While we download many productivity apps with good intentions, most of them just end up being another shiny distraction on our phones. Over the last weeks I’ve been paying very close attention to which apps are actually causing my behavior to change. Some of these I’ve used for a long time. Others are recent discoveries.
Some people have asked how I manage to be so prolific and consistently write 1000 words a day. A distraction free writing tool called MacJournal is the driving force behind my writing process. The power of course lies in its simplicity. The functionality is somewhat limited. You get a black screen with green text. You can format text if you want to, but that’s about it. Here’s a screenshot below of what it looked like when I was writ ing this post.
I’ve used it for more than 3 years and I swear by it.
If you’ve read Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage you might have heard that documenting 3 things you are grateful for or happy about everyday can make you see the world in a more positive light. These don’t even have to be big things. They can be simple things. Conveniently there’s an app for that. It’s called Happier. A push notification will send you a reminder whenever you want so you can write down your 3 happy moments
The CEO Nataly Kogan gave an amazing TEDx talk about how this simple app is changing people’s lives.
Focus@Will may be the greatest creation since Ritalin. I have the attention span of a 5 year old and this might be the most useful app I’ve discovered all year. Focus@Will combines music and neuroscience to help you concentrate. You choose the genre of music you want to listen to, set the length of your “focus session” and press play. If you find a track distracting you can skip it. I use focus@will when I want to read books, design things or do anything administrative so I can stay on task.
4. Self Control
Let’s be honest for a second. Even if you have every intention of not spending time on Facebook, you’ll probably end up there. Willpower won’t keep you from wasting time. Every morning I wake up and I launch the self control app. SelfControl allows to you block or “blacklist” distracting web sites. I usually will block Facebook and Gmail for the first 2 hours of each morning and periodically throughout the day. What’s funny is after using it for a while, I’ve found that I actually developed the habit of not visiting Facebook first thing in the morning. This is another one of those apps that will send your productivity through the roof.
Conference calls and calendars are a pain in the ass to manage. You have to remember multiple dial in numbers, pass codes and tons of information. That’s where MobileDay comes in. It integrates with your calendar and the conference calls you have to dial into. Launch the app, push a button and you’re in your conference call.
The search for a to-do list app is enough to drive most people to madness. There are so many options in the app store, it’s more painful than shopping for a pair of jeans. While I don’t absolutely love Any.Do, it has one thing that I do love. You can get a daily reminder to plan your day. If you don’t believe that makes a difference, read this Fast Company article on how the app is changing behavior.
7. Academy on the Go
One of the reasons I was eager to work with Greg Hartle on Academy on the Go is that he wanted to solve a big problem that exists in the online world: More information won’t change behavior. Despite considering myself somewhat of a productivity ninja who doesn’t think the 8 hour workday makes sense, I dramatically increased my efficiency by going through the Academy on the Go Productivity Course. Be sure to check out the whole list of courses we are currently offering.
Every creative person needs a way to start the day. Here’s how it goes for me:
- Block Facebook and Gmail with Self Control for 2 hours
- Start Focus@Will and Load up Some Upbeat Music
- Open Macjournal and hammer the keyboard
- Add 5 key tasks into Any.Do
- Rinse, Wash, Repeat
Have any apps that have changed your habits or your life? Let me know in the comments below.