Most of us are constantly searching for ways to be more productive and efficient. And while technology is often talked about as a deterrent to efficiency, productivity apps can help you develop better work habits. The best productivity apps can change the way you work forever.
There are literally hundreds of these apps that can help you get organized, track your time, and schedule all areas of your life.
Last year, we published a guide of the 20 best productivity apps on the market. They were all designed to help you make the most out of your time. We’ve updated that list for 2021, keeping some from last year and introducing you to others you may not know – but definitely should.
We’ve kept four sections, but changed it up a little. We have the best to-do list apps, the best time management apps, the best calendar scheduling apps, and the best organizational apps.
And because it’s 2021 and we all need a little extra this year after 2020 was so, well, 2020, we have a bonus productivity app for you too.
Table Of Contents
- Best To-Do List Apps
- Best Time Management Apps
- Best Calendar Scheduling Apps
- Best Organizational Apps
- Bonus App
Best To-Do List Apps
Some of the best productivity apps out there are like swiss army knives: chock full of features and options. But for some people, full project management apps may be a little overkill. Instead, they just want a dependable app for managing their to-do list. If that’s you, here are five great to-do list apps to choose from.
Any.do separates itself from other to-list apps by using technology in clever ways to make your life easier. For example, when you add items to your Any.do Grocery List, it will automatically sort them together by aisles. It also allows you to keep lists for multiple stores simultaneously. Plus, you can import recipes that you find online and Any.do will automatically populate your shopping list with items from those recipes.
Their reminders portion of the app is also very helpful. Like other apps, you can create one-time or repeating reminders. But with Any.do, you can also create reminders that are based on location. So when you’re near the local grocery store, Any.do can remind you that you need to pick up eggs. Or it can remind you to silence your phone when you get home from work.
As great as the grocery list and reminder portions of the apps are, there’s even more to Any.do. Users also get a calendar and daily planner. You can sync your events and tasks with your calendar through this app.
Any.do is available on virtually every device imaginable and works with your smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Get started with Any.do today for free or you can get Premium for $5.99 per month or as low as $2.99 per month if you pay annually.
2. Google Tasks
What separates the Google Tasks app from others on our list is that it’s a part of the G Suite of tools, which means that it works in tandem with Gmail, Google Calendar, and more.
Your task lists will appear in a sidebar in Gmail, and you can add tasks to your lists directly from your Gmail messages. When you do add a task directly from a Gmail message, you can also go back and trace that task back to the original message it came from, an added bonus for people who get the bulk of their tasks from email.
Your task lists can be easily subdivided and organized in several different ways, including by date. Adding details to each item on your list is simple and allows you to get really detailed with your lists so you don’t miss anything. You can access your Google Tasks from any mobile device or on your computer.
Google Tasks is completely free so give it a try and see if it works for you!
If you love gaming but also really want to get your life organized, you’ll love Habitica. With this app, you’re not just completing tasks. You’re defeating monsters.
You begin by creating your own avatar in the app. Create your task list in the app, and the app turns every item on the list to monsters that you have to defeat by completing your tasks. The more monsters you defeat, the more progress you make in the app.
As you work your way through your task lists, you can earn gear for your avatar by demonstrating through completed tasks that you’re developing better personal habits. There are also random rewards available throughout the app as you work through your lists.
You have the option to form teams and work together with other people within the app. This creates accountability because if you skip a task, it doesn’t just affect your avatar. It affects everyone else on your team. The better you do, the better everyone on your team does, which might help to give you a boost on days that you don’t feel like tackling your list.
The Habitica app is free to download and play. As with any other gaming app, there are in-app purchases that can help you defeat the monsters on your task list.
If you want to play as a team, it’s a subscription fee of $9 per month with an additional fee of $3 per member. While that might seem pricey, doing the quick math will tell you that over a year, it’s not that much more than the cost of most video games – and it’s actually helping you create better personal habits.
TickTick has lots of features that help you spend less time creating your task list and more time getting things done. With Voice Input, you can create a task without typing. You can also quickly turn emails into tasks with only a few taps. And if you include date and time information on a task, there’s no need to set a reminder about your task. TickTick will automatically do that for you.
