With so much distraction out there, it’s hard to stay focused. Here’s a list of five apps that I love using on my phone and laptop to stay organized, focused, and ultimately more productive. Feel free to leave any tips about apps that you use in the comments section.

1. FollowUp.cc

To me, email is one big to-do list. I have emails to reply to, emails to save for future reference, emails that require a future check-in, emails to archive/delete, etc. Every email requires some sort of processing.

Now add in the complexity of emails that you can’t deal with right now or want to follow-up with later. Slowly your inbox will start growing with tasks you can’t deal with at the moment and you hit inbox overwhelm.

FollowUp.cc helps you manage your email better by returning emails to your inbox at a better time. It makes following-up with people a lot easier and keeps your inbox clean since you know that email is coming back to you at the appropriate time. They’ve also built in a “Snooze” function for their Gmail app which allows you to snooze an email sitting in your inbox so it gets re-sent to you.

FollowUp.cc helps me keep my inbox to less than 5-10 emails at any given time and has been the best app investment I’ve made to date. The only issue I’ve found of late is that the cost of the subscription has gone up quite significantly. If you’re a Gmail user and want to go with a free alternative, you might want to check out Boomerang as well.

Cost: $25 USD/month

2. StayFocusd

StayFocusd is a free plug-in for your Chrome browser which prevents you from spending too much time on unproductive sites like Facebook, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Netflix, etc. You basically set how much time you’re allowed to go onto your favourite websites during the day and it’ll prevent you from accessing them once you go over your limit.

For example, I have my daily allotment for Facebook and Twitter set at 15 minutes. That gives me enough time for a quick peak at what’s going on in that world but not enough time to get lost in the wormhole.

Cost: Free

3. Evernote

You may have heard of this one… a lot.

Evernote is one of the most popular note taking tools on the web. I primarily use it to help me capture information. Any interesting article goes into my “Cabinet” folder in my Evernote and I use its powerful search functionality and their “Context” tool to pull up relevant information on demand.

I also try to keep my Evernote super simple. I only use three folders – Action Pending, Desktop, and Cabinet. Action Pending is for any note that I need to tag/process, Desktop is for anything that I’m actively reading/working on during the week, and Cabinet is for any note that I’ve already processed or I’m keeping for future reference.

If you don’t have Evernote, download it and start saving notes/articles into it to start creating your “external brain”.

Cost: Free for the basic version. $6.99/month for Premium.

4. Pomodoro

I use an app for the iOS but there are a ton of apps out there that have a similar functionality. The concept is based on the “Pomodoro Technique” where you breakup your tasks/projects into 25-minute working periods followed by a 5-minute break. Personally, I prefer 15 minutes followed by a 3-minute break because it feels less daunting when I start the timer. This is great when you find yourself procrastinating and need that kick-in-the-butt to get yourself going with a short time limit or if you have a disciplined morning schedule where you need to keep switching through 15-minute tasks.

For me, it’s little momentum helps me get started on tasks that I’m not super excited about or limits how engrossed I get into non-crucial tasks (e.g. checking email).

Cost: $2.29 USD (for the version I use)

5. 7-Minute Workout

Not specifically a “productivity” app but getting some exercise in during the day is key to keeping your energy levels up. With this app, I’ve basically replaced going to the gym which saves me about 1.5 hours every day. If you take this seriously and make it part of your everyday routine, you can see the impacts pretty quickly. I follow the workout with a 5-minute stretch which helps prepare my body for a focused day at work.

Cost: Free (plus in-app purchases)

[Bonus] Rescue Time

If you’re an avid activity tracker like myself, you’ll like Rescue Time. Rescue Time keeps track of your computer-related activities and categorizes the activities based on how productive they are. At the end of the week (on the free version), you’ll get a overall score for the week and a broad categorization of where your time went. Based on where you’re spending your time, you now have the awareness of where your time is going and how you can modify your computer habits or keep them trending in a productive direction.

Cost: Free (Premium is $9 USD/month)

What apps do you use to help you stay productive throughout the day?

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3 thoughts on “Five apps I use to stay focused and be more productive

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