Time Management Software Review
If you want to make the best use of your time, one of the best things you can do is to use technology — specifically time management software — to assist you.
The trouble is knowing where to start.
There's just so much choice.
To help, I've put together this summary of some of the best time management software. There are the usual suspects here — time management software that regularly wins awards.
I've added in some less well-known apps to mix things up a little.
If you think I've missed anything that would be useful — leave a comment below.
1. Meetings and Video Chat Apps
This kind of time management software leverages technology to enable you to organise and run virtual meetings. This can save travel time and by adding in a layer of video, I think it works much better than simple tele-conferencing.
It's easier to communicate when you can see and interpret other peoples' body language or facial expressions.
Note: In some locations you'll need to use a VPN to make these services work properly.
Google Hangouts is one of many different ways you can use technology to stay in touch with people.
There are some clear plus points to the app. It is free, it plugs into a huge database of users who are already familiar with Gmail, and it is very intuitive.
It also works on all desktop, iOS and Android devices as well.
Everyone knows about Skype. It's a service with a large number of users (more than 300 million).
Skype is free and is more or less equivalent to Google Hangouts.
It's easy to setup and you can use it for messaging, voice calls, screen sharing and video conferencing calls.
Join.Me is a video conferencing and screen sharing app that is beautifully designed to be easy to use.
There is a free plan, and the pricing has two premium layers if you want more control and greater capability.
They've got the usual desktop and mobile platforms covered.
I didn't know much about Join.Me before writing this review, but I really like the way it's designed. I'll be trying this one out.
2. Team Chat Apps
Once upon a time, teams used email to communicate with each other whenever they were unable to do so in person.
However email, as someone once put it, is someone else's to-do list sent your way.
For lots of people, instead of being an aid to increased productivity, email became a curse.
It feels a bit official too and it isn't suited to more informal chatting type conversations.
That's where this next set of apps comes in.
Team chat apps take the kind of SMS messaging we are used to and build it into solid mobile and desktop platforms that are easy and even fun for teams to use.
They make conduct rapid to and fro conversations easy to do. You are able to create 'channels' for particular threads or topics and to loop other people into a discussion.
I've included them in this review of time management software because email has become such a time killer.
From a time management point of view, anything you can do to get out of your email inbox helps.
Slack is a very popular platform which you can run on any device or platform.
It has a massive and very enthusiastic user base and many organisations, large and small use it to improve communication.
It offers one-to-one chats or group chats. You can create groups very easily and is a good way to include everyone in a conversation that contains useful information.
You can send a message to an individual by prepending with '@' or to a channel with '#'.
I like how easy it is to setup, the fact that you can start using it straight away for free and the pricing model which scales with the number of users you connect.
It keeps everyone engaged and helps make the best use of your time too.
HipChat is aimed squarely at the business world, emphasising security and enterprise capability.
It has all the usual features including video or group chat as well as screen sharing for teams.
It also has this really neat trick — you can share your screen with other members of the team and show them what you're trying to communicate.
Workplace by Facebook
Workplace is free for registered charities and educational providers.
It works like a joint Facebook account for everyone involved in a project. So if you've got a small business, everyone can be a member. Likewise, teams or departments could do the same.
It offers group discussions via text or video and also enables voice calling.
3. Team Project Management Apps
If you're someone who is responsible for running teams and delivering projects, you'll know how challenging it can be to keep an overview and ensure everyone is up to date.
Team project management software is designed to make all of this easier to do — and so save you time and effort as a result.
Time Doctor is a leading provider of team-based time management software. It provides an ability to see how members of the team are doing, across the many different projects underway.
Time Doctor has many features which include:
- Time tracking to the second
- Chat monitoring (is it productive or not?)
- Web and app usage monitoring
- Report functions
- Payroll and payments (convert time into billable hours).
Time Doctor is a cross-platform application and can be used on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.
There is a free 14 day trial after which Time Doctor costs $9.99 per user.
Taskworld is a feature-rich piece of time management software, and it offers:
- Visual task boards (Kanban)
- The ability to update a task into multiple projects
- Set repeating tasks
- Copy and paste from a variety of popular apps such as Evernote, Word or Google Documents
- Time tracking — so you can see how long tasks are taking to complete.
Taskworld also enables direct messaging (chat) using public and private channels.
Pricing starts at $10/user/month.
Basecamp organizes your communication, projects, and client work together so you have a central source of truth.
It pulls together the different projects, to-do's, communication, documents and message boards which a team or organisation might be wrestling with a provides an overview. This can then be drilled down in whichever way is required.
Discussion boards replace email threads and to-dos are visible to the team. There's a useful summary of everything it can help with available here.
Pricing is $99/month, all in. If you compare this to the cost of different subscriptions for other services (Slack, Asana, Dropbox etc) this could end up saving you money if you have a big team.
