Do you sometimes wish the day had more than 24 hours? Most people do, but the inability to get things done in time often boils down to poor time management. The good news is that time management is now a bona fide industry, and there are countless apps and tools that can help you spend every minute of your life in the most productive and meaningful way possible.
But with so many time management apps and tools to choose from, selecting just a few can be a problem. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the top 5 best time management apps and tools everyone should know. For each app and tool on this list, we’ve included one alternative so you can manage your personal and work life the way that suits you the most.
The best time management apps and tools to try
Pomodoro is a popular time management technique created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It breaks down work into a series of bursts of focused attention followed by breaks. The bursts of focused attention are typically 25 minutes long, and the breaks are between 3 to 5 minutes long (just long enough to grab a cup of coffee or go to the bathroom).
Back in the day, most Pomodoro practitioners used kitchen timers, often shaped like tomatoes, which is how the technique got its name in the first place (pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato).
Today, there are many easy-to-use Pomodoro apps that let you determine the length of your work sprints and breaks, such as Tomato Timer, which works in any web browser and supports desktop notifications.
Alternative: 90-Minute Focus Blocks
The Pomodoro technique doesn’t work great for all tasks. For example, digital product designers need more time than 25 minutes to get bigger tasks done, and they also need more substantial breaks to recharge before moving on to the next task.
The 90-minute focus technique attempts to better utilize the natural energy peaks and troughs that occur throughout your day by dividing work into 90-minute periods of intense focus and up to 30-minute-long recovery segments.
However, it doesn’t really matter how long you work and how long you rest. The only thing that matters is that you work when you’re supposed to work and rest when you’re supposed to rest. By maintaining a sharp focus on the current task for a substantial amount of time, you can flow into the zone and experience the satisfaction that comes from being deeply immersed in your work.
Trello is a flexible visual collaboration platform that saves teams time by allowing them to easily organize and prioritize their projects in a fun, flexible, and rewarding way. By making the most important information available at a glance, Trello allows project members to quickly go from idea to action, but it doesn’t prevent them from diving into the details by adding comments, attachments, and due dates.
Trello is a web application with native apps available for all the popular platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. To save you even more time, Trello integrates with many other best time management apps and tools, such as Hourly or Projects by Placker.
While Trello’s core features are free, business-oriented features are available only to those who upgrade either to the Business Class plan or the Enterprise plan, and they include priority customer support, unlimited team boards, scheduled commands, email notifications, 2-factor authentication, personalized onboarding, and many others.
Unlike Trello, which is basically a digital Kanban board that makes it easy for individual team members to pick tasks, Asana is a full-featured project management tool designed to allow teams to plan and structure work the way that works best for them.
Asana is very easy to set up thanks to task-specific templates, which cover everything from event planning to bug tracking to software and systems deployment, just to give a few examples. Both individuals and teams can get started with Asana for free, and paid subscription plans unlock additional features.
Want some proof that Asana is one of the best time management apps on the market? It’s trusted by some of the world’s largest corporations, including Spotify and Sky News, helping them ensure everyone knows the plan. Smaller teams tend to stick with Trello because they find it more intuitive and straightforward.
Computers are full of distractions that can easily keep you from doing your work. RescueTime is one of the best time management apps because it helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive. Available for iOS and Android; macOS, Windows, and Linux, this time-tracking app quietly runs in the background, monitoring time spent on applications and websites and giving you an accurate picture of your day.
Not only is RescueTime able to tell you exactly how much time you spend using various apps, it can also alert you when you spend a certain amount of time on an activity or block distracting websites that steal your time.
If all you want from RescueTime is to track time on websites and applications, you can sign up for RescueTime Lite and use it for free forever. If you would also like to get alerts when you achieve your daily goals, keep a log of your daily accomplishments, use more detailed reports and filters, and more, RescueTime Premium is the version to get, at a price of $9 per month or $72 per year.
Toggl is an increasingly popular alternative to Rescue Time that boasts a sleek user interface and many easy-to-use features. With Toggl, you can decide if you want the app to track how you spend your time for you or use hassle-free manual time entries. Regardless of which time-tracking approach you choose, you can always easily filter your time tracking data, turn the data into Excel, CSV, or PDF files, and assign billable rates to your tasks so you always know how much you should charge for your work.
