Productivity Hacks: How to Be Productive at Work & Life

Last Updated on – Nov 15, 2021 @ 2:42 pm

I’ve always thought that some people are simply more disciplined and focused than me.

In my last “normal” job, the first two hours were my most productive. After lunch (the dreaded “siesta time”), I groggily sifted through new tasks, voicemails, and emails from clients.

More often than I’d like to admit, I’m pretty much on doze mode around this time. Productivity will only start to pick up again around the last two hours of my shift depending on the amount of work I had to finish.

Sometimes, I felt guilty not being able to sustain my productivity at work. I wondered why some colleagues don’t seem to experience the same kind of struggle.

Was it really because they were more “masipag” than me? More disciplined? Were they really impervious to good old, “siesta time”?

I’ll be honest, I really wanted to get the most out of my days. To be as productive as I can possibly be. I tried numerous tips and techniques over the years. A couple of ones stuck but I generally slipped back to old habits.

No matter how much I try, I can’t recreate that same level of intensity and focus I produce during my peak hours. On most days this is fine and all, though I genuinely wished to improve to squeeze out “more productivity” from each minute.

In the last few years, I’ve come across several interesting studies on the subject. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at what productivity really is all about and what we can do to achieve peak performance as regularly as possible.

What is Productivity?

Productivity is defined as “The effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.”

In other words, it’s a way of measuring efficiency and effectiveness in terms of how much output (results) you got from your input (work).

If Robert was able to finish two reports in an hour while John only completed one, we can say that Robert was more productive (assuming all other factors were equal).

In concept, productivity really is that simple. However, the more important question is:

“How can I become more productive?”

Psychology Today has this to say about productivity:

“Productivity hinges on mental energy, a sense of motivation, alertness, and buoyancy.”

These 4 factors (mental energy, motivation, alertness, buoyancy) play an important role in achieving peak productivity.

We’ve all had days when we were a “machine” in terms of output. We felt that surge of energy and motivation and it sustained us to plow through all tasks.

The feeling afterward? Absolute satisfaction.

Some people might recognize this state as “Flow” (made popular by the book of the same name by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). And while it’s not exactly productivity per se, it’s one critical element for achieving a productive state.

It’s the “sense of motivation and buoyancy (buoyancy being defined as an optimistic, cheerful disposition)” that was mentioned earlier.

As humans, that’s where our focus on the topic of productivity should be. To know and be aware of the stuff that can help us trigger that productive mode. To truly understand what makes us tick and what doesn’t.

On the next section, we’ll look at productivity beyond its usual definition and see how some of the most productive and successful people take control of it.

Habits of Productive People

At one point of his career as a filmmaker, Casey Neistat shot, edited and posted one YouTube video—Every. Single. Day.

Ask anyone who produces content for YouTube and I’m pretty sure they’ll tell you that maintaining a daily vlog demands too much from the creators’ time, energy and resources.

Heck, even coming up with a couple of hundred of words a day for an article can be a hardship for me sometimes. And I’m just in front of the computer.

To know that someone shoots video, edits them, and posts them daily on a consistent basis (they’re high-quality videos too if I may say) is absolutely awe-inspiring.

In the book, “Tools of Titans”, Casey shared his schedule during this ultra-prolific period of his career.

4:30 AM – 7:00 AM – Wake up to finish vlog edit from the night before

7:00 AM- 7:45 AM- Process, upload, design final video

8:00 AM – Video goes live on YouTube

8:00 AM-ish – Go for a run or hit the gym

9:30 AM – 6:30 PM – Work at the office (he’s the CEO)

6:30 PM – Hurries home to give his baby a bath

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM – Spend time with family

9:00 PM until he sleeps – Edit some more video

I know what you’re thinking—the man’s a machine. I can’t help but be impressed with his work ethic and passion for what he does.

On a productivity standpoint, few will be able to match his diligence and output.

But is this what being productive truly means? To squeeze in as much work as you can within a limited scope of time?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at the routine of someone who is also known for his prolific output but doesn’t actually work the whole day.

This person who is basically a household name when it comes to horror and suspense books: Stephen King.

In an interview conducted by Game of Thrones author George R.R Martin, King revealed how many pages per day he can write:

Martin: How the f@!% do you write so many books so fast? I think, “Oh, I’ve had a really good six months, I’ve finished three chapters.” And you’ve finished three books in that time.