I love the Basecamp homepage.
Asana is a simpler and in some ways less comprehensive project management tool for teams. It is a web-based app, which enables teams to 'see' the projects which are being undertaken and contribute as tasks are completed, adjusted or initiated.
Team members are able to organise tasks based now whether they are 'complete', or 'incomplete' and display them by 'tasks due' or 'by 'project'.
Asana can organise notifications so team members are alerted to deadlines and it provides an overall dashboard so team leaders can maintain an overview.
There is a free basic plan and a premium product with full capability at $9.99/month.
4. To-Do Apps
Keeping on top of projects and the tasks within them is massively important when it comes to making the best and most efficient use of your time. And there are hundreds of possible tools you can use.
In this section, I'm pulling out the time management software I've tried as well as some others which have strong user bases or good feedback.
If you're struggling to decide what works for you, I discuss a minimalist approach to app workflows here.
This is my personal weapon of choice. OmniFocus is very powerful but also easy to use and has a beautiful user interface. It's an Apple-only product, however, which is of no use if you're inside the PC universe.
One of the things I like about OmniFocus is how it can be tailored to fit your own way of working. If you want to follow a 'pure' GTD (Getting Things Done — David Allen) methodology, you can. But you can also design it to work the way you want to — which is what I do.
I put everything I need to do into this app, and I can then order and sequence it so I never forget anything important. You can read about my methodology here.
There's lots of great support available to help you get the most out of this very powerful time management software — the best of which I summarise here.
Pricing starts at $39.99 and rises to $79.99 for the Pro version. It syncs between iOS and Mac OSX versions using Omnisync, the OmniGroup's bespoke sync solution.
Todosit is another time management software app that has been around for a long time. It works across all platforms and has an active an engaged user base.
ToDoist users can earn Karma points for completing tasks, which is a feature of the app. Gamification is an emerging trend in this kind of app, and ToDoist was an early adopter.
It has good customisation capabilities and is a solid performer. It can be used for everything from simple shopping lists all the way up to complex projects. I have used this app and I think it works very well.
Pricing is free for basic use, rising to $28.99/year for the premium version.
Any.do is another cross-platform app, which has a simple user interface. It's USP is that it offers a stripped down, simple user interface which it claims means that it's users are more inclined to stay with it over time.
Interestingly, this time management software is evolving — a new service called 'Assistant' is in the works which the company says:
"Any.do Assistant uses AI to automatically review your tasks, and mark the ones it can do for you. With your approval, you’ll be connected to a combination of smart robots and diligent humans who can help you accomplish that task".
It will be interesting to see how this software develops.
Any.Do is available at three relatively low price points around $2-3/month, dependant on the number of devices.
Trello looks different to the other To-do apps in this summary. That's because it uses 'boards' (what the Japanese call Kanban) to organise projects.
This form of visual management can be very useful if you're the kind of person who likes to see information displayed on 'pages' rather than 'lists'. You can colour-code the pages to match projects or contexts and it can be very useful for teams to see progress displayed in this way.
Trello is a web-based application which can be used on its own, or as an adjunct to a more conventional to-do manager — which is what I do.
You can start using Trello for free, but the premium version is $9.99/month.
In fact, it is fair to say that rather than a mere facelift, Cultured Code, the people behind this Mac/iOS only software have entirely redesigned it. It is now a sleek, good to look at and powerful to-do list manager.
Pricing is $9.99 for iOS and $49.99 for OSX.
Remember The Milk
Aside from the fun sounding name, Remember the Milk is a web-based to-do and productivity application. It can be accessed on any platform thanks to the fact that it is web-based.
It provides the usual range of tools you would expect to find, but I agree with the Sweet Setup who say that the best of these apps are native applications rather than web-based.
Pricing is free for basic use but is $39.99 for a premium version.
Wunderlist was a conventional to-do manager, which had little that stood out from the competition. It has now been bought by Microsoft and it looks as though the Wunderlist team are now working on Microsoft's To-Do.
It will be worth watching developments as time passes.
5. File Sharing Apps
Time management software isn't limited to managing tasks or projects, however. The ability to move large documents around without needing to email them constantly (not recommended) is a huge efficiency gain.
In addition, the ability to back things up safely and to allow for collaboration means that it makes sense to have some form of file-sharing capability in your armoury.
Dropbox is a long-standing workhorse in this space. I used this service for years but I've recently moved away from it for three reasons.
- I don't need to move documents between colleagues at work, or if I do I can use Sharepoint (in our Microsoft Exchange environment).
- I really dislike the web-based user interface.
- I now use DevonThink Pro Office for my storage needs (see below).
You get 5.5GB of storage for free but must pay $9.99/month for 1TB.
Google Drive is a useful suite of tools that are well integrated and which support collaboration and file-sharing.
I occasionally use Google Drive, but I generally shy away from the long reach that Google extends into my privacy.