We live in a world where an endless stream of notifications pop up on our phones throughout the day. Because of that, it can be easy to accidentally swipe away reminders for important to-do list items. TickTick can keep you from missing critical reminders by allowing users to set multiple reminders or “Annoying Alerts” for key tasks.
For anyone who has gotten home from running errands only to realize you drove right by a store and realized you forgot to stop for something you needed, the TickTick location reminder will save you from making that mistake again. It sends you an alert when you’re near a place that’s noted on a task list.
Todoist is an incredibly popular to-do list app that ranks near the top of nearly every list of productivity apps you’ll find online. It has a 4.7-star rating out of more than 187,000 reviews on the Play Store and a 4.8-star rating out of 30,000 reviews on the App Store.
With Todoist, it’s easy to organize and prioritize tasks by creating sections and subtasks and selecting certain tasks as Favorites or Priorities.
The Todoist app helps you visualize your progress by creating colorful daily and monthly graphs. You’ll also earn points, called Todoist Karma, as you complete tasks on your list.
Finally, Todoist is a great tool for teams as well. It’s easy to delegate tasks and comment on tasks and projects. Plus, you’ll get a notification whenever team members complete projects or leave comments.
The basic Todoist app is free to use for everyone. If you want access to more features like reminders, templates, and automatic backups, upgrade to Todist Premium for $3 per month.
Related: How To Stay Organized At Work
Best Time Management Apps
The next section on our list of best productivity apps is time management apps. Creating tasks is only the first step toward being more productive at work. You also need to manage your time well in order to get more of your task list accomplished each day. The five apps below can help with that.
Forest is a unique app that encourages you to stay focused (and away from your phone) by encouraging you to plant trees. Seriously.
Confused? Here’s how it works.
You set goals in the app for how long you want to stay focused on a certain project. Then you keep the Forest app open on your phone while you work. During that time, a virtual tree will be growing on the app. As you grow trees, you earn virtual coins that can you can spend to help plant real trees. (Forest partners with an organization called Trees For The Future to make this happen.)
But if you don’t complete your goal, your virtual tree will die. Womp, womp. Sound silly? Maybe. But there’s something about this incentive that keeps users focused and working. The app has received numerous glowing reviews from top publications like the Guardian, Mashable, and Business Insider. Plus, the Forest team has planted over 957,000 trees so far. That’s pretty awesome any way you slice it.
The Forest app is available for both iOS and Android, and it costs $1.99 to download.
Freedom is designed to rescue your time from the depths of the digital world and give it back to you. Over 1,000,000 users have downloaded the Freedom app to get focused and become much more productive.
The app works on your browser and gives you back your productivity by blocking an unlimited number of websites and apps that generally suck your time. It can also block the whole internet in general if you’re too easily tempted by, well, everything, or it can leave open only the websites that you use for work. Enable the lock mode and you won’t be able to end your Freedom session prior to the pre-determined time.
You can schedule your Freedom sessions in advance if you know when you’re going to be working each day, or you can jump on the app before you start an impromptu work session and schedule Freedom to start immediately. The app keeps notes on each of your sessions and keeps track of your session histories so that you can look through them and see the progress you’re making.
You can sync Freedom across as many devices as you want so that you can’t circumvent the system to check something on your computer when your iPad or cell phone is being blocked by Freedom.
Ironically, Freedom isn’t free. There are two different ways you can pay. The app costs $2.42/month when you pay annually, or you can pay a one-time fee for “Forever” access. Forever regularly costs $129, but you can often get it on sale.
8. My Hours
If you are a business professional looking for a great app that can track your tasks, organize projects, and set budgets for your work, My Hours is the productivity app you need to have.
The creators of this app thought of everything. Within the free version of My Hours, you can keep a log of all of your interactions on all of your projects. You can tag portions of your projects and tasks with customizable keywords for easy searching later. You can also attach files to your tasks and set up customized reports.
If you pay for the Pro version, you get all of that and also the ability to invoice right from the app, approve workflow, edit the logs of team members, and more. The Pro version will cost you $6/month/team member if you’re billed annually and $7/month/team member if you’re billed monthly.
