David Papp Blog

Distracted at work? Top 5 productivity apps for your PC/Mac

The struggle to be productive at work can be a daunting task as there can be so many distractions around us. One of the proven ways to staying productive is creating a daily routine and sticking to it – and this takes persistence and focus. Luckily, there are a lot of useful apps available to help us stay on track so we can get more tasks done throughout the day.


Perfect for accomplishing tasks that require one’s full attention, the Pomodoro app keeps you from procrastinating as it constrains you to a strict timer-based task monitoring system, which also places an emphasis on keeping breaks to help keep you going throughout the day. The app got its name from the time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s called the Pomodoro Technique.

Self Control

Ah, social media – one of the most time consuming distractions that plague us today. The free app Self Control blocks Facebook for a specified amount of time, saving you from wasting time in that blackhole!


Anxiety allows you to create a fuss-free to-do list which allows you to track how much you were able to do in the course of a day. This app also allows you to sync your list to your iCal & Mail.


Need to flesh out ideas effectively? Use MindNode to map out your thoughts visually via a mind map to help you turn ideas into full-blown plans and projects. It has an iOS version as well. There is a similar idea as a website application called Coggle. I have personally used both of these and continue to do so. Great for brainstorming, mapping ideas, and organizing thoughts.


This app allows you to organize your short and long-term goals, share them with your trusted colleagues (which breeds accountability) and create a vision board that will inspire you to accomplish them. Evernote also allows you to review your progress, allowing you to track your performance.

38 thoughts on “Distracted at work? Top 5 productivity apps for your PC/Mac”

  1. Thanks for the links and descriptions, David.

    I’m a chronic multi-tasker to a fault. Heck, even as I read this article I have a number of things going on in the background. While many of us would argue this can be a great trait, it can also lead to forgetting things, losing track of time, or exactly what you mentioned with being easily distracted.

    I have tried Evernote in the past, but truthfully I didn’t put much effort into it. You reminded me that I should really give it a more honest try.

  2. There are some great links here and some softwares which I definitely think I’ll look further into. I find myself at my desk a lot, especially when I have assignments to write, just sitting and thinking, and eventually I’ll find myself on Facebook or Twitter or reading some completely irrelevant news article which helps me in zero ways. Hopefully these will be useful and allow me to help control my time a lot better!

  3. I so need that self control. I feel like an addict when it comes to facebook. I literally had to go on a facebook fast. And Instagram is just as bad.

  4. I feel like the best “productivity” apps aren’t the ones that let’s you organize your work, but rather ones that forces you to not be distracted, like the self control one you mentioned. There are others too, browser addons that will disable access to social media websites and any other websites you specify for a specific duration, so if you know that you need to focus on a task for the next few hours you can turn one of those on and get to work. I guess if you don’t need online access to perform your job there’s also the obvious solution: remove your ethernet cable.

    I have used evernote and it’s a good program, I’d recommend it.

  5. I’ve heard of Self Control. Someone I know uses it. The rest are new to me. What amazing possibilities, though, especially for the self-employed, who – let’s face it – tend to encounter various obstacles to time management goals. Pomodoro seems like a very practical “virtual manager”. I like the idea of MindNode as well.

  6. I find this so useful because I constantly find myself distracted while I should be doing work online! I have found Pomodoro to be very useful for me and I actually use it for getting work done around the house. It’s crazy how much a quiet ticking can help you accomplish!

    Thanks for the article, I’ll have to check out some more of these!

  7. I am not able to get distracted at work. I am a teacher. Those kids never give me time to let my mind wonder.
    When at home, I am always distracted. Thank you for telling me about Pomodoro, and Evernote. i am so easily distracted when working at home. I can use that App.

  8. Thanks for the great productivity suggestions. I often find myself dozed off in front of my computer’s monitor with the work I absolutely needed to do simply sitting in front of me, unfinished. Hopefully I will be able to utilize these productivity apps to improve my performance at work, and in side projects I want to do in my own home.

  9. I really loved the app called Self Control. I’m really addicted to facebook and i’m wasting lots of my hours on Facebook. I should really stop this and do something productive. This app will surely help me.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful post.

  10. Thank you, I was thinking about this a few days ago. I procrastinate way too much and with so many distractions it is hard to keep focused on my work. Multi-tasking tends to slow me down and also ruin my quality of work. I will be testing out these apps and stick with the best.

