Managing countless notifications and distractions across multiple platforms makes it infinitely harder to focus and get real work done. Luckily, there are focus apps that can help.
What are focus apps?
Focus apps are aimed at helping you avoid distractions and stay on-task to ultimately get more done in less time. They often target a specific distraction, bad habit, or other barrier to break you free and give you back some of your precious time.
Focus apps will often:
- Block access to your most distracting non-work websites
- Track how much time you spend on different tasks and websites
- Compile daily or weekly reports on how you spend your time
- Gamify and reward staying on-task
- Offer easy-to-use timers (like you’d use for the Pomodoro technique) to help you single-task
We found 11 great apps to help you focus, based on reviews, features, and ease-of-use. They're reviewed below in alphabetical order.
Top Focus Apps
1. Any.do (IOS & Android)
A cloud-based task management productivity app that is perfect to utilize for collaborative work with list sharing and progress monitoring capabilities. PCMag outlines how users can integrate joint task lists, assign tasks, create subtasks and track each other’s progress. The pro version enables users to collaborate on projects and both versions track progress throughout the day. ($2.99/month, other premium offers)
2. Be Focused Pro (IOS)
This productivity app for Macs is a great system to customize your focus sessions and time management. It populates on the apple menu bar next to the bluetooth icon, where you can click the icon, start the timer and name the task. Data syncs across all devices, even live timers, so you will always have accurate and up to date data on your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad seamlessly as outlined by Xwavesoft’s app overview. The format at the top of the screen makes it easy to access & remember, while remaining compact and tucked away from your desktop space/windows. Another useful feature is that you can simultaneously keep track of ongoing tasks that have separate timers with the help of labels and notes, which gives a great overview of daily/weekly progress. ($4.99 on IOS)
3. Dewo (IOS & Android)
This AI assistant tracks web and desktop activity to better learn the proper circumstance for users to work with focus. Venturebeat highlights that Dewo’s algorithm automatically silences notifications and also predicts which apps are useful. It also includes insights that offer helpful data subsets to track your progress. It improves the way you work and automatically will trigger “do not disturb mode” once it analyzes deep work mode has been reached. (free version)
4. Due (IOS)
The one place for all your reminders and deadlines to live with an efficient notification system that anticipates recurring tasks and meetings. Lifehack commends the app’s efficient and fast ability to create and postpone reminders or tasks. The features are uncluttered and only shows you details as you need them. This streamlined and accessible interface makes this focus app highly functional in helping users stay focused. ($6.99)
5. Forest: (IOS & Android)
A focus app that takes the Pomodoro technique and adds an element of gamification to motivate users to stay on top of tasks. You plant a seed when you are ready to work, set the timer, the tree will keep growing until you exit the app and then the tree dies and the timer starts over. Zapier emphasizes the app’s unique and effective way of overcoming phone usage by transforming productivity into lush green forests through their partnership with Trees of the Future, an organization dedicated to planting trees and ending hunger. ($1.99 on IOS, Free version on Android devices with ads)
6. Freedom (IOS & Android)
An easy and simplified method to staying focused by literally blocking out distracting apps and excessive notifications. Timeterminator describes how this focus app allows you to block websites, set durations and specific timeframes in order to keep focus in check. It also offers the ability to create custom block lists for your daily routine to ensure you stay on track. You get to decide which websites you block and for how long. This sleek and simple design is accessible and is easy to control from the dashboard with the ability to sync all sessions across all devices. (Free version, Premium $2/month)
7. Minimalist (IOS)
This to do assistant simplifies the Pomodoro technique with a modern timer. Geekbot highlights their sleek look and accessible functionality. From opening the app, there is a blank white screen where you can swipe down to add to tasks, assign due dates and give tasks priority. Seamless design to allow for peace of mind and productive time management. (Free version, Pro: $0/99/month)
8. Things 3 (IOS)
This award-winning sleek interface makes managing tasks effortless. A focus app that functions as a task manager and calendar that organizes projects with detailed functionality. “Area of focus,” allows you to categorize tasks with tags and group them together as headings in each project list. The layout offers a clean and comprehensive list of daily tasks for better time management. ($9.99)
