Ever wonder which tools super-productive and über-organized people use to get things done? Fast Company contacted 10 productivity experts, and asked them which apps or tech tools help them get through their day.
Here’s a dozen tools they recommend you check out:
Smartwatches are the biggest upcoming innovation for productivity, especially to-do lists, says Amir Salihefendic, CEO and founder of the task-management app Todoist. While they don’t provide much new functionality over smartphones, Android Wear devices, which start at $199, make things faster to process because you can quickly add tasks using only your voice, says Salihefendic.
“They also make reminders more powerful since you can complete or postpone them without lifting your phone from your pocket and unlocking it–you just need to look at your wrist,” he says.
Digital lifestyle expert and Today show tech contributor Carley Knobloch says brainstorming with her team is easier when she uses Post-it Plus, a free app for Apple devices that works with paper Post-it Notes, allowing you to manage them digitally.
“Capture all of your Post-its in one photo, and the app breaks them up and makes them reorganizable and sharable,” she says. “It’s brilliant.”
Knobloch also likes the free calendar app Sunrise, which has features that streamline activities, such as automatically dialing into a conference call. The app also imports photos of people your contacts via their social media profiles.
“When I’m on a conference call, I can see all their faces [on my calendar],” says Knobloch. “And its clean intuitive interface makes it a pleasure to use.”
Claire Burge, owner of Get Organised Ireland, gave up email two years ago because it dampered her productivity. “I’m always in search of a solution that organizes my work and takes the emphasis away from the inbox,” she says.
Burge recently started using Uskape, an app currently in beta testing, which integrates all of her work in one place, including once siloed apps like email and Evernote.
“Now I can see my workflow in one connected workspace; it’s much easier to know where all of my projects stand,” she says.
Omer Perchik, founder of the task-management app Any.do likes to streamline communication with his team by using Slack, a free tool that eliminates the need for internal emails. It includes features such as group and private messaging, inline images and videos, rich link summaries, and notifications.
Slack integrates with Twitter, Dropbox, and Google Drive, and automatically syncs between your computer, smartphone, and tablet.
Perchik also likes Noisli, a $1.99 app for Apple devices that offers background sounds you can use while you work. The app identifies noises that help with productivity or relaxation. For example, sounds that can help you focus include rain, wind, a campfire, and a fan.
“Noisli helps me eliminate distractions at work,” says Perchik. “White noises help me stay concentrated and productive.”
While a lot of apps out there help you keep track of tasks, Peter Walsh, author of Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier With Less (Free Press; 2012), has a new favorite: Jamie’s To Do. Available for Apple devices, the free app organizes your to-do list with an easy-to-use layout that doesn’t overcomplicate the process, says Walsh.
“You can easily identify tasks you need to do and their level of priority,” he says. “And you get a really satisfying feeling when you’ve crossed an item off your list.”
Jamie’s To Do was created by an app developer who was impressed with his wife’s organizing skills, and its design is based on her process. “Could there be a more modern take on the classic love letter?” asks Walsh.
To be more productive, it helps to know how you’re spending your time, says Julie Morgenstern, author of Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life: a Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck (Touchstone; 2009). She recommends using Eternity Time Log, a time-tracking app for Apple devices. The lite version is free, while the full app, which includes more categories and functions, is $14.99.
“It measures how much time you work versus personal time, and how much time you’re doing proactive work versus things like interruptions,” says Morgenstern. “You get a report each week, so you can no longer say, ‘I don’t know where the time goes.’”
Peggy Duncan, author of Time Management Memory Jogger (GOAL/QPC; 2011), says she likes to use her brain for thinking and external cues to help her remember. Alarmed, a free app for Apple devices, does just that. Like a customizable alarm clock, Alarmed lets you set single and recurring reminders, as well as add custom text, lead time, and snooze features.
“This app was built with time management in mind,” says Duncan.
Gary Keller, author of The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (Bard Press; 2013), is an advocate of time-blocking tasks to get them done. “Simply put, you make regular appointments with yourself to do your most important work,” he says.
He uses the free app Timeful as a way to time-block and organize his day. Timeful, which is currently available for Apple devices and will soon release web-based and Android versions, helps prioritize your daily activities.
If there’s a scheduling conflict when adding an activity to your calendar, for example, the app will suggest another time based on your personal routine. You can also enter habits you wish to build, such as dedicating a few hours each morning to making sales calls, says Keller, who is also cofounder and chairman of Keller Williams Realty. “Timeful proactively suggests times to do that task, tracks your progress, and reminds you when it’s time to get to work,” he says.
To reduce the amount of mail she receives and has to process, Maura Thomas, author of Personal Productivity Secrets (Wiley; 2012), uses the free app PaperKarma, available or Apple and Android devices, which creates a central location from which you can unsubscribe and halt delivery of unwanted mail.
“It’s great for reducing the clutter and ideally, saving lots of trees,” says Thomas. “PaperKarma also helps harness the collective preferences of individual consumers and communicates those preferences to corporations.”
If you ever wished you could manipulate an image, you can with Skitch, a free app that is integrated with Evernote. Alexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter, Rule Your Email (Harvard Business Review Press; 2014), uses the tool to share ideas with her team. Once available only for Apple devices, the app was recently released for Windows.
“I use Skitch for everything from quickly communicating website glitches to making quick images to uploading to social networks to annotative documents,” says Samuel. “Just yesterday captured a screenshot of the thumbnail view of a PowerPoint deck, and used Skitch’s built-in annotation to indicate all the changes I needed our designer to make to the slides.”