Most people try many apps and tools for productivity, but their to-do list is still overwhelming, they are not able to get deep work done, and work-life balance doesn’t exist. Eventually, they give up.
Does it feel like it’s the same story with you as well?
If you've not seen any boost in your productivity after trying all the normal apps and tools out there, it's not your fault. When it comes to productivity, different tools work for different people and different situations.
Before giving up, explore some of the unconventional productivity tools we’ve collected below. Unlike other tools that just focus on your task list, these 6 tools will help you fix the underlying reason (lack of focus, unplanned day, etc.) why you might be unproductive, using tried and tested techniques.
6 Unconventional Productivity Tools:
Sunsama: Achieve Sustainable Productivity
Sunsama is a web & mobile app that organizes all your tasks, to-dos, and meetings in one place.
The traditional task management or planning tools were built before work-from-anywhere was the norm, and work-life balance wasn't given as much consideration as it is now. These tools fill up your task list endlessly without giving any hint of overload.
On top of it, most of the popular tools try to become all-in-one solutions for task management, project management, time management, and other similar things that they end up becoming cluttered and overwhelming for users.
But Sunsama is created to align your tasks with the limited time you have. Here's why Sunsama is helpful:
- Collect isolated tasks in different tools (Trello, Emails, Notion, Slack, etc.) in one place so nothing is missed.
- See your to-do list (that manages your task) and your calendar (that manages your time) side by side so you can balance the time you have and the things you have to do.
- Plan your day intentionally, so you get closer to your goals each day. (In-built Daily Planning Ritual)
- Get deep work done. It works even if your day is crammed with meetings. (Timeboxing functionality)
- Develop a focused approach to work where you know you don’t have infinite work time, so you make the best of the time you have (Sunsama’s Focus Mode)
- Keep track of where your time is spent so you can make better use of it (Time tracking logs)
Here’s what some of our patrons have to say:
If you're thinking, "c'mon, all these apps are the same…."
Pricing: 14-day free trial available. Paid pricing starts from $20/month, billed monthly or $192/year.
Pomofocus: Make the Pomodoro Technique Even Simpler
If you are someone who gets distracted easily or gets overwhelmed with big tasks, then you should try the Pomodoro technique.
It's a time management method where you break your work into 25-minute blocks split by 5-minute breaks. These blocks of 25-min focused work are referred to as Pomodoros. After 4-5 Pomodoros, you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
While any timer will help you execute this method, Pomofocus is a dedicated Pomodoro app that makes it simpler by automatically alternating between work and break periods.
It's a minimalist, web-based Pomodoro timer where you can customize the time allotted for work and break periods as well as the number of Pomodoros you do before a long break. The alarm functions send you gentle notifications when focus-time or break-time starts and ends.
After trying out many apps, we liked Pomofocus the best because of various reasons.
- It has an uncluttered, soothing look that’s mostly lacking in other apps we tried.
- You don’t need to download any app or even create an account to start using it! Simply go to their website, hit the button, and your Pomodoro will start.
- There’s a built-in task list for you to keep track of whatever you have to do during a work session.
- It shows the timer next to the favicon so you can see how much time you’ve left without switching tabs.
Most people ignore Pomodoro apps thinking they can easily practice this simple technique with a simple alarm clock. But that's like bringing a butter knife to a gunfight. Or worse, they try to use the timer on their phones. That's a major distraction every 25-min! That's why we are suggesting you use this app.
Pricing: Forever free with the basic plan, 7-day free trial for premium features, after which you will pay $12/year.
Toggl Track: Track Where You Spend Your Time
A key factor of productivity is knowing where you spend your time and where there’s the scope for optimizing.
A time tracking tool like Toggl Track can help you do that. It's a one-click timer where you put down the task you are working on, assign it to a project if you have one, and just hit the start button.
Toggl also gives you a daily report so you can see what you work on, the amount of time you spend on different tasks or types of work, and where you might be inadvertently wasting time
If you do not have a timer running, Toggl will send you a quick reminder, so you can make sure that you are always tracking your productivity. It has a chrome extension which means that you can always have your Toggl button available.
Pricing: Free for basic, Starter costs 9$ per user/month
Alternatives: Rescuetime, ManicTime
Brain.fm: Get Focused With Music
If you work in a distracting office or have difficulty focusing on work, then try a music app designed by neuroscientists, and music engineers called Brain.fm. It helps to get your brain into a certain state (focused, relaxed, meditative, etc.) within 10-15min of use. The whole concept is based on the premise that people's attention occurs in waves, whether it's speech, walking, and other rhythmic activities.
"Our mission is to help every person experience the feeling of being completely zoned in on the important work in front of them. And because we believe in a balanced life (and not just a productive one), we also provide our users with the tools to step back, recharge, and relax." ~ Dan Clark, CEO of Brain.fm (source)
The music also helps you mask any background noises that may distract you. You can customize the length of focus time or even incorporate the Pomodoro technique along with focus music.
Pricing: It’s free for 7 listening sessions. Paid plan starts from $6.99/month or $49.99/year.
Superhuman: Accelerate Your Email Experience
You may be spending a third of your workweek on emails, says a report by McKinsey. That's a huge time waste knowing that a significant percentage of your emails are neither important nor urgent.
Superhuman is an email client that helps you get through your inbox faster compared to if you were using Gmail or any other client. The whole experience is centered on speed & focus.
They claim that the Superhuman app can save you three hours per week or more on your email.
Speed is achieved by using keyboard shortcuts, about 50 of them. There's a shortcut for everything that you can do with an email — archive it, delete it, mark it unread, reply, and so much more. Shortcuts help you stay focused on the task at hand instead of switching to mouse & clicking, which causes friction and distraction.
Focus is achieved by using a split inbox. Instead of getting all your emails into one tab, it groups messages by categories that you can customize. For example, VIP tab for clients, Doc tab for Google doc notifications, etc. This improves the speed of triaging dramatically.
Freedom.to: Block Distractions
Social media, video streaming apps, and gaming websites — are all designed to keep you hooked. Even the most disciplined of us fall prey to online distractions. The willpower to concentrate is not enough to fight these, and sometimes, you will need help from tools like Freedom.
Freedom can block distractions (websites, mobile apps, desktop apps, or the entire internet!) on all of your devices and not just on the one you're using right now. You won't be able to visit the blocked websites/apps for the amount of time you specify.
With Freedom Premium, you can add unlimited devices and custom blocklists. There's also a 'Locked Mode' that makes it impossible to remove the restrictions you've put in place until the specified time elapses.
Pricing: You can sign up for 7 free sessions until you decide to go with a paid plan. Paid plan starts from $6.99/month.
How Much is Your Time Worth to You?
If you are reading this, you are a knowledge worker, and each hour is probably worth more than $10 to you. What if you spent 10% of that on optimizing your time and gained a few hours every week? You will eventually have either more money that you will cover up the cost of the productivity tools or more time for yourself, your family, or your friends to make it worthwhile.
We'll leave you with a quote from 19 of Atomic Habits by James Clear —
"Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Professionals know what is important to them and work towards it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life."
Know what's important for you — your time and tasks or worrying about a few cents per day. As long as you know the purpose of the app you are using and the work you are doing, paying for a productivity app is an investment rather than an expense.
We don't want you to pay for something without trying. So here's a free 14-day trial for Sunsama. Check out all the features, integrations, and guides without any restrictions for 14 days and decide if this is the right productivity tool for you. The best part? You don't need a credit card to sign up.