King: …When I’m working I work every day — three, four hours, and I try to get those six pages, and I try to get them fairly clean. So if the manuscript is, let’s say, 360 pages long, that’s basically two months work. … But that’s assuming it goes well.

Martin: And you do hit six pages a day?

King: I usually do.

In the world of writing, few can beat the prolificness of Stephen King. As of this time, King has written 59 novels, 6 non-fiction, and 200 short stories.

At the ripe old age of 71, it will appear that he can write at least one book a year.

And any good and well-established author will tell you that writing at such a high level of quality and pace is absolutely impressive (for context, George R.R Martin has written 22 novels so far).

As someone who currently writes for a living, I’m amazed at the consistency and discipline of King. Because while he doesn’t have the brutal schedule of a Casey Neistat or a Gary Vaynerchuk (another “go hustle” guy), no one can argue that the King of Horror (pun intended) is one of the most productive writers of all time.

So what does King do after hitting his 6-page quota? Recalling what I read from his excellent memoir, “On Writing”, he spends the rest of the day mostly reading, spending time with family, and watching baseball games on TV.

If Stephen King considers writing 6-pages as a measure of a productive day, to Warren Buffett (once hailed as the world’s richest person), it is reading 500 pages of books and other material. CNBC reports that the “Oracle of Omaha” spends 80% of his day reading.

You might be thinking: “500 pages of reading per day? That’s ridiculous!”

My response: Depends on how you look at it. His job is to analyze and make investment decisions after all, so it does make sense that he fills his brain with as much data as he can to make solid investment choices.

To normal, regular Joes and Janes like most of us, his routine might seem weird, amusing even. How the heck did he become rich by simply reading?

Exactly what he read and how he applied it we’ll never know, but you can’t argue with his results.

In fact, his best bud and fellow billionaire Bill Gates also read a ton (1-2 books a week) and goes on a “Think Week” twice a year, spending 7 days completely disconnected in a secret forest hideout to reflect and think about important matters and do lots of reading.

Three completely different people. Three absolutely different routines. Each one a master at their own craft. One unifying trait: Each one has their own unique way of being ultra-productive in their own respective fields.

This highlights the fact that what other people consider a productive day is vastly different from what you and I perceive as one.

And this to me is the most interesting and important thing to consider when trying to deconstruct productivity.

If you think about it, it all boils down to two steps:

  1. Identify the tasks and type of work that directly affect your main responsibilities and goals.
  2. Do it.

Simple enough, eh?

True—but as with most great things we want to accomplish in life, the idea is simple, but the execution is not easy.

Sure it can be easy to set goals and write down to-do lists but it’s the “doing” part where most of us struggle.

So how do we cope? What can we do to combat procrastination and its minions? Are there ways to optimize our days for maximum productivity?

On the next section, we’ll look at some of the most widely recognized productivity tips and how some well-known individuals incorporate it into their lives. Hopefully, you can pick up a tip or two that will give your productivity a much-needed boost.

16 Tips, Hacks, and Ways on How to Become More Productive at Work and Life

1. Make lists

When not tidying things up, Japanese author and Organizational Guru Marie Kondo uses lists to tackle the day’s to-dos.

In one interview she said, “I make a very detailed to-do list … I usually start with the ones that can be finished easily, without much thinking. I do one thing at a time and then move on to the next thing. For tasks that require more thought, like writing an article or newsletter, I’ll block out time in advance. Things like writing articles and talking to the media, I do myself. I leave the day-to-day back and forth, like responding to online requests, et cetera, to my team.”

Her answer is also parallel with some of the popular productivity hacks: time blocking, delegating tasks, and “Get Things Done” 2-minute rule (do easy tasks first that take less than 2 minutes). She also takes plenty of tea breaks, always making a cup after finishing a task or whenever she starts to feel tired.

2. Take the first step and go one at a time

Anne Lamott’s wonderful “Bird by Bird” shared a memory from her childhood when her brother was in tears in their kitchen table, overwhelmed by a school project. His task? To write about various types of birds. It was due the next day. Her father walked in and put his arm around his brother’s shoulder and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird”.

