What Are The Best Time Management Tools?
Review of sixty top time management apps and software by category
You want to make the best use of your time.
You reckon technology can help you.
But where do you start?
1. Meetings and Video Chat Apps
Video chat apps leverage technology to enable you to organise and run virtual meetings. It will save you time by eliminating the need to travel unnecessarily. Video adds an important layer of functionality, because it’s easier to communicate when you can see and interpret other peoples’ body language or facial expressions.
Google Hangouts is one of many ways you can use technology to stay in touch with people.
There are some clear plus points to the app. It is free; it plugs into a huge database of users who are already familiar with Gmail, and it is very intuitive.
It also works across all desktop, iOS and Android devices.
Skype is a service with many users (over 300 million). Skype is free and is more or less equivalent to Google Hangouts. It’s easy to set up and you can use if for messaging, for voice calls, screen sharing and video conferencing calls.
Join.Me is a video conferencing and screen sharing app that is well designed and easy to use.
There is a free plan, and Join.me offers two premium layers if you want more control and greater capability. They’ve got the usual desktop and mobile covered.
2. Team Chat Apps
Once upon a time, teams used email to communicate with each other whenever they could not do so in person.
The problem is that email is also a channel for other kinds of communication. So it gets very crowded and feels a bit official.
That’s where this next set of apps comes in.
They take the familiar SMS behaviour and build it into solid platforms that are easy and even fun to use. Being able to conduct rapid back-and-forth conversations, the ability to create ‘channels’ for particular threads or topics and to loop other people in are characteristics that this kind of software have in common.
I’ve included them in this review of time management software because email is such a time killer. It’s also not suited to this fast-paced, informal flow of conversation.
Anything you can do to get out of your email inbox helps.
Slack is a very popular platform which you can run on any device or platform.
It has a massive and very enthusiastic user base and many organisations, large and small use it to improve communication.
It offers one-to-one chats, or group chats. You can create groups easily and is a good way to include everyone in a conversation that contains useful information.
You can send a message to an individual by prepending with @ or to a channel with #. I like how easy it is to set up, that you can start using it straight away for free and the pricing model which scales with the number of users you connect.
It keeps everyone in the loop and makes the best use of your time too.
HipChat aims itself squarely at the business world, emphasising security and enterprise capability.
It has all the usual features including video or group chat and screen sharing for teams.
Pricing is scalable, and the product is stable and high-quality to use.
Workplace by Facebook
Workplace is free for registered charities and educational providers.
It works like a joint Facebook account for everyone involved in a project. So if you’ve got a small business, everyone can be a member. Likewise, teams or departments could do the same.
It offers group discussions via text or video and also enables voice calling.
3. Team Project Management Apps
If you run teams and deliver projects, you’ll know how challenging it can be to keep an overview and ensure everyone is up to date. Team project management makes all of this easier to do and so save you time and effort.
Taskworld is feature rich software, and offers visual task boards (Kanban), the ability to update a task into multiple projects, set repeating tasks, copy and paste from a variety of popular apps such as Evernote, Word or Google Documents, and time tracking so you can see how long tasks are taking to complete.
Taskworld also enables direct messaging (chat) using public and private channels. Pricing starts at $10.99/user/month.
Basecamp organizes your communication, projects, and client work together so you can establish one version of the truth.
It pulls together the different projects, to-do’s, communication, documents and message boards which a team or organisation might wrestle with and provides an overview.
You can drill down however you want. Discussion boards replace email threads and to-do’s are visible to the team. There’s a useful summary of everything it can help with available here.
Pricing is $99/month, all in. If you compare this to the cost of different subscriptions for other services (Slack, Asana, Dropbox etc) this could end up saving you money if you have a big team.
Asana is a simpler and in some ways less comprehensive project management tool for teams. It is a web-based app, which enables teams to ‘see’ the projects which are being undertaken and contribute as tasks are completed, adjusted or initiated.
Team members can organise tasks based now whether they are ‘complete’, or ‘incomplete’ and dimply them by ‘tasks due’ or ‘by ‘project’. Asana will organise notifications to alert team members about deadlines and provides an overall dashboard so team leaders can maintain an overview.
There is a free basic plan and a premium product with premium capability at $10.99/month.
4. Task Manager Apps
Keeping on top of projects and the tasks within them is massively important for making the best and most efficient use of your time. And there are hundreds of tools you can use.
