Find & Compare the Best Productivity Apps
Productivity apps (or applications) are tools that provide you with a digital workspace.
Productivity apps help businesses and teams organise their workload, plan projects and communicate with each other.
It’s useful to make a distinction between productivity apps meant for businesses and those meant for individuals.
If you just need help getting your chores for the day done, a pomodoro timer or notes app on your phone might be all you need.
But business teams have requirements that go beyond that, like file collaboration or team-wide deadlines that everyone has to meet.
These apps might have many of the features you’d find in individual productivity apps, but they also contain many more.
Proper organisation is one of the biggest factors in whether or not a project succeeds or fails.
While it’s possible to organise everything offline – they did it before computers! – living in the 21st century means it’s much easier to organise teams digitally than otherwise.
Rather than reams of messy paperwork or endless meetings, your team can have a single website they visit to get a refresher on what they need to get done.
Automatic reminders can keep everyone to schedule, for no extra effort.
Productivity apps also promote remote work, which is only going to become more and more popular.
Apps like Basecamp or Paymo can serve as a virtual office where your team meets, chats, plans and works together, even if they’re living in different cities or countries.
If you’ve never used one before, apps like Basecamp or Hive can be quite confusing. In some sense, they do everything — it’s possible to plan your entire business from one of them.
Let’s break down some of the more common features you’ll find.
This one might seem self-explanatory, but you’ll be getting much more than a simple calendar app.
Typically, you’re able to set deadlines not just for overall projects, but the individual tasks that make them up.
This is useful if, say, preliminary paperwork has to be filed early, but everything else has a looser timetable.
Another popular feature is repeating events, which help structure a team’s workflow.
A common use case is to set up daily morning meetings for ‘scrums’ in the Agile workflow.
Think ‘resource’ as in ‘human resources’ here—staff management, in other words.
Managing your team’s staff is vital to making sure a project gets done on time, but as every manager knows, something always comes up at the last minute.
Productivity apps help avoid that by letting you chart when people are expected to take time off, or for special events like holidays, letting you quickly identify potential pain points long before they become an issue.
Nobody left working on the big report next Monday? Move someone over from another project to keep everything ticking along.
If staff are a resource, so is money.
These apps don’t cover staff payrolls, but they do help you establish the budget of a project and see whether you’re on track to beat it or go over.
This can get quite granular, allowing you to mark expenses for individual items in a project.
In turn, you can be more flexible than you would otherwise, but it’s easy to see if it makes financial sense to—for example—hire a freelancer to finish off a task, or keep it in-house.
Also common is a way to manage billing and invoicing.
With Basecamp, for example, it’s trivial to add your or the company’s credit card to the app for one-click payments, or automatically generate invoices for your clients.
This is one of the biggest selling points of this type of software, and one that often defines the productivity apps.
Planning complex projects through long email chains or confusing whiteboards often leads to miscommunication, missed deadlines and repeated work.
By establishing a single place where everyone on your team can see what everyone else is doing, these apps make it much easier to make sure everyone stays on the same page.
Collaboration is also boosted by the accessibility of these services.
By working online or through smartphone apps, people can get notifications which instantly tell them if something has happened on the project.
While these apps tend towards being large and complex, they don’t do everything.
Instead, a common feature is to allow ‘integrations’, which basically means plugging in other software to add more functionality.
As an example, if you use Mailchimp to handle your email marketing, Paymo can connect with it to pull your marketing data directly into the app.
This helps create a ‘single source of truth’ for your company—rather than constantly checking multiple sets of records, all your information is centralised in one place.
Click here to compare email marketing software for your business.
Usually, yes. Almost all productivity apps are built on the web, which means you can use them with any device that can access the internet, including desktop computers and smartphones.
In addition, many apps have dedicated mobile versions that your team can download.
This allows them to get notifications, check updates and even work on projects on the go.
It goes without saying that every app is different. But because they all try to make project management easier, there’s some common ground between them all.
Once you sign up for one of these apps, you’ll begin by creating ‘teams’, which you then add employees to—this could be a team for, say, the entire marketing department, or one just for the people working a specific project.
Most apps let you place people on multiple teams.
The other half of the equation is to make projects.
This will closely mirror how you plan out projects in real life: names, clients, deadlines, requirements. There are often templates for common projects to make things easier.
Once you’ve added all the necessary details for the project, you can then break it down into smaller ‘tasks’ which get assigned to individual people.
There might be other steps mixed in with these. For example, Monday.com has the concept of ‘boards’, which contain projects.
But whatever app you choose, just keep in mind the basic idea of creating teams and projects, and everything else will fall into place.
As a sidenote, don’t forget to check out the app’s website.
They have a vested interest in making their product easy to use, so there are always detailed tutorials on getting started.
There’s a lot of factors that go into finding the right productivity app for you and your team.
While price is the most obvious consideration, don’t let it be the only thing you think about.
This software will likely be the digital backbone of your company, so there’s no sense in cheaping out. Think of it as an investment for gained productivity down the line.
Because of that, reliability is a big factor.
You likely can’t afford for your business’s plans and projects to go offline randomly, so read around for user testimonials to make sure your app has a good track record for staying up.
Closely related to reliability is security.
Even as an average user, putting your data online isn’t something to take lightly, and with confidential business documents it’s even more important.
Make sure your productivity software offers encryption, and preferably two-factor authentication.
This next point is a little abstract, but crucial: workflow.
Will the software be easy for your team to use?
Some apps are better for different kinds of industries and projects, so check out free trials or demo videos to see if it’s going to fit your team’s workstyle.
You should also always check what integrations the app supports.
If your company has used a specific marketing dashboard or payroll system for years, but the app doesn’t support it, it might be worth moving on to the next option.
Like most modern business software, productivity apps usually work off of a monthly subscription model.
These models are split into different ‘tiers’, which entail different levels of features and support. Once you pick a tier, payment will happen automatically every month.
A quirk to be aware of is that the pricing will often be determined by the size of your team.
Monday.com’s basic plan, for example, charges £7 per person per month.
While this generally works out to a reasonable price for the productivity gained, it might cause you to only purchase enough licenses for certain subsets of your workforce.
Of course, this isn’t universal.
Basecamp has a much higher monthly fee, at nearly a hundred dollars, but makes up for it by having no per-user charge.
You can use it just as well for five people as for five hundred.
This makes it an attractive choice for particularly large teams.
It’s also worth noting that many apps, in addition to a trial mode, offer a stripped-down free version with basic functionality.
For small teams, this might be more than enough, so don’t put down money for a full version unless you’re sure you need it.
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