My favourite productivity apps

As someone who is chronically lazy and disorganized, I’ve been trying for years to find a system that will get me achieving at least a small fraction of what I’d like to get done. I’ve experimented with written checklists, star charts and posters, many involving elaborate calculations which ultimately proved unsustainable (I’ve done 33% of my daily tasks and 4 out of 5 *bonus* tasks, which added to my weekly score of 14/49 gives me a grand total of ‘Fuck this’). Since I got a smartphone I’ve found better success with apps. My phone is rarely out of my hand so they’re always available, I find a shiny app with nice pictures and swishy noises motivating, and if you abandon it and want to use it again at a later date you can just open your account and your information is still there. These are the five I’m currently using.


It’s free and available on desktop and mobile.  It’s very simple to use. You add your goal, if you do it that day you swipe right (on mobile). The noise it makes when you swipe is very satisfying.

The daily view

Your chain appears in the monthly view (on smartphone you just turn your phone landscape to view this).


You can choose the icon for each chain. If you like you can have the goal only active on certain days of the week (for example, if ‘cycle to work’ is only active on weekdays, you don’t break your chain by not doing it at the weekend).

I’ve been using it for years, off and on. I’ve come back to it recently and find it much the best app for daily goals. The main problem with how I use it is indecisiveness and overloading goals. I decide there’s something else I need to be doing each day, I add a extra chain, until it gets to about 20, then I realise this is unfeasible and delete them. There’s no way to just hide or recover an old chain, so the information is gone. But if you have fewer goals, or are more set on them, then you probably won’t have this problem.

2. Balanced

I’ve experimented with a few ways to use Balanced. It’s similar to Chains, except you can set frequencies of less (or more) than daily: for example, three times a week. I’ve therefore rededicated it to my ‘nice to dos’ rather than ‘must dos’; reading, socialising, etc. Again, my main problem is being over-optimistic about how much I can get done- even at once a week, they seem to cone round quickly. The free version allows only 5 tasks, which might have been better for me. I bought the £2.99 free version, which gives you unlimited tasks. I mainly think it’s a very nice-looking app.


3. Todoist

Another one I’ve been flapping about with for a while. There was a period when I was very depressed when I set things like ‘brush teeth’ and ‘eat breakfast’ as daily repeating tasks, without which I may never have brushed my teeth or eaten breakfast. These (happier) days I’m using it as a traditional to-do list, for non-repeating chores. Using all three- Todoist, Balanced and Chains- may be overkill, but I really find keeping all three types of goal/task in the same place a little overwhelming.


4. Atracker

This is a recent addition. My goals for language learning are usually to study for a certain amount of time a day. I wanted a app that would time all the increments of study to add up to an hour. After looking at a few timer-based apps I settled on this one. You simply tap the task you want to start timing, stop when you’ve done. I’ve read people extolling the virtues of time-tracking, but it seems like the kind of thing that I use to trick myself into thinking I’m doing something.

5. Dropbox


Not quite the same as the others, but for someone as disorganized as me installing Dropbox a few years ago was one of the best decisions I’ve made. As well as being disorganized, I’m whatever the opposite of a hoarder is- I throw things out and delete things all the time without really thinking about it. I don’t, for example, have a copy of my master’s thesis (I’m not sure whether that was deliberate or not; it was not great, to be honest). But automatically saving everything to Dropbox changed the game. I don’t have to make calculations about what is important enough to go in there if I everything does. Since I got a smartphone, having the Dropbox app on there too has saved my bacon a number of times. For example, when I needed my passport and didn’t have it with me I was able to show a photo of it from my ‘visa’ folder and that was good enough.



Do you have any apps you can’t do without?


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