The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


A Guide to Productivity Apps

By Staff Writers Deeksha Raina & Hana Sheikh

For chronic procrastinators or students with busy schedules, it may be hard to stay on task and motivated. The Smoke Signal tried out a variety of productivity apps to find the most effective ones for students to download.

Productive Habits and Daily Goals Tracker

Productive Habits and Daily Goals Tracker splits up daily habits into four categories: morning, afternoon, evening, and any-time habits. Users can customize their daily habits and receive a notification around the time that the habit should be completed. Habits are completed by swiping them to the right, and finishing all the habits multiple days in a row leads to a streak. The app encourages the user to keep up streaks and work towards fulfilling goals.

With its warm-toned gray background, habits written in white, and little customizable symbols, the minimalistic and uncluttered screen is aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eye.

The only drawbacks to the app are that the free version only allows the user five habits and it’s only available on iOS. Other than that, the app is simple, motivating, and effective.

User-friendliness: 4
Aesthetics: 5
Effectiveness: 5
Overall: 4.5

















Productivity — Day Planner Productive Task Manager

Productivity — Day Planner Productive Task Manager, more commonly labeled as Productivity, takes a long-term approach to life planning. Users are encouraged to set long-term goals and weekly goals rather than daily goals. The goals themselves are categorized by theme: career, health, relationships, finances, spirituality, recreation, and personal growth. Once set, the app adds goals to the iPhone calendar and reminders. As of now, the app only runs on iOS.

The app has been designed to allow users to spend time thinking about themselves, their day, and how to better themselves. It places emphasis on writing down concerns, ideas, to-do lists, and questions for the day, on a daily basis. While beneficial in the long run, it is impractical and time-consuming on a day-to-day basis.

It also sends notifications every day with daily tips and encourages the user to reflect on his or her day. However, the daily tips are only accessible with an upgrade to the paid version of the app.

User-friendliness: 3
Aesthetics: 2
Effectiveness: 4
Overall: 3

















Hours Time Tracking

Hours Time Tracking is a fairly simple app to use. Users can assign different colors to customizable activities. Each activity has its own colored timer, and a timeline at the top of the screen displays how long each one took. Periods of time without any timed activity are left gray. There are unlimited activities, even in the free version of the app, and the colored timeline highlights how much time the user has spent procrastinating or working.  

Even though users can set reminders, it is really easy to forget the timer is still running and end up with an inaccurate time for activities. The app looks cramped and often lags, which leads to issues with the timers. It is also only available on iOS.

User-friendliness: 4
Aesthetics: 4
Effectiveness: 3
Overall: 3.5


















Wunderlist is an easy-to-use and smooth running app that keeps the user in charge of tasks for every aspect of life. When setting up the app, users can choose from categories such as Groceries, Movies to Watch, Travel, Work, Family, and Private, or they can create their own categories. Within each category users create a checklist, and each item on the list has a due date and reminder. Important items on the list can be marked and are kept under a separate category called “Starred.” Items on list can be organized alphabetically, by creation, due date, or priority. When a task is completed users can check off that item on the list and it will disappear.

The app is clean and efficient, with its simple designs and muted colors. Users can stay motivated by connecting and sharing lists with others on the app. Wunderlist can be downloaded onto any device, computer, or browser, except Internet Explorer.

User-friendliness: 5
Aesthetics: 5
Effectiveness: 5
Overall: 5

















2Do is a complex task tracker that splits up items into two groups: Lists and Smart Lists. Within the groups users can add specifications to groups based on the type of tasks, organized by color. Each task can be labeled by tags, a note, due date, reminder, photo, location, and importance. It is an extremely chaotic app, despite the simple colors and lines throughout the design. Most of the buttons are labeled with a picture, and there are too many actions available for each task. It seems counterintuitive taking time to write down and describe each task, rather than actually completing the task. It does not help the user in becoming productive, if they get confused or frustrated with the functions. Despite the complexity, the app runs very smoothly and would be useful for someone who prefers extreme detailing in his or her tasks. It is available on iOS and Android devices.

User-friendliness: 2
Aesthetics: 4
Effectiveness: 2
Overall: 3

















IFTTT is an app to simplify the user’s life by connecting different services on a device. It contains thousands of applets, simple applications that perform specific functions and are designed to streamline the utilities of other services. Applets are available in virtually every category: music, news, notes, fitness, weather, travel, communication, storage, photos, and shopping. An example of a social media applet is one that automatically tweets photos that the user posted on Instagram. Users can reduce time on social media by using this applet. A weather applet will notify the user when it will rain in their area, so they don’t have to constantly check the weather. The app runs easily and is customizable. The main drawback is each applet needs full access to the service or app it connects with, such as photos, and this may be an issue with users who value their privacy. IFTTT is available on iOS and Android devices.

User-friendliness: 4
Aesthetics: 5
Effectiveness: 2
Overall: 3
















Photos by Staff Writers Deeksha Raina & Hana Sheikh &

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