Four productivity apps for 2018

Here are a few productivity apps to try out with the goal of making 2018 your most productive year yet.

By Andrea Robinson, PhD

While there's no one-size-fits-all solution to being more productive, hopefully one of these apps will help you work smarter, not harder.

Forest. Sometimes it’s nice to have a visual reminder to stay focused and keep working. This app tracks your productivity like a tree. Whenever you want to stay focused, plant a tree in the app. The tree starts out as a seed in the ground and keeps growing for 30 minutes while you continue to work. If you exit out of the app and stop working, the tree dies. You can continue to build your forest every day; each tree represents your focused time and hopefully completed tasks. The more trees in your "forest," the more productive you'll feel. The best part about the app is that the Forestapp team partners with a real-tree-planting organization, Trees for the Future, to plant real trees.

Freedom. Need a little bit of help logging out of Facebook or ignoring your email so you can get some work done? Freedom is a distraction blocker for your computer and mobile devices. This app can block distracting websites, apps and even the entire Internet if you need it. The best part is that you can customize it. For example, say you really need to stay off Facebook in the mornings in order to get some writing done. You can set up a Freedom session from 9-11 a.m., and Freedom will automatically start running each morning and won’t allow you to check-in on your Facebook “friends.” What’s really great about this app is that if you know your bad habits, you can set up Freedom sessions to counter those habits. With your distractions blocked, you can get into your workflow and stay on task. Freedom costs $2.42 per month with an annual plan, but there are other similar apps available for free (e.g., StayFocusd for Chrome and SelfControl for Mac).

135 List. Ever feel overwhelmed by your to-do list? 135 List is designed to help you prioritize your tasks and get the biggest things done. 135 List uses the 1-3-5 productivity technique which encourages you to prioritize one big task, three medium tasks and five small tasks to complete each day. Using 135 List during your work day will force you to turn your attention to a limited and achievable number of tasks for the day.

Brain.fm. Are you someone who can’t concentrate if there are little noises all around you? Or maybe it’s hard to concentrate if it’s too quiet. Brain.fm is designed to provide an individualized soundtrack to induce focus, relaxation or sleep. Brain.fm is a patented music software that uses the latest in auditory neuroscience to generate music that helps trigger specific cognitive states. There are no peer-reviewed papers published yet, but Brain.fm is in the process of scientifically validating its concepts. Check it out the next time you need to get “into the zone” and conquer those big projects.