Assignments. Revision. Essays. Job applications. Whatever you’re trying to focus on, if you’re anything like us there’s no shortage of distractions that get in the way.
It’s no secret that our phones can be a major source of distraction. Catching up on the group chat, scrolling through social media, and beating a high score can add up, until we’ve spent several hours not doing the thing we’re trying to do.
But what if your phone could help you stay on track? We’ve investigated the very best of the productivity and focus apps to bring you our favourites.
Don’t forget, Best For You has an app library, full of apps to help with wellbeing. All of the apps on the app library have been tested by ORCHA to make sure they’re safe and accurate, because it’s important to be able to trust the things you use to help your mental health.
The apps in this list of productivity have not been reviewed by ORCHA as they are not digital health apps.
Keeping track of priorities
The first step to being organised and productive is understanding what you need to do (and when you need to do it). Here are some of our favourite apps for keeping track of tasks:
Todoist takes the pressure off. You can write down what you need to do (and when you need to do it), which frees up your brain to focus on getting things done. And you won’t forget a deadline: bonus.
You can prioritise tasks, integrate things like Google calendar, and even organise your tasks in visually pleasing ways – just don’t forget to stop planning and start doing!
This one’s for anyone who needs encouragement and validation to get things done. You can set up your own tasks, chores, and goals, then get rewarded with gold, experience, and items that you can use in the app!
You can colour code your tasks, and distinguish between things you have to do often and just once.
Want to keep it simple? Any.do has everything in one – a to do list, calendar, and reminders. It also syncs between your phone and other devices.
Any.do doesn’t have lots of extra features, but if you’re looking for something clean and simple without lots of distracting extras, it might be the app for you.
Managing your time
Once you know what you’re supposed to be doing, the next step is to manage your time to make it happen. You’re not on your own – here are some apps that can help you out:
Be Focused (iOS)
Have you heard of the pomodoro technique? It involves breaking your day up into focus sessions of set time, with short breaks in between.
Be focused is a smarter alternative to using your phone timer, with more flexibility and the option to figure out timings that work for you. You can even integrate your to do list.
How long do you need to give yourself to complete each thing on your to do list? If you have no idea – or you find yourself spending way too long on tasks like setting up your workspace and organising your ideas – Toggl might be a winner for you.
Toggl is a time tracking app. You can keep track of how much time you spend on different tasks so you can identify where your time goes and plan more realistically.
Engross is another app inspired by the Pomodoro technique. It has a button to hit when you’re distracted, which can help you get back on track. At the end of the day, you can also see when you were most focused or distracted. You can also label your sessions, and you might find additional features like white noise helpful too.
Staying off social
You’ve got a to do list. You’re managing your time. But you find yourself straying to apps when you’re supposed to be focusing? Here are some the best ways to keep yourself on track:
Unless you’re new to the world of productivity apps, you’ve probably heard of Forest. When you’re ready to work, you plant a seed and put your phone down so a tree or plant can grow. If you leave the app, however, your tree dies.
Forest is perfect if you need a little encouragement to stick to your focus time – and it’s surprisingly rewarding to see a forest grow before your eyes.
Forest is available on iOS, but it isn’t free. Flora is a free alternative with a similar premise. It also allows you to plant trees together with a friend – great for accountability.
Sometimes you just need someone (or something) to step in and take distractions away. If it isn’t practical to put your phone in another room or cut off your internet access, Freedom allows you to block specific apps and websites.
It offers a free trial, which is really useful if you need some short-term support during exam season or before an assignment deadline!
Other useful apps
By now, you’re probably an expert on getting things done. Here are a couple more apps you might find helpful to fine tune your routine:
Do you like music in the background while you work? Brain.fm plays music that’s designed to help you focus – great if you procrastinate with playlists or get distracted by your favourite tunes.
It’s the end of your break – but you’ve just found a really interesting article. You’re supposed to be working – but your friend’s sent you a funny video. Sound familiar?
Pocket is a read-it-later app that allows you to save things for later. It can be really helpful to keep you on track without losing out on things you want to watch or read. Later, you can re-evaluate whether things are interesting enough to demand your attention during your break!