From a productivity standpoint, this scenario strikes a chord with what most of us feel whenever we begin or plan to take on a task or a project, whether personal or at work: Anxiety.

That feeling of dread when we think about the amount of stuff we need to do to complete the entire thing. To me, it’s one heck of a kryptonite. When tasked to finish an article like this one, I can’t help but feel a wee bit of overwhelm seep into my bones and seem to paralyze my fingers.

How should I start? What’s my angle? How many words will it take? When can I finish this? This and other questions pop up as I stare at the blank Google Docs screen.

However, I’ve since learned to accept that this is absolutely normal. It’s that “lizard brain” of ours acting on instinct, taking over the reins of our emotions and handing it over to its favorite jockey, Mr. Worry.

After that initial feeling of anxiety and hesitation, I remind myself of that Nike slogan and go at it like a bricklayer placing the first piece of block in its place.

It’s funny how I sometimes build up worry in my head only to find out later that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. By identifying the first step and doing it, I’ve conquered the initial anxiety of writing a long piece.

Eventually, you’ll gather momentum until you hit the “Flow”.

3. Tame that Monkey

Tim Urban’s piece, “Why Procrastinators Procrastinate”, is my favorite explanation of how a procrastinator’s brain works when are presented with a new task. In a nutshell, Urban reveals that a non-procrastinator’s brain is driven by a “Rational Decision Maker”—a logical-thinking pilot who knows how to prioritize and think long term.

A procrastinator’s brain, on the other hand, also has its own Rational Decision Maker—but it has a co-pilot—the Instant Gratification Monkey.

When the Rational Decision Maker says, “Alright, time to finish that report!”, the Instant Gratification Monkey tugs on his shirt and says, “Before you do that, let’s check the latest NBA scores first. After that, let’s open YouTube to check out that new smartphone which has 10 cameras in it.

Two hours and 17 YouTube videos later, you realize it’s lunchtime and decide to do the report in the evening instead.

Sounds familiar?

And while it sounds cute to have an imaginary pet monkey inside our brains, they bring nothing but problems to our productivity.

The second part of Urban’s piece reveals that in order to combat procrastination, you should have clearly defined next steps (which I first read in David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”) and resist the monkey’s attempts to disrupt your attention.  

By being aware of what’s going on inside your brain when you’re about to engage a new task, you’ll (hopefully) realize that it’s really within our power and control to stop procrastination dead in its tracks.

4. Eat that frog

In my previous job, I’ve always dreaded calling my client and having them do something urgent about their retirement plan. These folks are company owners, CEOs, and managers—they run a tight ship and hate getting bothered (and are not shy about letting you know about it). Plus, New Yorkers are a busier bunch compared to folks from other states.

So should an unfortunate thing happen (whether it’s their employees’ fault or ours) and I need to let them know, I get really anxious about it. The feeling starts to creep in as I sit down and start my day. “Oh boy, I have to call John today and tell him about the thing.” I remember making all sorts of excuses to myself to delay the inevitable call, doing all sorts of tasks (usually not urgent) simply to avoid an uncomfortable discussion.

This continues until after lunch, until I can delay it no longer. At some point in the conversation they will sometimes say, “Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner?” My avoidance of the inevitable almost always leads to even more problems.

Productivity expert and author Brian Tracy recommends this solution: “Eat that frog!”.

It’s based from a quote made by Mark Twain who said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

By doing the most difficult and important thing first, you’re setting yourself up for a truly productive day. No matter how the day ends, you can rest assured that you did the most crucial task in your list. It can be something that will really move a project forward, or a critical step that will let you inch closer towards your goals.

5. Eisenhower Matrix

Made popular by US President Dwight Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Matrix is essentially a chart showing how tasks should be categorized.

It helps you decide and determine which task to prioritize by urgency and importance. The goal is to put emphasis and focus on urgent and important tasks, schedule the important but not urgent ones, and either delegate or ignore those which do not fall under the first two categories.

When faced with a list of things to do, we tend to pick the ones which are easy. While not really bad per se, it increases the tendency to postpone doing the truly important matters first. To combat this, use the Eisenhower Matrix to identify high-priority tasks then apply the “Eat that Frog” rule.

