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Apps to keep you on track

The Streaks app helps you stay on task and build new habits.
(Courtesy of TheStreaksApp)

Here are four apps we recommend trying out to keep you organized and productive during quarantine

Now that many of us are working from home, it’s so easy to get distracted by pretty much everything.

Though we can’t control things like kids asking us about multiplication, a partner’s conference call or needy pets, we can try to control our time management. To help with that, we tested a few productivity applications to keep us on task while we work from home.

So whether it’s organizing assignments or not wasting time on the internet, here are some apps we recommend.

Create habits: Streaks

I can get very lazy about the simplest things: flossing, drinking water, exercising. But I’m also pretty competitive, which is why I’ve used Streaks since long before the coroanvirus quarantine.

The app is very simple but beautifully designed (it’s an Apple Design Awards winner). Instead of a list, your tasks appear as circles with cute, matching graphics in each. The idea is to keep your streak of tasks going for as long as possible.

The way it works is you pick a variety of things you want to do (or don’t want to do) and once you complete each one, you press the circle. You can pick something generic, like reading, or you can assign a length of time to your reading, and how many days per week you’d like to do it.

If you do your task everyday, yes, you create new habits, but you also build streaks. Like, I’ve had vegetables every day for 16 days! The thought of losing my streak often forces me out of bed to floss just to keep it going.

Streaks is only available for iOS and it costs $4.99. (NG)

Manage tasks: Todoist

Todoist is exactly what it sounds like: a to-do list. Simply write in tasks you want to complete, add due dates and check them off as you go.

I admit I’m a physical planner person; I prefer writing to typing and had trouble transitioning to digital calendars. Surprisingly, I found that Todoist actually compliments my analog calendar.

Every morning, I jot down any assignments, meetings or chores into my planner. Then I take my notes and input them into the app, which lets me create subtasks, something my physical planner doesn’t have room for.

Sure, writing down (and checking off) each task twice is a little repetitive, but I’ve found that repetition has actually helped me during quarantine -- I mean, sometimes I can’t even remember what day of the week it is.

You’ll need to upgrade to Premium ($3/month) to unlock features like reminders, labels and filters, but the free version is enough for me. (SB)

Limit distractions: Pocket

Pocket has only one purpose: bookmarking online articles. With other built-in bookmarking alternatives, like Reading List, an additional app may seem unnecessary. But I think Pocket’s additional features make it worth the free download.

I spend approximately 90% of my workday online, often surfing the internet for article inspiration or research. But spending so much time online often means stumbling across interesting articles that are not work-related that can be tempting to read on the clock.

Now, I resist the urge and tuck the article in my Pocket with a click of a button (through a Chrome extension on my computer). Then I open my Pocket app on my phone at 6 p.m. and indulge in all the content guilt-free.

Rather than directing you back to the website, Pocket saves the text of each article so you can read without internet. And when I don’t want to stare at the screen after a long day at the computer, I opt to have the article read out loud to me.

If you want different fonts, a permanent saved library, or no advertisements, premium costs $5 a month. (SB)

Increase productivity: BlockSite

While Pocket is great for bookmarking articles I come across during my workday, there are some specific websites I find myself returning to during office hours. The biggest culprit? Social media.

Enter BlockSite, a Chrome extension which restricts access to certain websites. I gave BlockSite the URLs that tend to distract me the most - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - and bam! The websites are gone. When I try to visit them, I receive a web page with a cheeky message like “No way, Jose,” or “What do you think you’re doing?”

If you have a separate office computer, you can permanently block sites from your work devices for maximum productivity, or use the scheduler app to block off the websites on certain days and times.

I prefer Work Mode, which uses the Pomodoro Technique: 25 minutes of work, followed by a five minute break. This feature has been super helpful for increasing my productivity while not completely restricting my access.

BlockSite is completely free, but to be honest, I’d probably pay for it. It’s like having your boss over your shoulder, reminding you that even though you’re at home, you’re still working. (SB)


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