If you’re looking for the best productivity tools in one place, you’ve just hit the jackpot.
We did the research, so you don’t have to. Here are 25+ of the best productivity apps to use in 2021 that will help you optimize your time and get more things done while staying balanced, happy, and, you know, sane.
Without further ado – here they are:
Apps that help you discipline yourself
DeskTime is a productivity app that lets you track your time, plan and track your projects, and calculate costs simultaneously.
The project’s costs feature lets you fill in your hourly rate and calculates automatically how much you have to charge the client based on the time you’ve spent on a specific task or project.
You can also categorize the apps, websites, and programs you use into the categories “productive,” “unproductive,” and ”neutral”. That way, you’ll know how much time of your workday you spend effectively and how much time you spend on work-unrelated websites, like social media, news sites, and more.
Knowing your most time-consuming unproductive habits, you’ll know what to do to improve your productivity. For instance, you can temporarily block distracting websites while at work. (See apps for that below!)
Price: 14-days free trial. DeskTime Lite – free; DeskTime Pro – from $5.94/user/mo; DeskTime Premium – from $7.75/user/mo. If choosing the annual subscription, receive one month free.
The Forest app is built to help you discipline yourself and keep away from your phone. Whenever you need to focus, open the app, set the timer, and ”plant” a tree. Then put down the phone and focus on the task you want to get done. If you pick up your phone and leave the app before the time is up, the tree will die.
Sad. But here’s the good news:
The team behind the Forest app has partnered up with an actual tree-planting organization. Whenever you stay focused and keep your hands off your phone, real trees are planted on earth.
By now, there have been about 973,448 trees planted by Forest. Great chance to stay focused and make a real difference at the same time, right?
SelfControl is an open-source app, which blocks sites that you deem too distracting. You set a timer, and it blocks those sites until the timer is up.
Beware: once you set your blocked time, there’s no going back. Not even restarting the computer or deleting the app will do it. You have no choice but to wait until the timer’s up! Harsh? Maybe, but it’ll get you to focus.
Due is a task scheduling app that repeatedly reminds you of items you must get done until you act on them. Annoying? Maybe. But also surprisingly effective, since it’s impossible to forget things you really need to get done.
The Due app is similar to many other reminder apps out there, just more user-friendly to use on your phone:
First, it lets you schedule tasks with a single tap – you don’t have to scroll through the time wheel to set your due time. Second, you can snooze reminders with just a tap until you’re ready to act on them. It means no rescheduling, which saves you time.
There are days when maintaining self-discipline feels like a mission impossible. Luckily, the free habit-building and productivity app, Habitica, can spice up that self-discipline quest by adding some fun game-like elements to your everyday life.
How does it work?
Habitica turns all your daily tasks into little monsters you have to conquer. Your real-life progress impacts your game status directly – the better you’re at crushing your tasks, the bigger is your progress at the game.
Getting things done doesn’t have to be all blood, sweat, and tears – the Habitica app turns some of the most dreadful tasks into pure fun. Plus, you can collaborate with your friends or colleagues to fight the daily monsters together. Awesome, right?
The idea of this super simple and free timer is based on the Pomodoro technique, which means dividing your work time into time blocks: you focus on your work task for a particular time, then take a short break. In other words – work, break, repeat.
Pomofocus is a customizable timer that works both on desktop and mobile browsers. Add tasks you need to complete, personalize the timer entries’ length or use the custom ones, select the task you’ll be working on, and start the timer for a focused working session.
The free timer has audio notifications, that you can also customize according to your preferences, and color transitions – red for working time, turquoise for a short break, and steel blue for a more extended period of rest.
If you have never tried the Pomodoro technique, this app is probably the perfect place to start.
Apps to help you keep your focus
Kill News Feed is a Chrome extension that blocks your News Feed on Facebook when you need to focus on work. Knowing that the habit of scrolling Facebook News Feed is a real productivity killer, this simple extension is a serious focus-booster and time saver.
If you use Facebook for work purposes – worry not! While you won’t be able to see and scroll your newsfeed, you’ll still be able to check your messages and notifications and access your business pages.
Fun name, serious business – Cold Turkey is a productivity program that allows you to temporarily block distracting websites so you can focus on your work tasks. And whenever you try to visit a blocked website, you’ll instead see a motivational reminder to get back to work.
You can automate the Cold Turkey program by creating weekly schedules at the specific times you want the distracting websites to be blocked. Or you can simply activate the program whenever you must focus on work – for 15 minutes, 1 hour, or even 8 hours if you need to.
Price: Free for the basic version, $35 one time fee for the PRO version
Freedom is a flexible focus app that lets you manage websites and apps that distract you and block them for as long as you want – 30 minutes, 1 hour, all day or any other custom time.
Just like the name suggests, Freedom liberates you from the addictions and distractions that waste your time on your computer, tablet, or phone (works on Windows, Mac, and iOS devices). According to its creators, Freedom is helping hundreds of thousands of people regain focus and earn more time for work and family.
