How To Choose Between 2 Fan-Favorite Productivity Apps

Be your most efficient self.

by Kaitlyn Wylde
A woman wearing hijab uses a productivity app on her phone. Habit Tracker and Notion are two highly ...
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If you’ve found your way to #productivityhack TikTok — a corner of the internet where students, workers, and procrastinators alike un-ironically post suggestions for improving focus — you might have already tested out the chair method or gaming soundtracks. Maybe you found some success, or maybe you need a little but more handholding and you’re cruising the App Store for a productivity app that people swear by. Habit Tracker, with 13,400 ace ratings, and Notion, with 1,600 rave reviews, are very different apps with a similar fanbase: people who want an app with the kind of willpower they themselves lack.

If you have had an unchecked reminder on your phone to mail a package since 2019, you might not be convinced you’d even use a productivity app, based on your track record with the ones that came on your operating system. According to certified executive life coach Kaylin Aarts, just taking the time to use a productivity app can help you to be more mindful and efficient about getting stuff done. “Being intentional about what you want is half the work,” Aarts says. “When you get your tasks out of your head and onto the screen it’s one less thing for you to think about and gets you closer to completion,” she adds.

So whether your life is in a state of chaotic disarray, or you’re a glass-jar-pantry-kinda gal, you might benefit from adding a productivity app to your arsenal for organizational and motivational tools. Notion organizes your life and makes sure nothing slips through the cracks, while Habit Tracker keeps you on top of the things you want to prioritize most. While the user experience is very different, the apps both work to make your to-do list a done list.

What It’s Like To Use Notion

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On Notion, your home screen is like your own personal website for literally anything — spreadsheets for work, grocery lists, or your deepest darkest secrets. It’s highly customizable, so if you’re not really up to messing with different templates and formats, you can just use blank pages and treat the app as a notebook that you can hyperlink, share, reorganize, and edit.

The best part about Notion, according to Aarts, who uses it personally, is the app’s ability to straddle professional and personal organization. It’s not too sophisticated for TikTok recipes, and yet is elegant enough to make a good-looking list or report that can be shared with co-workers. “Notion is a self-contained space for my business and my life — it’s easier to tackle tasks when they’re all in the same place,” Aarts adds. However, if you want to keep those two worlds separate, you can create multiple accounts on the app and toggle between them.

“One of my favorite ways to use notion is for tracking networking,” Aarts tells Bustle. “I have all of my contacts listed with their info and I can filter and sort the tables — like when I last communicated with them or where we met, or who connected us,” she says. Aarts uses the app for so many different work and personal life tasks that she tags each page for easy search-ability.

What It’s Like To Use Habit Tracker

If you barely have enough time to meditate for five minutes, let alone tell an app that you did, Habit Tracker is the app for you. This platform makes task-tracking as simple as a few taps, so you don’t have to spend too much time inputting data — the app is always adding things up for you.

If you have a few habits or tasks that you want to improve, like going on walks, eating more fiber, or taking 20 minutes to focus on responding to text messages, you’ll find that it’s easy to track them by just responding to reminder notifications. Over time, you can see how your data looks on a chart, which can be motivating. Ditto the group function — seeing your partner smashing their reading goals while you’re watching two hours worth of movie previews might make you pick up a book instead, if that’s a goal of yours.

How To Use Notion

You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play for free or opt for a desktop experience, which can be particularly useful if you’re using Notion for work. When you land on your Notion homepage, you’ll see the option to choose from various preloaded templates, which can be further modified, or you can tap +New Page on the bottom left corner to just start free-flow typing right away. Type “/” to load template options, like a numbered list for tasks, a chart for data, a headline for a journal entry date, or a gallery for a photo-only post.

Every time you make a new page, you can name it and assign an icon. You can then access those pages on the left-side menu and toggle between them at any time for easy access and editing. Save articles you want to read later by sharing them to Notion and leaving them in your reading list. Organize your favorite dinners in a recipe file that you can share with family. Make a private tab for novel ideas that you’re not yet ready to share, or a public list of household items you need for your house that you can share with roommates. All lists will be saved to the Cloud, which means that no matter where you log on, you can access your files.

How To Use Habit Tracker

Download the free Habit Tracker in the App Store (it’s currently not available for Android) and pick between a simple and bold interface design to get started. Then, start cruising through the app’s suggested habits, like stretching, drinking water, meditating, reading a book, or getting to bed early.

When you tap the plus sign next to a habit, it adds it to your home screen and you can program goals for yourself, like how often you want to do this habit, and when you’d like to be pinged about it. For example, let’s say you want to drink 64 oz of water a day, and get a reminder about it at 4 p.m. If you haven’t completed the task by then, you will continue to get reminders throughout the evening, which are annoyingly persistent, and thus effective.

If you have friends or family on the app, you can add them to your Habit Tracker to hold each other accountable, or compete against each other. The more you use the app, the more data it collects to build a picture of how you’re doing with your goals. Per Habit Tracker, while the app might ask for access to your Apple Health data to count steps and acquire health info, it will never send data outside of your device.

Your home screen will show you a snapshot of your day, with a list of your habits, and the progress you’ve made with them. On the lower menu, you’ll find a calendar tab with an overall percentage rate of habits completed, a group tab where you can connect with friends, an overall grid showcasing your best days and longest streaks, and settings, where you can sync to iCloud, turn the app onto vacation mode, and manage your daily notifications.

Habit Tracker Vs. Notion: Which Productivity App Should You Use?

While both apps can boost your productivity by streamlining your efforts and clearly defining your goals, they’re fundamentally different programs. Notion will organize your thoughts, both professional and personal, in a neat and rather aesthetically pleasing way. Habit Tracker will keep you focused on what you want to accomplish by simply reminding you to do it.

If you want a low-commitment app that you put some time into at the start, but don’t have to pour energy into regularly, Habit Tracker is for you. But if you’re looking for an app that requires a lot of your engagement to yield a high level of organization, Notion is going to be a better fit. And if your life is a tornado right now, use them both.