6. Use the Pomodoro Technique

One of the best productivity hacks that I’ve stuck with over the years is the Pomodoro technique. Its name literally means “tomato” in Italian, because it was based on those kitchen timers that looked like tomatoes.

The gist is that when under a certain time pressure, we heighten our focus and increase our effectiveness. You utilize this artificial pressure to get in the zone and get in the flow. The idea is no different from the countdown timers on quiz shows on TV. Like, will you really think about your unpaid Meralco bill if you have to answer the 1-million peso question in 10 seconds?

To use this technique, you just set a timer (20 mins in my case) then do nothing but work for that period of time. When the alarm rings, take a 5-min break.

Rinse and repeat.

I usually take a longer 30 minutes to an hour break after around 4 Pomodoros (one 20-minute set is equivalent to one Pomodoro).

Before you say anything, I say you try it first. With the right mindset, this could dramatically boost your output especially if you’re someone like me who easily gets distracted and can’t seem to focus easily like others.

Gene Schwartz, a legend among copywriters, does a similar approach, though it isn’t as regimented as the Pomodoro technique. He sits down, sets the clock for 33:33, and works until the alarm rings.

He allows himself to do anything he wants, the only rule is that he doesn’t leave his chair. Sometimes, he admits, he just sits in front of the alarm until he gets so bored he proceeds to write.

7. Apply the Pareto Law

Also popularly known as the 80/20 rule. This one stresses the importance of identifying the area in your work that you should really be focusing on and applying effort into.

For example, let’s say you decide to sell electronic gadgets and accessories online. After a month in operation, you noticed that your sales of Bluetooth earphones dwarfed those of your other products by a mile.

The demand is great, you feel like you’ve hit some kind of niche among your customers. In this situation, it’s a no-brainer to increase your stocks of Bluetooth earphones and minimize (or even eliminate) your other wares that don’t sell well.

You also focus your online marketing on your best seller, increasing its promotion and doing all sorts of advertising to get more eyeballs into your product. It only makes sense, after all.

Why waste money and time on other products when you already know what people want?

This is the 80/20 rule in action. In our example, you identified which product (20% of your total lineup) brought 80% of the sales. Once identified, you gave it focus in order to increase your sales.

The Pareto law teaches us to identify these imbalances in our lives and think of ways to utilize and profit from them.

At work, determine which tasks take much of your time but actually make up only a small part of your big goals.

Look for ways to optimize your actions or schedule your day so you can get the same results using less effort and time.

8. Go with Plan B (a.k.a something productive to do)

“Magdala ka ng payong baka umulan”. Not wanting to look for the damn umbrella (I always misplace it), I ignore the advice and go out with nothing else but my phone, notebook, pen, and wallet.

In the jeep a few minutes later, the skies decide to give everyone a quick shower. As I get off and run awkwardly to the nearest shed, I silently curse at myself for not listening (again) to my ate.

I waste a good 10 minutes waiting for the downpour to stop. I’m late for class again.

A payong is a plan B. The extra coins in my backpack when manong says “barya lang po sa umaga” is plan B.

An extra shirt is a plan B.

So are the extra couple of diapers I bring along should our baby decide to be extra generous with his bowel movements when we’re outside.

For our purposes (productivity), a plan B is something you do in case the thing that you originally intended to work on does not pan out.

To be specific, it’s having a backup “to-do” so you can turn it into productive time instead of mindlessly browsing your social media feeds (for the nth time).

Conference call with a client got cancelled? Go call your other clients that you haven’t touched base with for a while (I did this in my previous job).

Don’t have the data you need for the report? Switch to that other task your boss gave yesterday.

I know a lot of you do this already. But you’d be surprised at how plenty of people tend to procrastinate when the initial task they intended to do gets interrupted/cancelled/rescheduled etc.

“Woohoo cancelled yung meeting! Tara check natin yung Banchetto sa labas!” (even when there’s a pile of work waiting to be done)

This tip is a reminder to try to get the most out of your time when you can. And it doesn’t have to always be related to work.

Even if we’re simply waiting in line at the supermarket or have a few minutes to spare, having a plan B (something productive to do) actually helps in clearing your day’s To-Do List.

In fact, I’m currently writing this part on a chair outside my eldest son’s daycare, I arrived 15 minutes earlier than usual so I figured this is the best way I can show you how this tip works.

