How to pick the best productivity app

Apps vs habits3I love productivity apps; they help me capture ideas, remind me to do certain tasks, help me focus on my projects, manage my time and prioritize, etc. I’m also a big fan of Google Chrome with its plugins and extensions, which can help boost my productivity. No wonder they’ve become so popular in recent years. But which one is the most useful?

As each app, extension and plugin serves a specific need there isn’t one to rule them all. In fact, even within a specific area of productivity it is hard to find the best one. For example, some to-do apps are better at helping you prioritize, while others make it a breeze to capture ideas with one click. It usually comes down to what your needs are, and even your needs may change over time. Isn’t this the reason why it’s so hard to stick to one app for a specific need without being on the look for something that may suit us better?

Sometimes you can feel overwhelmed and unable to decide which app, extension or plugin to install. When it comes to picking one, you should keep in mind four things:

Apps are only as good as your habits are. People have been productive since Adam and Eve. Houses, cars, airplanes had been built well before Steve Jobs first announced the App Store. You can have the fanciest collaborating tools, but little will you benefit from them if you’re not a team player. You can have the best time management tool and yet be completely out of control when it comes to managing your time if you’re not self-disciplined. Keep in mind that apps don’t make choices; you do, and therefore you must build solid habits.

The app has been made for man, and not man for the app. They’re only as good as they simplify our lives. Sometimes they can become an obstacle to our productivity. I once installed a to-do list on my iPhone, which had so many features that I couldn’t even figure out 20% of them, and I didn’t need more than 10%. However, just to make a simple entry required going through a multiple-step process, which soon became a pain in the neck. Needless to say that it was quickly made redundant.

The better you can define your specific problem and needs the easier it is to pick one. This usually means that you need to think of the features you need and then compare different possible apps that serve similar needs. There are two “features” I usually look for in an app besides for the purpose that it must serve: it should be simple and free. I don’t mind paying for something that is worth its money, but more often than not you’ll find free tools, even for very specific needs.

App vs service. Many apps come in the form of services. They’re free to download and can be used for free with limited features. When you start getting used to them and want more robust features you will need to pay a recurring fee. If you have two or three service subscriptions you can end up paying a nice sum, which you may have been able to save if you had done your research properly. Again, as frugal as I am, I’m not saying paying for a useful service is bad, but it’s definitely silly if you can get it for free.

Are there other aspects you consider when it comes to choosing a new app? Fire off in the comments. I’d love to hear them. In the meantime remember: stay productive!