  11. I think that schools should start installing Self-Control onto their computers. I could also see Pomodoro being able to help students focus more in a school environment. These apps definitely have a wide assortment of uses besides for the workplace.

  12. Hey! Much needed list. But I use (read: waste) most of my time in using reddit. Is there any way to block that? And I really don’t think this sort of blocking would work me. Frustrated, I’d just delete that extension.
    Thanks for adding MindNote to this. I love it!

  13. I didn’t even imagine how badly I needed these tools!

    I get distracted during work very easily, considering that I have my video game library software (Steam, Origin, etc.) shortcuts located everywhere on my PC and laptop. Timing my tasks would work and I will be checking out PomodoroApp soon. Evernote would help me to keep track of my tasks as I tend to miss many things that need to be done. Too bad I need to have access to sites like Facebook I have clients on my social networking websites and I also administer a Facebook group. Looks like I’ll try out MindNote as well as it appears interesting. Moreover, setting up a separate user account on Windows for work can be beneficial, in my opinion.

  14. I avoid checking my email until I have my most important task or top three tasks progressed or finished for the day. That way when I wade into my email I’m already ahead and won’t miss my deadlines on my important projects which affect my team.

  15. Excellent listing, especially for those of us who can’t quite stick to one topic long enough to see it half way through. So far my personal favorite is Anxiety.

    Im beginning to see a pattern with making proper list and working my way through until I’ve reached goal. I’m going to give mind node a chance next and see truly how effective I can be when seeing all my thoughts laid out for me. Thanks for the post.

  16. I’ve used Evernote for a while but these other apps are new to me. I’m really interested in using the MindNode app. I’ve also been hearing a lot about the Pomodoro technique recently. I had never heard of it before and then all of a sudden it’s everywhere. I’m going to check that out as well. Thanks!

  17. Great list of apps! I really needed it. I hope that my productivity will be increased after I start using some of them. I hope that there were some apps that restricted other apps for running for longer than, say, 30 minutes. Does anyone know of anything like that?

  18. You know, it’s funny. I’m a huge techie fan, and I’ve tried a few of these apps and I find myself never following through. When it comes to my To Do List, good old fashioned pen and paper is the only thing that works for me. I think it’s something about the brain connection in writing it all out and then having it sit there next to my computer where I see it the whole time.

    I bet Self Control would be a great one for limiting those really distracting sites. I sure could use it for Pinterest. I may have to try it.

  19. A great list of apps! At one point I used Self Control and Anxiety but quickly lost interest due to lack of motivation to stay off of Facebook. The best way to stop using it all day is to deactivate your account and leave it alone!

  20. Awesome advice, David! Staying productive at work, especially when you are your own boss, can be quite the task! It can often be a challenge to stay focused when you create your own deadlines and schedule your own breaks. If something fails or doesn’t get done on time, the blame falls squarely on you! Fortunately, you also get to take credit for your triumphs, which makes it all worth it!

  21. I love these apps, particularly Evernote. It’s worth mentioning that the functionality of Evernote extends far beyond simply making short-term and long-term goals, but in many ways it actually helps you achieve them. You can attach pictures. recordings and so much more. Plus, it can be downloaded onto your smartphone to keep you productive beyond the computer screen.

  22. Evernote is great. The syncing makes it so easy to work from home at my job as a software developer. It’s also great for my tablet which has a built in pen, having great support for S-Pen.

  23. All I need is something that stops me from opening a new tab every 5 minutes. I’m not too bad when using my mobile but I can’t get any work done on my laptop.

    I might give Podomoro a try. It seems to be the best one on your list at preventing unnecessary multi-tasking.

  24. Thanks a lot for the links. I’ve been struggling with my continues decline of productivity the last few weeks which is not helping me at all. But I think the best way to make a list of goals is to just write it down on paper. I’ve read somewhere that it helps a lot when it comes to productivity.

  25. I am a massive multi-tasker, I feel like I am getting more done if I am doing several things at once, although it probably slows me down more than speeds me up.

    Some interesting programs here that I will be looking into.

  26. Evernote has a PC version? How come I never knew that. It’s nice of you to include the links really saves time on the Google search. Self Control is probably the best focusing app I’ve come across in ages, I mean, I’m not a Facebook guy to be honest but when that new chat notification pops out I just loose 5 hours of my day.

