With all the productivity tools on the market, there’s never been a better time to get yourself (or your team) organized. Sometimes you need help managing your calendar or you need a software tool to help you track your time, but often finding the right software at the right time feels a lot like finding a needle in a haystack. But whether you need a comprehensive communication tool or software to rein in your to-do list, you’ve come to the right place. We’re taking a look at the best productivity tools for communication, to-do lists, time-tracking, and calendar, project, and file management.
For a Comprehensive Calendar
With personal and professional demands constantly bearing down on your time, knowing what to prioritize and when to schedule priorities is no easy feat. Add the pressure of coordinating calendars and scheduling yourself enough time to actually work, and you’ve got a recipe for tension headaches. A robust calendar productivity app takes the guesswork out of scheduling, ultimately saving you the most non-renewable resource there is—time.
Enter Woven. If you’ll allow us to toot our horn a little bit, Woven’s a high-powered calendar productivity app that integrates multiple calendars into one easy-to-navigate platform. With innovative Smart Templates, users can create and customize templates for their most common meeting types. And with Scheduling Links, you can go even further and let your guests do your scheduling for you—all while integrating with Smart Templates for a near-automated calendar experience.
Another feature that makes Woven stand out among the other calendar apps on the market is the ability to create and share built-in Group Polls, eliminating the need to rely on other group scheduling tools that don’t seamlessly integrate with your calendar.
Woven pros include:
- It syncs with Google and G Suite calendars and is available to download for Mac, Windows, and iOS systems.
- Smart templates make it easy to rapidly created complex events in a few, simple clicks.
- Scheduling links and group Polls make it easy to schedule everything from recurring meetings to happy hours without all the unnecessary back-and-forth
- The Woven Calendar Graph gives you the ability to share your calendar with people within and without your organization
- Map view a toggle to let you see a map view of your calendar and choose your transportation type, so you don’t under-schedule the time needed to get to your destination
- New iMessage integration gives you the ability to schedule straight from your iOS device
Woven cons include:
- It’s not currently integrated with Office 365 calendars (this feature is coming soon)
- There is no native Android app for Woven, though it’s expected to arrive mid-2020
Download it at Woven.com
For streamlined communications
Ever needed to communicate with a group on a regular basis? Then you know firsthand it’s hard to cut through the chaos of inbox alerts and SMS notifications and really reach the person on the other side of the screen. Whether your team is geographically dispersed or located in the same office suite, the right communication software can give you the flexibility and freedom to organize your conversations, find information, and share content easily with your groups.
A popular software choice for communicating across teams, Slack is used to organize and funnel conversations into channels. Your conversations on your channels and across Slack are indexed, making searching a breeze. In turn, this institutionalizes knowledge and creates a repository of valuable information.
Your communications become more organized with the more channels you create (and the more specific you are with the channel descriptions). You can create more than one workspace for your different teams and organizations, and there’s even the option to create shared channels, in which users can communicate with external partners from the Slack platform, keeping you focused on your projects and out of your inbox.
Slack pros include:
- It facilitates discussion and conversation (instead of coldly stacking emails in a chain)
- It allows you to communicate with your team in real-time
- It’s searchable and indexable, making it easy to keep up even if you’re joining in late to the conversation
- It’s integrated with several other popular productivity tools, including Google Drive, Dropbox, and Salesforce
Slack cons include:
- It can make users feel as though they’re constantly connected, causing notification fatigue
- It’s not immediately intuitive—the tool’s interface isn’t always friendly for new users
- If the moderation of the channels is not enforced, it’s easy to for conversations to get muddled with chatter that’s irrelevant to its intended purpose
Download it at Slack.com
To help conquer your to-do list
In the right hands, the back of a napkin is an effective to-do list. But for the rest of us, we need something that packs a bit more of a punch to corral our routines and optimize our productivity. The right to-do list application is one that is scalable and flexible, making it easy for you to customize it perfectly to your needs.
At first glance, the name Todoist suggests a tool that’s used for managing your to-do list (more on that below), but Todoist can do so much more. It’s an easy-to-use project management tool that lets you organize and share your project. You can create tasks and subtasks and assign them priority levels so you know where to focus your attention first. Todoist lets users share tasks and projects with team members to help with accountability and project tracking.
Todoist is an established product with a ton of integrations, from Slack to Google Drive to Zapier. It’s also available as an Android and iOS app and as an extension on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
One of the coolest features, though, is that you can use natural language to add tasks instead of filling out a complicated set of checkboxes. For instance, you can just type in “Book movie night Friday at 5” or “Schedule a group call every third Thursday” and Todoist will figure it out.
Todoist pros include:
- Add tasks in seconds so you don’t forget a thing
- Organize your projects into tasks and subtasks
- Add comments to tasks and projects to keep everyone on the same page
Todoist cons include:
- It has a free version, but features are limited
Download it at Todoist.com
To organize your work (and your life)
notion is branded as “the all-in-one workplace” because of its powerful functionality. It combines a word-processing tool with databases and to-do list capabilities, replacing several apps at once. notion lets users view their projects using Kanban boards, calendars, and lists, making the tool highly-customizable.
Think of it as a place to download your brain.
Whether you’re looking for a drag-and-drop template for workflows, or you’re interested in creating your own, notion is flexible enough to support it. It’s integrated with tools like Google Docs and Sheets, Twitter, and includes desktop and mobile applications.
notion pros include:
- Users can create a central knowledge base or “wiki” for your organization using notion
- It’s easy to share documents among multiple users, making collaborative drafting a cinch
- Customize your tags and attributes to simplify organization
notion cons include:
- The initial set-up and getting used to the interface takes time
Download it at notion.com
For Staying on Top of your Time
Time-tracking software helps you stay organized and manage your billable and non-billable hours. From freelancers accounting for billable hours to people who just want to get a handle on their time management, time-tracking tools can be used to great effect.