Talk about hitting two birds with one stone (finish article and show a real-life example)!

Also Check: The Best Coworking Spaces in the Philippines

9. Keep all potential distractions at bay

This New York Times article reveals how smartphones hijack our attention and prevent us from focusing on our work. As someone who works from home, it’s hard to get down and get to work when I’m around all sorts of time-wasters.

Marketing assistant professor Adrian Ward (who was interviewed in the article) explains why this happens:

“If it’s in the environment, it’s almost like it’s calling out to us, We’re automatically drawn to it. And so now the problem becomes not to figure out what to pay attention to, but resisting that automatic pull. You actually have to devote some of your cognitive resources to resisting,” he said.

Like the invisible dark force in Bird Box—the TV, computer games, books, food, and random stuff beckon me to come to them. “…Open your eyes.. It’s beautiful..”

But instead of putting on a blindfold ala Sandra Bullock, I tuck all these distractions away and go work on my desk, or somewhere with as little visual and auditory noise as possible.

Pro tip: I use in-ear monitors with my “Deep Focus” playlist running in Spotify. This sets me in “ready to write” mode faster and blocks out distracting noise.

10. Don’t wait to be inspired

It was Chuck Close who said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” The well-known painter revealed he never had a “painter’s block” in his whole life. It also seems like motivation has never been an issue with this guy.

And that’s what he did. Just show up and work. The “Muse” rewards those who trust the process. This sentiment echoes that of another (and more popular) painter, Pablo Picasso who said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”.

For example, I actually wrote three intro paragraphs for this piece before eventually deciding on this one. Not wanting to look at the blank screen for too long, I forced myself to start typing whatever random (but somehow related) stuff that pops up in my head.

It’s my own version of “priming the pump”, getting your gears warmed up and ready for action. This initial mess will eventually lead me to the paragraph that I actually like and will decide to use.

Aspiring authors have been known to use “writing prompts” to achieve this same effect.

These are “pre-generated” scenarios or ideas from others which they will use to start writing—thus eliminating that “writer’s block” which usually stems from lack of ideas.

Eventually, they’ll find their rhythm and pace to actually write something of their own.

Don’t wait until you’re pumped up or inspired to work. That rarely happens. Instead, work until you get inspired. As Steven Pressfield stated in his book, “The War of Art”, the “Resistance” is an actual force that gets summoned each time someone tries to do something worthwhile or meaningful.

It doesn’t care who you are. All it wants is to do everything in its power to stop you from doing what you intended to do. And it’s up to us to rise to the occasion, to rip Resistance apart down to its bones and banish it back to the pits of hell where it came from. And the only way you can do this is by doing the work.

Begin. Take the first step and let momentum carry you past this unseen enemy.

(Side note: Now that I think about it, Pressfield’s “Resistance” might have simply been Urban’s “Instant Gratification Monkey” all along)

11. Take breaks

Imagine your body as a car’s engine. From time to time, you need to take it out for a routine check-up. To change oil and do all sorts of fixes and preventive maintenance.

If we don’t do this, the internals will reach their limits sooner, conk out and die. The result? The car will start shaking and ground to a halt.

Whether at home or at work, always remember to take breaks. It’s a way to reboot our systems back up to its optimal state. It gives us back the energy and focus we need to finish our tasks.

If we don’t take care of our body, it will eventually manifest the problems through all sorts of health issues, and when that happens, you’re in for some even deeper mud.

Also read: 20 High Paying Home-Based Online Jobs in the Philippines

12. Understand your body’s energy peaks and lows

Earlier in this article, I mentioned I always feel sleepy around siesta time and I felt guilty not being as productive as the day’s first half.

However, research actually shows that our bodies merely follow their own internal clock. And you know what it tells your body during siesta? “Take a nap”.

Aubrey Marcus, (CEO of Onnit and author of the book “Own the Day”), shared that we should not feel guilty for feeling sleepy after lunch.

He recommends that we don’t try to fight it with coffee or energy drinks and instead take a short nap (15-20) minutes because this will give our bodies the rest it needs and is miles better than caffeine in terms of effect.

The book calls these short naps (not beyond 30 minutes) “Controlled Recovery Period” (CRP) which promotes Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep that leaves us feeling refreshed upon waking up.

