Five anti-procrastination apps you need to know about

Posted in Real Savvy · 3 min read

Thanks to the internet, email and social media, distraction and procrastination have become modern day diseases. But help is at hand in the form of, er, more technology…

‘Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today’ goes the old (and irksome) saying. But the self-righteous so-and-so who coined that gem didn’t have to contend with the distractions of 21st-century living: multi-channel TV, the internet, smartphones, tablets and Candy Crush Saga.

Procrastination isn’t a new phenomenon – Leonardo da Vinci took at least four years to paint the diminutive Mona Lisa. But while Leo battled on with no more than sheer willpower, productivity software has risen to the challenge of tackling modern day procrastination, and app stores are brimming with ‘to do’ lists, Inbox Zero email plugins and workflow optimisers.

There’s no magical solution to beating procrastination, but some technologies, when used to help change less productive working habits, can work wonders. For instance, here are five apps for combatting procrastination and boosting your productivity.

1. Freedom

If this app was a movie character, it would be: Kathy Bates in Misery. She’d chain you to the computer if she could.

What it’s good for: Freedom (for Mac and Windows) reduces or eliminates distractions, making it easier for you to focus. We often procrastinate when we can slide easily from a task we don’t want to do to something that seems easier or more enjoyable. Freedom cuts off your access to the internet during the times you specify, blocking access to email, Facebook, Twitter and a multitude of time-sucking, focus-vaporising websites.
‘The self-righteous so-and-so who coined that gem didn’t have to contend with the distractions of 21st-century living.’

2. Write or Die

If this app was a movie character, it would be: The scary, brutal, profanity-screaming Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

What it’s good for: If changing your habits doesn’t give you the focus you need, it could be time to adopt more extreme measures. Use Write or Die to deter procrastination with annoying sounds or pictures. Its Kamikaze mode deletes the vowels from what you’ve typed if you don’t work fast enough. Write or Die is for Mac, Windows and Linux.

3. Todoist

If this app was a movie character, it would be: Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith in The A-Team. He loves it when a plan comes together.

What it’s good for: We often procrastinate when we don’t have a plan to complete a task or don’t know what we should be doing next. However, it’s easy to impose a structure with a good ‘to do’ list app like Todoist, which offers task tracking and task syncing across mobile and desktop devices. Todoist is for iOS, Android, Windows phone and the web. Other smart options include Any.do and Wunderlist. 

4. Tomato Timer

If this app was a movie character, it would be: Flash Gordon in the campy 1980 movie of the same name. He's only got 14 hours to save the earth!

What it’s good for: Many of us procrastinate because the task facing us seems too daunting and we don’t know where to begin. But sometimes, the simple act of beginning the task is enough to defeat procrastination, especially if you split a large task into smaller, more manageable chunks and do the same with your time. With Tomato Timer, you set a timer and tackle your tasks in short, focused bursts to get more done. It’s a tactic based on the popular Pomodoro Technique.

5. Spotify

If this app was a movie character, it would be: The music-loving, hooked-on-a-feelin’ Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.

What it’s good for: When faced with a dull but necessary task, it’s tempting to switch to something more fun – or new. One solution is to make the dull task more enjoyable. Get yourself some noise-cancelling headphones and try working to music (Spotify is ideal, as is any playlist you want to make) or white noise, which will force you to concentrate on what you need to do.

About the author

Dean Evans is a technology expert, business writer, author, gamer and the former editor of TechRadar.com and CreativeBloq.com. He lives in the UK and continues to suffer from professional procrastination syndrome. His wife had to tie him to his desk to get him to write this. Follow him at @evansdp