Advice | September 4, 2020 12:16 pm

The 14 Best Products and Apps to Increase Your Productivity

Nearly stress-free options for both pandemic times or regular workdays

Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

This story is part of our Fall Refresh Guide, a weeklong series where we’ll be looking at the products that will help us make the most of yet another season stuck at home. Think of it like Back-to-School content for adults. Except, you know, during a pandemic.

Depending on what you believe, you’re either productive for 25 minutes at a time, 52 minutes in row (with a slightly longer break between workflows) or, sadly, just over two hours a day.

Let’s concentrate on the positive. I believe the Pomodoro Technique — focused work for 25 minutes followed by five-minute breaks — is an ideal set-up, whether you’re WFH or at an office. It’s intense focus with a mandatory break, all accomplished in small increments.

So when I discuss the following products and apps, I’m taking into consideration both those 25 minutes of work and the break that follows, which is just as important. And you should play around with those numbers and what you do within those time frames! Since I’m at home, I’ll break up my writing time by doing something else productive that’s unrelated to what I’m doing for work — a lot of chores can be done in five minutes, as you’ll see below.

And while you’re at, do take longer breaks and get outdoors while the weather’s nice. That’s the most productive thing you can do all day.


For waking up: Philips SmartSleep HF3520/60

This is sleep therapy for your nightstand, offering a colored sunrise simulation and a sunset fading night light. If you’re getting out of bed right, you’ve already conquered half your day.

Alternative: Last year I started using Systane Eye Drops right after my alarm went off. Like a wake-up bath for my eyes.

Echo Wall Clock

Your timer: Echo Wall Clock

A minimalist wall clock with a voice-activated, LED countdown timer. So you won’t use your ever-distracting phone to keep track of those 25-minute increments.

Alternative: If you can wait until it ships in December, the crowdfunded Timebirds is a pocket-sized, highly-visible timer you can mount almost anywhere. It was built for workouts — again, that should part of your productivity plan — but it can be used for any time-based activity.


Your exercise plan: Openfit

On-demand fitness videos, interactive classes and personalized daily meal plans that cover pretty much anything, from Tough Mudder workouts to pilates … all with a timeframe of 10-45 minutes.

Alternative: Beachbody features nearly 100 workout plans across several disciplines are available for this on-demand service; the nice thing about these workouts is that they’re often short (around 30 minutes) and they set up clear goals (they suggest you can lose up to 9 lbs in 14 days).

Gossamer Dawn

You all-day focus: Gossamer Dawn

A THCV-rich tincture that’ll provide you with some diurnal clarity and motivation. My week-long trial with it made me more focused, my daily motivation was higher and any outside agitation and angst was muted. 

Alternative: If calming your mind down at bed is more important than focus during the day, Gossamer also makes Dusk, a CBD tincture for better sleep.

Transfusion Media

Your focus extension: StayFocusd

A Chrome add-on that’ll restrict your access to certain sites for a time period you set up. You can even configure it to temporarily block types of content or specific pages.

Alternative: I have an exhaustive number of tabs open at any one time. Instead of overwhelming me or my poor browser, I use OneTab to convert all those memory-clogging pages into a single, clickable list. Out of sight, out of mind but still easily reachable content.


Your five-minute chores: iLIFE V5s

Remember when I said you could do something productive during your short breaks? That includes cleaning the floor. Get a robot vacuum to do your work for you while you’re getting coffee (note; there are higher-end models that you can schedule, some that work better for rugs and carpets, etc.)

Alternative: Charge and sterilize your phone — while keeping it out of your way — with PhoneSoap, which needs just five minutes to get your device clean.

Google Keep

Your notes: Google Keep

Around since 2013, Google’s note-taking app can work with lists, voice memos or pretty much anything you need to remember / jot down … and it’ll work across all your devices (and if Google is your work ecosystem, it’s that much easier to access and use across the platform’s various apps). 

Alternative: Pen-and-paper people, I haven’t forgotten you. If you constantly need to write something down that’ll be easy to access later (and you’re good with remembering dates), use a Tops Steno Book and utilize each notebook page as a single day. Then flip through it when you need to find that phone number or note.