Clockify is a heavily-integrated software with a Chrome extension that lets users track their projects and productivity. Users can create their own tags, view time-usage reports, and, of course, track their time in one basic-yet-powerful platform. Clockify has a free version with a hefty line-up of features, but also includes additional features with its Plus and Premium offerings.
Within Clockify, you can create client profiles and projects, helping to better organize your reports. Create team member profiles as well to assign projects and tasks to individuals. Along with its time-tracking capability, Clockify also provides users with the option to enter manual hours via a timesheet.
Clockify pros include:
- It’s cost-effective—the free version is valuable in itself, but the plus and premium packages aren’t particularly expensive either
- You can export reports as PDF, CSV, or Excel files, making it easy to share breakdowns of billed hours with clients
Clockify cons include:
- While it does have a sizable amount of resources for use, the format is not immediately user-friendly
- As of yet, users aren’t able to easily import data from other systems or sources
Download it at Clockify.com
Let’s face it – there are more distractions to keep us from work than ever before, and while a lot of tools can block distracting websites, sometimes self control just isn’t enough. If you’ve ever unplugged your Wi-Fi to make sure you meet a deadline, Freedom is the perfect app for you.
Sometimes you just need to get away from the internet to get into a groove, and Freedom makes lightweight desktop and mobile apps to help you do just that. Just pick a website or app, or the internet altogether, set the timer for how long you need to focus, and voila. You’re free to get things done
Freedom pros include:
- The ability to choose between specific distractions you’d like to block, preset suggestions, ie: social media, sports, etc, and the nuclear option to just block the web for a while
- It works on just about any internet browser, as well as most desktop and mobile platforms
- Endless customizations and scheduling to block what you want, when you want, but keep access to things you need
Freedom cons include:
- Locked mode is no joke – you won’t be able to get access back until the timer runs out – so choose wisely
Download it at Freedom.to
One of the biggest challenges for modern knowledge workers is choosing what to work on and when. BeFocused is a time tracking app that helps you break your day, and your tasks, into manageable chunks and track your progress throughout the day. Based on the popular Pomodoro technique, it allows you to split your day into 25 minute intervals, separated by five minute breaks, with a handy timer to keep you on track.
It also has a neat progress tracker to help gamify your progress by comparing how many sessions you finish per day, the tasks you’ve completed, and encouraging you to get into a flow to keep your streak alive without skipping a session.
BeFocused pros include:
- Helping you break your projects into smaller tasks and accomplish more every day
- The Pro version stores your progress in the cloud so you can sync between your phone, tablet, watch or laptop
- Most of the core functionality is free, and the Pro version is only $4.99
BeFocused cons include:
- It’s only available on Apple devices as of February 2020
Download it in the App Store
For flawless file management
Everyone has their own unique file management processes, whether they’re in the form of complicated hard drive storage solutions or simply just involve emailing yourself files. And while these may work well for some of us, for those of us needing something more modern and sophisticated, consider a file management software tool.
Sync stands out among other file management systems because it combines access controls and security with the ability to quickly share files and folders with clients and coworkers. Even if recipients don’t have a Sync account, they can easily get instant access to files shared on the Sync platform.
Not only are you able to securely share files through Sync, you can also protect them from ransomware and hardware failure by restoring backups created through the file management software tool.
Sync pros include:
- It offers several pricing structures and tiers to help you customize your Sync experience to meet your needs
- It has both iOS and Android native apps, as well as Windows and Mac applications
- It gives you cloud-based access to your files from all of your devices
Sync cons include:
- While Sync does have a self-service help center, it lacks a complete customer service presence
Sign up at Sync.com
When you need to see eye-to-eye
There are times when it just doesn’t cut it to communicate via instant messenger or email. Whether you need to host a conference call with your team or a video chat with a client, you’ve got to have a reliable means of real-time communication. Sure, you can use your cell phone—to an extent—but that won’t cut it when it comes time for you to share your screen.
A big name in the digital communications space, Zoom is powerful enough to support enterprises and simple enough for individual use. With Zoom, users can host voice calls, conference calls, and video calls. You can record your meetings directly in the app and receive a searchable transcript of the content. And it’s integrated with major email service providers like Outlook, Google, and iCal, so you can schedule and start your meetings in your inbox.
Zoom pros include:
- Join meetings anywhere from your mobile devices
- Simultaneously share screens with your team for enhanced collaboration
- Conduct live Q&A sessions and polls within the application
Zoom cons include:
- The user experience is a bit cumbersome in places
Download it at Zoom.us
Zoom is great when you want to share your screen on a live call, but what happens when you’re not in the same time zone, want to address a group asynchronously, or just don’t want to disturb someone else’s flow? Loom is a free video and screen recording tool that lets you record and upload videos for your team at the click of a button.
You can share messages with your team faster than a normal meeting, save yourself the time of writing a detailed message, and walk people through your work on the screenshare to help show things that are tricky to explain.
Loom pros include:
- It has a free plan to start and sensible pricing depending on how much functionality you need
- It works on both Windows and Mac, although only in Chrome
- It automatically uploads and creates shareable links for your videos
Loom cons include:
- The plugin launches at startup and its default is always-on, which can be a bit of a memory hog if you’re not recording videos often
Download it at Loom.com
Make the most of today’s technology and alleviate stress and bottlenecks by choosing the right productivity tools to take control of your day. Whether it’s a safe repository for your files, a software system for crossing items off your to-do list, or a handy way to manage your calendar, there’s a tool to help you handle it. And for those of you out there who are really struggling with getting organized, consider stacking these products to really strike back against lost time and disorganization.