21 Apps that FORCE You to Be More Productive

21 Apps that FORCE You to Be More Productive

– Hey, what up guys? So it is round up time. Today I’m gonna be
sharing 21 different apps and tools that, more or less, force you to get your work done. Now to be honest right up
front none of these apps work quite like that creepy
piano in the movie Coraline. None of them are gonna make
your computer sprout robotic arms that grab your hands and literally make them start typing. But what they do provide
are what I like to call training wheels for the
brain because as I’m sure you’re well aware left to its own devices your brain is liable to get
distracted by cat videos instead of actually doing the work that you have set out to do. Now over time and with
practice you can build your self-discipline and
your ability to focus. But while you’re going
through the early stages of that process it’s useful to use systems that provide training
wheels, be they in the form of helpful limitations,
commitment devices, feedback in reports or
literal drill instructors with very little regard for
the integrity of your eardrum. So each of the apps that I’m
gonna share with you today fits into each one of those categories, except the last one. And in fairness I did
go do a search on Fiverr for affordable drill instructors but that turned up no results. So you’re on your own if you want to find your own personal Major Payne. But before you go looking for one let’s go through these apps starting with those that fall into the category
of commitment devices. What exactly is a commitment device? Well to put things simply
it’s anything that creates a consequence for failing to do the thing that you’ve set up to do. All the tools in this category aim to make it painful not to do your work and there are quite a few of these. Let’s start with my favorite
one which is Beeminder. It is no exaggeration to
say that Beminder is one of the primary reasons
why I have a successful YouTube channel today
because back when I started on YouTube I used it
to commit to publishing a new video every single week. Essentially Beeminder allows
you to commit to a goal either of doing more of
something or less of something and allows you to put money on the line. Moreover, it’s very nerdy and it’s all about tracking data so
you can hook it up to tons of different tools including
Apple Health, Strava, Todoist and IFTTT, which
stands for if this, then that, which basically allows you to hook it up to pretty much any service on the planet. And due to the presence
of all those integrations the only real limitation
here is your imagination. And there are tons of
different goals that you can start putting money on
in order to make sure that you are more committed
to them in the future. But to give you one idea,
again, for three entire years I tracked my blog’s
RSS feed and made sure that I published a new blog
post, a new podcast episode, and a new YouTube video every single week. And I had money on the line
so I made sure that I did it. Now in the same vein
there’s another website called stickK, which
is spelled S-T-I-C-K-K and it’s very similar to Beeminder though it’s a little less nerdy. As with Beeminder you commit to a goal and then you create stakes or consequences in case you fail. And you can actually put money on the line though it has fewer charts and graphs and it’s generally a little bit less statistics-heavy than Beeminder is. But on the other hand
you can set supporters who can watch your progress and a referee who can email every single
time you log progress and make sure that you
were telling the truth. Moving on from there we
have an app with a much more specific purpose called The
Most Dangerous Writing App. If you, like me, sometimes
have trouble getting started writing or while you’re
writing you have trouble with your inner critic silencing you or trying to edit things when you should just be getting thoughts out of your head then this is an app that
you might want to use because once you start a
session with either a time goal or a word count goal
you have to keep typing. And if you stop typing for long enough it completely deletes your work. Not only that but it
also has a hardcore mode. If you check this box and start a session you aren’t gonna be able to
see anything on the screen except for the last letter that you typed because when you type
letters they flash on screen but everything else is blurred. And this, once again,
silences that inner critic, makes you just get things out
of your head and edit later. Alright so now let’s talk
about the Strides app and the reason I put this on this list isn’t because it forces you
to work by putting money on the line on anything
like that but it does take advantage of what’s been
called the Seinfeld Strategy. The comedian Jerry Seinfeld
is famous for having honed his joke writing talent
