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This List of 15 Free Productivity Apps Will Give You Your Time Back

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This List of 15 Free Productivity Apps Will Give You Your Time Back

As I’m sure any of us can attest, there are many distractions that take away from our productivity and occupy time that would be better spent elsewhere. There are plenty of ways to help you save time and increase efficiency. These 15 free apps will make day-to-day tasks a breeze and give you back your focus for where it really belongs.

Self Control

This app for Mac gives you laser focus by taking away that which distracts you the very most on your computer. Rather than blocking out absolutely everything, Self Control lets you specify a blacklist of websites. Just set your list and a period of time, and crank through your to-do list. But be warned: once you’ve specified an amount of time, you will not have access to your blacklisted sites until time is up.

SelfControlApp-Lifehack

    Remember the Milk

    Available for Android and iOS, Remember the Milk is an easy way to stay on top of your tasks without employing a single post-it or back-of-your-hand-note ever again. The app syncs seamlessly with apps like Evernote and even commands you give to Siri so nothing falls through the cracks. New releases are rare with this app – but the feature set is already so great, this is hardly a big complaint.

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      Dashlane

      Available for Android, iOS and desktop, this password manager gives you an easy-to-use password management app. Securely store your data and use the free form filler to quickly log into different accounts and rapidly fill out forms.  The app also tracks your online shopping, and has emergency password retrieval. There are a few login pages that Dashlane doesn’t cover, but the peace of mind more than makes up for it.

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        Day One

        Currently only available on iPhone, iPad & Mac, Day One gives you a place to journal. Automatically include details like the date/time, weather, photos, music you’re playing, location and more to remember for years to come. Only con: for the more sentimental people out there, you won’t have a journal you can hold in your hand later on down the line.

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          Pocket

          Keep track of relevant and interesting webpages – everything from articles and recipes to videos – and take a look later when you have the time to really digest it. Pocket will highlight the best information for you to focus on. Just make sure you go in and sort through what you’ve saved regularly or you might accumulate a backup and end up reading for hours, with no actual productivity saved. Available on Android & iOS.

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            Sunrise

            Available on both Android & iOS, Sunrise is a calendar app with a clean and beautiful interface. Keep track of everything you’ve got going on with reminders, sync with iCloud and Google Calendar, weather updates and more. If you’re frequently on the road like me, don’t worry – you’ve got automatic time zone adjustment. It’s set to only show you three days at a time, which could be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it.

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              Slack

              This app is available on Android, iOS and your desktop and gives you a platform for team communication. My own team and I have found it minimizes email deluge and provides a great place to collaborate. Create different channels for sub-teams within your larger team and archive conversations when they’re no longer relevant. Slack also has a powerful search function that helps you locate conversations from weeks before.

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                Shyp

                Never experience another interminable wait in line at the post office. Shyp’s tagline – “the easiest way to ship anything” – is no joke. The app’s got a simple and clean UI and all you have to do is fill out your recipient’s info, snap a picture of the item you’re sending and request a ‘hero’ to fulfill your request. So far, our team in San Francisco hasn’t waited more than 10 minutes for a pickup. The only drawback is a lack of transparency on what the exact shipping costs will be, but you can’t deny the simplicity of the entire process – as well as the fact that it’s only available in San Francisco for now. Available on iOS & Android.

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                  Evernote

                  Long hailed as one of the best apps for productivity, Evernote lives up to every bit of the hype. A beautiful app that lets you, literally, remember everything. Document your brainstorm, collect webpages, pictures and more in one place, and collaborate on all of this with those that need to be in the loop. Some of the other great features come at a cost, but definitely worth considering the investment! Available on both Android and iOS.

                  Evernote-Lifehack

                    Venmo

                    No more difficulty sharing the bill – Venmo lets you quickly and securely send or receive payments. From rent to splitting dinner, making a payment is done in a matter of taps and less than 30 seconds. You can set these payments to private or share them more widely with those in your network. Be aware: using a credit card in the app comes with transaction fees, while a debit card is free. Available on both Android and iOS.

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                      Contacts+ 

                      A simple and well-designed UI to keep all of your contacts in one place. Contacts+ pulls in information from other services you use, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, among others. Merge your contacts to save time, and use the smart search to quickly find exactly who you’re looking for. Available on both Android and iOS.

                      Contacts

                        Google Drive

                        This one’s an obvious choice – but one that my team uses every single day to collaborate on docs and stay on the same page (no pun intended, I promise). I’m a particular fan of the feature that lets you “suggest” edits to the doc, rather than just leave comments or completely edit without the owner’s approval. Available for Android and iOS.

                        GoogleDrive-Lifehack

                          RescueTime

                          RescueTime gives you weekly reports of how you’re spending your time online – which sites you’re on and how long you’re spending on them. This helps you understand your daily behaviors and which behaviors are the ones making you the most productive. You can set goals for yourself and see how you’re measuring up over time. The only drawback is that for the app to be truly accurate, you have to properly and sometimes painstakingly categorize your behaviors. This takes a while, but you’ll get this time back in no time. Available on Android.

                          RescueTime-Lifehack

                            Lift

                            This community-driven app gives you a way to set goals for yourself and keep track of them. Watch your progress, and turn to the community – which includes expert guidance – when you need support. There are options for peer coaching, bringing your friends on board and helping others with their own goals. One con is that the app crashes fairly regularly. Available on both Android and iOS.

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                            Lift-Lifehack

                              Concur

                              Never confront masses of mangled and torn receipts ever again! As someone who finds himself on the road regularly for work, managing and submitting expense reports on a timely basis can be difficult. With Concur, all you have to do is snap a picture of the receipt (and then throw it away – you don’t need it anymore!), fill out necessary details and instantly add it to your existing report. Managers can quickly approve or deny reports as well. The UI leaves a bit to be desired, but that’s a purely cosmetic complaint. Available on both Android and iOS.

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                                Save even more time by swapping out your default keyboard for a third party keyboard (whether you’re on Android or iOS!) that you can use in all of your apps for fast, easy typing.  What are your tech tips for staying productive? Share them in the comments!

                                Featured photo credit: Top Free Productivity Apps via picjumbo.com

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                                Published on September 21, 2021

                                How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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                                How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

                                The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

                                In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

                                1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

                                Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

                                But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

                                Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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                                Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

                                Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

                                While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

                                Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

                                2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

                                At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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                                Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

                                Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

                                Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

                                McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

                                From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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                                3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

                                An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

                                McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

                                Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

                                Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

                                Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

                                So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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                                The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

                                If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

                                Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

                                Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

                                Reference

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