The best personal productivity apps help you stay on task without feeling like a chore. From time-tracking apps to website blockers, here are our picks.
Todoist is the mother of all to-do list apps, with plenty of features to play with in the premium version. BEST FOR TRACKING TIME
RescueTime will give you insights on how you're *actually* spending your workday, so you can make changes (or not) as necessary. BEST FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
This productivity app grows virtual "trees" when you refrain from picking up your phone. $1.99 from Apple App Store
There is, put simply, a ton of crap to get done. Keeping track of all of it can be a real nightmare, which is why you may want to set your sights on a productivity app.
Increasing your productivity means something different to everyone. Maybe you often feel overwhelmed by the tasks in front of you and want a way to sort them into categories. Maybe you want a to-do list that's better than a Google Doc. Maybe you want to split tasks into smaller, more manageable goals: a method that makes big projects seem less daunting and can also keep you away from distractions. Speaking of distractions, maybe you want to decrease the time you spend scrolling through social media during the workday and increase the time you spend working.
Whatever your needs, there's likely a productivity app that'll give you a little boost — or at least some insights into your current behavior.
What is a productivity app?
For the purposes of this list, we're defining productivity apps as tools to help individuals spend their time according to their own priorities, whether those are work-related, hobby-related, or just a general decrease in social media use or screen time. There are also productivity apps available for business use — even versions of some of the tools on this list! — but we focus on personal productivity options here.
Most of the options on this list are available for iOS, Android, and desktop. Only one — Stayfocusd — is a browser extension; the rest are downloadable apps. Our top productivity tool, Todoist, is cloud-based, which means it syncs across multiple devices. If you work across several operating systems or expect to switch frequently between a desktop app and a mobile app, this might be a good option for you.
Free versions vs. premium versions
While the "21 days to form a habit" thing is largely a myth, it does take time to get used to new practices — and to figure out what actually works and what you're just honeymooning with.
With that in mind, we generally recommend starting with the free version of your tool of choice for a month or so, then moving up to the premium version if it has features that you feel would improve your experience.
Some tools on this list, like the list-making tool Do!, require a one-time purchase to get rid of ads. That's generally worth it. Ads are extremely annoying (and not good, we surmise, for productivity).
It's important to note that even the best productivity apps are not an instant panacea for all your work-related problems. Even the tools you'll end up liking will probably require troubleshooting and tweaks along the way as you figure out your ideal workflow. Give it time. And don't forget to take breaks, hydrate, and prioritize sleep — you can't app your way out of basic needs.
Here are our picks for the best productivity apps.