If you’re working alone, the free version is probably enough for you, at least in the beginning. When you work as part of a team, you should give serious consideration to the Pro version.
RescueTime is a unique-time tracking app in that you don’t have to create any manual entries at all! Instead, it works in the background, tracking everything you do on your computer, phone, or tablet. You can easily control which apps get tracked and when.
The app gives you detailed reports on what you’ve spent your time on, which can be helpful if you want to change a behavior. It also sends you Focus Alerts and gives you the opportunity to turn off distractions like social media for a set period of time.
RescueTime is available for both iOS and Android. It has a free version called Lite and a paid version called Premium. Lite users can look back at up to three months’ worth of records, set goals, and customize filters in the app. Premium costs $12/month when you pay monthly or $78/year if you pay annually. Users get everything listed above plus unlimited historical data and detailed tracking in regular reports every week, month, and year.
Definitely try Lite before you commit to Premium. It might have what you need to get you on track without having to commit to paying each month.
With Toggl, you can start tracking your time from anywhere and all of your entries are synced. You can start the timer on your phone and stop it from the desktop app if you want. Also, Toggl’s idle detection will recognize when you’ve stopped working. Even if you forget to stop the timer, you can go back later to see when it should have been stopped.
What makes Toggl a little different than other time management apps and what earns it a spot on our list is that it also has great project management tools. Work with your team in the app to keep track of how much time you have all collectively worked on a project. Over time, this can tell you whether the project was worth your commitment to it or not and could save you valuable time when you’re deciding which projects to take on in the future.
You can start Toggl today for free. To access more features, you’ll need to subscribe to either their Starter ($9/month) or Premium ($18/month) plans. Toggl also offers special plans and pricing for business teams in certain industries, like SaaS, law firms, and agencies.
Best Calendar Scheduling Apps
Sometimes productivity comes down to scheduling, so our list of best productivity apps would be incomplete without a section dedicated to calendar scheduling apps.
Trying to keep your schedule in your head is a recipe for disaster that culminates in missed meetings with clients or forgotten deadlines. While paper calendars can work for some people, calendar apps have so much more to offer – and they’re always with you right there on your phone. Here’s a quick rundown of five of the best calendar apps and what they can do for you.
11. Acuity Scheduling
If you’ve ever sat on hold waiting to schedule an appointment, you know how frustrating that experience is. Why do you want your customers or clients to experience that? You don’t. You can’t overestimate the value of an easy scheduling process in gaining new clients and keeping the ones you have.
Acuity Scheduling is a dream app for professionals who see or communicate with clients on a regular basis. It’s not just easy for clients to schedule an appointment or a service. Because of the great integrations, it’s also really easy for you to collect in-take forms and customer payments at the same time they’re booking an appointment. That saves you as the business owner a lot of time during the appointment.
This app allows you as the professional to have complete control of your schedule. Do you want to take a day off? Just mark it off on the calendar and no one will be able to book an appointment with you that day.
Acuity Scheduling’s software can even support multiple locations and employees, depending on which subscription plan you choose. Acuity Scheduling plans range from free to $45 per month.
The reason that Calendly is one of the best productivity apps on the market today is that it can dramatically cut down the time that it takes to schedule appointments. With Calendly, you can send out a simple link that clients or team members can use to book time slots. Instead of going back and forth via email discussing times, just make sure that your Calendly calendar accurately reflects your availability.
Then, when someone books an appointment with you, Calendly will let you know via email and can even automatically add the appointment to your calendar. You can even collect payment through the app thanks to its integrations with Stripe and PayPal.
Anyone can start using Calendly for free. But if you need more than one calendar, you’ll need to upgrade to a Calendly subscription. Their Premium plan costs $8/month and their Pro plan costs $12/month.
13. Google Calendar
Google Calendar has long been a favorite choice of many who keep electronic calendars. Its ease of use cannot be overstated and is surely one of the reasons it’s so popular.
With just a few clicks, you can quickly add events to your calendar. It even automatically puts events on your calendar when you get a Gmail message about them. You can also set recurring appointments and tasks, customize your notification options, and easily create a shared calendar for your entire team.
