No matter how organized we try to be, sometimes it seems that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get work done. In fact, many of us end up reaching into our own precious downtime to make up for the apparent deficit – according to new studies, the average worker around the world is now putting in 9.2 hours of unpaid weekly overtime.
Effective time management starts with realizing the goal isn’t to make more time for work – it’s about figuring out how to use the time and energy you do have more effectively. Time management software offers a tremendous advantage here, helping us process what we want from our time and create a methodical plan to get there. But with so many tools on the market, where do you start?
Types of time management software
Since there are so many different ways to structure and approach your day, there’s are also a ton of different time management software out there to choose from. The main types of time management software include:
- Cloud calendars and time blocking apps
- Time tracking software
- Task management tools and to-do lists
- Work diaries and journals
- Anti-distraction apps
The choice can be overwhelming – especially since a lot of time management software combines many of these approaches into one product. There’s also a massive gap in terms of the efficiency and sophistication of these tools to be mindful of. If you’re just looking for a basic time management aid, there are a lot of free apps to consider, but if you’re looking for something more intuitive, automated and insight-rich, you’ll likely have to pay a subscription.
Best-in-class time management software for 2021
With so many options out there, it can be hard to pick a solution that’s right for you. To make things a bit easier, we’ve compiled our top time management software picks for 2021 – highlighting features, price, benefits and limitations.
1. Timely – automatic time tracking
You simply can’t work smarter if you don’t know where your time is really going – and this is why time tracking is arguably the most invaluable time management tool of all. While time tracking was once a fiddly and dreaded task, these days you can use automatic trackers like Timely, that run in the background while you work, providing you with an all-in-one tool for planning time, understanding how you actually spend it, and learning from that data to set better schedules and processes.
Timely allows you to:
- Quickly schedule your time using an intuitive calendar interface that stretches endlessly into the future. It’s especially useful if you’re looking to time box your week.
- Actually see where your time goes each day – down to the app, website or task. This is great for identifying time drains, inefficient work processes and distractions.
- Create custom tag systems to categorize your activity – from time in meetings and Zoom calls, to time on admin. You can then tranlate this data into gorgeous reports with Timely’s simple chart builder, helping you visualize how you distribute your time.
- Compare the time you plan to spend on a piece of work against the time it actually takes you, which helps you to set informed, accurate schedules, quotes and expectations around your time.
- Track all overtime and work hours automatically, helping you keep an eye on your capacity and protect against overworking.
💵 Price: Free trial, plans start at $8/month
🌟 Best for: performance insights, scheduling, time blocking, capacity management, team coordination
2. Todoist – task management
If you’re someone who likes working with to-do lists – and relishes the feeling of satisfaction you get from ticking completed tasks off – then you might want to try out Todoist. Todoist is a tool that simplifies organizing, prioritizing and actioning tasks, allowing you to stay on top of work and giving you the peace of mind that no important tasks have slipped through the net.
The colorful, easy-to-use interface makes it super simple to organize your tasks and projects so you always know what you should be working on next, which helps you focus your energy on the right things. Todoist also centralizes all your work in one single place, connecting to your email, calendar, and files so you can streamline your workflow.
Plus, you can also use Todoist to help you become more productive. The productivity visualizations allow you to see tangible progress in real-time, which can act as a powerful motivator. You can set daily and weekly goals, which might be small at first but soon add up, providing you with a clear image of all your achievements over time.
💵 Price: Free plan, pro plans start at $3/month
🌟 Best for: to-do management, task organisation, productivity insights, scheduling, prioritizing
3. Dewo – deep work and focus management
If your issues with time management mainly stem from getting distracted, then Dewo may be the time management tool for you. In our world of perpetual distraction, Dewo acts as your virtual personal assistant, silencing distracting notifications, improving your focus, and helping you create more time for productive deep work. Some of Dewo’s most beneficial features are:
- It acts as an automatic gatekeeper of your calendar, intelligently scheduling meetings maximize time for uninterrupted deep work.
- It automatically blocks digital notifications across your devices when you need to focus
- helping you to reach a flow state and ensuring coworkers know not to bother you.
- It tracks your web and desktop activity to reveal how long you spend on different tasks and applications.
- It quantifies your daily context switching cost to helping you understand and address your own unconscious work behaviours.
💵 Price: Completely free!
🌟 Best for: focus management, calendar management, productivity insights, scheduling, time blocking
4. Things – to-do lists
If you’re an Apple user, you may want to try out Things, which can help you structure your day, manage your projects, and progress toward your goals. The to-do feature allows you to add notes and tags, schedule tasks, and break them down into smaller steps, making big, challenging tasks seem more manageable. You can also create projects for any larger goals, using headings to organize your list as you develop your plan, and adding deadlines to keep you on track.
Plus, Things also has separate “Areas” for each realm of your life – e.g. work, family, money etc. – which gives you an overview of your life as a whole and helps you take all important aspects into account when making plans and scheduling. To ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines, you can head to the Today and Upcoming lists, which show all imminent to-do list tasks and calendar events, allowing you to prioritize your work based on what’s most important that day.
💵 Price: Free trial, $49.99 one-time fee
🌟 Best for: To-do management, task management, planning, prioritization
5. Fantastical – calendar management
Another new time management tool that’s been making waves is Fantastical. Ideal for iOS users, Fantastical works seamlessly across your Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch, helping you keep all your work and events in sync at all times. The calendar sets allows you to categorize different calendars and task lists together, and you can even have a calendar set activate automatically based on your location, making it easy for you to focus on what currently matters most, wherever you are.
You can keep on top of all your tasks by adding them to calendar events – and when their due date approaches you’ll be notified, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything important. Fantastical’s file and photo attachment features allow you to instantly access files or folders you need – no matter which device you’re using – and you can also upload files directly from Fantastical to iCloud or Google. Plus, you can save time using the templates feature, which creates quick templates from existing events and tasks, making scheduling quicker and easier than ever.
💵 Price: Free trial, $5/month for individuals
💰 Best for: To-do management, task management, planning, prioritization