Toggl works on several different operating systems, including iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux. A 30-day free trial lets you try all features for free, and you can then decide if you want to use the free plan, which includes only basic features, or upgrade to the Starter plan for $9 a month when billed yearly (or $10 a month when billed monthly) or the Premium plan for $18 a month when billed yearly (or $20 a month when billed monthly). And that’s why Toggl earned a place on our best time management apps list.
This article wouldn’t feel complete without mentioning Serene – a fresh new member of the focus boosting family. Serene enables its users to focus on what matters and shields them from digital distractions. There are plenty of apps on the market that have similar goals, but what makes Serene different is that it creates the optimal environment to help you get into deep focus. It prompts you to set one clear goal per day, blocks distracting websites and notifications, starts a countdown timer and plays focus music.
At the time of writing this article Serene was still in production, but as we are proud to be part of this project as consultants, architects and Electron experts, we can assure you that this app is a real gem among the best time management apps on our list. If you want to learn more about the app, have a look at our case study.
4. Remember the Milk
Sometimes, the best time management apps are the simplest time management apps. Remember the Milk is a straightforward to-do app that allows you to get tasks out of your head and place them into a convenient app that works on all of your devices and can do far more than paper sticky notes.
For example, Remember the Milk can connect to Google Drive or Dropbox, allowing you to keep documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, and files alongside your tasks. It can also alert you when tasks are due, sync with Microsoft Outlook, make your tasks both organized and colorful with tags, and break down more complicated tasks into smaller subtasks.
Two versions of Remember the Milk are available: Free and Pro. The Pro version costs $39.99 per year, and it unlocks subtasks, unlimited sharing, tag colors, advanced sorting, reminders, badges, widgets, syncing with Microsoft Outlook, unlimited storage, and several other features.
Todoist is another beautifully simple to-do tool, designed to help you organize all aspects of your life. Adding a new task is a matter of a single tap on the Quick Add button, and prioritizing tasks is just as easy. You can color-code tasks according to their urgency, map out more complex goals with subtasks, and even free up mental space by delegating tasks to other people—all from the same app.
Because motivation is an important part of being productive, Todoist can visualize your productivity trends and keep you on track with points, streaks, and levels. Indeed, accomplishing tasks with the help of Todoist can feel just as rewarding as completing a fun quest in a video game.
Appropriately for one of the best time management apps, Todoist has many ready-made templates that cover marketing and sales, software development, product design, personal life, management, employee onboarding, podcast workflow, book writing, fitness, student projects, language learning, and much more.
Learning how to effectively organize tasks is just one step toward productivity. Actually staying focused on the tasks you want to accomplish can be far more difficult. There’s now a substantial body of scientific research that proves the ability of music to alter brain activity and help us focus and generally be more productive. Focus@will is a scientifically designed music service that plays tracks that have been shown to tune people’s brains to frequencies associated with sustained, task-focused attention and thought.
“We ask our users to rate their productivity during each session, and we’ve found that the average productivity in a one-hour Focus@will session is 75%—this is far above the productivity most people report in an hour without Focus@will,” states the company on its website.
Focus@will works on all devices, providing over 25 channels, each with many hours of unique tracks that work both with and without headphones. The service is available for free for the first two weeks, and it then costs $9.95 per month. Users can cancel their subscription anytime, and Focus@will offers a full refund within 30 days of any transaction—not just the first one.
Just like Focus@will, Brain.fm is a science-backed music service that creates unique tracks to steer its users into a state of deep focus. It holds patents on key processes for creating functional music, and it works with experts in the field–neuroscientists and psychologists–to develop ideas, run experiments, and test the effectiveness of tracks.
Long story short: Brain.fm really seems to be working, which explains why it has 150,000+ users and 4,000+ 5-star reviews. But you don’t need to read its studies on brain activity (which are available on its website) to decide whether it’s worth your money. You can simply sign up and listen to five sessions for free. If you then decide that Brain.fm works for you, you can either pay $6.95 on a monthly basis or $47.40 annually.