The relationship between technology and productivity is complicated. On the one hand, modern tech introduces us to wider audiences, providing the opportunity to share ideas like never before. It speeds up time-consuming processes and streamlines operations. It gives us the unbridled freedom to play music, track our weight loss, chat with friends, buy concert tickets, and crush cartoon candies all at the same time.
The problem, however, seems to lie in what we do with all this newfound extra time. Because it seems like more than ever, we merely waste it engaging with more technology.
So, how do you find the sweet spot? The place where technology remains fun and engaging but actually works for you. How do you use your smartphone at work but avoid falling down a Facebook rabbit hole? Or having a “five-minute-Instagram-break” turn into an hour of scrolling through crazy cat lady videos? The answer may surprise you.
Consider the Productivity App
Productivity apps—ever heard of them? Kind of like fighting fire with fire, it may seem counter-intuitive to use more technology to kick a bad tech-habit. And indeed, for some people it may not be the answer. (Some days the phone simply needs to be silenced and put in a drawer.) But for those who actively use their smartphone throughout the day for work, a productivity app could be solution you need.
A productivity app is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s an app designed to make you work more productively. From organizing your business contacts and generating to-do lists to simply tracking your screen time, each one serves its own unique purpose. However, the core intention remains the same: to make your life easier in some way. Like any other habit-breaking exercise, the challenge lies in finding the one that best suits your needs, is easy to use, and will incorporate seamlessly into your routine.
We’ve highlighted four productivity apps that we feel best display the range of benefits that useful technology can provide. Some of these we use ourselves, while others simply come highly recommended from professionals. Keep reading and decide if any feel right for you!
This clever app effectively turns your smartphone into a mini-scanner. And while you might be wondering, “Isn’t that what my camera app is for?” the answer is no, it’s not. Your camera is useful for some documents—like sending your coworker a snap of this week’s schedule–but for most important papers, it simply doesn’t offer the proper functionality. An app like Tiny Scanner will not only provide the proper resolution, it will snap to the document’s edges, removing unnecessary background. Additionally, Tiny Scanner allows for bulk scanning—a godsend when you’ve already left for vacation and the boss calls to remind you that you left the strategy brief in your bag.
Tiny Scanner also allows you to adjust things like contrast, brightness, and page distortion, resulting in an image that looks like an actual document—not a photo of one. You can then upload your document to a content management system like Google Drive or Box at the swipe of a finger.
We use Tiny Scanner and have had no problems, but it’s worth mentioning that the most recent update to the app is receiving some backlash among users. For those who need to scan multiple documents every day, the differences between versions may be more obvious. Check it out and see what you think. The app is free and you can upgrade to the paid version at any time.
You’ve already discovered a fast and easy way to scan all your documents, but what about signing them? SignEasy delivers on its name by providing a fast and secure way for you to sign and send nearly any kind of paperwork in minutes. The app records your signature by turning your phone or tablet into a sign pad, which you then use your finger or stylus to make your mark. Then simply import your document and select the page you’d like to edit. Tap the pen icon to place your signature, initials, logo, and/or date on the document and press save. It’s that easy!
And it’s not just for your signature. SignEasy allows for an unlimited amount of signers and documents, meaning your business can reduce its paper output by having customers sign receipts, waivers, or invoices through a tablet. (And, you don’t even need WiFi.) You can then easily search and sort the documents, keeping everything organized and environmentally-friendly.
Click here for a free 14-trial of SignEasy. After that, plans start at $10/month.
What if you’re looking for productivity apps that do a little more than streamline repetitive day-to-day tasks?
Maybe you already utilize plenty of productivity apps but are still struggling to focus. You find yourself constantly looking at your phone, disrupting concentration even further. Consider Forest.
The Forest app is unusual in that it encourages focus by incentivizing productivity. If you’re old enough to remember the immense popularity of Tamagotchi, the brilliance behind Forest will make quick sense. Whenever you need to focus on a project, you open the app and set a timer for yourself. When the timer starts, a virtual seed is planted and a tree begins to grow. The longer you work, the bigger the tree. If you leave the app though—say to go lurk around Facebook—the tree dies. If, however, you make it through the designated time, that tree is plotted on your “forest” where you can see all the successful (and unsuccessful) trees you’ve planted throughout the day, effectively tracking your focus.
While the sense of achievement provided by the app may be enough for some users, Forest takes things a step further. As you successfully plant digital trees, you accrue virtual currency which can be used to plant REAL trees in Africa. The trees are planted by Trees for the Future, a nonprofit organization in Maryland. Improve your focus and help combat deforestation? We call that a win-win. Check out the free app here.
While Forest is great for individuals, RescueTime is ideal for the evaluation of both solo and team productivity. The app runs securely in the background of your computer, phone, or tablet and tracks the time you spend on websites and apps. It then provides detailed reports outlining what you accomplished throughout the day. Companies can use this information to reevaluate current employee processes, getting an honest and unbiased look at workloads.
RescueTime provides more than just accountability though, it also allows you to set limits for yourself. Block distracting websites that tend to draw your attention when your focus fades. Set alerts to let you know you’ve spent a certain amount of time emailing or editing. The app is free, although premium versions are available tailored to individuals or organizations. Click here to learn more.
Have you tried any of these productivity apps? Or are there any special ones you would recommend? Let us know in the comments.