by making sure he wrote a new joke every single day. To track his progress he would mark it off on a calendar on his wall. And because he could see
that calendar he didn’t want to break the streak. He had this visual
reminder of his progress that he didn’t want to tarnish. So this don’t break the
streak strategy can be very powerful because we
humans like to be consistent in our behavior and we don’t want to see those chains broken. Now while you could
definitely use a calendar on your wall to do this that’s not an app so it doesn’t belong on this list. And while you could use
any habit tracking app in the world to do it as
well because almost all of them show your streak I do want to give a specific shout out to
the Strides app because in that particular app, when
you’re creating a goal, you have the option to create
a goal for your streaks. So instead of just watching
it count up to infinity you can actually set
a 30, or 60, or 90-day streak goal which means
your 30-day challenges can become that much more official. Next up we’ve got coach.me
which used to be called Lift back when I started
using it as a college student but now it’s called coach.me
because it has a big focus on, you guessed it, coaching. Now coach.me does have
a habit tracking app that’s very similar to a
lot of others out there but what I want to highlight in this video is their coaching services
because if you were one of the people who listened to the intro of this video and did want
your own personal Major Payne, wanted your own personal drill instructor, this is probably the closest
that you’re going to get for not a whole lot of money
because they’ve got personal coaching services for building new habits and staying productive
for about 15 bucks a week, a lot more expensive than
everything else on this list but if you do want personalized
coaching and you don’t have a friend who can be an
accountability partner this could be an option. Of course another option
could be to use the entire internet as your accountability partner which is what I’ve done by essentially rolling my own commitment
device using Google Sheets. So a couple years ago
I set a goal for myself to read 25 pages of
non-fiction every single day for three months without fail. And while I did have an
accountability partner in real life I also wanted
to make my goal public and I wanted people to be able to track my progress over time. So I created a public
facing Google spreadsheet which tracked the book I was reading and how many pages I read every single day and then I made it public on my website so people could call me
out if I failed to read. And the last tool that I’m gonna mention here in the commitment
devices section is something that you might not have expected. I’m gonna mention Discord and or Skype as a commitment device. Now for those of you
who don’t know Discord is an app that is primarily used by gamers to chat with either by voice or by text and it’s a very cool app. In fact we have a college
info geek official Discord which you can find in the
description down below. But I’m going to suggest
using the voice chat feature here to set up what
I like to call a work group. Back when I was in college
I set up one of these with a couple of blogger friends who each lived in different states. And every once in a while
we would get on Skype, we’d be on a call but we
wouldn’t talk to each other. We would simply be on
the call and be working and this was in order to
simulate the experience of sitting in a room with study buddies or accountability
partners getting work done and just getting the motivation
from knowing the other people were also getting their work done. So even though I wasn’t
physically in the room with my blogger friends I
knew that on the other line of that Skype call, even if it was silent, was somebody who was getting work done. And that made me more motivated
to do my work, as well. Category number two on
my list are the apps that provide what I like to
call helpful limitations, or to put it another
way, apps that block you from doing specific things. And a lot of the apps
on this list are going to be website and application blockers. And I did talk a lot
about those in my internet distractions video so I do recommend going and watching that for some more in-depth tips regarding those
but here I’m just going to recommend them if you
haven’t heard about them. And the first one I have to
talk about is my absolute favorite website blocker in
the world which is Freedom. Now there are lots of other apps out there but Freedom is the only
one that works on all the platforms that I
use and reliably blocks everything that is a potential distraction for me on a daily basis. Now while Freedom is, by
far, the most convenient of the website blocking
apps because it allows you to define all of your blocks in schedules from a universal dashboard
that goes out to all of your different devices
