Top five productivity apps to save you time

Everyone wants to be able to do more in less time, and there are a dizzying number of productivity apps promising to help us do exactly that. Dean Evans picks his top five

[List compiled June 2013, update coming soon]

Getting a productivity boost isn’t about having the most advanced to-do list or juggling 10 tasks at once. It’s about streamlining workflow, prioritising tasks and minimising distractions. With the imminent arrival of 4G, new technology is going to become a fundamental tool in the way accountants do their work.

Here are five productivity apps that can improve your working life and save you time.

1. Sanebox, from £1.30 per month

Most of us are swamped with email. Every day we receive messages from friends and colleagues, email newsletters we’ve signed up to, notifications and offers. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a virtual assistant who could sort your mail and tell you what was important?

Sanebox does exactly that. It’s a productivity app that intelligently filters your emails, showing you the messages that matter and sending you a summary of those that don’t. You still see everything, but you don’t get distracted by every new email. The service works cross platform (PC, Mac, iOS and Android) and with a variety of email services.

2. Clear, £1.49

The problem with many to-do list apps is that you often spend far too much time fiddling with them when you should be working.

Clever task management apps like Toodledo and Wunderlist 2 are jammed with features you don’t really need and options most people never use. It’s why Clear for iOS and Mac might seem disappointing at first. There’s no support for dates/times, no sub-tasks, no way to get reminders by email.

Instead, it’s a perfect recreation of a simple, paper-based to do list. Simply swipe down to add tasks to a list, drag tasks into whatever order you like, swipe to complete them with a satisfying ‘bing’. Clear supports multiple lists and iCloud storage to make your to-do lists accessible between iOS devices.

3. Evernote, FREE

Ideas are fleeting. If you don’t write them down straight away, they can evaporate and you’re left with only a small sense of what they were.

The best thing to do is get them out of your head so you can concentrate on other tasks. And the best way to do that is to use Evernote. The appeal of Evernote is simple: you can make a note on any device – iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, PC or Mac – save it and hoard it in a free Evernote account that is fully searchable, taggable and available to you whenever and wherever you need it.

Store anything – ideas, to-dos, photos, voice notes and web pages. You can store up to 100,000 chunks of info. Upgrade if you need more.

4. Pocket, FREE

One of the simplest ways to increase your productivity is to reduce your distractions.

Do you get bogged down answering emails? Check your inbox 3-4 times a day, not every few minutes. Spending too long on Twitter or Facebook? Turn them off. What about reading articles like this one? Is now the best time to be reading it or should you be working? If you’re busy, the smart solution is to save it for later using a ‘read it later’ service like Pocket.

Install a bookmarklet into your web browser and use it to file away interesting web content to read when you have time. The Pocket app (iOS, Android) gathers everything you’ve saved together into a date-ordered list, and displays articles stripped bare of distracting ads or sidebar links.

5. Google drive, FREE

Cloud storage has revolutionised the way that businesses work online. You can start working on a document in your office and, using the Google Drive app for iOS and Android, continue editing it on an iPad as you travel on the train. Or you can share a spreadsheet with a colleague and make changes without having to save new versions and tediously email them back and forth between you.

Google Drive isn’t the only cloud storage game in town. Dropbox provides excellent file-sharing services, although its mobile apps often restrict editing. Microsoft’s SkyDrive, meanwhile, is a fantastic option for storing and sharing Microsoft Office files. Got a Windows account? Then you’ve already got a SkyDrive account.

Read more on managing your time and getting productive:

Dean Evans is Editorial Director at That Media Thing Ltd.

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