OmniFocus is powerful but also easy to use and has a beautiful user interface. It’s an Apple only product however, which is of no use if you’re inside the PC universe.
One thing I like about OmniFocus is how you can tailor it to fit your own way of working. If you want to follow a ‘pure’ GTD (Getting Things Done — David Allen) method, you can. But you can also design it to work the way you want.
You can put everything you need to do into this app, and then order and sequence it so you forget nothing important.
There’s lots of great support available to help you get the most out of this powerful time management software.
Pricing starts at $49.99 and rises to $99.99 for the Pro version. Alternatively you can subscribe which gives you access to all versions of the app and syncs between iOS and OSX.
Todosit is another time management app that has been around for a long time. It works across all platforms and has an active an engaged user base.
ToDoist users can earn Karma points for completing tasks, which is a feature of the app. Gamification is an emerging trend in this kind of app, and ToDoist was an early adopter.
Todoist has good customisation capabilities and is a solid performer. You can use it for everything from simple shopping lists to complex projects. I have used this app and I think it works very well.
Pricing is free for basic use, rising to $36/year for the premium version.
Any.do is another cross-platform app, which has a simple user interface. It’s USP is that it offers a stripped down, simple user interface which it claims means that its users are more inclined to stay with it.
Interestingly, this time management software is evolving a new service called ‘Assistant’ which the company describes below:
“Any.do Assistant uses AI to automatically review your tasks, and mark the ones it can do for you. With your approval, you’ll be connected to a combination of smart robots and diligent humans who can help you accomplish that task”.
Here’s a video that shows how it. works.
Any.Do is available at $5.99/month.
Trello looks different to the other To-do apps in this summary. That’s because it uses ‘boards’, what the Japanese call Kanban to organise projects.
This form of visual management tool can be very useful if you’re a person who likes to see information displayed on ‘pages’ rather than ‘lists’. You can colour-code the pages to match projects or contexts and it can be very useful for teams to see progress displayed in this way.
Trello is a web-based application which you can use on its own, or as an adjunct to a more conventional task manager which is what I do.
You can start using Trello for free, but the premium version is $9.99/month.
In fact, Things has done more than a mere facelift. Cultured Code, the people behind this Mac/iOS only software have entirely redesigned it. The video below explains all:
Things is now a sleek, good to look at and powerful task manager.
Pricing is $9.99 for iOS and $49.99 for OSX.
Aside from the fun sounding name, Remember the Milk (RtM) is a web-based to-do and productivity application. You can be access RtM on any platform thanks to the fact that it is web-based.
RtM provides the usual range of tools you would expect to find, but I agree with the Sweet Setup who say that the best of these apps are native applications rather than web-based.
Pricing is free for basic use but is $39.99 for a premium version.
Wunderlist was a conventional to-do manager, which had little that stood out from the competition. Microsoft has now bought it and it looks as thought the Wunderlist team are now working on Microsoft’s task manager which is called To Do.
It will be worth watching developments as time passes.
5. File Sharing Apps
Managing tasks are not the only capabilities that time management apps and software have. Moving large documents around with no need to email them constantly (not recommended) is a huge efficiency gain.
In addition, the ability to back things up safely and to allow for collaboration, means that it makes sense to have a file-sharing capability in your armoury.
Dropbox is a long-standing workhorse in this space. I used this service for years but I’ve recently moved away from it for three reasons.
First, I do not move documents between colleagues at work, or if I do, I can use Sharepoint (in our Microsoft Exchange environment). Second, I really dislike the web-based user interface and thirdly I now use DevonThink Pro Office for my storage needs (see below).
You get 5.5GB of storage for free, but must pay $9.99/month for 2TB or $16.58 for 3TB.
Google Drive is a useful suite of integrated tools which support collaboration and file-sharing.
I occasionally use Google Drive, but I shy away from the long reach that Google extends into my privacy. You get the first 15GB of storage for free.
Sync’s emphasis is on privacy and security and is now my preferred long-term storage service. It works like Dropbox, but I prefer its user-interface and additional security controls.
Sync offers a free 15GB and 3TB for $10/month.
It is the emphasis on privacy and security that makes Sync a good option if these are concerns for you.
MegaSync is another example of a privacy and security focused application. They are based in New Zealand which has strict privacy laws.
Prices start at $4.99/month for which you get 200GB of storage and step up through to $29.99/month for 8TB.
There is little to choose between Sync and MegaSync on privacy and security.
