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How to use productivity apps to stay focused

minute read

    Life can get busy. Trying to strike a work-life balance while managing familial responsibilities and a social calendar might feel equally exciting and overwhelming. When you have a lot on your plate and you're struggling to keep track of everything, you may find productivity apps to be helpful tools. Productivity apps are anything you want them to be —they can help block out distractions, organize your time with a system, provide personal coaching or help keep your mind clear.

    What are productivity apps?

    The definition of what productivity apps are as flexible as your needs. If you're someone who struggles to stay off social media while trying to work, you may want to explore apps that give you power to block those sites for a set period. If you're forgetful or have a hard time keeping track of passwords or appointments, there are apps to help you do those things too. And if the first app or two don't work for you, keep trying until you find one that does.

    Where to start

    So, how do productivity apps work? It starts with identifying the things you struggle with. Either sit down and think about when and why you have trouble focusing or commit to keeping track of those moments throughout the week. Some of the questions you may want to ask yourself include:

    • Do I find myself checking social media in the middle of a task?
    • Do I forget to eat lunch because I'm so focused on a project?
    • Do you get headaches or feel unfocused throughout the day?
    • Do you neglect taking small breaks?
    • Do you feel unorganized or overwhelmed by what needs to be done?

    Once you notice a pattern to your struggles, you'll be able figure out what kind of apps can help fix them. You may also want to ask friends or co-workers if they use any apps that they recommend. Ultimately, a bit of self-reflection and desire to change can make a big difference when deciding to use productivity apps.

    Types of productivity apps

    If you think there's no specific productivity apps out there to help you, you may be surprised by just how many types exist.

    Eliminating distractions

    Many productivity apps fall into this category as social media, news sites and the endless amount of content online offers plenty of distraction throughout the day. However, while there are many apps with the same goal, they all use different tactics. This means you'll have the chance to try multiple and see which works best for you.

    For instance, one type of focusing app blocks your access to whatever websites you tell it to for however long you need. Another may block notifications from sites and apps as well as alert you if you exceed a certain amount of time on non-work-related sites.

    If you're someone who thrives with the gamification of tasks, there are even focusing apps that can do that. An example would be an app that gives you an end goal of planting a forest, and for every five minutes you remain productive, it plants another tree.

    Some apps are just simple timers that provide blocks of focus time with breaks sprinkled in between. This structure may help keep your mind focused on specific tasks, while also giving you a heads up that it's time to take a beat.

    Project management

    If you're someone who gets overwhelmed by the big picture, you may want to try project management apps. This type of productivity app works by helping you break down your project into achievable tasks and letting you track your progress.

    Some common features of apps will allow you to:

    • Easily turn emails into actionable tasks
    • Schedule reoccurring tasks or meetings
    • View tasks and appointments in a monthly, weekly or daily calendar set up
    • Share or assign tasks
    • Color code task types for easy visualization
    • Set due dates and reminders

    If you don't want too many bells and whistles, you may also find to-do list apps that are just as effective. These will just provide an organized, all-in-one space for you to create and track your to-do lists. Often, they can integrate with commonly used office software and send automatic reminders.

    If you don't want too many bells and whistles, you may also find to-do list apps that are just as effective. These will just provide an organized, all-in-one space for you to create and track your to-do lists. Often, they can integrate with commonly used office software and send automatic reminders.

    Task simplifiers

    Sometimes productivity can be boosted by finding easier ways to do things you're already doing. For instance, if you're a compulsive note taker or find yourself constantly looking for a pen and paper to jot reminders down, you may want to try a transcription app. Many of these types of app allow you to speak into your phone and will generate an accurate transcription of what you said. You can then often go in and highlight, edit, share and export the notes.

    Or, if you find the physical act of writing something down to help you remember information, you may want to try digital note-taking tools. A benefit to taking digital notes as opposed to taking them the old-fashioned way is the flexibility to organize them when you're done. If you're taking notes on a pad of paper at a meeting, you can't then move those notes around by priority or topic like you can in a digital application. You can often also export them, share with colleagues or search for keywords to look up specific passages or past notes.


    Another way to boost your productivity is by simply taking care of yourself. If you're feeling good, you're going to have an easier time focusing on and completing your work. For instance, you may want to try a hydration app. These types of apps will intermittently remind you to drink more water throughout the day. According to the Center for Disease Control, dehydration can cause unclear thinking, so fill that water bottle up!

    You may also want to start using meditation apps throughout your day. Sometimes when you're having a hard time focusing, it may be helpful to take a 10-minute break to do some mindfulness exercises. There are many guided meditation apps out there to help you clear your mind and de-stress.

    On the other hand, if you find yourself getting antsy throughout the day, it may be helpful to try an exercise-focused app. Sometimes getting your blood pumping for a few minutes can help you re-focus when you find your mind wandering. Some fitness apps will send you hourly reminders to get up and walk to hit a certain number of steps. Others will provide five- or 10-minute exercises or stretches you can do.

    What's more

    If you're feeling frustrated or having a hard time focusing at work or managing your day to day, you may want to give productivity apps a try. There are so many to choose from with so many different functions, you'll find one that fits your needs in no time.

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