Managing productivity ultimately starts with managing our own behaviors. From dropping a piece of work to answer a new email, to trapping unusable bubbles of time between our meetings, we unconsciously fritter away our productive potential with small actions. A swathe of productivity apps exist to help you take control of these and work more intentionally, yet not all of them are created equal. To help cut through the noise, here’s our pic of the 12 best productivity apps for Mac.
1. Dewo – for doing more deep work
Billed as your personal assistant for doing deep work, Dewo is all about creating and protecting space for the cognitively demanding work that drives you forward. Aside from breaking down your deep work across weekdays, locations and apps, Dewo can actively help you do more of it. It uses AI to trigger “Do not disturb” mode across your devices once you reach deep work, and reschedule meetings for a more focused working week. While still in beta, it offers a unique approach to solving the problems of modern knowledge work – and it’s completely free!
2. Magnet - for screen focus
Working across multiple windows or tabs makes for a cluttered rabbit warren of a workspace. Magnet solves this by helping you configure a neater arrangement, locking windows to the side of your screen wherever you drag them. It’s a great way to quickly organize your view so you can focus on what matters. Its predefined keyboard shortcuts are particularly handy when transferring text and files from one app to another.
3. Timely - for automating time tracking
Timely automates your essential admin, so you can get back to actual productive work. It tracks everything you do on your Mac and uses AI to draft time sheets for you – solving the inaccuracy and effort of traditional manual time tracking. All your data is fed in to a private timeline, which essentially holds up a mirror to the way you work – useful for seeing how long you spend in different apps, quantifying time on tasks and identifying processes that are eating into your day. In case your work involves a lot of travel, there’s even the option to track your locations with its counterpart iOS and Android apps.
4. ProofHub - for task management and team collaboration
ProofHub is a cloud-based project management app with built in collaboration features. You can use it to assign and manage tasks, create notes, share files, communicate, and collaborate in real-time. The app has an easy-to-use interface and also integrates with third-party apps like Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and Box, giving you a centralized place to access your important data.
5. Bear - for brainstorming and note-taking
Serving as an easy alternative to Evernote for Mac, Bear Notes organizes your thoughts intuitively. Write down your notes, and then use hashtags to “organize” your thinking. You can also use its native to-dos to stay on track with your tasks across other Apple devices.
6. X.ai – for meeting scheduling
X.ai lets you cut out the painful back-and-forth of meeting scheduling. Connecting to your calendar and email, it can book meetings with anyone in your network with a single click or word. Promising to help you reach “scheduling nirvana”, it’s another no-brainer tool for automating the shallow work that eats into the time available for productive deep work.
7. Airmail - for email consolidation
“Designed with performance and intuitive interaction in mind”, Airmail dissolves the admin barriers involved with managing several accounts. It consolidates your accounts in a user-friendly format, allowing you to switch effortlessly between email accounts. As an added bonus, it also lets you quickly turn your emails into tasks and notes.
8. Alfred - for automating admin
“Used and loved by squillions of people worldwide”, Alfred fills the gap between Siri and Spotlight, automating small admin tasks and performing advanced functions. You can use the Clipboard History to find any text, file or image you copied earlier, or create your own snippets and enter a personal abbreviation to archive them. Way more effective than typing it all out – essential for reducing duplicated effort!
9. Pixelmator - for free image editing
This is a terrific alternative to the cost of Photoshop, and miles better than most free image-editing apps. Draw, paint, resize, crop and add effects to your images, or customize your own effects and save them for later. While it’s not as powerful or extensive as Sketch and Photoshop, you can quickly correct images and rearrange compositional objects – making it an ideal tool for marketing and sales teams who might not need the heavyweight alternatives.
10. MindNode - for organizing thoughts
Creative people know that good ideas often spill out into other ones. Rather than trying to keep up by writing them all down as quickly as possible, why not use an app that pilots a clear run-on of your creativity? Through MindNode, you can personalize your own “mind map” and make sense of your thoughts.
11. Things - for agenda-building
Available on Mac and iOS, Things dives deeper into to-dos by creating tags, timeframes, and deadlines. Once you’ve made your morning plan, you can build your agenda and consolidate calendar events with a simple drag-and-drop. One of its newest features is Slim Mode, which allows you to collapse your sidebar to cull distractions – great if you’re working in split view.
12. Zapier — for automating workflows
When all the tools in your tech stack refuse to talk to one another, Zapier has your back. Instead of downloading reports or duplicating effort just to get data from one tool into another, build an automated workflow shortcut in Zapier. Supporting connections with over 3,000 tools, it acts as integration glue for tools that don't yet integrate directly with one another—saving time and faff on menial, repetitive admin.