6. Social Media Management
Many of us now have multiple in-boxes, comprising the many feeds of information which flow through our social media channels. This can be a big time killer, so it makes sense to make use of apps which can help to manage this effectively.
To be honest, I’ve tried this app and others like it, but I keep returning to the native Twitter app which does everything I need it to. Tweetdeck has a lot of fans, so it might suit you.
Hootsuite is an app which I’ve used in the past. It is easy to set up, you just give it permission to manage your various social media accounts and you can then manage them all from a single dashboard.
Hootsuite allows you to schedule your messages and manage topic feeds and generate reports.
Hootsuite offers a free month, but then you need to sign up to a plan which starts at $29/month.
Buffer is like Hootsuite, but has more emphasis on scheduling.
It offers good integration with apps like Feedly (which can manage your RSS feeds) and it makes scheduling easy to manage from one dashboard.
Buffer’s prices start at $15/month which allows you to connect up to 8 social accounts and schedule up to 100 posts.
I now use Social Bee to manage my social media accounts. I found it via an App Sumo offer.
Social Bee’s prices start at $19/month.
Social Bee’s strap line is ‘social media on autopilot’ and they offer all-in-one tools and services for content posting and recycling, follower growth, engagement, and more. As a further incentive, Social Bee’s on-boarding process is a joy to use.
Sprout Social is a slick tool that feels like a more powerful form of Hootsuite.
Social Sprout is a premium-end product and its prices reflect that as they start at $99/month .
7. Email Management
Managing your emails successfully is one key to mastering your time management. There’s nothing like email to torpedo your ability to focus.
Yesware is a service I discovered for the first researching this post.
Yesware is a service which provides one-click templates for Gmail. The video below explains how it works.
You can schedule email messages in advance or use templates to use boilerplate wording for common email types. It provides for fast and seamless integration with calendar so you can slot meetings into mutual calendars via email and mail merge.
The email tracking service allows you to keep a handle on the emails you’ve sent. The next video explains how that works.
Yesware’r prices start at $12/month.
Boomerang is a piece of code you can add to Gmail which allows you to delay sending an email.
This can be useful if you are working on something late at night, but don’t want to build an expectation that you will normally respond to emails at that time. Just queue your response up, and it will send it the next day during office hours. The video shows how it works.
Boomerang is free to install from the Chrome Web Store here.
SaneBox watches your inbox and intelligently sorts your incoming emails into a folders which you’ve set up. If it gets it wrong, you can teach it better habits by training it through moving an email from the incorrect folder to the one you want.
The video explains how SaneBox works.
I particularly like SaneBlackHole. You can drop emails into SaneBlackHole if you no longer want to receive emails from that person.
SaneBox offers three price points, the cheapest being a taster product at $24/year.
MailButler is an add-on to Apple Mail which provides some new email super-powers. These include send later, undo send, attachment upload and one click unsubscribe.
MailButler provides a suite of message templates, follow-up reminders and the ability to attach notes and tasks emails.
Mailbutler is free to use but you pay $6.50/month to access its full functionality.
Automatic Reminders For Gmail
Many people use Gmail. I don’t because I dislike Google’s personal data collection practices. However, if you use Gmail, you can set up automatic reminders to help increase functionality.
If you want to do this, Email Analytics have a step-by-step procedure available here.
8. Distraction Managers
No account of time management software would be complete without some discussion of anti-distraction tools. You can use such apps to limit access to time sinks such as Facebook or to make your environment less distracting.
I’m a lifetime member of Focus@Will, which delivers scientifically calibrated music and sounds that are engineered to help you focus and concentrate.
If you’re in a busy open-plan office, using Focus at Will together with a quality pair of headphones could dramatically increase your productivity.
Price is an annual fee of $69/year.
RescueTime helps if you’re serious about managing your time more effectively, because it allows you to get a sense of what you’re spending your time doing.
That can help to identify potential sources of distraction so you can work out how to minimise them.
Prices start at a free level for basic functionality, which increases to $6/month for all everything.
Once installed RescueTime will monitor your computer usage and provide reports about how you spend your time your time. It will break time spent into percentages for each app you use. This can be very revealing and can help you recover time that you’re not using productively.
FocusBooster is a timer which you can set to encourage concentration for fixed periods. Apps like this are often called Pomodoro timers because the original tomato-shaped timer was the inspiration for a school of thinking which links increased productivity to short bursts of focused work.