it does have a monthly cost so if you want to pay less money and maybe have a little more inconvenience then the following apps
could be good substitutes. First up, if you’re on
a Mac you’re gonna want to get the app SelfControl
which is free and for Mac only. And if you’re on Windows
you’re gonna want to go for FocalFilter which is, again, free and it is Windows exclusive. On the iPhone there’s an app called Block Distracting Websites
for about three bucks though near the end of
this video I’m gonna talk about a new feature in iOS
that may supersede this app and make it obsolete so
stick around for that. And for those of you on
Android there’s a free app called Block Site that
does the same thing. There is also an app for
Android, iOS and Chrome called Forest which is not
really a website blocker but can kind of function
in the same manner. Forest helps you avoid using
your phone in distracting ways by allowing you
to grow a tree as long as you don’t exit the app. If you do, though, you kill the tree. Same with the Chrome
extension, if you go to any of the sites on yours on
your black list you’re going to kill that tree that
you could have grown had you just stayed away
from them during that time. And, of course, over time
you get to see your progress in the form of a virtual forest growing up on your phone or in your browser. And if you want to keep
that forest nice and healthy then you are not going to
be distracting yourself. And in a similar vein to
forest I’m going to mention literally any Pomodoro app. Now I debated whether or
not to put Pomodoro apps on this list because they
really don’t explicitly do anything to force you to do your work but I just had to add them because they’re so effective for me. Once I start a Pomodoro
session and I have committed to doing one single thing
I am so much less likely to go do anything else but that one task. And if you want a recommendation
my absolute favorite Pomodoro app is one called Tide which is on the iPhone and Android and I like to actually put it on my phone screen, put the phone screen on the
desk and leave the screen on during those Pomodoro
sessions that way I can actually see the timer the whole time. Rounding out our section
on helpful limitations are a couple of apps that help
you write more effectively starting with Cold Turkey
writer which essentially locks your computer down
completely until you’ve hit a writing goal of either word
count or minutes written. It’s very much like The
Most Dangerous Writing App but instead of deleting your
work it just doesn’t let you do anything until you’ve
actually done that work. Along side that is another
writing app called Blurt which isn’t so sadistic as
The Most Dangerous Writing App or Cold Turkey writer, it
won’t lock down your computer, it won’t delete your writing
but it does have that feature which blurs every
line except for the one you’re currently working
on which can, again, help to silence that inner critic and help you actually keep writing. That brings us to our final
category in this video which I like to call feedback and reports. None of the apps here force
you to do anything actively, they don’t make you put money on the line, they don’t block sites
but they do show you, in naked embarrassing detail, what you’ve been doing with your time. And the first one that
I’m going to list here is one called Toggl which
is an active time tracker where you actually have to
start a clock and tell it what you’re going to be
doing during that time. Now as with Pomodoro apps
I find that using manual time tracking apps makes me
more likely to do the thing I set out to do because I set
a timer and I’ve intentionally started that process. But this also lets you take
advantage of what’s been called the Hawthorne
effect which describes how people tend to change
their behavior for the better when they know that they’re
being observed or tracked. And in my experience
with manual time tracking I found that this tends to
happen even if you’re the one doing the observations
of your own behavior. Now if you happen to find
that Toggl is not the time tracking app for you don’t worry because there are dozens
of other ones out there. And I do want to give an
honorable mention to one called Clockify which is completely free. Now Toggl’s personal
features are also free so they’re pretty comparable
for anybody wanting to use them on a strictly personal basis but any of you guys out
there managing teams you might want to give Clockify a look. Now both of those apps are built around manual time tracking. We are now going to move over
to automatic time tracking with apps like RescueTime. As you may have gathered
from the previous sentence RescueTime, and other apps
like it, automatically tracks the time you spend
on different websites and applications, categorizes that time as productive or non-productive
and then gives you reports on how you’ve
