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  • Writer's pictureAlex McCord

These apps can keep you productive under lockdown

Are you a 100% fully optimised and engaged super-worker who crushes it all day, every day? Probably not or you wouldn’t have clicked on this article.

Most of us mortals really struggle with productivity. Even before coronavirus, 36% of millennials/Gen Z admitted to spending two or more hours per workday looking at their phones for personal activities, according to a 2018 report by Udemy.

Now we’re stuck at home with a whole new set of distractions and worries, and a long list of tasks, some of which seem especially unimportant given what’s going on in the world.

Turning to our smartphones for help might seem odd, given these are attention stealers, but there are tonnes of tools and apps out there that can help us plan your day, get into a good mindset and work more efficiently. Here are a few of our favourites:

Inbox overload

Nothing can kill your spark like scores of unread emails. One paid option for managing all this is SaneBox, which automatically sorts emails in order of importance, saves all attachments to the cloud and lets you unsubscribe from the marketing emails with one click.

For some free options, Shift allows you to connect all your email accounts in one easy to read place and FollowUpThen freezes all incoming emails until you want to see them. It can also set reminders for you or the recipient to follow-up by a certain date.

Keep it simple

Don’t overlook the humble calendar app. Productivity expert Barnaby Lashbrooke, author of The Hard Work Myth, recommends using your online calendar as a to-do list and timetable, with alerts to keep you on track.

Lashbrooke says: “By using your calendar as a to-do list, you’re more likely to be ruthless about what can be scrapped and what makes it into the calendar, because the limits of your time are right there in front of you, in black and white. It forces you to protect your time from being used for non-essential tasks.”

You work harder if you stand close to buzzword murals, that is just business 101.

Time control

If you’re struggling to start a task, set a timer. It focuses you and helps you see ahead to the completion point. Pomodone will tell you how long you’ve been working on tasks, set timers for each job and remind you when you should be taking a break so you can refresh and reset.

RescueTime helps you build a timetable and draw up a list of websites that you won’t be able to access during your ‘focus time’. Users can see their detailed reports on which sites are draining their time and punish themselves however they see fit.

Taking notes

If you keep losing post-it notes and important scribbles on the backs of envelopes, try a digital equivalent like Evernote or free options like SimpleNote and Microsoft’s OneNote.

Into these go all your thoughts, ideas, phone messages, and audio recordings, so you never need root through the waste paper bin again.


Everyone works in a different way: some dig total silence, others like furious thrash metal. Many prefer soothing background sounds.

Joe Hepburn, head of insight at RBH Creative Communications recommends the MyNoise App on iOS and Android which creates shifting custom soundscapes to fit your needs.

He says: “The different soundscapes allow me to focus on what I have in front of me and drown out the noise of the city or my partner making a cup of tea. By using different soundscapes per brief, it discourages me from losing my focus and shifting to another workload and gives a cathartic end to the previous job.”



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