The older I get, the longer my to-do list gets too. Whether the tasks are for school, work, or what-have-you, that to-do list is getting getting longer and longer. And because of that, it’s getting harder and harder just to get my life together.
But hey, like they say, “Getting your life together? There’s an app for that.“
So here are some of my personal favorite free apps for productivity, wellness, and everything else in between.
Author’s note: This list previously included some apps that have since stopped offering free versions and were taken off the list.
Apps for Productivity
About 20% of me getting my life together was all thanks to these apps for productivity. Honestly, when you have a to-do list (and passion project bucket list) as long as mine, you’re going to need all the help you can get. So here are my top picks, ranked according to my favorites.
I always say getting our lives together is a habit. So first up on my list is the one and only habit tracker that’s survived on my phone. (I’ve honestly tried dozens by now).
Habitica isn’t like most habit trackers – and I say that because it turns your habits into a game.
I’m honestly no gamer. But something about the concept of leveling up, earning coins, and even losing health points appeals to me. I barely do anything with the app’s rewards, but it’s just nice to gamify stuff. Who knew I’d actually race to put on body lotion just to level up?
Why I Use a Habit Tracker to Keep Productive: I’ve found that having non-negotiable habits is a great way to have near complete control of my time. Kind of like: when I know what I have to do, I know what I have to do. Because there are all these habits I have to keep, I get to put more structure into my day. More structure means more clarity. And more clarity means more productivity.
When I think of apps for productivity, I think of apps that let me do my work better. One of the coolest apps I’ve used is Be Focused. You might have heard of the Pomodoro technique developed Francesco Cirillo. (If not, you can read all about it here.) And BeFocused is just one of the many apps that lets you apply that productivity technique.
To use it, you set a name for all the things you have to do. Say, “Research Work.” And then you do short sprints of the task (25 minutes is a good start). After your first sprint, the app prompts you to take a quick break. Then you keep repeating those sprints until you’ll all done with the task.
I personally just stick to generic task names like “Writing” or “Researching,” but you can name the task according to a project or however you like. Just make the process work for you. After all, these apps for productivity are just tools. It’s in how you use them that makes you more productive.
Why I Use a Pomodoro Timer to Keep Productive: I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t use the Pomodoro technique with every task I have to do. But here’s the thing: sometimes I have so much to do all at once that it gets hard to focus. I use Be Focused when I find myself multitasking or even overanalyzing every little thing I have do. The app trains my brain, as if it were saying, “Hey, you’re doing this one thing for the next few minutes, again and again until you finish.” And, before I know it, I’m done with the task!
Related: This is why you’re not making any progress on your tasks (that’s not social media)
When LastPass came into my life, I swear the heavens sang its praises, and a giant rainbow appeared over the whole planet.
Bit of an exaggeration, but that’s just how much I love this app. I used to have a very bad habit of not using incredibly unique (read: challenging) passwords. But that was a habit I had to break. (Just imagine all that precious personal information!)
LastPass lets you store every password you have on any account – and it even has a Generate Password feature, so you’re sure every new password you make is strong and secure.
My favorite feature about LastPass is with the browser extension. If you’re logged in to your LastPass account, the extension can auto-fill your usernames and passwords in any site. And if you create a new account, the app can save your login details to your LastPass Vault. Super handy!
Why I Use a Password Vault to Keep Productive: I can’t tell you how many precious minutes of my life I’ve wasted just trying to remember old passwords – even usernames. Having LastPass means I don’t have to do the whole Forgot Password-Reset Password routine anymore. Honestly, I have way more important things to do rather than worry about forgotten passwords.
Admittedly, Padlet isn’t meant to be one of those apps for productivity. But it’s in the way I use Padlet that I find myself being more productive.
If there’s only one thing I had to use Padlet for, it’s this: braindumps. I know what it’s like to scramble all over your room, looking for that very specific notebook with that very specific note to self you might have jotted down, like, 5 months ago. And just imagine looking through all those ideas in all those places!
Solving those things is exactly how Padlet helps me.
The web app is my favorite when it comes to just dumping every idea or note or research work I’m hanging on to. It’s like my digital notebook – only I don’t feel guilty about wasting paper anymore.
Personally, my favorite mode for Padlet is the one without any of the notes snapping into grids or columns. I like the free-flowing space and ability to drag my notes anywhere on the screen. I’ve even used this in brainstorming for new campaigns and ideas, and even as a vision board for branding.
Why I Use a Digital Notebook to Keep Productive: I can dump whatever I want (photos, notes, lists, links), then sort through all of them in the end. No more wasted time flipping through messy pages (with a million other braindumps for a million other things). No more worrying about things like formatting or aesthetics. Padlet keeps everything simple.
Boomerang for Gmail
Only when I joined the adulting world did I realize, wow, people send a lot of emails. And sometimes those emails need a follow-up. Or sometimes you don’t need to see every email notification for every email that comes.
Or sometimes you’ve actually found the time to reply to somebody but you realize it’s 1 in the morning, and it’s probably not socially acceptable to send an email right now, is it?
Enter Boomerang for Gmail. When I discovered this app, I had the insane urge to send a bunch of emails because, man, was I obsessed with the email scheduler feature.
Eventually though, I saw a lot of merit in the actual Boomerang feature. Here, the app reminds that you about an email you haven’t dealt with yet, so it brings the conversation back up to the top of your Inbox. Handy if you think there are some emails you can revisit another time but probably won’t remember yourself!
Then probably one of my all-time favorite features of Boomerang? The Pause My Inbox feature. I’ve been using this feature like crazy, and it’s been a huge productivity savior for me. Instead of getting distracted every time a new email comes in, I can pause my inbox and do my work – distraction-free.
