So it’s a new year and you’ve set yourself some new goals – but by now that might be starting to feel like it was the easy part. With a fresh start and lots to achieve in 2014 we’re all looking to waste less time, be more productive and form some good habits, so why not get a little help from our friends – our programmer friends, that is. These apps are tried and tested and will turn your devices from distractions to hard task-masters – or at least friendly coaches.
We all have them, but if your new year’s resolution is to break some bad habits, or even develop some good ones, then this is an app for you. Whether it’s fitting in a run before work, drinking enough water or keeping up-to-date with your emails, simply enter the habits you’d like to keep and lose, and some timeframes. When you cross items off you will be rewarded with ‘streaks’ of success that will help you reach new habit-forming personal bests, and you can view your history at a glance to see where you’ve been going wrong.
The Sleep Cycle alarm monitors your movements during sleep using the accelerometer on your iPhone. It then finds the optimal time to wake you within a 30-minute window that ends at the time you need to be up. It might not get you any extra hours, but it will help you to wake up feeling more refreshed.
Over 200 million downloads is nothing to sniff at. If you’re sick of sitting through video ads, wading through pop-ups and trying to ignore banner ads, then this app will bring you some welcome relief. It works on websites including Facebook and YouTube and helps you get to the good stuff quicker, protecting your online privacy at the same time.
Every time you get distracted by a notification you lose 15 minutes of focused productivity. Not only that, but the beeps and vibrations have been linked to small bursts of cortisol, indicating a stress reaction. Notifications Off presents all your apps in one place so you can select which notifications you want to avoid. If you need to maintain your focus without distractions, then this one might be for you.
Do you have half a dozen tasks going at once? The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, encouraging focused bursts of work with scheduled breaks to improve mental performance. This app takes the principle of the 25-minute task and 5-minute break to help you get through your to-do list in batches.
Ever found yourself unprepared for a meeting? Tempo does more than manage your appointments; it pulls in all the relevant email threads, contact details, documents and maps to get you to the table ready and on time. And if you’re not on time, it will even allow you to contact all the attendees at once.
There are a large number of task managers in the app store, and each of these apps comes with its own appeal. Clear has a wonderfully intuitive UI that puts your most important tasks straight to the top of the list and gives you the satisfaction of swiping them away once completed. Wunderlist gives you more detail with sub-lists and sharing and Streaks rewards you when you complete tasks consistently by creating satisfying calendar streaks of accomplishment – a great way to monitor your follow-through.
If you want to manage your teams better, then get away from group email chains and into online project management tools. The benefits are establishing clear ownership of tasks, keeping the communications and contact details alongside the tasks and establishing clear and trackable workflows. Check out Asana and JIRA and see what difference either of these solutions can make for you and your team.
If you’re looking for something in-between a task list and a project manager, then Any.do is a simple solution that allows you not only to easily and quickly enter tasks, plan your day according to priorities and share, but also to assign and collaborate on tasks with others.
If you’ve returned to work full of new ideas, then you might also need to turn these into something you can communicate to others. This visual tool helps you to organise your thoughts into fully-fledged concepts right through to project stage – it’s mind mapping minus the butcher’s paper.
These repositories are designed to store all those interesting things you come across in the day but don’t have time to read, watch or listen to. You can store audio notes, ideas, documents and drafts in such a way that they will always be easily sorted and retrieved when you need them. Pocket even manages to strip your clippings of style and ads so that they are clearly viewable.
Cloud computing is well and truly here and, as promised, it is changing the way we work. With CloudOn you can create Word, Excel and PowerPoint from your iPhone, iPad or Android. Dropbox and Google Drive allow users to share and work on documents simultaneously from different devices, meaning that work really can happen from anywhere without skipping a beat. Dropbox and Hightail also help you to send large files that wouldn’t make it out of your inbox.
Email is instantaneous, but that can also set up an expectation that you will reply very shortly after you receive it. If you want to prioritise your emails then Boomerang for Gmail lets you schedule reminders and emails for future sending. Mailbox also offers scheduling and couples it with intuitive swipe actions to delete, file, archive or schedule emails. Clearing out your inbox never felt so satisfying.
Social media dashboard HootSuite has proven itself to be an indispensible tool for professionals managing a range of social media accounts. With just one login and all your accounts at your fingertips, you can schedule posts to be sent out automatically and use their comprehensive analytics to measure your impact across platforms. Buffer works in a similar fashion and you can add to your posting queue and the app will schedule it for you.
Wondering what to do with all the time you'll save? Take a look at our online courses and make 2014 your most productive year yet.
Do you have a favourite productivity app? Let us know!