We all want to be more productive—and when it comes to productivity advice, most of us have heard it all before. Don’t drop everything to answer to a Teams message. Manage your Outlook-checking habit. Say “no” to unnecessary meetings. While it’s true that managing productivity starts with managing our own behavior, that’s often easier said than done.
The good news for Windows users, though, is that there is a swathe of productivity tools that are specifically designed to make improving your productivity at work that bit easier. Considering that the business world is said to run on Microsoft, there are a lot of these productivity apps to choose from. We’d recommend starting your search by checking out the following.
First up, it’s worth mentioning a productivity app that is already baked into Microsoft 365 products: MyAnalytics. You’ll need an Enterprise plan to access it, or you can add it to your plan for $4 a month. This add-on draws data from a whole host of everyday tools, including your calendar, Outlook, Teams and Skype, to help you understand how you actually work. It draws attention to how you spread your effort between emails, meetings and focused work—as well as the time you spend on any after-hours work.
The whole idea is to paint a clearer picture of your daily activity, but MyAnaltics can also make suggestions to help you work smarter. Using AI, it works out who you meet with most often to suggest other connections across your company that might facilitate your work. While largely aimed at team managers, MyAnalytics still offers useful insights to help you become more mindful of how you work.
Taking MyAnalytics a step further, Timely shows you everything you work on each day and provides an intuitive space to create a more meaningful schedule. The whole app is powered by automatic time tracking, which creates a flawless record of all the time you spend in every desktop and web app you use at work—not just ones owned by Microsoft. It lets you see exactly how long different tasks tend to take you, where you get distracted, and how long you spend on low-value work like email.
Timely then helps you directly action these insights to improve your working week. Its gorgeous calendar view lets you time blocking against your available capacity—making sure you don’t work beyond what you’re expected to. With the handy Tasks add-on activated, you can also map out all your priorities and find the right time for all your commitments—whether you need to manage a whole project delivery, or just stay on top of your weekly to-do list.
Another newer product from Microsoft that can help boost your productivity is Microsoft OneNote, a digital note-taking app that syncs up with other Microsoft tools and apps. This is a tool that makes organizing your thoughts and notes easy, and you can easily sort content across notebooks, sections, and pages. Navigation and searching is super easy too, so you won’t find yourself wasting time by digging around looking for misplaced notes.
Though it’s similar to Everote, OneNote is very different in style, and you can add and move around text, images and videos however you like, rather like a digital scrapbook. If you already use Microsoft products like OneDrive or Outlook, OneNote is a smart choice because it syncs up to these tools. The mobile app also works great on Windows phones, allowing you to create and collaborate wherever you are.
Trello is a smartly designed, easy-to-use work management app that works as well with Windows as it does with Mac, iOS or Android. Based on the Kanban board philosophy, which is a Japanese style of visual layout, Trello has changed the way we think about organizing our work, and it’s particularly good at helping teams visualize their workflow and stay updated about who’s doing what.
Getting started is easy: you just create cards based on your ideas and what you want to achieve, and then you drag and drop your cards onto your Kanban boards. You can use Trello to help you tick off single tasks, and stay on track of deadlines and priorities – but you can just as easily use it for more substantial projects. The columns for To Do, Doing, and Done are an easy way to keep track of how productive you’ve been, and the simple, attractive interface makes being productive even more fun.
If you like the idea of Trello but prefer working with to-do lists than Kanban boards and cards, Todoist might be the ideal productivity tool for you. This is a task management tool that turns complicated to-do lists into easily trackable, bitesize tasks that are far easy to manage and map. Though Todoist is one of the most advanced to-do apps around, it’s still simple to use, and allows you to juggle multiple projects with ease.
The daily and weekly overview helps you keep an eye on deadlines and be clear about what you need to focus on, and if you’re working with other people, you have the option of delegating work to them. Another perk of Todoist is that, just like Trello, it’s fun to use. It works like a fitness tracker for your productivity, checking off tasks when you complete them and showing you how productive you’ve been and whether you’re improving – all of which can be a seriously powerful motivator.
We live in an era of automation—so it makes sense that one of the tools on this list should capitalize on that, and help us automate all those annoying, repetitive tasks that have a habit of eating up our productive time. If you find that you waste time switching between different apps, copying and pasting the same data, pulling the same reports time and again, or even setting up the same projects at the start of each month, then Zapier can be a huge help.
There are already thousands of existing automations on Zapier that you can use to manage repetitive tasks between different Windows tools, but you can also create your own automations. For example, you can use Zapier to send data between Todoist and Outlook to automatically send out an email when there’s a change inside Todoist—saving you unnecessary manual duplication. By automating this kind of menial, repetitive work, you’re free to focus on the stuff that truly matters.