If you dread returning to mountains of work after a few days away from school or the office, you’re not alone. Thankfully, a number of apps can help you get caught up. Here’s a cheat sheet on some of the best apps to help you focus, organize, manage tasks, and automate. All are available on iOS and Android, and many offer free options. One or more may be just what you need to get back on track.
This time-management app can help you focus and stay on task. It tracks where you spend your time (online and offline) and provides you with data in easy-to-read graphs. You can set goals for how you’d like to spend time and then RescueTime will rank your productivity for the week. The app also allows you to block distracting websites, so you can stay away from your biggest time sinks.
Lite (tracks online activity) - Free
Premium (includes all features) - $9 per month
If you’re not already using this popular organization app, it may be time to start—especially if you need to get more work done on the go. Evernote allows you to capture, store, and sync text, images, and videos across multiple devices. That means you can jot down or voice-record notes, save websites, and attach files, whether you’re at work, in a waiting room, or at the bus stop. With tagging capabilities and a search feature, your notes will be organized and easy to find, no matter which device you have handy.
Basic account (60MB of data a month, sync on two devices) - Free
Plus account (1GB of data a month, sync on all devices) - $34.99 per year
Premium account (10GB of data a month, sync on all devices) - $69.99 per year
This popular task-management app uses the Kanban paradigm, a visual project organization system popularized by Toyota. To understand how it works, think of a whiteboard covered in sticky notes. In the app, each sticky note is a “list,” which can be dragged and dropped into different columns. You click on a list to open “cards,” which are individual tasks that can contain attachments, comments, checklists, due dates, etc. Trello’s easy-to-use, visual interface works great for many solo entrepreneurs, small teams, and large organizations, including the New York Times and Tumblr.
Basic (file attachments up to 10MB) - Free
Business Class (file attachments up to 250MB) - $9.99 per person per month
Enterprise Class (enhanced features for large corporations) - $20.83 per person per month
Another popular task-management app, Asana excels at helping teams collaborate on large and complex projects more efficiently. It allows users to divide projects into tasks, break tasks into smaller jobs, delegate jobs to different team members, track progress on projects, and converse with the team on a single platform. Asana can replace long email threads (a big time sink for some teams), and it’s integrated with other popular productivity apps, such as Dropbox and Evernote. As with any new software, there’s a learning curve, but Asana’s minimalistic interface is fairly intuitive for most people.
Basic (teams of up to 15 people) - Free
Premium (larger teams) - Starts at $8.33 per person per month
If you miss the simplicity of old-fashioned to-do lists, Any.do may be just what you need. This simple app allows you to make personal, work, and team to-do lists and sync them on all devices. With premium and business accounts, you can also share lists with team members, converse about items within the app, and upload unlimited files, attachments, and media.
Basic (1.5MB file upload limit, limited features) - Free
Premium (unlimited uploads, collaboration features) - $26.99 per year
Business (enhanced team management features) - $26.99 per person per year
Boomerang for Gmail
If you groan when you think about your inbox, this automation app may be for you. It allows you to schedule emails to send later and will remind you to follow up if you don’t hear back from a recipient within a specified amount of time. It will also remove emails from your inbox and return them when you need them. Email is the top communication tool at work and 87 per cent of workers in one survey said they check work emails away from the office. Making email more efficient can save most people a lot of time.
Basic (up to 10 messages a month) - Free
Personal (unlimited messages) - $4.99 per month
Pro (unlimited messages and increased automation capabilities) - $14.99 per month
Premium (all of the above and enhanced features) - $49.99 per month
Once you set up your productivity apps, wouldn’t it be great if they worked together? IFTTT to the rescue. IFTTT stands for If This Then That and it’s an easy-to-use automation app that integrates your apps. With IFTTT, you can set up “recipes” to automatically send Evernote notes with certain tags to Trello, to automatically mute your phone when RescueTime is blocking distractions, to add “Pull in the trash cans” to an Any.do list when your weather app reports it’s windy, and much more. With 350 supported applications, IFTTT can help you manage your life and work better without having to think about it.
Ready, Set, Get Back on Track
There are hundreds of productivity apps on the market, but don’t let that paralyze you. Decide what you need help with, whether it’s focusing, organizing, managing tasks, or automating, and try a few of these popular apps. In the future, you’ll be able to spend time off relaxing instead of worrying about getting caught up when you return.