Time management is the bane of every self-employed, work-at-home, or telecommuting businessperson. With no supervisor, no clocking out, and all the distractions of home, it can be difficult to get focused at work. Since 9 am and 5 pm don’t mean much to the self-employed, your life can be consumed with a very low, inefficient level of work that never really starts and never really ends. For most of us, it takes help to get out of that twilight zone of meandering, unproductive work habits. Here are a few smartphone apps that can make it easier on you, so you can get your work done and then relax and be “off” for the rest of the day.
1. Speaktoit Assistant (Android)
If you’re an Android user like me, you’re anxiously awaiting a competitive answer to Siri—and this mobile assistant is definitely a start. It uses surprisingly accurate voice recognition software to perform just about any function your smartphone can do: it can post to your Facebook or Twitter, pull up maps, play music, answer questions, and define terms that are unfamiliar. Being able to take notes on your phone with only your voice is a powerful productivity tool, and sending emails, publicizing your work on social media, and other time-consuming , ancillary activities become a lot easier with a voice assistant. The interface isn’t as classy as Siri, but it is distinctively Android. (Cost: free)
2. Toggl (Android, iOS)
The first step in time management is assessing how you’re spending your time right now. When you think deliberately about where your day is going, it’s much easier to find the will to change. Toggl allows you to allocate specific time increments for every task throughout the day, and then compare it to how your schedule actually ends up. Normally, when tasks take longer than they should, we just shrug and accept it; but with Toggl, you can identify specifically what is taking so long, and as you break your time up into smaller and more specific increments, you can identify parts of your job that you can make more efficient, or cut out altogether. It’s especially valuable for self-employed individuals who bill for hours of work, because it tracks billable hours separately, and adds them up for you, week to week. (Cost: free)
3. Any.DO (Android, iOS)
Any.DO is a to-do list that sets itself apart by taking advantage of your phone’s voice-recognition and accelerometer functionality. You can interact with your list by shaking, swiping, or talking to it. You drag and drop items on to your agenda, swipe them when they’re done, and then shake your phone to clear off all your completed tasks. It’s a very satisfying, kinetic way to mark your daily progress. It’s also nice to be able to simply talk to the phone to tell it your tasks, instead of trying to manage a clunky virtual keyboard. While the design is fun and innovative, it can be a little frustrating if your phone’s accelerometer or touchscreen are not very responsive. Users of iPhones and LG phones gave the app more positive reviews, while HTC phones appear to have had more problems. (Cost: free)
4. Pomodoro (iOS)
The Pomodoro technique involves breaking up your day into 25-minute intervals, called “pomodoros”, in which you focus on one item or task. After each 25-minute period, you take five minutes to relax. This app helps you plan your day, breaking each task into pomodoros and scheduling breaks to refresh your mind and get ready for the next task. It features a timer, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track, and a lovely woodgrain interface. There is a similar app available for Android (Pomodroido) that is similar, but less aesthetically pleasing, and less expensive. (Cost: $5.99)
Julia Peterson is a writer for AndGeeks.com, a popular website that provides up-to-date news, detailed commentary, and unbiased reviews on cell phones and related topics. Julia resides in Galveston, Texas in a cozy little house in the country with her husband, young son, and their Labrador retriever, Darby.