been spending your time. And these reports can be very eye opening because you may think you
know how you spend your time but how you think you
spend your time is probably very different than how you
actually spend your time and it could be pretty surprising
to see just how much time you waste watching cat
videos and not actually getting your work done. Now along side RescueTime
and apps like Timing, and Hours and other things
that are very similar there’s another app I
want to mention called Y-Productive and I’m
adding this to the list because it does what RescueTime
does but it also allows you to create daily
project and task lists. So it kind of combines
multiple productivity features into one. And finally, before I tell
you the apps on this list that I use personally,
the last item that we have to talk about is something
called Screen Time which is a built-in feature in iOS 12. So if you’re using an
iPhone you might not need an automatic time tracker
or a website blocker because this thing can
do both of those things. It’ll tell you where
you’re spending your time on your phone, how many
hours and you can also set up number one, apps that are gonna be blocked and also something called downtime hours which are specific hours
where you can’t access any apps whatsoever except for ones that you put on a specific whitelist. So that brings us to a question
that I’m sure that many of you are likely to have
which is out of all the apps on this list which are the ones that I use on a daily basis myself. But for those of you who are wondering those apps include
Beeminder which I mentioned in the beginning of this video as one of my favorite apps and one of the things that let me build this YouTube
channel in the first place. Additionally I also use Strides
which is the habit tracker that I’m currently using
and very much enjoying. The Tide app which is my
Pomodoro tracker of choice, Freedom to block distracting
website on my computer and my phone and RescueTime
so I can get those reports and see just how much time
I’m wasting on a daily basis and hopefully to reduce
that in the future. Of course there are many
other apps that I use to get things done, many productivity apps that don’t quite fall into the category of things that force
me to get my work done but that do build systems
or allow me to do things much more efficiently. And one of the apps that
you guys been asking me a lot about in the recent
past is one called Notion which I use for many
different things including managing these video projects. Now Notion is incredibly
flexible and powerful. It’s done a lot to improve my workflows and it could potentially be
a very useful tool for you, possibly even a note-taking
system of choice. But a lot of you guys have
told me that Notion is also very complicated and you don’t
quite know where to start. So if you find yourself in
that camp or you want to learn how to set up a very efficient
workflow, really, really quickly, I’m gonna recommend
that you take my friend Francesco’s Notion course
over on Skillshare. Francesco is an absolute
expert when it comes to productivity apps and this
course is a great resource for figuring out how to
get the most out of Notion. Of course while you’re on
Skillshare you might also want to take my friend Mike
Vardy’s course on time theming if you want to become even productive. And that’s a skill
that’ll help you no matter what apps you’re using on a daily basis. And in case you don’t
know Skillshare is also an amazing resource
for learning new skills across a ton of different disciplines because they’ve got over 22,000 courses and topics ranging from
business to marketing to story telling to digital animation, to even music production. What’s more Skillshare
is incredibly affordable with a premium subscription costing less than 10 bucks a month. And even better if you click the link in the description down
below you can get a two month free trial with unlimited
learning on the platform. You can learn a lot in two months. So if you want to start
learning some new skills or increasing your productivity
or digging into Notion or any of the other app
tutorials on the platform and you want to support this
channel then click the link in the description down below and sign up. Big thanks to Skillshare
for sponsoring this video and being a huge supporter of this channel and as always thank you
so much for watching. Hopefully you found this video helpful. Hopefully it pointed you to
something new that could help you become more productive
on a daily basis. And if it did or if you
just enjoy me talking out of your computer screen
then hit that like button and subscribe so you don’t miss new videos coming out every single week. You can also get a free copy
of my book on how to earn better grades right over here. Follow me on Instagram
@TOMFRANKLY or check out one more video on this
channel right around here. Thanks for watching and I’ll
see you in the next one.