Google Calendar is available on every mobile device and desktop. It integrates really well with other Google products like Google Drive and Gmail, as we already mentioned. The app is completely free to use. It may not have the most bells and whistles of other apps on our list, but for functionality, ease of use, and (lack of) cost, you can’t beat Google Calendar.
TimeTree prides itself on being exceptional at calendar sharing, and we agree. Anyone who’s needed to share a calendar for family scheduling or business scheduling purposes knows how challenging some apps can be. TimeTree’s whole goal is to get your calendars connected with one another and get you communicating about them.
Each calendar’s schedules can be color-coded so a quick glance at a calendar can tell you who has what in a given day. The communication section allows you to talk to others with whom you have shared your calendar so you can communicate about potential conflicts or scheduling needs within your group. You also have a place for memos where you can make notes about events or create to-do lists for everyone who share the calendar.
TimeTree syncs with MS Outlook, Google Calendar, and more so it’s easy to integrate it into whatever you’re using. It’s available in iOS or Android and it’s free to use in either system. Give it a try and see if it meets your needs like we think it will.
If you work with a team to try and schedule meetings or appointments, Woven might be the best calendar scheduling app for you. This is an app that allows you to keep multiple calendars synced together into one.
When you’re looking to schedule a meeting with a group of people, Woven lets you poll the group members to see which meeting time would the preferred one for all involved. That’s an invaluable timesaver as anyone who has ever tried to coordinate a team meeting knows all too well.
Woven can also analyze how you use your time to see where you might tighten up your schedule to save time and be more productive. The app syncs with Google, G Suite, and Office 365 for easy integration of the app.
The only downside to Woven is that it’s currently only available in iOS and Windows. The makers have promised that the version for Androids is coming soon, but no release date has been announced yet.
Like a lot of other apps on our list, Woven has both free and paid versions. The free version gives you one-time scheduling links, group polls, and basic analytics. If you want to do more – like have videoconference integration, public scheduling links, advanced analytics, and smart templates – you’ll need the Premium version for $15/month.
Best Organizational Apps
You can create task lists, get your time managed well, and set up an effective calendaring system. But there are a few other areas of your life that you might still need some organizational help with, and our list of the best productivity apps would be incomplete without these helpful apps.
24me is designed to function like the personal assistant you never knew you desperately needed. It takes your calendars, your to-do lists, and your notes, and wraps them all up into one tidy app.
What pushed it over the top and got it onto our list of best productivity apps is its ability to integrate so well across so many platforms. 24me is available on iOS and Android. The app also allows you to sync across many different operating systems, including Apple, Google, Outlook, and more. It’s even integrated with Apple Watch so that you can speak into your watch to simply add things to your calendar or task list.
24me has a free version and a Pro version. The free version can do everything listed above. While you can definitely make that work for you, this is one app for which we might recommend upgrading. It’s $5.99/month for the Pro level, or $35.99/year if you pay in advance. That gets you some really neat features like alerts based on weather and traffic in your area, an agenda each night of everything you have for the next day, and customization of the calendars and lists.
Do you get any of those through other apps? Maybe. But if the point is simplifying and streamlining for better productivity, you can eliminate all the other apps you use for alerts and calendaring and lists, and just use this one.
Evernote boasts a total of 225 million downloads of its products. While there’s no way to tell how many of those are for the app, judging by how great it is, it’s likely a good percentage of that number.
Evernote was born from a simple idea: Keep all of your notes in one place. From there, it has blossomed to a catch-all app that auto-syncs across all of your devices so your important ideas are never lost. Evernote integrates with so many programs you likely already use (like Gmail, Outlook, Google Drive, Slack, and more) so that the transition to capturing things into the app will be seamless.
There are 11 different ways you have to save things in the Evernote app. They include capturing audio, taking a picture, and clipping from the web. Your ideas, photos, websites, and plans will all now be in just one place.
The basic version is free and is a great place to start. It might be all you need because it offers searchable tags and notes, syncing with two devices, and a generous storage allotment. If you need custom templates and the ability to access Evernote offline, upgrade to the Premium version for $7.99/month. If you need to work in Evernote together with a team for business purposes, upgrade to Business for $14.99/month.