  27. These are some great apps and you explained them perfectly. While working from home, I tend to stay very busy and I loose track of some things that I have to do. I will most defiantly have to try some of these apps to help me stay on track with my work. Thank you for sharing. I know this will help a lot of people with busy schedules.

  28. I’ve had some experience using Evernote as an app to organize my scattered notes and notations. But the other apps? Probably never seen them before. I checked them out one by one, but I don’t think I would be using all of them. They appear to be overlapping, albeit useful. However, for apps, I don’t think people need to be interested in them to use them. For example, the LinkedIn app on iPad. It looked like a very hectic mess, but LinkedIn users cannot access LinkedIn on a Safari browser without the app. The same with desktop apps.

  29. Oh the idea of the app Self Control. I couldn’t help but chuckle out loud to my self over this one. Facebook and I have a love hate relationship when it comes down to trying to get something done. If only we were able to exercise self control on our own with out the help of an app. In todays time, there seems to be an app for everything. Its a great concept though, I will probably search it up and add it to my phone! I am a guilty individual who tends to lack self control, in fact I have a Facebook tab pulled up on my computer as I type.

  30. My mind is way off as of late. There are so many things I want to do that I lost track of it. Thanks for giving this list. I will check it out and improve myself in the “focus” department.

  31. These seem like pretty good productivity apps. Although, I really can’t bring myself to actually using any of these, because I’m too lazy to actually do so. Honestly, I really think that I’d just turn it off if I ever did get around to using it.

  32. I find Evernote to be the best of the bunch. I love the user interface, the usability and the performance of it. I use it almost everyday to organize my plans, to build lists of stuff that are important to me to remember and even use it to type some of my website entries because it makes me so much more enthused to put out content for some reason. An additional benefit is that it’s such a great thing it can be accessed on your phone and your PC and shared through email too. The developers of Evernote have done a fantastic job with this app.

  33. I was already familiar with Evernote, but not with the other apps. I’m really looking forward to trying ”anxiety”, it sounds like my kind of app. Lately I’m not having so many troubles completing my work, but I do have problems studying Dutch daily. So I really think Anxiety will help, I might also try MindNode 🙂 I love mind maps! I actually take notes that way…

  34. Oh good choices, right off the bat I see Pomodoro and Evernote on the list and those are my favorites. I become super productive when I use Pomodoro and I’d be getting a promotion if I weren’t my own boss already. My normal work sessions ar 25 minutes long, with 10-15 minute breaks in between. I even time my power naps with Pomodoro.

  35. My favorite is Evernote! Every time I get an idea i just write it down in my “ideas notebook.” It’s a great way to organize information, checklist and to do list and you can access it anytime thanks to the synch feature. I also use it to clip articles from the web for future reference. Can anyone share how to use evernote for tracking and creating vision boards as mentioned above?

  36. All of these sites are amazing!

    I’ve heard of the Pomodoro technique before; in fact, I’ve followed it many times when I’ve needed to stay on task. I’ve used both apps and simple online timers to guide my work and breaks, and I find that I’m much more productive when I take breaks.

    I’m normally pretty good with keeping away from social media when I’m working, so I indeed have enough “Self Control” that I probably won’t need the app.

    I use Todoist instead of Anxiety. To tell the truth, I’ve never heard of Anxiety before today, probably because I don’t use a Mac computer all that often. Although, I do use Evernote, because I love all of the features it contains, and I find that I’m more organized when I write down my goals. I use Todoist for my everyday little tasks, and I use Evernote sparingly for bigger events.

    I think I’m going to go check out MindNode. My job doesn’t really require me to be creative at all (I’m on a computer at my desk the whole day) so this is a pretty new product for me, but the interface and layout looks so clean that I think I’ll have a go at it.

    Thanks for the post!

  37. I feel as if Pomodoro is what I definitely need right now. I would say Self Control but I think it only works with Facebook and I don’t use that. I do use Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr way too much. I’m always wasting time on those specific time and I need help. Help I might be able to get with the first app (which to me seems like the most effective one in my situation). I’m going to download it and see how it goes. Hopefully it can help me actually be more productive.

  38. This is really interesting, one day I heard a friend saying that he actually blocked his social media with a program in order to studying for finals, and it actually worked, so I guess I already know what type of programs he was using, lol.
    This sounds great, I really like to be organized all the time but sometimes is not possible because, come on, we’re on the internet and the possibilities of what to hear watch or even feel are endless, so it’s always a good option to have this type of programs that allow us to be more productive.

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