Price: $6.99/mo for monthly access or $2.42/mo for the yearly plan
Brain.fm provides you with music designed to increase focus and concentration, improve meditation, and aid sleep. While there are many similar services, what makes Brain.fm different is that their music and sounds are ”scientifically composed” by bots to help you focus or relax.
Price: Free for the basic version; $6.99/mo or $49.99/year for the Pro version.
If you’re the person who likes working in cafes, but your company’s policy doesn’t allow working outside the office, here’s the perfect solution – an app that recreates the ambient sounds of a busy coffee shop. Giving you the feeling that you’re out of the usual office environment, Coffitivity can boost your creativity and help you work better.
Choose between various ”soundtracks” – whether it’s the ”morning murmur”, ”lunchtime lounge”, or ”campus undertones”, you’ll find the perfect background noise for your focus.
Price: Free for the basic version, $9/year for the Premium version.
Noisli offers a collection of ambient sounds that help you block out distracting noises in the office or relax and reduce stress.
The best part? You can combine the sounds you like and create your own ideal noise to improve your focus. In other words, you can listen to the rain, forest sounds, or coffee shop noise separately, or you can mix all these sounds in one heavily saturated background noise.
Price: The basic version is free; €8/mo Pro version for individual use; €20/mo Business version for teams.
Apps that will save hours of your time
The 1Password app lets you forget all your passwords, except one. And while there are similar services in the market, 1Password stands out with its straightforward interface and user-friendliness.
To use it, simply install the browser extension and create an account. Whenever you log into a website, 1Password will ask you if you want to save the username and password.
Once saved, your passwords will be available for later use and you’ll be able to log into websites with a single click.
Price: From $2.99/user/mo for Individual use until up to $7.99/user/mo for Business purposes.
Like 1Password, LastPass saves all your passwords, so you only have to remember one – your master password. Contrary to 1Password, LastPass has a free version, which is perfect enough to use without the upgrade.
Install the extension on your browser, then start saving your passwords to LastPass – it will automatically offer you to save a password when you log in to a new website for the first time. Once saved, you’ll be able to log into the sites with one click.
Price: Free for the basic version, $2.90/mo for the premium version.
Pushbullet is a must-have software if you interchangeably use both your phone and laptop. The software connects all your devices, so they feel like one – whatever’s on one device also becomes available on the other ones you use.
For instance, you can easily send files from one device to another and send links. It can also notify you about incoming messages on your phone while you’re using your laptop and whatnot. This app saves time because you don’t have to send files and links through your email anymore. Plus, it won’t allow you to miss important notifications on your different devices.
Price: Free for the basic version, or from $3.33/mo for the Pushbullet Pro version
If you’re looking for info on a specific topic but don’t want to spend all day searching the web for the most recent news, then set up a Google Alert. Enter the keyword you’re looking for and customize by selecting which sources you want, how often you wish to be notified, etc.
You’ll receive emails whenever anything is published about that specific topic. Set it to notify you how often you like. I suggest once at the end of the day to avoid constant distractions and updates.
The Pocket app is for when you find something online that you want to read or view later – it lets you save articles, images, and videos all in one place. Living in an era of information overload, this little app becomes super handy.
This app saves tons of time because it allows you to save things directly from your browser and various apps like Twitter, Flipboard, and more. Then, whatever you save is available for a review later on your phone, tablet, or computer.
The Pocket app works online and offline, which means you can read what you’ve saved whenever you have time, no matter where you are and whether there’s an internet connection.
Price: Free for the basic version, £35.99/year for the premium version
An RSS, or Rich Site Summary, lets you catch up on the latest of all your favorite sources in one place. Publishers automatically syndicate their content to a feed, creating one mega content hub.
Feedly is a great time-saver because it lets you organize your favorite blogs and news sources into categories, then quickly find resources on topics you’re interested in. Browse your resources all at once in one list or individually by category. Keep all of your sources in one place, and never miss a new post.
Price: Free for the basic version, but you can access additional tools and integrations with an upgrade that starts from $6/mo.
Flipboard is a visual RSS reader that curates the world’s topics to help you stay informed. Like a magazine, the idea is that you can flip through pages. Decide on which topics interest you, and it will automatically curate content based on these interests. The options are endless, from politics to nutrition to photography.
WorkFlowy is a tool that lets you take notes, make lists, collaborate, brainstorm, and plan your tasks and projects. It’s a tool to add bullet point notes and then move them around to organize your ideas efficiently.
Another cool feature is the tagging option. Whenever you add a new idea, task, or whatever, you can add a tag that’s associated with it. You can then later find all your notes with that specific tag.
Let’s say you’re working on a new project. WorkFlowy allows you to simply add a tag #new to all tasks and ideas related to it. Using the tagging feature, you can always just jot down your ideas and be sure you’ll be able to find them when needed.