Focus Booster is free to use, but you’ll need a subscription for some of its advanced features.
FocusWriter is one of a number of apps which strip back your writing space to the bare minimum.
If you work in Word (ugh) you have to live with an ugly and unnecessary toolbar(s) of functions that can become distracting.
FocusWriter strips all this away leaving you with the cursor and the page. This enable you to focus on the words, rather than how they look which can create a far more productive writing environment.
This is freeware, and you’re welcome to tip.
OmniWriter takes things one step further. Besides a Zen writing environment, you can also have music tuned to make concentration easier playing as you work.
This is a beautiful app which I like a lot. Pricing is up to you, although a minimum price of $6.81 has been set by the developers.
Cold Turkey is an app you can use temporarily to block access to certain apps. If your willpower isn’t up to resisting glancing at your Facebook or Twitter feed, this could really help you.
Cold Turkey claim they offer the most strict form of app blocking. Once you’ve turned Cold Turkey on, there’s no turning back for the duration you’ve set. That’s if choose not to turn unlocking off.
Pricing is free but for all the functions you pay $29 CAD.
Rainy Mood helps block out distraction noises by playing you the sound of rain. Weirdly soothing and highly effective.
Rainy Mood costs $2.99 from the app store which you can find here.
I found Noizio through my subscription to Setapp, which bundles together apps in one reasonably priced monthly subscription.
Like Rainy Mood, Noizio is designed to help you block distracting noises by playing sounds. Noizio allows you to choose what form of ‘white noise’ you prefer.
Forest is another app attempts to game increased productivity.
Once installed on your phone, the app will slowly grow a virtual forest, a process disrupted every time you tap into another app.
This can help if you’re struggling to leave you mobile alone and get on with the job in hand. Forest partners with a real life tree planting organisation so real trees get planted too.
Forest for iOS is free to download and you can buy additional features for $0.99 or $1.99.
Dark Noise is an iOS app which play white noise. You can choose which kind you want to listen to, whether that’s a nature sound like running water or a hubbub from an office.
Dark Noise is $3.99 from the App Store here.
Task Till Dawn is a task scheduler to execute repetitive tasks automatically.
Say you want to download a particular podcast each day, you can use this app to build that process using a simple process.
You don’t programming skills to use this app. Well worth experimenting with.
Hazel does a similar thing but has a large user group which enthusiastically supports its development.
I use this tool to clean up my download folder, and file documents automatically. A great time saver.
Hazel is Mac only and costs $32.
Organising your thoughts using mind-mapping is a powerful way to clarify your thoughts. Using this kind of visual tool enables you to make links and connections that you can’t undertake in your head or do as easily using lists.
Mind42 is a free mind mapping tool which is web-based. I dislike web-based products personally and prefer client solutions, but it’s free and easy to use.
MindNode is my mind mapping tool of choice. It’s highly intuitive, native and beautiful to look at to boot.
MindNode costs $9.99 and is available here.
If you’ve ever had a hard drive fail on you, you know what a disaster this can be. Losing all those precious records and data (think what would happen if you lost all your photos) is bad enough. Trying to rebuild your files is a whole other set of challenges that will easily cost you hours or days if effort if you’re not backing up regularly.
Best practice for backup is that at a minimum, have at least two separate back ups for all you data, which you store in two separate locations.
SyncBackFree is free for all Windows users. At a minimum, you must have at least two separate back ups for all you data.
SyncBack has some premium level products too, which can improve your backup experiecnce.
TimeMachine is the Apple product that comes bundled with every new OSX device. Use it regularly to sync to a network drive or USB hard drive.
ChronoSync costs $49.99.
SuperDuper offers a similar functionality to ChronoSync.
You will pay $27.99 for SuperDuper.
Backblaze ensures that you have a complete backup of your Mac hard drive stored in a remote location.
Once installed, Backblaze silently backs up your Mac device to the cloud. If something ever goes wrong, you can download all the files you need or Backblaze will even send you a hard drive with your files.
Backblaze prices start at $6/month per device.
A stitch in time saves nine, as the saying goes. Preventing a breach of security takes little time to do and can save untold harm and heartache down the track. If you’re not using a password manager, you really need to track action and fix that today.
1Password a is multiple platform, secure and easy to use, particularly now there’s fingerprint/face ID recognition on Mac and iPhone.
1Password keeps all your passwords safe and encrypted behind a master password. If you use their browser extension, 1Password will automatically complete password details for you.