Note though that it shouldn’t be a long nap because otherwise our bodies will go into deep mode and waking up from it will actually give the opposite result.

So don’t feel too bad if you’re feeling sleepy after lunch. It’s just your body telling you to recharge. Identify your body’s peaks and lows in accordance to the time of day and try to adapt and optimize your work around the highs (when you’re most alert and productive).

Knowing this, if I was still working on my previous job, I would’ve allocated the first 2 hours to my most important tasks (Eat that frog method) because that’s when I’m most productive.

I can then perhaps schedule non-cognitive-heavy tasks (admin stuff, making, and returning calls, replying to emails, etc) for after lunch, when my energy levels are low.  

13. Delegate as needed

The Eisenhower Matrix dedicates one quadrant to tasks that can be or should be delegated to others. This helps us avoid taking too much load due to incoming tasks.

An effective manager, for example, knows how to delegate tasks among her subordinates based on each person’s strengths and skills.

Don’t be embarrassed or shy to delegate tasks to others especially when you know both parties will benefit. How exactly, you ask?

Say you need a complex spreadsheet made by end of the day. Assigning the task to the Excel whiz on your team will allow you to hand it over to someone who can finish the task faster and better.

This will free up your time from figuring it out from the ground up, allowing you to work on things that you specialize in.

It’s all about optimizing your time to the fullest, making sure you’re working on stuff that is on your priority list and fits your skill set well.

14. Don’t be a Yes Man

In the movie, “Yes Man”, Jim Carrey’s character learned how saying “Yes” and being open to doing stuff outside his routine isn’t as awful as he initially thought.

In terms of life experiences and accomplishments, this is generally a good thing (travel, pursuing passion projects, trying new stuff, etc.,). In work, however, it can actually backfire. Why?

Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) once said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and unapologetically – to say no to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.”

We should not feel bad about saying no when our plate is full. We all have our priorities. Don’t bury yourself with more work simply because you can’t say no. Or commit to something simply because we’re too embarrassed to decline the invitation.

At the end of the day, we only have ourselves to blame if we fail to accomplish the most important goal we’ve set for ourselves.

As Covey mentioned above, we should have the courage to fight for our precious time.

15. Utilize technology

Use apps, browser extensions, programs, and other similar tools to combat procrastination and being unproductive.

Check out the last section of this article for an extensive list of apps and tools for boosting your productivity.

16. Block your time (for Deep work)

Cal Newport said it best in his book, “Deep Work”:

Deep work refers to “Activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

“There’s no better time to be alive”, so they say. The technology and level of convenience available to us right now is simply ridiculous, much of the stuff we used to do a mere decade ago has been automated, if not completely disrupted by emerging tech. The big tradeoff, as plenty of studies tell us, is our decreasing level of attention span amidst all the distraction of internet and social media.

Newport stresses the importance of being vigilant about our use of time, advising,

“Without structure, it’s easy to allow your time to devolve into the shallow – email, social media, web surfing. This type of shallow behavior, though satisfying in the moment, is not conducive to creativity. With structure, on the other hand, you can ensure that you regularly schedule blocks to grapple with a new idea, or work deeply on something challenging, or brainstorm for a fixed period – the type of commitment more likely to instigate innovation.”

50+ Best Productivity Tools

Since the advent of the Internet and the smartphone, the way we do a lot of things has changed for the better.

The era of smartphones and apps ushered a new age of connectivity and convenience, where it isn’t weird anymore to talk to your phone and bark orders like a ship captain to Alexa or Siri, or grab a car without lifting your butt from the chair.

But it’s a double-edged sword, really. With all these conveniences came an ever-decreasing attention span no thanks to information overload and the addictive use of social media.

But like the Padawans in Star Wars, we’ll side with the Light on this one. The following is our handpicked selection of the best apps and programs for doing things faster and more efficiently.

Trello – Collaboration software. Perfect for managing tasks and projects with others. Can also be used for managing personal projects.

Dropbox – Save your files in the cloud. Makes access and sharing across all devices so much easier.

Focus Booster – A Pomodoro timer. Its built-in features are perfect if you’re working on multiple projects.

Harvest – Time tracking, invoicing, and reporting all in one app.