For the same reason I now use DuckDuckGo as my search engine (which doesn't track my searches).
6. Social Media Management
Many of us now have multiple inboxes, made up from the many feeds of information which flow through our social media channels. This can be a big time killer, so it makes sense to make use of apps which can help to manage this efficiently.
To be honest, I've tried this app and others like it, but I keep returning to the native Twitter app which does everything I need it to. Tweetdeck has a lot of fans though so it might suit you.
HootSuite is an app which I've used in the past. It is easy to setup, you just give it permission to manage your various social media accounts and you can then manage them all from a single dashboard.
HootSuite allows you to schedule your messages as well as manage topic feeds and generate reports.
Buffer in many ways is similar to HootSuite but has more emphasis on scheduling. It offers good integration with apps like Feedly (which can manage your RSS feeds) and it makes scheduling extremely easy to manage from one dashboard.
I now use this app to manage my social media accounts. I found it via an App Sumo offer. If you've not used App Sumo before I highly recommend it. It offers discounts or lifetime deals on newer software and I've found a few gems this way — including Social Bee. Their strapline is 'social media on autopilot' and they offer all-in-one tools and services for content posting and recycling, follower growth, engagement, and more.
7. Email Management
Managing your emails successfully is one of the keys to mastering your time management. There's nothing quite like email to torpedo your ability to focus.
If you want to know how I manage my emails, you can read the article here.
Yesware Templates – One-Click-Insert Emails, Personalized
This is a service I discovered for the first researching this post. Yesware is a service which allows you to track what happens after you send your email (is it being opened and read for example).
You can schedule email messages in advance or use templates to use boilerplate wording for common email types.
It claims to provide fast and seamless integration with a calendar so you can slot meetings into mutual calendars via email and mail merge.
Gmail Delay Send – Reach Out When the Timing’s Right
Gmail Delay Send is a piece of code you can add to Gmail which allows you to…delay sending an email.
This can be useful if you are working on something late at night, but don't want to build an expectation that you will normally respond to emails at that time.
Just queue your response up, and it will send it the next day during office hours.
If it gets it wrong, you can teach it better habits by training it through moving an email from the incorrect folder to the one you want.
I particularly like Sane Black Hole into which you can drop emails from senders that you no longer want to receive emails from.
MailButler is an add-on to Apple Mail which provides some new email super-powers. These include send later, undo send, attachment upload and one-click unsubscribe.
8. Distraction Managers
No account of time management software would be complete without some discussion of anti-distraction tools.
You can use such apps to limit access to time sinks such as Facebook or to make your environment less distracting.
Focus@Will – Neuroscience & Music
I'm a lifetime member of this service, which delivers scientifically calibrated music and sounds that are engineered to help you focus and concentrate.
If you're in a busy open-plan office, using Focus at Will together with a quality pair of headphones could dramatically increase your productivity.
RescueTime – Remove Distractions
If you're getting serious about managing your time more effectively, it can be useful to get a sense of what you're currently spending your time doing.
This can help to identify potential sources of distraction so you can work out how to minimise them. This is where a tool like RescueTime can help.
Once installed it will monitor your computer usage and provide reports about how niche of your time was spent on which app. This can be very revealing and can help you recover time that you're not using productively.
Focus Booster – Get in the Zone
FocusBooster is a timer which you can set to encourage concentration for fixed periods. It is sometimes called a Pomodoro timer as a tomato-shaped timer was the inspiration for a school of thinking which links increased productivity to short bursts of focused work.
FocusWriter is one of a number of apps which strip back your writing space to the bare minimum. If you currently work in Word (ugh) you are confronted by an ugly and unnecessary toolbar(s) of functions that can become distracting.
FocusWriter strips all this away leaving you with pretty much the cursor and the page. This can enable a focus on the words, rather than how they look which can create a far more productive writing environment.
OmniWriter takes things one step further. In addition a Zen writing environment, you can also choose to have music tuned to make concentration easier playing as you work. This is a really beautiful app which I really like.
Cold Turkey is one of a number of similar apps you can use to temporarily block access to certain apps. If your willpower isn't up to resisting glancing at your Facebook or Twitter feed, this could really help you.
Rainy Mood helps block out distraction noises by playing you the sound of rain. Weirdly soothing and highly effective.
Like Rainy Mood, it's designed to help you block distracting noises by playing sounds. Noizio allows you to choose what form of 'white noise' you prefer.
Forrest is another app attempts to game increased productivity. Once installed on your phone, the app will slowly grow a forest, a process which is disrupted everytime you tap into another app.
This can help if you're struggling to leave your mobile alone and get on with the job in hand.
Using time management software to automate jobs that would normally take up time feels a bit like magic. Here are a couple of tools you can use to cast your own spells.
Task Till Dawn
Task Till Dawn is a task scheduler to execute repetitive tasks automatically.
