here’s where Freedom comes in – this distraction blocker supports multi-device control, meaning that you can block all distractions on your desktop, phone, and tablet at the same time. You can even block your internet connection and enable locked mode to focus on your offline activities.
With Freedom, you can schedule your preferred screen blackout and focus times or start a new session whenever you want. Once you’ve selected which websites and apps you want to block, choose the duration and begin your productive time. The app also lets you set up an ambient background and annotate each session to keep track of your progress.
Freedom is available on Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android devices as well as a Google Chrome extension. You can have seven free sessions as part of the free trial or sign up for the Freedom Premium plan.
Screen recording tools
Many phones come already equipped with a screen recording function. However, sometimes you may need more enhancements, like audio effects or better cutting to create montages. Here’s where screen recording apps come into play. You can use these tools to capture important footage to revisit in the future or use in your other projects.
Always be cautious when downloading screen recording apps and check what permissions they require. Granting access to your phone screen runs the risk of malicious software recording your passwords, bank details, and other sensitive information.
If you work with visual materials or video tutorials or simply find video tutorials to be easier to follow, Loom can be truly helpful. It’s used to create asynchronous video content – think pre-recorded webinars or video messages. Using Loom, you can capture your message without having to type long emails.
Loom videos are easy to share. You can also add transcriptions and closed captions to help the recipient or audience member follow along or for use as subtitles in a different language. You can simultaneously record your screen and yourself on your device’s camera, making for engaging content that can be edited in-app.
The Loom Screen Recorder can be downloaded on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices or as a Google Chrome extension. The free Starter plan is suitable for individuals, while teams can sign up for the Business and Enterprise plans.
Movavi is an all-in-one tool for video creation. You can record the audio and screen of your device, edit it in-app, and convert to it your preferred format. Using the Movavi Video Suite, you’ll have the full toolkit that a professional videographer needs.
Recently, Movavi has introduced AI-powered features that make the process even easier and your videos more professional-looking. Using AI, you can remove unnecessary background noise, track fast motions, upscale your footage, and even change the way your surroundings look.
The Movavi software is available on Microsoft desktop as well as Apple and Android devices. You can try the free version or get a subscription to use the video suite, photo editor, and other features.
Last but not least, let’s talk about password managers. At first it may seem surprising how they tie into productivity. However, the numbers speak for themselves – on average, a person spends up to 12 hours a year resetting their passwords. That’s half a day dedicated to just trying to remember where a capital letter goes and where you had to use a punctuation mark. We’ve got a great suggestion to help you improve your productivity.
The last entry in our list is, of course, NordPass. If you’re not yet familiar, NordPass is a password manager for business and personal use. It uses zero-knowledge architecture to securely store your passwords and allows you to generate new, strong and unique combinations to keep your accounts safe.
In addition to password storage, you can use NordPass for your credit card information, secure notes, and passkeys. Using autosave and autofill, you won’t waste time typing in your login details character by character.
NordPass is available as an extension for all popular browsers. You can also download the web application on your Windows or Mac device or get the mobile app for iOS and Android. Learn more about NordPass pricing options here.
Productivity can be a tough beast to tame, but plenty of tools are at hand to prevent you from getting overwhelmed by all your tasks. Whether you need help with time or distraction management or following up on tasks or if you need more technical tools to improve your workspace, try one or more of the apps we’ve discussed today – you might find your perfect fit.
If you end up opening an account on more than one of the productivity apps we’ve discussed, you’ll need a password manager to keep all your login details in check. NordPass lets you securely store all your personal and work-related passwords and share access to the productivity apps with trusted peers. So sign up for NordPass, find your new favorite productivity app, and improve your workflow today