Software

5 productivity apps to help make work less overwhelming

If you're looking forward to a more productive new year, one of these apps may be just what you need to solve five common productivity-killing problems.

Let's face it: We could all be more productive. Some idle time during an eight-hour workday is a given (we all need breaks, after all), but sometimes a lack of productivity isn't due to slacking off—sometimes we have too much to do. Constant communication from email, social media, the internet, and face-to-face interactions can only make it harder to stay focused.

Chances are you, or someone you know, is afflicted by common workplace problems (e.g., poor time management and an overcrowded email inbox), and the cure comes in the form of these five productivity apps.

SEE: Managing vendor relationships: Time commitment, benefits, and pain points (Tech Pro Research)

1. For anyone who is overwhelmed by their to-do lists

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Image: Any.do

Anyone who keeps a to-do list likely suffers from some degree of feeling overwhelmed by it— unless they're using Any.do. This feature-rich to-do app comes loaded with features that can make it a one-stop organizational app.

Any.do includes a calendar that syncs with other popular calendar apps, a daily planner called Moment that helps users prioritize tasks for the day, reminder setting, grocery list keeping, and even a digital assistant that can handle queries with multiple values (e.g., a hotel in a particular location for particular dates under a particular price).

If the stock to-do app on your iOS or Android device simply isn't cutting it, then give Any.do a try. It's available for iOS, Android, as a web app, and on a bunch of other platforms. Any.do is free, though the premium option costs $27 annually.

SEE: Best to-do list apps of 2018 for managing tasks on any platform (Download.com)

2. For anyone who needs to practice better time management

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Image: RescueTime

It's all well and good to plan out your day, but if you don't stick to your schedule, the workday can end before you know it, leaving you at a loss as to where your time went.

If you're not the best at managing your time, or if you become paralyzed in the face of too many tasks, RescueTime is the app for you.

RescueTime tracks the use of your desktop, iOS, or Android devices and delivers daily reports on what you were doing through the course of the day. Getting that kind of feedback can help eliminate trouble spots, like spending too much time online, too much time on emails, or simply being away from the desk for long stretches of unproductive time.

RescueTime is free, and also has a $9/month (or $72/year if paid up-front) premium option that adds more features, such as tracking time away from the computer and more detailed reports.

SEE: Time management tips for tech professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

3. For anyone who has a disorganized business contacts list

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Image: Cloze, Inc.

Digital address books are necessary for business, but they are the bane of every organized person. After using the address book app on any platform for a prolonged period of time, it's inevitable that it will end up filled with duplicates, numbers with no names attached, phantom email addresses, and other chaos-inducing records that only make it harder to work. Cloze might be a good solution.

Cloze connects to your email accounts, phone calls, social media, calendars, and even note-taking apps like Evernote, and then it compiles all the information about each person you connect with into a searchable, automatically updated contacts database.

The next time you need to contact someone and you can't recall their name just type in a few details about them (e.g., iOS developer I met at New York conference), and Cloze will find the person based on those context clues. Cloze will also send reminders to follow up with a person if your communication included a note to that effect.

Cloze can be used from the web, or via its iOS and Android apps. It's free, but if you want to unlock all of its features you'll have to pay $19.99/month for an individual plan. There's also a business plan that costs the same as the individual plan but adds a few more enterprise features such as tracking which person spoke to a particular contact last.

4. For anyone who has an overstuffed email inbox

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Image: SaneBox, Inc.

A full email inbox can make you feel important, but unless you're a master at managing messages, it's a sure-fire recipe for hobbling your productivity.

Enter SaneBox: This email-filtering app reads incoming messages and, using user-trainable algorithms, filters email into one of various folders to help you prioritize what's really important.

SaneBox also provides you with a daily digest to help you figure out which emails needs attention, or which messages need to be trashed. Everything you do helps to train the SaneBox algorithm, so it should only get better at knowing what matters to you as time goes on.

One of the best parts of SaneBox is that it works with any email platform, and in many cases it doesn't even require your password: It uses OAuth, it never takes emails off your server, and it can even be integrated with Active Directory.

There is no mobile app for SaneBox: Once you set it up, it will work with whatever email apps you use on your mobile device—you'll only know it's working when you see the folders it creates to filter your email.

SaneBox isn't free, but if you need to tackle a messy inbox it's well worth the price: $7/month to manage one inbox, $12/month to manage two, and $36/month to manage four. Discounts are available if you pay annually.

SEE: 10 tips for reaching inbox zero (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

5. For businesses that rely on social media, but don't have time to frequently post

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Image: Buffer

Businesses that rely on social media need to really be on top of their posting game, which can be tough for smaller businesses that don't have resources to devote to it. Larger organizations suffer from social media problems as well, as they often having too much to deal with and not enough time to get it all posted.

Buffer wants to make managing your social media much less intrusive on your day-to-day workflow. With Buffer, you can roll all your social media accounts into one app, schedule posts, delegate posting to multiple team members, and most importantly have a buffer of upcoming posts.

The buffer feature is what makes Buffer unique: By setting up a regular posting time for a particular account and having multiple items in its queue, you can be sure that your social media feed will be filled with content even when you don't have time to post.

Buffer is available as a web app, and is also available for iOS and Android. Buffer will manage up to three social media accounts for free, but if you need to handle more, you'll have to pay $15/month. Business plans are also available, and they start at $99/month.

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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