Getting Things Done: Great productivity apps for the New Year

I always marvel at people who “get things done” and have lives that run like a well-oiled machine. Especially when my life seems to be a series of badly timed misadventures, barely held together with duct tape. The arbitrary change in calendar is as good a time as any to take a look at Productivity Apps that can help you take 2013 up a notch.

Clear-LG

Clear
It’s very easy to dismiss Clear as style over substance – the very opposite of what a productivity app should be. Unlike other apps that replete with seemingly endless options and customisations, Clear is one of the most barebones apps – with just a list of todo items that fills the screen. There are no alarms, scheduling or any of the features you’d want from more sophisticated apps. However, this barebones approach is also the app’s key strength and its laser-like focus makes it one of my go-to productivity apps. The clever use of the touchscreen interface makes entering items fast to the point where it’s almost second nature. Plus they’ve expanded the Clear universe to include a Mac OS app, which syncs via iCloud to your iPhone.

Out now on the App store for 69p

Reminders
It would be remiss of me to wax poetic about Clear without mentioning its most obvious direct competitor Apple Reminders that ships with every iPhone. Not only is it free, but it also provides wireless desktop synching via iCloud. Data entry is nowhere near as smooth as it is with Clear but it does have voice input via Siri and geo-fencing. The ability to push a button whilst jogging, say “remind me to buy new shoes when I get home” and for that to be logged and triggered when you get back to your door is pretty good for £0.00.

Workflowy

Workflowy
Amazingly Clear isn’t the most basic looking app on the list and minimalism is clearly a trend. Workflows offers little more than a cascaded list of things. But sometimes – or in my case often – that’s all you need. The ability to create text-based cascading lists around areas or interest and to then drill down into seemingly limitless sub lists is great. The text based system lets you use hashtags and @s to allocate tasks and priorities – e.g., Pick up laundry #today or Discuss presentation with @Geoff. The beauty of text means that Workflowy works on most platforms – I love using the web-based interface for inputting large blocks of text. Like most cloud computing it falls down a little when you don’t have internet access which is frustrating when you just want to look at a list. In addition, the iPhone and iPad apps are a tad lacking in sophistication and you can’t help but want to swipe, pinch and zoom around the interface. Still it’s one of my favourite ways to collate and organise lists.

Out now for free on the App Store

30_30-LG

30/30

30/30 is a great time-based todo list that functions both as a list of your a upcoming tasks and a cattle prod to get you to actually do them. The clever interface utilises a variety of swipes, pinches and taps to input todos (it’s very proudly button free) but what really sets it apart is the large timer that counts down however much time you allocated to the task you are currently doing. Nothing makes me more productive than a deadline – as the old showbiz saying goes you can’t reschedule Monday. You can of course hit a little buffer button to give yourself an extra 5 minutes if you’re running late – or knock off 5 if you’re ahead of schedule. You can also schedule breaks which is an important part of any working day. iCloud syncing means that you can set up a day on your multiple devices and then have a phone or iPad out on your desk giving you that extra incentive. The app runs in the background as well (a lot of my todos involve other apps on my iPad/iPhone). The name (and concept behind it) is that you work for 30 minutes, focused only on a single task (and they mean focused with no distractions).

When the time is up, you give your mind a break and do something completely unrelated, also for 30 minutes and then you repeat the cycle: work/break, work/break – 30/30, 30/30. Obviously you can vary the pattern to suit your work style.

30/30 is “always free” and out now at the App Store.