Productivity is huge, but it’s elusive in our digital, always-on, social world. Productivity apps can help you focus better.
We live in a serially distracted world. The internet is everywhere—and this is great, really! It allows many of us to work from anywhere we want. Entire industries have sprung to life thanks to the ubiquity of the internet. Along with the benefits, though, come some serious drawbacks. Information comes easily, perhaps too easily. We’re inundated with social media, device notifications, and targeted advertising.
To be our best, we need focus and productivity. Ironically, many people are solving this technology-induced productivity crisis by turning to more technology.
Here are our top 4 productivity app recommendations.
Built on the principles of the Pomodoro technique, Focus Booster is a powerful productivity app that’s available just about anywhere: web-based, Mac, PC, and mobile. The Pomodoro technique encourages uninterrupted 25-minute periods of focused work, followed by a short (5 minute) distraction break. These shorter periods of focused work are grouped together. Once practitioners reach their set goal of focused work sessions, they take a longer (say, an hour) break. Focus Booster uses exactly these principles, and it gives you access to a depth of data as well.
With Focus Booster, your time is automatically logged, giving you the ability to create instant timesheets for employers or clients. Focus Booster also provides easy-to-read charts and graphs documenting how you spent your time. Use these tools to fine-tune your productivity by learning where you’re consistently losing time.
Though a free “starter” plan is available, Focus Booster describes itself as a subscription service that starts at $2.99 per month. That subscription allows you to track time and gain focus from any device in any location.
Focus Keeper is, in a way, the mirror image of Focus Booster, in that it’s mostly free with an optional paid Pro version. It’s a streamlined focus tool that also uses the Pomodoro technique. It covers all the basic functions that Focus Booster has, but it doesn’t go quite as far in depth. Set and use 25-minute timers and your usage goals, and Focus Keeper will gently remind you when your sessions (and breaks) are over. One nice additional feature is a “prevent lock screen” toggle, enabling you to use your iPhone like a persistent desk timer.
Like Focus Booster, you can view time graphs and charts in Focus Keeper, though they aren’t as comprehensive. If you want to access this data long-term, you’ll need to purchase Focus Keeper Pro, a separate app with a one-time $1.99 purchase price.
Both Focus Keeper and Focus Keeper Pro are iOS exclusives.
If the above options are a little too serious for your style, then Flora for iOS might be right for you. This app is yet another in the Pomodoro camp, but with an added layer of gamification, including collaboration. The idea here is that each 25-minute timer is “planting a tree.” If anyone involved with planting a tree exits their app before the 25-minute timer finishes, the tree dies. It sounds silly, perhaps, but killing trees is no fun!
Flora is a free app, but there are a handful of creative ways to spend money in it. Is the threat of killing a virtual tree not quite (pardon the pun) cutting it? Set a Price before planting a tree (that is, starting a timer), and if you kill your digital tree, you pay that price (in real money) to fund the planting of a real live wooden tree. You can also reverse the incentive by activating Flora Care. Now, each time you reach your larger productivity goal, you fund a real tree being planted.
If you’re an Android user that loves the idea of Flora, check out Forest, a similar but less polished “gamified productivity” app.
Fabulous is an exceedingly valuable tool that’s available for both iOS and Android. It’s not cheap: a monthly subscription is $9.99. The old saying “You get what you pay for” holds true here, though, as Fabulous is insanely powerful and deep.
Productivity is just one small part of Fabulous. You won’t find any Pomodoro-style timers here. Instead, you’ll start on a series of Journeys based on the information you give the app. Some call it self care, but the app creators (working at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University) prefer to call it behavioral science. That’s right—the science behind this app is backed up by research.
Use Fabulous to go on Journeys to make small changes that add up to big gains. Whether you need to lose weight, exercise more, focus better, or all of the above, Fabulous will help you get there through small changes. The Journeys available cover all sorts of areas, from sleep quality to learning Stoicism to eliminating specific bad habits.
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