As its name indicates, FamilyWall is all about organizing your family life.
If you live as a multi-generational family and can’t keep everyone’s schedule straight or if you have teenage kids whose schedules have taken on a life of their own, FamilyWall might save your relationships and your sanity. It allows you to share schedules, grocery lists, task lists, events, photos, and videos. The app has a place for you to communicate together with your family group or even create private sub-groups within the larger group
Like many other of our best productivity apps, FamilyWall has a free version where you get everything listed above. When you upgrade to the FamilyWall Premium version, you also get features like meal plan sharing, syncing with Google and Outlook, and even in-app, real-time location sharing. For any parent of teenagers, you know this is an invaluable tool.
The Premium version will cost you $4.99/month or $44.99/year if you pay annually.
19. Remember the Milk
What makes Remember the Milk one of the best productivity apps is its incredible set of available integrations. For example, with Remember the Milk Gmail add-on, you can create tasks right from your inbox. With their IFTTT (If This Then That) integration, you can do all sorts of cool things. For example, you can automatically create a follow-up task one day after a Google Calendar appointment or create a task by simply starring an email.
And the integrations don’t end there. With Remember the Milk for Desktop (available on Windows, Mac, and Linux), you can add tasks with a simple keyboard shortcut no matter where you’re at. Add in Apple Watch, Google Drive, Siri, and Google Assistant support and you have an amazing task app that can fit right into your normal life and workflow.
You can get started with Remember the Milk for free. However, to access all of the app’s features, you’ll need to upgrade to Remember the Milk Pro, which costs $39.99 per year.
20. Smart Receipts
When we talk about the best productivity apps, we would be totally remiss if we didn’t mention anything that relates specifically to finances. Whether you’re keeping track of receipts for your business or your household, Smart Receipts can save you a lot of time each month in reconciling your books.
With this app, there’s no excuse for you shoving receipts into a drawer in your home desk or the glove compartment of your car. Instead, you scan them into the app and immediately organize them into specific categories. You can select from up to 20 different data defaults to help you stay organized. Smart Receipts allows you to generate reports on your spending right from the app.
You can upgrade to the Plus version while you’re in the app. It will cost you $9.99 a year. That’s a good deal considering that you get an ad-free experience, auto backup to Google Drive for extra peace of mind, and the ability to customize your spending reports.
Because we all need a little extra in 2021 after the crazy year that was 2020, here’s a bonus to our list of the best productivity apps.
LastPass stores all of your passwords on a secure site and remembers them for you. That’s it. So simple and yet so necessary for saving your time and your sanity.
Gone are the days where you had to either constantly guess (and constantly reset) your passwords or keep track of them on an Excel spreadsheet. Let’s face it: That spreadsheet wasn’t secure and probably not up-to-date. Delete the spreadsheet and download the LastPass app instead.
Once you have the app, you’ll create a master password for your account that only you know. That’s the only password that you’ll ever have to remember. Every other password you have gets stored in your LastPass account.
The app auto-syncs with other devices you have so you don’t have to worry about where you’re accessing material; you’ll always be able to automatically log in to sites once you’ve registered for them. You can use your own passwords, or you can let LastPass generate strong ones for you.
LastPass works on both iOS and Android as well as desktops and has both free and premium plans. The premium plan is $3/month ($4/month for families of up to six people). It gives you 1 GB of encrypted storage, desktop fingerprint authentication, and dark web monitoring.
There are other password apps out there, but LastPass is the best in our book. That’s because of its simple functionality. It’s also because you really don’t need the premium plan to get the most out of this app. It does exactly what you need for free. Is it helpful to have dark web monitoring? Sure, but if you’re just looking for a place to securely keep your passwords for you, the free version of LastPass will work just fine.
Choosing the best productivity apps for you will depend on your specific needs. If you’re a freelancer, a time tracking app may be your best choice. If you’re using a productivity app for a business team that you’re on or even managing, you’ll probably gravitate towards the organizational apps that are more all-inclusive.
When you get right down to it though, any app from this list is a great choice. They can all help you get a lot more done. The key is that you commit to consistently using it.