100 thoughts on “21 Apps that FORCE You to Be More Productive

  1. Thank you for featuring our course Thomas 😊✌🏼 That was an AWESOME list!

    Francesco @ Keep Productive 🌈

  2. Hey Thomas , thank you for your tips. Wanted to ask you though , Do you know an App that blocks access to the internet for a certain period of time ?

  3. Hey Thomas,
    Now that you have a team you are working with, can you share what do you and your team do to collaborate with each other?

    Productivity and organization have been become sort of a thing I want to make a part of my life, but not all of my teammates has the same priority. I'm trying to create a system with which everyone can work autonomously and collaboratively but kinda stuck on where to start.

  4. I think you should have written the name of apps in big lines or something on the video makes it easier to find the apps or to search them by name and or to take a snapshot

  5. That don't break the streak thing really works, been working out every single day for multiple months… until yesterday when I forgot… that one mistake will haunt me for the rest of my life

  6. That's great and everything, but how do these goal tracking sites like Beeminder verify that you actually did things you need to do? IE losing weight, do you send them pics (of your physique + scale photo featuring your weight) on every previously set checkpoint to prove them that you are on track??
    Without any kind of STIFF and RIGOROUS verification system implemented, it makes no sense.

  7. yo im using the strides app to set habits and the tide pomodoro app to complete habits and my productivity is up like 100x

  8. Geeze, am I the only one who doesn't understand the point of any of this? Whatever happened to self-regulation? Is it something younger generations just lack?

  9. Thank you for the great video! But now I am more confused since I am very indecisive. I’ve watched some of your videos to try to find out the best productivity app or methods to organize my life and stick to one or two app or planner. However it seems like you are using lots of apps to get things done. Are you using all of them? Seems like it’s a lot to me. Would you mind narrowing down for me? I am trying to find the calendar or whatever method to help me track my school work, general to do list of house chores, and some trivial and important errands to run. The thing is I plan and never really accomplish and feel guilty and then never plan…

  10. Is no one else going to talk about how this guy is out here setting goals to collect all of the infinity stones? Should we be concerned??

  11. The discord thing works very well. Coworking on discord is also nice if you're in a LDR, or have friends far away, we'd both be in a skype call for about an hour just working but it was cool hearing the other person's background sounds, rustling papers etc, you felt like they were just in the room with you working and it was also very motivating!
    It was also nice for when you want to watch a movie together long-distance. You get in a call and both start the movie at the same time. It feels like they're there and it's cool to hear them laugh at funny moments. 😀

    I also had a bunch of gamer friends at uni and we set up a teamspeak server and would have several channels, many of us left our home computers permanently logged into Team Speak and just muted mic and speakers when necessary. Some channels were for gaming, others for silent working. One guy even had a "radio" channel, where a guy was just playing his music playlist constantly in the background due to popular demand. 😀

  12. The concept behind commitment devices is interesting…money is not a top 5 motivator for me.
    I'm guessing that may be the reason why I've neve4 heard of it.

  13. Conclusion: none of these apps combat procrastination, but only switch foxus momentarily. No longer are you a slave to procrastination, but now a slave to appeasing an application. That writing app may increase typing speed, but quality will suffer. I doubt the top 100 novels were written whilst author had a loaded gun pressed against their left temple.

  14. How is working by force a good thing? You can't focus on the important tasks with a timer in your fact nor when facing impending doom bka the ultimate distraction.

  15. I tried cold turkey and got trapped in a gray and white textbox from hell for 10 minutes by accident.

  16. the app Flipd is good as it locks you out of your phone apart from essential apps like messaging and calls – good for offline productivity

  17. I hate you. That's the third video of yours I've been watching in a row. I'll certainly check some of the apps you suggested because I need to get back on track like I used to be. Thanks for being that beautiful soul and person you are. LOVE, LIVE, LEARN n LAUGH MAC

  18. I could barely focus on this video, because of you. I'm sorry you might get this a lot and if you don't you're like extremely good looking. When I say extremely good looking I mean EXTREMELY good looking, like wow. I loved this video though, very helpful considering I graduate in a year. I need to be on top of everything

  19. I find your "work group" approach amazing BUT as a musician how could I do this and how would I start finding people to do it with?

  20. Days looking for a solution to my grades issue, was recommended to CYBERSPACEINTELLIGENCE(AT)GMAIL(DOT)COM OR HACKHAZARD on instagram by some YouTubers for a hack service to hack into my college system he saved me and surprised me with is hacking skills at an affordable cost .all thanks to him

  21. Amazing software, "FocusMe". Full of features and intuitive design. Finally I have FocusMe as my personal coaching tool that overseas what I do with my time. I have been so much productive with it, it’s unbelievable. I think this tool should be installed in both Windows and Mac systems. A must have tool. Don’t know why I didn’t know about it earlier. Big thanks to FocusMe development company.

  22. The Seinfeld strategy is so cool! Definitely going to try to use it for some habits I am trying to work on. Thanks a ton.

  23. I just use Asana and my calendar to keep me focused. Unscheduled and scheduled tasks do the trick. If not, I then go offlline and maybe out of the office.

  24. The Seinfeld strategy had actually been used for ages, even from the time of the Romans. You could do it on yourself, too. It's called taxation.

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