The advancing era of freelancing and work-from-home setups has taken over the employment pool. While as convenient as it may sound, as a freelance writer based at home, I speak for most when I say it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
And this is where productivity apps come in handy.
I stumbled on these apps during my freshman year of college and have used them in academic and professional tasks. If you’re also a student, these apps have a flexible dynamic when trying to remain focused and find the right headspace. A combination of aesthetics, pseudo-rewards, and practicality within these apps lets the users focus on their goals.
If you need help with the remote work setup or even home-based learning, then this list of apps will help you get your mojo. Here are the top 5 must-have productivity apps I’d recommend when organizing and managing tasks from the comfort of your bed.
Productivity Apps for Working From Home
#1: Forest: Focus for Productivity
With the tagline “Stay Focused, Be Present,” Forest developed a reward-based motivational app that helps you manage time and focus on your tasks. Its highlighted features focus on providing you with small rewards in the form of tiny plants that grow based on how you use the app and its timer.
The timer can be adjusted by dividends of five, depending on the user’s allotted time for each milestone they want to achieve.
This app even incorporates the famous Promodoro Techniques. This time management technique is boiled down to four consecutive work times with short break intervals, with the last break being the most extended. In the app, the user gets rewarded with growth points that could aid in nurturing the digital plant creatures in the app.
Aside from the virtual trees, leaf coins are awarded per session depending on the time spent. These coins can be used to plant trees in real life – they should consider changing their motto to Stay Focused and Be Sustainable.
And since there are rewards, there are also “punishments”, where an interrupted session characterized by exiting the app or quitting focus mode can cause your plants to wither. I haven’t encountered this scenario since the trees look so cute in the Forest. The app does have a positive way of keeping you in line.
Additional features include audio-sensory engagement, mostly looping rainforest ambient sounds, which can be helpful to people like me who need background noise when I’m in my creative flow. And who wouldn’t want to feel like a fae tinkering in a rainforest? Because I certainly do!
Other than planting real trees, the leaf coins can be spent to unlock other auditory stimulating material in the app.
Another feature I enjoy is its collaboration and study group feature. The app lets you create a productivity room so you can interact with colleagues and friends from the comforts of your home. Despite the in-app purchases, the features are worth it for an app under $5.
#2: Any.do: To-Do List & Planner
As both a student and a part-timer, I often struggle with managing and keeping track of the tasks I have to finish. Imagine having three deadlines in one day and another five the next. With Any.do, I was able to crawl through these deadlines more gracefully than I would’ve liked.
This productivity app is mainly used for organizing day-to-day tasks based on the category and urgency. Its straightforward interface allows easy navigation within the app and will enable colleagues to collaborate on their to-do lists, which is especially useful when working in teams.
The app’s subtasks and notes feature is handy if you’re a milestone worker like me—a little advice: these are quite useful when working on larger projects that feel overwhelming. Breaking the main task into smaller ones has helped me find a solid ground to work on and who knows, this may also work for you!
Like a calendar app, you can set reminders for deadlines, which are usually divided into the Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday categories. I’m a bit forgetful when overwhelmed, so having this feature dramatically helps! And since Any.do’s calendar has a work and personal division for the calendar, it’s considerably easier to organize than a regular calendar app.
Besides the calendar lists, if you’re a team member, there’s a workspace feature that allows every collaborator to monitor the progress of the tasks. Even as a student, I was able to use this feature when overseeing long-term group projects.
A bonus feature of this app would be the grocery list, which is useful when living independently. I probably would live off of instant noodles and fast food if I’m not being reminded when and what to grocery shop. Forgetful people like me can really take advantage of this feature.
My only complaint about Any.do is that it requires a monthly subscription for access to all the features and it costs under $5. But if you’re only after the basic features, then the free version will work just fine.
#3: Tomato Timer – Time Manager
Another productivity app that’s designed for time management and incorporates the Pomodoro Technique would be the Tomato Timer. If the Forest App feels too cartoonish for your taste, then this app could be for you.
