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some of my favorite productivity apps

(Ellen has no affiliation with any of these apps – other than she uses them and likes them.)

  • Random Number Generator Plus – Roll up to 20 dice, pick numbers, flip coins, all by shaking your phone. iOS, Android. Free.
  • Freedom – Set times to block you most distracting sites. iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone. 7 sessions free. Upgrade pricing starts at $6.99/month.
  • SelfControl – Blocks sites for a predetermined amount of time with no way to override them. Mac. Free.
  • Kill News Feed – Eliminate Facebook newsfeed with this Chrome extension. You can still go to Groups, or to individual timelines but otherwise, there is nothing to scroll through. Mac or PC. Free. Chrome extension.
  • Forest – A simple, gamified focus timer designed to help you ignore your phone. Determine how long you’d like to go without phone interruption then plan a virtual seed. As long as you don’t attempt to pick up your phone, the seed starts growing into a tree. If you pick up your phone, your tree dies. iOS, $1.99, Android, Free. Browser for Chrome & Firefox.
  • Siempo – Eliminates the visual appeal of your phone by replacing your home screen with a minimalist black and white screen populated with simple representative icons. Schedules how and when you receive notifications. Every time you unlock your phone a short intention phrase pops up designed to make you more mindful of your phone use. Android. Free.
  • Flipd – Schedule blocks of time to lock apps or everything on your phone. Schedule recurring personal locked-out times or join different community groups and do lock-out time together. Listen to focus tracks or mindfulness coaching. iOS, Android. Free. Premium is $29.99/year and offers more customization and content. App store.
  • – Identify unneeded email subscriptions then have them rolled all together in to one daily email. Available for computer or for iOS, Android. Free.
  • RescueTime – Track time spent on applications, websites, and social media, and block distractions. Free 14 day trial. Premium starts at $6/month.
  • Beeminder – Set quantifiable goals and pay money if you don’t reach them. Your data is charted on a “Yellow Brick Road” so you can see how your actions are trending. Pull in data from all types of sources such as Zapier, Garmin, and Fitbit. Different pricing plans depending on your goals. If you stay on track with any goals, you don’t pay anything.
  • – Based on “Don’t Break the Chain.” Form groups around a common goal such as meditation, early rising, not smoking, stretching. Online service is free. iPhone app is $1.99.
  • Habitseed – Select a habit you want to change over the course of 21 days and plant a virtual seed. Receive daily reminders to check in with your progress. Each day you succeed, your seed grows a little bit more into a tree. If you don’t succeed, your tree withers and dies. iOS, Android. 99¢.
  • Interval Timer – HIIT Workouts – Set intervals, with breaks and timer sounds. Track work and rest periods for all types of focus sessions (and sports). Customizable. Runs when the screen is locked. iOS, Android. Free, upgrade for $2.99. 
  • Insight Timer – Learn how to meditate, listen to guided meditations (over 27,000 available), set up timed meditations – complete with bell ringing. iOS and Android. Free. Insight Premium is $5/month.  

Want to read more?

Some of Ellen’s favorite productivity books.

  • Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath 

Let’s face it — we don’t make great decisions all the time. Our decisions are subject to an array of irrationalities. We can be over confident; we can be biased; we can let emotions take over when they shouldn’t. In Decisive, the authors show scientifically based ways to overcome indecisiveness. Through stories and examples of how others have conquered their bad decision making you get tools, strategies to use to help be smarter decision makers. 

  • The Willpower Instinct: How Self Control Works, Why It Matters and What You Can Do To Get More Of It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

If you battle with Willpower (not having enough) or feel like you lack Self-Control (can’t say no to cookies?) then this book can definitely help you out. Based on a popular class that McGonigal teaches at Stanford University, this book not only explains to you where Willpower and Self-Control come from in the brain, it also gives examples of how to build your Willpower and Self-Control in different situations and gives you exercises to use on a week-by-week basis. This book is based in science but never gets overly technical. It’s packed with information you can start using immediately.

  • 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman

Refuting the idea that it takes a long time to make a change, Wiseman not only shows how change can  take place in a very short time, he backs it up with scientific research. Covering areas such as happiness, persuasion, motivation, parenting, and attraction, this book explains [among other things] why rewards fail, how to never regret another decision again, and “exploding” the myth of brainstorming.

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

How you approach a problem or task depends on whether you do it from an fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Mindsets can be flexible, and using the proper one when dealing with opportunities or obstacles can affect your productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. A great book to show you how your thinking can be changed to your advantage.

  • Your Brain At Work by David Rock

This is one of my favorite books on the brain and how it works with us and against us while we’re at work. David Rock introduces you to two people, Emily and Paul and through them shows you what happens to your brain during the workday. Using examples, stories and scientific research you learn how to better focus and overcome distractions; how to collaborate more effectively and how to leverage all your mental resources as you go through the day.

It’s easy to see yourself in the different situations in the book, which is what makes it so effective. By seeing how your brain typically reacts you can learn to change those reactions so that you can be better at what you do, every day.

  • The Procrastination Habit by Piers Steel, Ph.D.

Learn more, much more about procrastination in this amazing book. Dr. Steele delves into the different types of procrastination and offers explanations of why we put things off again and again. Part psychology book, part self-help book.