If you’re searching for the best apps for productivity to get you geared up for a great new year, you’re in the right place. Because wandering around the App store or Google Play endlessly searching for the tools to help you hit your goals doesn’t actually help you hit your goals. Besides, there are way too many top-rated productivity apps to sort through. You could spend an entire day just trying to single out the ones that will actually make a positive difference in your 2019. And that wouldn’t be very productive, would it?
We’ve been there—and we felt overwhelmed too. That’s why we’ve done the work for you and put together a list of the best apps for productivity we could find. So you can pick the one that’s right for you and your goals and get on with your most productive year yet.
9 of the Best Apps for Productivity for a Top-Notch 2019
Now, one thing worth noting. If you’re looking to grab productivity with two hands this year, you’ll need to limit your phone time. Ironic, no? Research shows that just having your phone nearby can impair your cognitive ability. Even if it’s face-down and set to silent, it’s like a magnet that draws your mind away from a task. But, if you have the right apps, you can use it for the good stuff—like limiting distractions, focusing, and automating tasks. Now that’s productivity reinvented.
Here are the best apps to have on your phone this year.
1. For ditching the distractions: Forest
The reality (or perhaps duality) of smartphones: They can make us more productive—or they can make productivity a thing of myth. So how about using an app on your phone…that stops you from using apps on your phone?
Of all the distraction-blocking apps we’ve found, Forest is the most fun to use. Let’s say you want to work for a solid hour without picking up your phone to check your texts. Set a timer on Forest and a tree will start to sprout across your screen. Leave the app before the time is up, and your tree will die. And who wants to kill a tree?
Stick to your time goals and you’ll earn virtual coins, which—this is the best part—are spent on having actual trees planted in real life.
2. For building habits: Done
Willpower is limited. That’s why we need habits. (That’s also why we spend a lot of time talking about how to form them.) Habits are the things that save you when you’re tired, stressed out, or frankly just not in the mood to do what you set out to do. Apps can help you form those habits by reminding you, encouraging you, and keeping you accountable to your goals.
We looked for a habit-building app that’s not only easy to use but visual. One that lets you set habit goals per day, and also per week, month, or year. We wanted one that gives you a visual summary of your progress, that sends reminders, and that allows you to quit bad habits as well as form good ones. So basically, we were looking for a needle in a haystack.
And we found it—Done checks all those boxes. The downside? It’s only for iOS. We know; we’re sorry.
Price: Free with a limit of three habits; one-time $4.99 fee for unlimited version
3. For fuss-free list making: Wunderlist
Sometimes all you want is to get the thoughts out of your head and into a list—before the stresses of your day push them aside. Wunderlist is ideal for just that. The simple, stripped-down design makes it perfect for keeping grocery lists, to-do lists, wish lists, or whatever kind of list. We even used it to make this list of best productivity tools. (Okay, we didn’t actually, but we could have.)
Now don’t get us wrong here: We’re not saying Wunderlist isn’t powerful. The app comes across as minimal, yet if you want to dig deeper and do more, (like set due dates and reminders for tasks, or make your grocery list collaborative so your partner knows you urgently need that bottle of red) you can.
It also syncs instantly between devices so your lists are always up to date on your phone, iPad, and computer.
4. For when Wunderlist retires: Microsoft To-Do
5. For reflecting: Kyō
Do you feel like you’re being productive only if you’re all go-go-go, getting stuff done, and keeping busy at all times? If so, it may be time to rethink your definition of productivity.
Being productive is getting the most out of your time, and one often-overlooked aspect of that is reflection. What was great about today? What could you have done better? Kyō is on our list as one of the best apps for productivity because it inspires daily reflection. The end goal is to bring more gratitude, clarity, and focus to your day.
Kyō asks questions that prompt you to reflect on important aspects of life. You can use it to create journal entries—including notes, pictures, and voice recordings—with inspiration and question-packs based on interviews with writers, entrepreneurs, meditation gurus, artists, and more.
Price: Free with limited features; $2.99 per month for extra features and unlimited access to all custom question-packs and exclusive content
6. For productive podcast-listening: Overcast
You may not think podcast apps belong in a list of best apps for productivity, but we’d beg to differ. If used right, podcasts let you learn stuff while you’re in transit, standing in a line, or doing the dishes. Bonus points if you use them to listen to podcasts about productivity.
So why Overcast? It has a clean and intuitive interface. And it’s all about efficiency—it has unlimited customized playlists and “smart speed,” which gets rid of gaps and pauses. Oh and it’s free. The only negative thing about it? It’s only for iOS users.
Price: Free; $9.99 per year to upgrade to ad-free version
7. For automating tasks: IFTTT
Topping the list of best free productivity apps is IFTTT or the app that makes your life easier. IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That.” Basically, IFTTT lets you create automation “recipes”—so every time a trigger occurs it sets off an automated response. If-then statements are key staples of behavior change, which is why we’re so into this app.
There are so many ways you can use it, and it integrates with countless other apps and devices. Here are a few examples of possible recipes:
- Every time a blog you like publishes a new article it automatically gets saved to your read-it-later app (e.g. Instapaper or Pocket).
- You get a Google Calendar reminder to go to bed early if your FitBit logs a low amount of sleep the night prior.
- Your completed Uber trips are automatically logged in a spreadsheet or calendar.
- The time you spend in a specific place is automatically tracked based on GPS data (e.g., start logging every time you arrive at your office).
There are literally hundreds of services you can use IFTTT with. The trick is coming up with cool ways to save you time.
8. For in-the-zone writing: Bear
Writing applications generally offer too much or too little. In other words, if they’re not cluttered, ugly, and distracting, they’re so minimal you can’t do basic formatting. Well, enter Bear—an app that strikes an actual balance between the two, which is why it counts as one of our best apps for productivity.
Bear makes note-taking a thing of beauty. The design is minimal and distraction-free, and yet there are plenty of formatting options. If you want to just sit there with your iPad (or iPhone) and let ideas pour out of your brain, this is the app to have at your fingertips.
9. For managing projects: Trello
For one little app, Trello packs a whole lot of power. We could say it’s a tool for creating visual lists in a Kanban style—which is accurate, but kind of undersells it. What you create are more like pin boards (called “cards”) that can contain anything from random ideas to checklists to photos. You can drag and drop both the items and the boards around, giving you a simple way to visualize multiple aspects of a project all at once.
Trello is also collaborative, meaning you can invite others to work on projects with you. It’s great for all kinds of things: organizing events, planning vacations, tracking time, documenting life goals, managing blog topic ideas, storing recipe notes…you name it. The visual interface makes it great for tablets like iPads as well as phones.
Price: Free with limited features; $4.99 per month premium version
Get downloading and see for yourself
We hope our best apps for productivity help you find the tool you need to get more done in 2019. Regardless of whether you want to be more productive at home, at work, or just straight up everywhere (because, you know, phones), the right apps can make a big difference. It just comes down to knowing which ones to have, and how and when to use them.
Your turn: What tops your list of best apps for productivity this year? Let us know your picks in the comments.
If you like this article you’ll also like Productivity Tips from an Expert
Author: Tania Braukamper
Tania Braukamper is an Australian-born writer and photographer. She believes in curiosity, kindness, and adventure as a state of mind.