13 Productivity Apps For When You Need To Get In The Zone

Who says screen time’s always a bad thing?

by Syeda Khaula Saad and Kaitlyn Wylde
Originally Published: 
A woman working looks at productivity apps on her phone.
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Getting organized can be overwhelming — especially if you're looking at a lengthy to-do list. And while you’d like to believe that you are totally capable of staying on task when you’re under fire, it's OK to admit to needing a little extra help focusing and checking everything off that list. Since your smartphone is probably by your side most of the time, one of your best resources could be mobile productivity apps that'll get you in the zone and keep you there.

Productivity can mean different things to different people. For some, being productive means being able to complete one assignment in a short amount of time without being distracted. For others, productivity means getting through a ton of projects over a longer period of time. According to a July 2018 survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of streaming platform Vudu, putting off a task is a guilty pleasure that 35% of Americans partake in knowingly. However you define your inability to tick off boxes, it's important to find a plan and method that works for you, so that you can adopt the habits long term. Whether you need help cutting out distractions or keeping up with everything you need to get done, countless productivity hacks are at the tips of your fingers.

Here are 13 apps that'll help you stay on track and on top of your goals.



Sometimes the best way to increase productivity is by eliminating distractions and decluttering. And what's more distracting and cluttering than an email account filled with useless subscriptions and promotions you're never going to use? is on the case. The app organizes your inbox by unsubscribing to emails you no longer want and then compiling the ones you do want into less emails. This means you can spend less time sifting through emails you'll never open and get to the important ones faster. Download in the App Store or Google Play for free.



If your idea of productivity means organizing your thoughts and ideas quickly when they come up, Evernote is the app for you. It's a note-taking software that allows you to save and organize text, photos, and drawings that you may need later on. Plus, the app lets you send email alerts in relation to the notes you create so that you can let future-you know when something needs to be completed or looked at. Download the free version of Evernote in the App Store or Google Play.



If you need a little extra push staying on task and not running to your phone to check your social media apps, Forest is a great (and super cute) way to do this. You set a time period on the app that you want to commit to not using your phone for. During this time everything phone-related is off-limits. And if you're able to go the allotted time without checking your phone, you get coins and grow a cute, little virtual tree. The more you succeed at not getting distracted, the more trees you grow, eventually turning into a forest. But should you get distracted and pick up your phone, the tree dies. Though the app doesn't keep you locked out of your phone, it's a more fun and easy-going way of trying to stay focused. Plus, the best part is that if you earn enough coins, you can use them to plant real trees! What better motivation to stay focused than saving the planet? Download Forest for $3.99 in the App Store or Google Play.



Todoist is a great app to use if you want a no-nonsense way of staying on task and remembering your day-to-day items. The app starts you off everyday with an overview of what you need to get done. It also allows you to organize and prioritize these tasks using Favorites, Sections, and Subtasks. Plus, Todoist lets you collaborate with others, allowing you to delegate tasks or share work you've completed. And if you're someone who enjoys seeing your progress, the app lets you set goals for yourself and then look at the trends surrounding how quickly and efficiently you get them done. It's the perfectionist's dream come true. Download Todoist free for desktop or mobile in the App Store or Google Play.




If social media is important to your career, but every time you go online to post something you get distracted by your feed, Buffer can help you streamline your efforts. The app lets you schedule posts for your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn ahead of time. This means that you can allot time at the beginning of your day to schedule your posts, so that you don't have to constantly get distracted throughout the day manually uploading them at peak times. Plus, you don't have to guess the best time to post on Instagram anymore. Buffer also serves as a social media analytics tool that studies when your audience is more active and makes suggestions based off that. You can become a social media star without even going on your apps all day. Download Buffer for free in the App Store or Google Play, or pay for bonus features $14.99 a month.


Focus List

Sometimes the best way to achieve productivity is by ensuring you're giving all your individual assignments as much attention as they need. Focus List can assist you in doing just that. It uses the Pomodoro technique to help you focus on tasks by organizing set times for them. The Pomodoro technique encourages you work for 25 or so minutes and then break for five, whether or not you have energy to continue. This lets you get all distractions out during an allotted time, and helps to create more focus during the time periods that you are working. You can use these for any tasks, just plan our your assignments at the beginning of the day and then proceed accordingly. Download Focus List for free in the App Store for your iPhone or Apple Watch.



Sometimes all you need to focus better is a little background noise. Noisli gives you this and more. The app lets you choose from a variety of sounds that are either "Random," help with "Productivity," or help you "Relax." Once you choose what you want, it gives you different sounds to mix around with to see what helps you best. From train sounds to white noise, Noisli sets the perfect soundtrack to get your work finished to. From note-taking to email organizers, there are endless options in the available for $1.99 download in the App Store and Google Play.


Studies show that listening to music while you work boosts productivity and cognitive function, but shuffling through a random playlist doesn’t always yield greater work flow. Classical or instrumental music is more likely to help you stay focused on your work then, say, your Olivia Rodrigo songs that you’re singing along to at your desk. curates a study playlist that is specifically engineered to help you find your most productive state. While you won’t find Mozart on the app, you will find tunes that were created by scientists and musicians solely for the purpose of getting you into the task-blasting zone. Try it free for three days, or purchase it in the App Store or Google Play for $6.99 a month, or $49.99 a year.




You know when you assure your manager that it will only take an hour to complete a seemingly simple task, and then realize you were totally off in your estimate? Toggl will keep track of how long it takes you do to things so that you can get a better understanding of how you actually spend your time. You might look at a Toggl report and realize certain tasks are eating up way more of your time than you realized, which gives you a chance to reevaluate how you go about that task and change course. Toggl is free and available for download in the App Store or Google Play.



Staying on top of your professional deadlines is hard enough. Add in crucial home life deadlines like heating bills and waning toilet paper rolls, and it can be impossible to keep track. Due keeps track of all of your deadlines, from when to take dinner out of the oven, to when to order more dog food and pay rent. The app will send you reminders so you never burn the chicken or get the lights turned off again. Due will keep sending you reminders until you tick off that you’ve completed the task, which is supremely helpful if you have a tendency to snooze notifications just to clear your screen. Due is available for mobile or desktop download in the App Store for $7.99.



If you’re a pro at swiping away Screen Time notifications, give the reigns over to Opal. When you give Opal access to your phone, you give it the power to take you offline when you need to focus. When you start a session with Opal, TikTok won’t open, websites won’t load, and your phone will become a pretty uninteresting place. To turn off an Opal session, you’ll have to take the time to type out an intention, like “I need to use the internet because everyone is Wordling without me.” That mindfulness check alone might deter you from stopping the session. Opal is available for free trial in the App Store, but will cost you $59.99 a year if you want full access to the apps scheduling features and custom controls.



If you’re a visual learner and like to customize the color and layout of your to do lists and agendas, Notion will feel just like home. Notion is a flexible platform that allows you to pick a template with every new entry and organize them as menu items that are always visible on the sidebar. One day you might feel like you need a spreadsheet, the next day a blank page is speaking to you — Notion makes toggling between different formats easy. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play, or opt for the desktop version.


Habit Tracker

If you find that you’re not being as productive as you’d like to be, but can’t figure out why, Habit Tracker will provide you some useful insight, and help you make useful habits that help you get more work done. When you set up your profile with the app, it will start by suggesting healthy habits like cleaning, reading, and drinking water. Next, you can add your own custom habits, like spending time on social media, going to Target, or rewatching Gilmore Girls. The more you log, the more insight you give the app to show you your habits on a chart, which might be al the inspiration you need to make changes that better suit your goals. You can download the free Habit Tracker in the App Store.

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