Top Lifestyle Apps for Focus and Productivity
I consider myself a Time Management Maestro [toot! toot!], and love finding tools that will help me stay (even) more productive and get the job done.
As someone who works/interns/creates content/does-all-the-things from home, I am in complete control of my schedule, which is great, but it does come with its own set of challenges. I’ve shared some of my top productivity hacks with you in the past, but thought I’d dedicate a post to my favorite apps for staying focused and productive throughout the day.
Todoist App (mobile, desktop, browser extension)
Todoist is pretty much the end-all, be-all of productivity apps. You can create to-do lists–or lists of any sort–and organize them by date, project, label, priority, or duration. Todoist allows you to set recurring tasks and receive notifications when it’s time to shift gears, making it ideal for freelancers, imo. You can make your own list templates, or use one of the templates the Todoist team has already put together. Create sublists or subtasks, add notes–including text, images, or files–and assign tasks when working with teams. Sync with your calendar, Slack, and a whole slew of other time-tracking and productivity apps for ninja-level productivity. Todoist awards "karma" when you check things off your lists, so you can visualize your productivity and feel great about yourself (and show the world how well put-together you are). You can organize your entire life with this app, no joke. I’ve been using the Premium version for a few months and have been so impressed!
I use Todoist all three ways–on mobile, on my desktop, and via the browser extension–and the integrations are, across the board, fantastic. The apps and extension are free to download, and there is a Basic version that you can use for free, but I definitely recommend upgrading to Premium if you want to take your productivity and organization to the next level.
Forest App (mobile, browser extension)
The Forest app, in my opinion, is almost perfect. The app is essentially a site blocker–meant to keep you focused and on-task–and when used on mobile, Forest can block apps, as well. Of course if your work is heavily based on the internet, or if you work on your phone and need access to other apps, you can whitelist the sites or apps you want to be able to use. Make sure you whitelist them before you begin your work though, or you’ll have to sacrifice your precious tree. Yes, your tree. Let me explain. What sets Forest apart from other Pomodoro focus timer apps is that while you’re working, you can grow little virtual trees and shrubs to build a lush and beautiful… wait for it… forest of productivity. Now that may seem silly, and it is. But it gets better. You earn points for every batch of productive time you spend “on” the app, and when you reach a certain number of points, you can plant a real tree in a real forest. That’s right. Forest has partnered with Trees for the Future to turn your productivity into something even more meaningful than just getting ish done.
More cool features: You can label each productive batch with the client or project you’re working on, and you can listen to ambient sounds while you work if you use the mobile app. For some reason sounds aren’t available on the browser extension, though. Boo. Also, those points I mentioned? If you’re not interested in planting a real tree, you can use your points to buy additional ambient sounds or new trees/shrubs.
The app is $1.99 and worth every cent; the browser extension is free.
Noisli App (mobile, browser extension)
Noisli is the perfect companion to the Forest browser extension. I don’t have the Noisli app on my phone, but whenever I run the Forest extension on my computer, I run the Noisli extension alongside it, because I love me some ambient noise. Noisli a lot like Forest–it’s a Pomodoro focus timer that plays ambient sounds–but you can’t earn points or build forests (real or fake). You can, however, create your own ambient sounds from Noisli’s built-in collection of tracks. You can also type within the app, which is nice for creating drafts or journaling, but I find that feature sort of cumbersome, to be honest.
To get right down to it, I only use the Noisli Chrome extension, and I only use it because Forest’s browser extension doesn’t offer sounds. That’s why I said Noisli is the perfect companion to the Forest extension. It really just comes down to preference here, and whether you’d rather have your earbuds plugged into your computer or your phone. [shrug]
The mobile app is $1.99; the browser extension is free.
Clockify App (mobile, desktop, browser extension)
Alright. Now we’re talking dolla bills. I’ve tried a few different time tracking apps to track billable hours [freelancers, unite!] but all-in-all, Clockify has to take the cake, here. There are a ton of integrations available (Including integrations with Todoist! Ding ding!), and as with Forest, you can organize each productive batch by client or project. What really sets Clockify apart though, is that while you’re focused, on task, and being productive, you can track that time, assign a billable rate, and then export timesheets to share with your clients, along with your invoice.
There are loads of features Clockify offers which I haven’t needed to use yet, like tracking private sessions, creating branded reports, running audits, setting alerts, and bulk editing. Some of the features and the way they’re presented seem like a bit much to me (unless you’re using Clockify to track your entire company’s hours and projects), and to be honest, the interface isn’t the most user-friendly I’ve ever experienced (I prefer the simplest, sleekest, most minimal UI/UX design). I use the free desktop app and the browser extension, and for my needs, the Basic version is just about right.
Forest + Noisli + Clockify = The Perfect App. Each of them has elements I love but are also missing key features, individually.
If I could track billable hours and listen to ambient sounds on Forest’s browser extension – perfect. (Ambient sounds are only available on the mobile app.)
If I could track billable hours; grow a real tree; and have a simple, fun, interactive member experience on Noisli – perfect.
If I could listen to ambient sounds; grow a real tree; and have a simple, fun, interactive member experience on Clockify – perfect.
Alas, I’m left with having to rotate between the three apps, or use all three at once. They’re each lovely and beneficial in their own way, but are just short of perfect as stand-alone apps.
Kiwi for Gmail App (desktop only)
Kiwi brings Gmail and the whole Google Suite onto your desktop, which will save you one, two, three million clicks. Of course saving clicks translates to saving time. With the full version you can log in with up to six accounts, which is great for those of us who have more than one Gmail address we use for personal/business purposes. My only complaint with regards to Kiwi Gmail: there’s no Grammarly integration within the app. I had gotten used to Grammarly checking my emails, so reverting back to good ol’ DIY spell-and-grammar-checking took a minute to get used to, but, you know, #firstworldproblems.
The entire Google Suite is accessible with fewer clicks too, putting your Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides right at your fingertips, and yep, your Google Cal is at-the-ready, too.
Kiwi’s full version is free to download for a limited time, and when I reached out to the team to find out when the offer would expire, I didn’t get an answer. So to be safe, if I were you, I’d jump on the offer, like, yesterday.
Each app I’ve listed here has helped me immensely in the past few months, as I’ve begun work as a freelancer and have dipped my toes into remote work.
These apps would be just as useful to stay-at-home or work-at-home moms though, bloggers, small business owners, entrepreneurs, photographers and other creative business owners, teachers, virtual assistants, and… everyone.
Oh, and…this post isn’t sponsored. Although I did include some affiliate links, I was not paid to share any of these recommendations with you! That’s how you know they’re good.
What are some of your favorite apps for focus and productivity?
And, while we’re on the subject, what are some of your favorite mental health and concentration apps? I might have another blog post in the works…