There is an iOS version and 1Password also works in Windows and Android environments. 1Password costs $3.99/month.
LastPass provides a similar functionality to 1Password.
LastPass prices start at $3/month.
Dashlane adds a further layer of sophistication to password management.
Dashlane offers Drak Web monitoring which checks to see if anyone has compromised your password credentials. It also includes a VPN to harden your security.
Dashlane provides you with a dashboard that scores your overall level of security and you can also set reminders to change your passwords too.
Prices start at $3.33/month, although there is a free version for up to 50 passwords.
When browsing on the internet you often come across articles or documents, you haven’t got time to read now, but might do later. Knowing how to deal with these kinds of situations efficiently can make your research faster and more efficient. But knowing how to store information is only half the problem. You’ve also got to know how to find it quickly too.
Pocket enables you to easily and quickly clip articles and send them into their Pocket folder.
Here you can create folders for the different topics you’re collecting. You then open Pocket when you’ve got some time and read through what you’ve collected.
Pocket is free to use, but you can pay extra ($3.99) for the premium version which allows you to save articles for longer.
Instapaper provides the same functionality as Pocket.
Like Pocket, Instapaper offers a premium version which enhances the capability of the app.
Evernote allows you to throw anything at it, and then files it away for you.
You can save pictures, spreadsheets, PDFs, documents and lots more. You can organise the material you collect into ‘books’ which are folders and it supports tagging too. Search is fast and accurate so you can always find something once you’re filed it away. Evernote syncs across its various instances, so. you’re always have access to the most up-to-date store, whichever device you use.
Evernote works out of the box as a free version, but with limitations. To get the best from the app you’ll need a premium subscription which works out at $7.99/month.
DEVONthink is Apple only and can ‘read’ PDFs using OCR baked in. It uses an AI engine that makes search powerful as it will throw up items which it considers might link to the search inquiry. You can make notes using DEVONthink, use it as an RSS reader and can operate Automator scripts.
DTPO is different to Evernote in two important ways. First, it keeps the information in the original format whereas Evernote saves it in its own unique format which can make getting items out of Evernote to use in other applications hard to do. Second, DTPO stores everything locally in a database, not in the cloud. A companion iOS app enables you to sync everything to your phone. A local store may be secure but it means backing up your data is even more vital.
DEVONthink is available in two editions, Standard and Pro. The Standard edition is $99 and the Pro verison $199.
Curio is an app that tries to do it all. You take notes, do brainstorming, collect research materials and organise your thoughts into tasks or documents.
If you are unfamiliar with Curio, the video below orientate you.
Curio comes in three versions.
The Core version is $59.99, the Standard version is $99.99 and the Professional version is $139.99.
Keep It used to be called ‘Together’ and is an app that has many similarities with Curio.
Keep It is an Apple only product. You can buy it on the App Store or here for $49.99.
Launcher apps are tools which help remove the inefficiency that mousing and clicking creates. Each of the following apps does basically the same job, enabling you to use the keyboard for tasks, without the need to use a mouse or track pad.
There’s a little effort required to learn these tools, but once you have developed the muscle memory, you can really speed things up.
Launchbar is an app that exemplifies what launcher apps can do. You assign a key combination to call up the app. Once in the foreground, the app enables you to search files or the internet, open other applications and a host of other actions.
The video below illustrates Launchbar at work. You can get more videos here.
Launchbar costs $29.
Alfred is an app with a similar capability to Launchbar.
One key difference however is that Alfred provides access to a Powerpack addon. This increases what Alfred can do and has an active community who regularly post workflows for you to download.
Alfred is free to download and you can put it to use straight away. To make it fly however, buy a Powerpack. Powerpacks cost $23 or $39 for lifetime upgrades.
If you’ve signed up for, Setap then you already have a launch bar app called Lacona.
The Lacona price is $29.99
Launchy is an open source program and available on any platform.
Managing your time is easier when you use the right tools for the job. Across the different categories outlined here, there are sixty different apps for you to consider.
What have I missed?
- Google Hangouts
- Remember the Milk
- To Do
- Social Bee
- Automatic Reminders for Gmail (Email Analytics walkthrough).
- Focus Booster
- Focus Writer
- Cold Turkey
- Rainy Mood
- Dark Noise
- Task Till Dawn
- Time Machine
- Keep It
Question: Which time management software do you use?