It’s a common scenario: you have a plan for how your day will go, and how much you’ll get done, and you end up with an unfinished list, wondering where the day went.
This article presents a list of tools that help increase productivity in the workplace. I’ve grouped them into four categories: time management, checklists, scheduling and project management. Each tackles a particular type of productivity problem.
If you don’t “run the day”, it will run you. One way to take control is to trace every minute of your productive activities. Sounds quite hard, but it really isn’t with a little discipline and the right tools. Here are a few apps that can help you do just that …
- Basic version: free
- Professional version: $4/user/m
- Business version: $6/user/month
TMetric is a simple but powerful, web-based app that can help you keep track of your work hours. It has an easy-on-the-eye interface. Simply add a task, how long it’s supposed to last, and press Start to track it.
The app works on a simple hierarchy. Tasks come under Projects which come under Clients. Each of the categories can be tracked independently so that you know exactly how much time’s being spent where.
The app can give you a quick snapshot of how you’re spending your days through its Workday Timeline feature. You can also collaborate with other members on your team and watch how everyone’s spending their time through Team View. The app generates detailed reports of time spent and money earned from each project. Business owners can set rates for different types of works and calculate salaries for their employees effortlessly.
TMetric makes it very easy to keep track of billable and non-billable time separately, so that you’re on top of your expenses and revenue. You can use their tags feature to further organize tasks or projects.
Finally, the app can easily integrate with popular project management software such as Trello, Asana, Jira, Todoist and many more, allowing you to seamlessly use them as one complete solution.
- Basic version: free
- Professional version: $67/license/year
Unlike other web-based apps, ManicTime is a downloadable program that runs in the background, tracking everything you do. It can tell you which programs you opened, which files you worked on and the amount of time you spent on them.
The program allows you to tag periods of time, which makes it very easy to create time sheets. A great thing about ManicTime is that you don’t need to log in to a website: click start, then click stop when a piece of work is finished, which can be quite hard to manage. An app that automatically tracks your actions is pretty cool!
- Essential version: $14/user/month
- Company version: $21/user/month
- Enterprise version: $49/user/month
Timely is a visually impressive app. Its kanban-like interface allows you to drag and drop blocks (with your tasks) into a calendar, giving you a complete snapshot of your day in an instant.
Reporting is one of the best features that Timely offers. You can check how you’ve spent time by the day, week or month. You can also compare the time you actually spent on a project against the time you thought you would take — very useful, if you ask me!
Projects can be set up as billable or unbillable. (There are tasks that won’t bring in money, even though they’re important.) You can also assign an hourly rate to your projects, or set up a flat fee and track the time spent on them to see how much you made by the hour.
Finally, no visual application would be complete without color coding, and with Timely, you can assign any number of colors to rate your tasks.
If you’re fed up with post-its, journals or always having to carry around a small notebook, then a checklist app is what you need. These apps take remembering out of the task equation, so that you can focus on what you need to do right now. The following three checklist apps are, in my view, the best available right now …
- Basic version: free
- Pro version: $4.99
- Business version: $4.99/user
Wunderlist is a well-known checklist app — and well enough liked that Microsoft bought it for $200 million. Wunderlist is a simple, lightweight app that can help you quickly create to-do lists and follow up with them. The app offers limited recurring task support, and even permits collaboration with other people.
Wunderlist offers cross-platform support and can be accessed from any device. This is super important, as you never know where you might need to add that sudden task to your list. Like most checklist apps, Wunderlist offers periodic reminders, and also makes it very easy to track your tasks, while giving you a quick look at what tasks are overdue.
- Basic version: Free
- Premium version: $29/year
- Business version: $29/user/year
The team at Todoist decided to create a checklist app designed along the lines of a typical email client interface, which makes Todoist seem instantly familiar the moment you open it. Its minimalist interface allows you to quickly add tasks and make changes without needing to jump through hoops.
Not only can you add tasks through the app, but also by sending an email through a browser plugin for Gmail, Thunderbird or Outlook. Like Wunderlist, Todoist is multi-platform and can work on any device.
Todoist has an awesome feature that allows you to add tasks by simply typing out regular sentences with dates like “Wednesday at 11 AM”, or “every Friday at 4 PM”.
This is the only checklist app I know of that gamifies productivity. You’re awarded “Karma” points every time you finish a task, and you can accumulate Karma over time to see how well you’re performing against your colleagues!
- Basic version: Free
- Pro version: $39.99/year
Don’t let the mellow name fool you: this is one well-thought-out checklist app! Remember the Milk (or RTM, as it’s popularly known) was one of the first checklist apps to hit the market, and has a lot going on under the hood.
First off, RTM has been using natural language task entry since its inception. You only need say something like “send mail to Tom at 9 AM on Wednesday” to add it to a to-do list.
The developers of RTM know that the real problem isn’t adding tasks to a list as much as it is remembering to do them when the time comes. So, they’ve added every possible alert method. Push notifications on mobile, desktop, SMS, Skype, AIM, Google Hangout, Twitter — you name it, it’s there!
The Pro version comes with the full gamut of collaboration tools, including subtasks, smart tasks lists and tags.
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