9. Todoist: (IOS & Android)
This app holds best in class ranking by Apple, Forbes and more as noted by G2. It is a simple-yet-powerful task manager app that helps users organize their life and work. You are able to add different tasks and assign them to the proper individuals. Within each task board, if using collaboratively, team members will be able to comment as well as view a list of subtasks, respective reminders, due dates and labels to ensure everyone has a clear understanding and ability to manage team tasks. (Free version, Premium $4/month)
10. Toggl (iOS & Android)
A simple timer that tracks billable hours for different projects and clients. Clockify spotlights Toggl’s simplicity and overall convenience with the app’s seamless calendar integration, giving a full view of all events and time entries. This function is useful because it allows you to adjust your routine by seeing exactly where in your calendar your work hours are going and how you spend your time. Simply start the timer on your iPhone, desktop, apple watch or iPad, press stop to take breaks and freely resume on any synced device. (Free version)
11. Trello (IOS & Android)
Trello is a kanban-style list making application that is an easy way to manage and track your progress for individual tasks and collaborative work. With each board, you have the ability to customize your workflow and assign correlating due dates. Typically, a board consists of three columns “to do”, “doing” and “done,” but you can customize the cards based on the project as well as the amount of columns. Tasks are color coded with labels and assigned to team members. PCMag highlights that these features provide visibility and role task clarity in collaborative workflow. As people complete tasks, they move their card to the “done” column, which allows the entire team to see everyone's progress throughout the day. (Free version)
Clockwise is a free smart calendar assistant that helps you make time for what matters. It's impossible to focus when you're constantly interrupted by meetings. Clockwise moves your flexible meetings to open up more Focus Time for you and your team. It will also suggest the best times to meet based everyone's preferences and Focus Time. Plus, you can protect this Focus Time by booking the best time for meetings with Clockwise Links. (Free version)
How focus apps can boost your productivity
How is yet another app going to change your work life? Unfortunately, no focus apps can magically make your workload feel like there’s two – or even three – of you punching keys for 8 hours every day.
However, focus apps can help you feel more in control of your time. This helps you get more done at work, and gives you more time and energy for life outside of work as well. When you get more done at work you have an easier time enjoying your off-time.
So how can focus apps help you get more done in less time?
- Get in the Flow: Focus apps help you get into and spend more time in a state of flow. You know that feeling when you’re totally immersed in a problem or task with no awareness of time or the outside world? That’s flow.
- Conquer Context Switching: Focus apps help you do less context-switching, which means you can work more efficiently. When you focus on a new task, research shows that part of your brain continues to think about the previous task for up to 25 minutes. Researchers like Sophie Leroy call this “attention residue.”
- Better Performance: When you can fully concentrate on a task, you perform better. You’re more cognitively vigilant and intellectually alert. When part of your brain is focused on something else, you have fewer cognitive resources available for the task and as a result, you process information less carefully and systematically.
- Preserve Mental Energy: Focus apps also help save you time by automating certain tasks. They also preserve your mental energy by cutting down on decision fatigue. For instance, rather than deciding in the moment many times per day when to check Facebook and for how long focus apps allow you to pre-decide when you’re going to check Facebook and how long you can spend on the site.
Whether you are juggling multiple deadlines and clients or needing better tools for personal tasks, this round up of the 11 best focus apps in 2023 will transform the way you organize, work and plan. Offering a wide array of features and tools from innovative calendar techniques to advanced list and task management to Pomodoro timer techniques, this roundup of productivity apps has useful tools to help everyone stay focused.
Interested in implementing a Smarter Schedule for your workday?
- Clockwise – Get started using Clockwise with Focus Time, Flexible Meetings, Scheduling Links, and Powerful Integrations here.
- Smart Calendar for Teams – Teams on a paid plan see 44% more Focus Time created on average. Watch a demo of our Shared Calendar App or contact us for a walkthrough.
Next up: Read about some awesome apps for time blocking.