Why I Use an Email Manager to Keep Productive: Boomerang’s got it all. If one reason you’re not productive is checking (and rechecking) your inbox all the time, use the Pause My Inbox feature. Go schedule emails to send later, loop back conversations when you’re ready to deal with them… Go ahead. Let Boomerang solve those email nightmares.
In the words of every overwhelmed person with too much things to do: automation is life. IFTTT (which stands for If This Then That) is one of those apps for productivity to let you automate whatever you can automate.
I personally use it to manage processes in this blog and social media. But I’ve also enabled an Applet – or what they call their integrations – that backs up all my new Camera Roll photos on to a personal Google Drive folder. I also make it send me recurring Reminders for my to-do lists.
Why I Use an Automater to Keep Productive: Imagine all the time you waste manually doing stuff that technology could make automatic anyway. I haven’t had to lift a finger when backing up photos or important files from one app to another because of IFTTT – this app is a real time-saver. Automation is life.
It’s no secret that I do a lot of writing. Whether for myself or for my clients, I write a lot. And sometimes the usual word processors we have installed on our computers just doesn’t cut it. So when I first heard of the beta launch of Airstory, I knew I had to try it out.
The developers for Airstory didn’t make it solely to be one of those apps for productivity. But Airstory puts the emphasis on getting writing projects done, so as a writer, I love everything about it.
Today, I use it for all kinds of projects. Aside from the handy Templates, I particularly love how you can divide your project into several parts they call chapters. That lets you have multiple documents all in the same project. In case you’re familiar with the writing app Scrivener, they sort of work the same way with a binder format.
Why I Use a Writing App to Keep Productive: I love being able to switch between related files under the same project using Airstory. I can cut the time I spend searching through other documents in half because everything’s in one place. Plus, the interface of Airstory is also incredibly simple, putting the emphasis on writing. End result? I’m always distraction-free while I write.
Related: 350+ Passion Project Ideas
Right at the top of my all-time favorite apps for productivity sits Trello. From managing my projects to my entire life, this is the one app that helps me organize so many things at once.
Just imagine a vision board (or Kanban board) where you get to see exactly what’s happening with a project. Use it solo or use it with a team – either way, you’ll love it.
Of course, there are a million other ways to use Trello. Some people turn it into their weekly to-do list. Others use it as a content calendar. Really, there’s no shortage of possibilities for how Trello can help you out. So if you aren’t using it already, I suggest giving it a try.
Why I Use a Project Management App to Keep Productive: There is nothing more satisfying than being able to see where I am with what I’m doing. Trello is how I organize my workflow for so many things. For my blog, I have separate Trello boards for general blog tasks and my editorial calendar. And I keep an new board for freelance work. No joke, Trello will always be one of my all-time favorite apps for productivity ever.
Apps for Wellness and Better Living
Earlier I said about 20% the reason I get my life together is because of apps for productivity. And the other 80% is because of wellness and better living apps. I’m a firm believer in self-care. Because when you take care of yourself, the rest just follows. So here are some of the apps I use to keep my physical and mental health in check.
I’m a life-long learner. I get so much joy in learning new things, so I just had to find a way to get a daily dose of education into my system. And I’ve realized that one of the best ways to keep learning is by listening to podcasts.
Sometimes, instead of Spotify playlists, I listen to educational podcasts instead. (Separate post on all my favorite podcasts coming soon!) Podcasts are where I get inspiration for new posts, where I get motivation to try something new, or where I learn a cool fun fact that I’m glad I heard.
Next time you want to inject a little more wellness in your day, listen to a podcast. They’re great alternatives to listen to while on a walk, run, or commute anyway. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone!
(If you’re not on iOS and don’t have the built-in Podcasts app, you can consider downloading Stitcher.)
My best friend swears by drinking 4 liters of water a day. While I personally wish I had that kind of commitment, I’ve got an app that helps me with that too.
My Water helps me monitor the liquids I take in a day. Though you need the premium version to unlock all the kinds of drinks, the free version works fine by me. (If anything, that just discourages me from taking colored drinks because I can’t log them in the app!)
You can set reminders for how often the app should remind you to drink a glass of water. A push notif is really all you need anyway.
I also firmly believe that taking care of our physical health should be one of our top priorities for getting our lives together. While it’s a little harder to monitor every aspect of our physical health with free apps, we should still do what we can.
And one of the apps I use to help me monitor how I’m doing is MyNetDiary. I don’t know about you, but I used to have this terrible habit of overeating – usually junk. With MyNetDiary, I can log my meals and get an approximate of how much sodium, carbs, proteins I’m feeding myself.
Most people essentially use it as a calorie counter, but I also use it to log my exercise. That way, if I feel sick in any way, I can see if it’s because of something I ate or something I did in my workout.
As a self-confessed shopaholic, all I can say about Goodbudget? Life. Saver.
The moment I got this app, my spending habits changed overnight. Call it a lightning bolt moment – I swear that’s what happened.
Goodbudget isn’t just an expense and income tracker. It really works as a budgeting app. So you put in your budget for the month through envelopes – you can make envelopes for rent, groceries, internet, what have you – and then track how you’re doing from there.
I make sure to log in any expense in any category or envelope right away, so I don’t forget.
Goodbudget is actually similar to those bigger budgeting apps like YNAB (You Need A Budget), but the reason I stuck to Goodbudget? It’s got a great free plan! I swear my savings have never been happier.
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Leave me a comment:
What apps are you using to stay productive?