Say you want to download a particular podcast each day, you can use this app to build that process using a simple process. You don't need programming skills to use this app. It's well worth playing around with.
Hazel does a similar thing — but has a large user group and is enthusiastically supported. I use this tool to clean up my download folder, and file documents automatically. A great time saver.
Time management software can also help your productivity indirectly by organising your thoughts and revealing insights you might have missed.
Using mind-mapping is a powerful way to clarify what needs to be done.
Using this kind of visual display can enable you to make links and connections that you simply can't do in your head or as easily by using lists.
Mind42 is a completely free mind mapping tool which is web-based. I tend to dislike web-based products, but it's free and easy to use.
MindNode is my mind mapping tool of choice. It's highly intuitive, native and beautiful to look at to boot.
If you've ever had a hard drive fail on you, you know what a disaster this can be. Losing all those precious records and data (think what would happen if you lost all your photos) is bad enough.
Trying to rebuild your files is a whole other set of challenges that will easily cost you hours or days if effort if you're not backing up regularly.
This is why backup apps are included in this review of time management software.
SyncBackFree is free for all Windows users. At a minimum, you must have at least two separate backups for all your data. So do yourself a favour and sign up for a free account.
TimeMachine is the Apple product that comes bundled with every new OSX device. Use it to regularly sync to a network drive or USB hard drive.
SuperDuper offers a similar functionality to ChronoSync.
I use this app to quietly backup up all my systems in the background. Backblaze will take a long time to complete your first backup, but then it just does them incrementally.
You have a choice of methods when it comes to recovering your data, including have them send you a hard drive through the post.
A stitch in time saves nine, as the saying goes. Preventing a breach of security takes little time to do and can save untold harm and heartache down the track.
If you're not using a password manager, you really need to take action and fix that today.
A little time spent now could save you untold wasted time later — so that's why security apps are iincluded in this time management software review.
1Password has been my tool of choice for years. It is multi-platform, secure and amazingly easy to use, particularly now there's fingerprint recognition on my Mac and iPhone.
Universal Password Manager
Universal Password Manager provides a similar functionality to 1Password.
When browsing the internet you often come across articles or documents you haven't got time to read now, but might do later.
Knowing how to deal with these kinds of situations efficiently can make your research faster and more efficient. But knowing how to store information is only half the problem.
You've also got to know how to find it quickly too. This section contains time management software that will make this super easy to accomplish.
Pocket enables you to easily and quickly clip articles and send them into the Pocket folder. Here you can create different folders for the various different kinds of things you're collecting.
You then open Pocket when you've got some time and read through what you've collected.
Evernote allows you to throw anything at it and then files it away for you. Pictures, spreadsheets, PDFs, documents and lots more.
You can organise the material you collect into 'books' which are folders and it supports tagging too.
Search is fast and accurate so you can always find something once you've filed it away.
Evernote syncs across its various instances, so. you always have access to the most up to date store, whichever device you use.
DevonThink Pro Office
I used to use Evernote, but have now switched to DevonThink. DevonThink comes in a number of different versions. I think the one to choose is DevonThink Pro Office, which comes with the ability to 'read' PDF's baked in.
DTPO is different to Evernote in two important ways.
- First, it keeps the information in the original format whereas Evernote saves it in its own unique format — which can make getting items out of Evernote to use in other applications hard to do. This is one of there reasons I switched from Evernote.
- Secondly, DTPO stores everything locally in a database. I prefer having all my information stored locally but it does mean backing up your data is even more vital.
This final section contains a tool which helps remove the inefficiency that mousing around the screen and clicking can create. Each of the following apps does basically the same job, enabling the keyboard to be used for a variety of tasks, without needing to using a mouse or trackpad.
There's a little effort required to learn these tools, but once the muscle memory has been stored, you can really speed things up.
LaunchBar is a utility which like the others in this section, uses keyboard shortcuts instead of ponting and clicking. You can do a whole variety of different tasks including:
- Searching for files, documents or on the web.
- Access clipboard history.
- Play music.
- Manage snippets.
- Run scripts.
LaunchBar and Alfred (below) are very similar products. Once you've learned the keyboard shortcuts, you can significantly speed up the amount of work you can do.
Like LaunchBar (above), Alfred is a keyboard utility which replaces the need to mouse and click. What I like about Alfred is the user community, which with a premium subscription opens the door to a multitude of user developed workflows.
Lacona comes bundled with Setapp which I've referred to above. I now use this app, as I try and simplify my subscriptions. It doesn't have the same user community as Alfred, but it is quick and good to look at.
I'm currently exploring how to intergrate this with IFTTT which potentially expands its capabilities significantly.
Launchy is open source and available on any platform.
I hope you find something you can make use of in this roundup. If you think there's some time management software that is particularly useful, why not leave a comment below?