Price: Free for the basic version, $4.99/mo for the Pro version
Drag is a free Chrome extension that turns your inbox into a manageable workspace. Simply put, the app allows you to categorize your emails into three columns or stages: To Do, Doing, and Done.
By categorizing your incoming messages, you can easily see what hasn’t been dealt with and what’s already processed. That makes your inbox more organized, saves hours every day, and generally reduces time spent on emails.
Price: Free for the basic version, $8/user/mo for the PRO version (if billed annually)
Whether your daily tasks are directly related to loads of writing, or you’re only sending a few emails from time to time, a language-checking tool always comes in handy.
Meet Grammarly (if you haven’t met it yet) – an AI-powered tool that helps the written communication. Correcting your grammatical mistakes is just one of the many amazing things that the tool does. It also suggests improvements for clarity, engagement, delivery, and more, based on your audience and goals that can be variously adjusted.
Next to many features, one of the latest is Grammarly’s browser extension, which creates writing suggestions as you type on different websites. It is beneficial for saving time as there’s no need to insert your writing manually in the tool to check it for mistakes.
Price: Basic version is free, followed by the Premium version starting at $11.66/mo and the Business version starting at $12.50/member/mo.
Apps for your personal growth
You’ve probably heard about TED talks and the 30+-year-old organization behind them whose goal is to help us understand the world better.
Now, the TED official app is the place you’ll find over 2000 talks on all kinds of topics, from psychology and art to mathematics and tech. With subtitles in 90+ languages, the app leaves you with NO excuse not to learn something new every day.
The app lets you learn from the world’s most remarkable people, and not taking this chance is simply a wasted opportunity.
Coach.me is a habit-building and tracking app: you choose a new habit you want to form, join the challenge, and the app sends you daily reminders to help you keep on track.
The habit you want to build can be something work-related like waking up earlier for work, or something personal, such as a 30-day plank challenge. Once you’ve joined the challenge, you can track your progress by checking it off every time you complete the activity. Moving further allows you to celebrate each milestone with like-minded people from the community who’ve also joined the same challenge.
Have doubts about your willpower? From just $25 a week, you can hire a coach who won’t let you give up and consult you through the app or on the phone.
Price: The habit tracker app is free; from $25/ week for personal coaching services
Headspace is an app that provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training. It’s like your own personal coach who helps you train your mind and teaches you to meditate.
Headspace is a former Buddhist monk’s work whose voice you’ll be hearing when listening to the sessions. At first, you can try the app by taking its free Basics course that teaches you the basics of meditation and mindfulness. The first part of the free course is made of 10 sessions. After trying it out, you can proceed with a Headspace subscription.
What is especially remarkable about this app is the broad range of materials to explore besides the app itself – articles, videos, animations, and even a recently-released animated series available on Netflix.
Price: For a monthly subscription, the first week is free, then $12.99/mo; for an annual subscription, two weeks free, then $69.99/year ($5.83/mo).
The perfect app for short work breaks or if you need to decompress after a rough meeting or deadline. Go on donothingfor2minutes.com and do nothing but look at a photo of the ocean and listen to the waves’ sound. Studies show that gazing at nature increases productivity, so it’ll help you recharge and get back to work.
Plus, to make sure you really take a 2-minute break from the outer world, the app “bans” you from any mouse or keyboard activities. If it detects any keyboard clicks or mouse movements, the 2-minutes timer restarts, and you’re ought to begin your uninterrupted short break again until it’s complete.
It can be hard to quiet your busy thoughts when taking a break, but trying a guided meditation via the Calm app can help. Pick your favorite scenic image – choose between a rainy window, mountains, a misty forest, pink sunsets, and more – and decide on the length of your session. The guided meditation is excellent for novices, but it’s optional and can be turned off.
Meditation also makes you more creative, so you’ll be full of energy and great ideas when you’re ready to get back to work.
Price: 7-day free trial, then $69.99/year, or you can get Calm for life with a one-time payment of $399.99
Sanvello (previously known as Pacifica) is an app that helps you deal with your anxiety, stress, and depression.
The app provides clinically proven therapies and tools to improve your mental health – e.g., daily mood tracking, guided journeys for learning helpful techniques, various coping tools, and more. It also assesses your health progress through weekly check-ins.
Based on cognitive-behavioral therapy and meditation principles, this toolset aims to help you build the life skills you need to maintain a healthy balance daily. Whether you need a self-care guide, peer support, coaching, or therapy – it’s all there within reach.
Price: Free for the basic version, from $8.99 for a premium-access account.
Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock that tracks your sleep and wakes you up during your light sleep.
“Waking up during light sleep feels like waking up naturally rested without an alarm clock,” say the creators of the app. Thus, by using the app, waking up well-rested and refreshed every morning won’t be a problem anymore.
Price: Free for the basic version, from $1.99 for the Premium version
Have a tool, app, or service to suggest? Let us know in the comments!
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