Five tracker apps for increased productivity

This blog recently ran a piece on self-knowledge that began with a famous Socrates quote: “the unexamined life is not worth living”. The post referenced some useful self-examination tools – including the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment – that can help reveal some potentially illuminating aspects of our own hard-wired psychologies, behaviors and habits when trying to make longer-term plans around career and life goals.
When it comes to much shorter-term planning, though, there’s an entirely different sort of self-knowledge toolkit available to us today: the kind that buzzes at us regularly from our pocket or wrist. In 2017, our near-universal embracing of always-on connectivity and wearable technologies has made so-called tracker apps one of the busiest download markets for mobile platforms.
Many of us use multiple tracker apps every day without really thinking twice about it, leaning on their simple tap-and-log functionality to power activities as diverse as monitoring our calorie intake, getting directions, managing personal finances and even tweaking our sleep-wake cycles.
Our ability to rely increasingly on digital app-based support for previously ‘analogue’ tasks is, of course, both a blessing and a curse. A 2016 report on noted, for example, that many smartphone users were starting to turn to their apps for medical advice before contacting their doctor; a scenario in which various pros and cons are immediately clear.
Quite apart from the inherent potential for faulty apps to lead us astray, it’s also important that we retain the ability to break free from their technological hand-holding every once in a while – both in terms of preserving a useful offline skillset, and moreover to give us respite from all those constant bleeping reminders. The unexamined life may not be worth living according to Socrates, but we can all afford to treat ourselves to a little less intense scrutiny from time to time.
That said, some of the more reliable, well-used and community-supported tracker apps out there do in fact offer a genuine boost towards hitting the ground running in a new venture or career. Here are five suggestions for especially handy little downloads – all well reviewed by sizeable user groups – that might prove useful in a variety of everyday organisational tasks, especially when starting a new job or working to an upcoming deadline.
  1. Rescue Time (Apple, Android, desktop)
If you’re among those of us who are always wondering where the heck all our time disappeared to as a deadline hurtles closer, then this app might have an answer for you. Unlike many time management assistants, it doesn’t work by constantly nagging you to stop what you’re doing and focus on something else – instead, it builds you a more general workday profile based on your goal-based accomplishments logged against the percentage of your time spent on specific programs, sites and apps. This gives you the power to adjust your own habits, limiting areas that are proving a disproportionate drain on real productivity by setting your own schedule of reminders and alerts that you can turn on and off whenever you need an efficiency boost.
  1. Addapt (Apple and Android)
Like many of the best ideas, this one’s almost infuriatingly simple: an ‘always updated’ address book that’s automatically amended whenever your important contacts switch their details. In theory, this means you’ll never again be stuck without a working phone number or email to reach bosses, colleagues or clients, even if you haven’t spoken to them in a while – other users can edit their personal details remotely, and the changes will show on your device next time you look them up. The app also automatically prioritizes phone, email or text message when you navigate to a name, based on your usual method of reaching that individual. From a privacy standpoint, it’s also reassuring to know that user address books aren’t stored on Addapt’s servers.
  1. Who’s Off (Apple, Android, desktop)
If you’re working with a group – be it as part of an office workforce, or as an independent team pulling together a one-off project – then it often pays to know exactly which of your colleagues are available or not at any given moment. This app enables precisely that: by logging into a central hub, all members can quickly update the whole group with news of last-minute absences, or to arrange cover for planned away days, without having to consult a separate shift rota or holiday calendar and without sending a whole load of crossover emails back and forth. The app requires one paid account for the company or organisation, and then all the individuals in it can set up their own user accounts for free.
  1. Bananatag (Desktop)
Speaking of emails, how often have you wanted to know exactly what happens to them when they reach their destination? Bananatag sheds some light on this by essentially giving you a souped-up version of a receipt report after you hit send. As well as confirming successful delivery, it also gives you a time stamped read report showing if/when it was opened, whether attachments were clicked on, and which links were followed. Crucially, it’s still respectful of privacy – it doesn’t track individual users, but instead gives a chart-based readout of group email performance which can then be exported to an Excel sheet for reference. It’s primarily aimed at sales teams, but it also has useful applications for devising more effective internal group comms, offering a handy degree of flexibility to tailor your approach to multi-recipient engagement strategies with a range of neat email templates. A free account lets you track up to five emails a day.
  1. Flare (Apple, Android)
For the entrepreneurs and ideas people amongst you, Flare might offer a decent interactive sounding board that’s less expensive and more direct than having to pitch to a private business consultant. It works by allowing registered users to float up to one idea per day on the community forums and gather feedback from other users. If your idea earns enough positive votes, you can then follow up with some more detailed questions about specific implementation issues (or any other aspect of one day making it a reality). The app is managed by a team of expert investors and business strategists at GoDaddy, a cloud-based platform geared towards startup support, and it’s partly designed around attracting potential investors – they can also track the development of an idea they’re interested in, and offer advice or even financial backing for a specific venture once it gets past the initial community approval stages.