Modern technology can be a total time suck, providing us with hours of distractions and novel ways to procrastinate. But the upside is that technology can help us reclaim that time, too.
In my never-ending quest to squeeze more out of every day I’ve been hunting down time-saving productivity apps that help streamline your tasks, reclaim and track your time, and remove distractions.
These are some of my favorites, but I’d love to hear what you guys use! If you use an app to help you cut through the clutter and distraction of daily life, please leave it in the comments.
Streamline your tasks
I’ve recently discovered the IFTTT collection of apps, which use custom “if this, then that” recipes to connect your apps and automatically perform tasks, like syncing Instagram photos with a certain hashtag to your Dropbox account, emailing you weather alerts, or collecting articles with specific tags from the New York Times to read later in Pocket.
The one I like most is Do Note, which is a simple notepad that lets you type a quick note to be added into specific apps. I use it mainly for scheduling events on my calendar and sending notes to myself through Evernote – it’s quick and efficient, and means you don’t have to navigate through a more complicated app to make a simple post.
Reclaim your day
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us can probably find an hour (or more) each day simply by removing the mindless distraction of our phone, like this writer for The Muse did. When there’s a few minutes to kill at the doctor’s office, you’re eating lunch, or stuck on a bus it’s so easy to just whip out your phone and check in on social media or news sites.
But what if you used that time to read a book, write a poem, or call a friend you haven’t seen for far too long?
Track your phone usage with apps like Moment for iPhone and QualityTime for Android. Both automatically track how much time you’ve spent on your phone, which apps you’ve been on, and provide alerts when you’ve gone over your smartphone usage limit for the day.
One fun feature of QualityTime is that it connects with IFTTT to perform tasks like auto calling a friend or making a note on your calendar if you’ve exceeded your daily smartphone limit.
Track your time
The best way to free up more time in the future is to keep track of where you’re spending your time today. Toggl is a fantastic way to do that. It’s a simple timer app that gives you a surprising amount of insight about your day. You can create color-coded projects, then just type in what task you’re doing and start the timer.
You can use Toggl to parse the data later, giving you reports on how long you’ve spent working on a certain project this week, and where you’ve spent most of your time. The free version is very robust, and there are features for working with a team, as well.
Instead of getting distracted by that interesting article when you should be working, what if you could just save it for later? And then instead of checking Facebook for the 80th time while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, what if you could be reading?
That’s where apps like Instapaper and Pocket come in. Both apps allow you to save articles as you come across them with the click of a button on your browser, then sync to your smartphone so you can read them later. It’s a fantastic way to quickly bookmark interesting topics without letting yourself get sidetracked – and you’ll never be caught without something to read again.
What are your favorite productivity apps? I’m always interested in trying out something new – leave your recommendations in the comments!