If I were being honest, I downloaded the Tomato Timer to take a break from the Forest’s brightly colored interface. Its sleek and minimalistic design gave my senses a breath of fresh air from overwhelming applications I’ve used before.
This timer features a calendar that’s slightly similar to Any.do where you’ll be able to list the work to be done. However, unlike Forest, the free version of the timer is limited to the traditional 25 minutes used in Pomodoro for each project. I’ve learned to work around this by restarting the timer whenever the work needs more time for me to finish.
There’s only a little to say about the Tomato Timer besides being a more simplified version of Forest. The Tomato Timer+ has unique features, like unlimited tasks set, expanded timer features incorporating a stopwatch and session lists, and minimal visual and auditory features for under 5$.
#4: Flipd: Focus & Study Timer
I usually like to work or study in groups as a splash of good peer pressure and camaraderie instills a proper headspace for working on my tasks. This was a hard requirement for me to fill since it’s not every day I have someone readily available to work at the same time as me.
In comes Flipd, which is like a study and work productivity social media app.
Aside from the generic features like a Pomodoro timer and Stopwatch, it has a Library Space where multiple users can study together. Each group can be on any topic like Life Tech, Architecture, and even Biomedicine. These study groups are also categorized as Study, Challenge, Focus, and Self Care.
This feature stands out since live rooms allow you to interact with others. You even get a small forum to exchange topics and thoughts on a particular project. In this room, you can play white noise and background music during the session. There’s even a multitask mode that allows you to use other apps while keeping the live room active in the background.
Besides these study forums, the app collects data from all the sessions and provides insight into your productivity habits. It takes notes on your productivity timeline and shows at what time you’re most active. The app offers a task distribution oversight based on the categories you’ve spent time focusing on.
Flipd has a feed feature where users can post their progress and questions for others to see. This space encourages positive interaction among its participants and creates a healthy environment for everyone to check in on one another. I love this feature since I work exceptionally well with positive reinforcement from my friends and colleagues.
A tiny detail I love about this app is the varying motivational quotes you’ll see on the loading screen. Its interface made me try the app but its intricacy as a motivational and productivity app made me keep it in my app library.
The graphics, tiny avatars, and remarkable features are worth the $6 monthly subscription, and even with its free version, the components are still worth the download.
#5: Brain.fm – Focus Music
Music-dependent Productive Workers, this is your moment to shine!
Brain.fm is a music-based productivity app that uses white noise and background music based to the user’s preferred genre to keep them focused. This is a plus for people who can’t work in silence and yes, it’s me. I’m that person.
I used to stick to my Spotify playlist filled with Taylor Swift songs, and while I love her, her music was too enticing not to sing along! I stumbled upon Brain.fm after getting tired of the Lo-Fi music filled with ads every two minutes on YouTube. And the soft tunes they had in store for me were one of the most remarkable ways I found to keep my focus.
Productivity for the app is one of the main focuses but the app also has music for Relaxation, Sleep, and Meditation. The app customizes the recommended tracks based on the mindset you’d like to achieve and music genre preferences, which are questions asked before logging in on the app.
While the app doesn’t do much outside of playing music, it does generate the perfect playlists for relaxation and sleep. These mindset targets are also divided into different types such as deep sleep, wind down, unwind, and destress, just to name a few.
Before I used Brain.fm, I didn’t even know there was a difference, but seeing how my body reacted to the tracks helped me find the proper work regiment that best suited my day.
While the $7 monthly subscription can be a bit too much for people trying to explore what methods can help them focus, Brain.fm offers a 3-day free trial period to let you see if this app is really for you.
Whether you’re working from home or you’re taking online classes, these productivity apps are the perfect companion to help you focus on your tasks and keep you motivated throughout the day.
What are your favorite productivity apps? Let me know in the comments below!
Shaik, a college student, part-time musician, and proud fur parent. Currently pursuing his degree in architecture.
As a part-time musician, Shaik enjoys expressing his self creatively through music. Whether it's writing original songs or performing covers, music is a significant part of Shaik's life