Todoist – One of the most popular task management apps for years

Freedom – App and website blocker for improving productivity and focus

Noizio – White noise/background noise for improving focus

Google Drive – Easy file sharing and access across the cloud

Momentum – Google Chrome extension that features a To-do list, weather updates, and daily inspiration

Buffer – For managing social media accounts across multiple social networks. Allows users to analyze data for better engagement with its audience. Perfect for social media managers.

Wunderlist – A to-do list manager. Have been personally using it for some time.

Grammarly – Spell and grammar checker that integrates well with other programs. It’s free (with limited features) and I’ve been using it for a while now. – Another to-do list manager packed with a variety of features

RescueTime – Analyzes your daily habits and makes reports so you can optimize your time and resources for peak productivity

Google Keep – Similar to Evernote and OneNote. Offers basic and easy note, photo, and file documentation

Toggl – Free time tracking software. They also have a Chrome extension.

Forest – Gamifies your focusing efforts by planting virtual trees that grows when you focus and dies when you leave the app. One of the best timers that have been able to integrate productivity and minimize phone addiction.

ScanBot – Fast and easy way of creating high-quality scans using your smartphone.

Newton – Email management application touted to have better user interface than GMail. Works across all sorts of operating platforms.

SaneBox – Another email management app. Per their website: “SaneBox distinguishes between crucial & unimportant messages, avoids distractions, has Do Not Disturb, banishes annoying senders, and reminds you to follow-up.”

Quip – A collaboration tool that allows users to chat, share all sorts of docs, charts, tasks, spreadsheets and others.

Just Press Record – Easily record, transcribe, and sync your ideas. Currently in iOS only.

Droptask – A visual-based management system for both creatives and entrepreneurs.

Nebo – Note-taking application that impresses with its handwriting tech.

Escape 2 – Time tracking app which reports the number of hours you spend doing distracting stuff.

HazeOver – iOS app that automatically highlights the front window by fading out those running in the background

Asana – Recognized as one of the best team management software available out there

DockPhone – For iOS users, this allows you to make calls straight from your computer

Fantastical 2 – For iOS users, an intuitive calendar app for power users

Notion – Note taking app that offers plenty of offline features and quick syncing for collaboration

Evernote – Perhaps the most popular note-taking software. Has tons of features and integrates well with a lot of programs and apps.

IFTTT – “If this, then that”. Program/app that allows you to automatically assign actions when specific events happen.

Lifesum – A health app for helping you be in tip-top shape

Box notes – An online note-taking app.

Dropbox paper – If you’re a Dropbox user, this adds collaboration tools that your team can use.

Slack – A popular messaging and collaboration platform available across all devices.

Simplenote – Note-taking app that features a minimalistic interface yet packed with extras

Microsoft OneNote – Microsoft’s version of Evernote

uBlock Origin – Adblocker for web browsers to avoid those pesky pop-ups – Easily unsubscribe from unwanted email subscriptions – Background music for improving focus.

Everhour – App for time tracking, scheduling, budgeting, and expenses.

Boomerang – Add-on for your Gmail client. Adds extra features like scheduling responses and making reminders

Litmus – Email marketing tool. Allows you to make, test, and monitor your emails/campaigns.

Zoom – Video conferencing tool.

Fleep – Alternative to Slack. Also free.

Paymo – Task and product management software

GoToMeeting – Online meeting software with video conferencing features.

OneTab – Saves your browsing sessions for easy retrieval later.

Fireshot – Screen capturing tool for saving images

Bullet Journal – Allows you to keep track of your priorities

Over to you

Do you have your own productivity tips and hacks that you want to share? Let us know in the comment section below! Would love to hear your personal tips and tricks for achieving peak productivity!

Read Next:

About Amiel Pineda

Amiel Pineda is the Head of Content at Grit PH.

He started freelance writing in 2010 doing product reviews and tech news. In 2018, he became a full-time freelancer, writing in the financial space and creating content for clients in various niches.

Prior to freelancing full-time, he worked 7 years in the financial services industry for a Fortune 500 company.

He also writes on his personal blog, Homebased Pinoy (, where he shares tips and guides as a work-from-home freelancer, along with NFT-game guides.

Education: Technological Institute of the Philippines (Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering)
Focus: Freelancing, Entrepreneurship, Financial Products, Investing & Personal Finance

Reader Interactions


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *