Whether you’re working at home, in an office, or from a co-working space, you may sometimes find that avoiding distractions and staying on task is hard. Emails, apps, projects, other people, and pets may all demand your attention throughout the day. And when your colleagues or team is distributed, adding schedule coordination into the mix can make things even more challenging. Luckily, you can select from a wide variety of productivity tools to help you keep your workday flowing smoothly, including:
- Video productivity tools
- Chat and communication tools
- Project management tools
- Time tracking productivity tools
- Note and task productivity tools
- Email productivity tools
- Calendar productivity tools
- Focus productivity apps
We’ve reviewed and selected more than 40 tools that we consider to be the overall best productivity apps. These apps can help you schedule and conduct meetings more efficiently, block digital distractions, stay in touch asynchronously, track hours, and even build your own knowledge base. While all of the prices listed below are in U.S. dollars, many of these services are used by professionals worldwide. The programs, if paid, may be available for purchase in your local currency.
Video productivity tools
A reliable video conferencing tool is a must for working with remote teams. While Zoom is the go-to for many people, several other options are available in the market. Each of the programs below is suitable for business use; the best choice for you will depend on your budget, team size, and required features:
Zoom launched in 2011, but it really rose to prominence when remote work became the norm for many people in 2020. Its grid-style view, easy presentation tools, simple recording, and free tier make it the video calling app of choice for many people. Some of Zoom’s best features include:
- Integration with transcription tools like Otter
- Breakout rooms for small-group discussion
- Built-in text chat and reaction buttons
- Customizable backgrounds
- Screen sharing
Zoom’s free plan allows users to hold 100-person group meetings for 40 minutes or one-on-one meetings for up to 30 hours at a time. Paid Zoom plans begin at $149.90 per year for a single license and include support for larger meeting sizes, longer group calls, cloud recording storage, HIPAA compliance and more.
As part of the LogMeIn platform, GoTo Meeting is designed for business use. All GoTo Meeting plans allow for group calls with 150 people or more and no meeting time limits. Other features include:
- High-definition video
- Screen sharing
- Dial-in conference lines
- Presentation slides-to-PDF conversion
- On-screen drawing tools
GoTo Meeting plans begin at $12 per month. The company also offers a custom-priced Enterprise plan for users who need to hold group meetings with up to 3,000 people. Webinar, conference room, training, and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone plans are also available for an additional license fee.
Much like Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint programs, Teams is a product that bridges the gap between personal and professional use. All Teams plans include:
- 1:1 and group video meetings
- Unlimited text chat
- Cloud storage
- File sharing tools
- Data encryption
Free Microsoft Teams plans include 5 GB of cloud storage and group calls with 100 participants. Paid Teams plans cost between $4 and $12.50 per user, per month and include additional features like more storage, longer meetings, and Microsoft 365 apps.
Verizon’s BlueJeans service provides a variety of video calling solutions for businesses and medical providers. Features include:
- Dolby Voice audio
- High-definition video
- Breakout sessions for small group discussions
- No meeting time limits
- Virtual backgrounds
BlueJeans does not offer a free tier. Standard BlueJeans plans begin at $119.88 per year and allow you to host group meetings with up to 100 people. BlueJeans Pro and Enterprise tiers offer additional features including larger group sizes, unlimited recording and automatic closed captioning.
Chat and communication tools
While video conferencing is great for real-time communication, many distributed teams rely on asynchronous collaboration by using a chat tool. These five services all offer more organizational features than the built-in chat on most video calling programs, making them great for busy teams:
- Simple sync between browser, desktop, and mobile versions
- “Channel” topic groupings for organized communication
- Text, voice, and video chat options
- Slack Connect feature for direct messaging between organizations
- Accessibility functions and support
Slack plans include a free tier that allows full group text and one-on-one audio or video chat usage. Paid plans start at $6.67 per user, per month and include cross-company messaging and archiving features.
Chat is part of the Google Workspace suite for business users. Google Chat functions similarly to Slack, with groups and conversations organized around department, topic, or project. Its features include:
- Native integration with Google Workspace Docs, Sheets, and more
- Integration with corporate Gmail accounts
- Conversation organization tools
- In-browser or app-based usage
- Group and direct messaging
Google Chat is available only as part of a paid Google Workspace plan, starting at $6 per user, per month.
Chanty is an enterprise-grade chat program for teams that would like to manage projects and communication all in one place. It includes:
- A built-in collaborative task manager
- Text, voice, and video chat
- Integration with tools like Trello, Mailchimp, and Google Drive
- 4K video and audio
- Group calls with up to 1,000 participants
Chanty’s free tier is usable by teams of up to 10 people. For larger teams, paid Chanty plans begin at $3 per user, per month, with a limited number of free guests.
Discord began as an app for video game enthusiasts to chat with each other while playing online. Some users also prefer to use Discord for business purposes because of its rich features that include:
- Channel-style conversation organization
- Text, voice, and video chat
- Topic-based community groups
- Screen share with whiteboard tools
- File uploading
All of Discord’s core features are free to use. The optional Discord Nitro plan provides higher video quality and additional enhancements like more file storage space. Individual Nitro plans start at $99.99 per year.
Microsoft Teams gets another mention on this list because of its robust text chat features, including:
- Sharepoint, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint integrations
- Support for Trello and other project management tools
- In-app collaboration on Microsoft 365 documents
- Shared digital whiteboard
- Business VoIP features like cloud voicemail
Teams is free to start using and includes all of the additional video features listed above. Paid Teams plans cost between $4 and $12.50 per user, per month and unlock more capabilities.
Project management tools
A shared project management tool is useful for remote team productivity, as it allows everyone to quickly check and create project updates. Rather than requiring everyone to meet for an in-person meeting or review, digital project management tools allow you to keep everyone updated no matter where they are. Teams around the world use these 9 project management tools on a daily basis:
Asana’s generous free plan and affordable pricing make it a much-loved project management tool for both small and large teams. Its features include:
- Project briefing and approval tools
- Customizable project views including Kanban boards
- Task automation
- Built-in forms for data collection
- Free guest seats on paid plans
Asana’s free plans allow for unlimited tasks and projects with collaboration between as many as 15 people. Paid Asana plans, starting at $10.99 per user, per month, offer access to additional features and reporting tools.
Monday.com calls its platform “Work OS” and it helps professionals manage everything they need for successful projects. Its features go beyond simply assigning due dates and include:
- Ready-to-use templates
- A workflow builder
- 8 ways to visualize data
- Task and sprint planning
- File sharing
Up to two people can collaborate together with Monday.com for free. Paid Monday.com plans come with access to more user seats, file storage, multiple data views and premium integrations. The paid options start at $8 per user, per month.
Basecamp divides each project into its own board, rather than displaying a list of all labeled project tasks right when you log in. You can create boards based around projects or teams. Available features include:
- Automatic check-in questions issued to every board member
- Task and scheduling tools
- Per-project message boards
- File sharing
- Client seats
Basecamp offers a limited free plan for 20 users and 3 project boards. Basecamp Business plans cost $99 per month for unlimited projects, users, and integrations.
Part of the Zoho business suite, Zoho Projects is a robust project management tool based on Gantt charts. Its features include:
- Task, project, issue, milestone, and expense-based organization
- Slack and Google Workspace integrations
- Task automation workflows
- Built-in time tracking and timesheets
- Customizable views
Zoho Projects offers a free plan for up to 3 users and 2 projects. The free plan is very limited on features; to unlock everything listed above you’ll need one of the paid Zoho Projects plans, which start at $5 per user, per month.
Trello is a project and task management tool for individuals or teams. Its default, free tier utilizes Kanban boards to organize projects. Paid Trello users gain access to other data views, including calendars and Gantt-style timelines. Trello features include:
- Private and shared boards
- Color-coded project labeling
- Reminder notifications
- Task automation workflows
Trello’s limited free tier is suitable for teams of any size who are comfortable with Kanban-only reporting views, limited file upload size, and up to 10 project boards. Teams that would like to unlock more views, larger file attachments, and more boards can select from paid Trello plans that start at $5 per user, per month.
Jira is an Agile project management tool specifically designed for use by software development teams. The system allows for easy sprint planning, knowledge management, and approvals. Its features include:
- Scrum and Kanban boards
- Code repository
- Issue logging
- Automation workflows
Jira is free for up to 10 users working on one project. Paid plans begin at $7.50 per user, per month and support up to 20,000 users. Paid Jira plans also offer more security tools and options than the free plan.
Scoro is “work management” software that combines projects and tasks with other features that are important for sales, finance, and other functions. Its features include:
- Productivity tools
- Profitability tracking
- A sales CRM
- Billing and finance tools
- Automation workflows
Scoro is for use by teams of at least 5 people. Paid Scoro plans start at $26 per user, per month. Scoro’s base tier focuses on project management; customers in need of more robust sales and financial tools will need to opt for a higher-tier plan.
Proofhub blends Kanban boards, Gantt charts, calendars, and tables with built-in chat for a flexible collaboration system. Teams and clients can work together on projects and utilize features including:
- File management
- Project and task organization
- User access controls
- Document proofing tools
- Time tracking
Proofhub is similar to Basecamp in that it utilizes a flat-rate pricing structure, not a per-user model. Proofhub plans start at $45 per month for up to 40 projects, unlimited users, and 15 GB of file storage. An $89 per month plan allows for unlimited projects in addition to more security tools and white labeling options.
ClickUp is an all-in-one project, task, and documentation manager. While designed with teams in mind, it may also be useful for individuals. ClickUp’s suite of features includes:
- Master “everything” overview
- Project, team, and department workspaces
- Workflow automation tools
- Document and spreadsheet editing
- Team collaboration tools
ClickUp’s free tier may be suitable for individuals or very small teams with minimal file storage needs. (It maxes out at 100MB.) Upgrading to a paid ClickUp plan, starting at $5 per user, per month, unlocks unlimited storage and more customization options.
Time tracking productivity tools
The best time tracking productivity tools are useful for more than just billing hours to clients. With the help of a time tracking tool, you can measure personal productivity, decide how to allocate work across a team, and assess if the time put into a project is worth the financial return. Free and paid time management tools are available for teams of all sizes, including independent and employee productivity tools. Some of our favorites include:
Toggl Track is time management software for solo professionals and large teams alike. You can track time on the Toggl website, through a browser extension, or with desktop and mobile apps. Toggl features include:
- Manual time tracking
- Automatic time tracking
- Multiple reporting views
- Revenue tracking
- Team management tools
Toggl Track is free for up to 5 users. Paid Toggl Track plans start at $9 per user, per month and unlock the full suite of Toggl features.
Harvest is a multi-purpose time tracking tool for individuals and teams. It supports easy hourly tracking, invoicing, and reporting, all within one dashboard. Features include:
- Integration with popular business tools like Slack
- Tracking time from Google and Outlook calendars
- Automated tracking reminders
- Project and team member time reports
- Stripe and PayPal payment processing
Harvest is free for individuals to use and supports tracking time on up to 2 projects. Larger teams will need a paid Harvest plan, which costs $12 per user, per month.
QuickBooks Time may be a nice choice for business owners who already use the QuickBooks platform for accounting purposes. It can also be used on its own. Geared toward multi-person teams, its features include:
- Team scheduling
- Simple clock-in, clock-out feature
- Per-project time tracking
- Geofenced time tracking reminders
- Mileage tracking
QuickBooks Time pricing starts at a base fee of $20 per month for one administrator, plus $8 per user, per month. To unlock all QuickBooks Time features, including mileage tracking, users will need to upgrade to a higher-tier plan. QuickBooks Time’s most expensive plan is a base fee of $40 per month plus $10 per user, per month. New registrants may be able to get the service for less, however, as QuickBooks periodically offers discounted pricing.
Everhour’s web- and app-based time tracker is ideal for use by teams. It integrates with a variety of project management tools like Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and Jira. Its features include:
- Timesheet approvals
- Manual time entry
- Workload planning
- Change logs
- Team reminders
Everhour plans start at $510 per year for up to five users. Additional users are each billed at a rate of $8.50 per month. Teams requiring greater integration access and heightened security features can contact Everhour for a custom quote.
The Time Doctor platform is tailored to distributed teams, but individuals can also use the software. It offers a variety of features including:
- GDPR and HIPAA compliance
- Enterprise-level security
- Payroll tools
- 60+ integrations with business tools
- Team management tools
Paid Time Doctor plans start at $7 per user, per month. To access additional integrations and features, such as payroll, users must upgrade to a $10 or $20 per month plan. Volume discounts and enterprise pricing may be available on certain tiers.
If you’re working on hourly Upwork contracts, you don’t need to use a separate time tracking app. The Upwork desktop app allows you to automatically log any hours worked to the right contract. Its features include:
- Automatic time tracking
- Multi-contract tracking
- Client messaging
- Editable work diaries
- Progress screenshots
Upwork's time tracking software is free for all independent professionals using the platform.
Note and task productivity tools
Keeping track of tasks can be as simple as using a tool that combines checklists with rich note-taking. Whether you’d like to supplement the capabilities of a project management app or want to create a documentation system for yourself and others, this software can help:
Evernote is a multimedia note-taking tool that can serve as a daily task manager and a personal knowledge base. The service’s features include:
- A personal dashboard
- Calendar integrations
- A web clipper and screenshot tool
- App-based document scanning
- Text and list documents
Evernote offers a limited free plan for personal use on two devices. The free plan limits the number and size of document uploads, but still supports scanning and web clipping. Users interested in leveraging Evernote to manage multiple calendars and projects or work with colleagues will need a paid plan. Evernote’s paid plans start at $69.99 per year for more synced devices, larger file uploads, offline access, customizable dashboards, and other features.
Simplenote is, true to its name, a clean and simple note-taking interface for web, app, and desktop use. It is fully text-based and includes features like:
- Automatic cross-device sync
- Note tagging
- Note sharing and publishing
- Version histories
- Markdown formatting support
Simplenote is free to use with no restrictions on the number or length of notes in each account.
Dropbox Paper is a collaborative document editing tool that supports multiple file formats. It is useful for sharing files, creating meeting notes, conducting brainstorming sessions, and more. Its features include:
- Ready-to use templates
- Task management tools
- Calendar connectivity
- Support for embedded media
All Dropbox plans include access to Dropbox Paper. Single users can use Dropbox Paper for free with up to 2 GB of storage. Users or teams in need of more storage and additional Dropbox features will want to select a paid subscription. Paid Dropbox plans start at $9.99 per month. Dropbox Business plans start at $16.58 per month for a single user or $12.50 per month for 3 or more users. Custom enterprise pricing is also available.
Google Keep is a lightweight note-taking app designed for personal use. It is included with every Google account and offers features such as:
- Text or audio notes
- To-do lists
- Schedule reminders
- Google Calendar integration
- Shared notes
There is no cost to use Google Keep.
Google Docs is a web-based document editor similar to Microsoft Word. Its features include:
- Word document editing
- Annotations and comments
- Version change log
- Document templates
- Sharing and permission controls
Google Docs is free to use. You can share Docs with other Google users within and outside of your organization, as well as non-Google users.
Notion is a highly customizable document platform that combines notes, tables, and embeddable content into rich digital notebooks. Its features include:
- Private and shared workspaces
- Team collaboration
- Customizable templates
- Easily embeddable media
- Linked notes
Notion is free for individuals to use with up to five guests. Paid Notion plans start at $4 per user, per month and provide more collaboration options, greater file storage, and version histories. Enterprise pricing is also available.
Email productivity tools
With over 330 billion emails sent every day around the world, keeping on top of your inbox can feel like a job in itself. Because many emails trigger to-do items, getting a handle on your email inbox is useful for efficient project management (and your sanity). These 4 tools are some of the best email productivity apps available for business use:
SaneBox is an artificial intelligence-powered service that integrates with and streamlines your existing email inbox. SaneBox adds a “SaneLater” folder to your account and filters all non-important emails into this spot so you can keep your inbox free of clutter. You can train the AI to learn what emails are and are not important to you. SaneBox’s other features include:
- A separate folder for newsletters and copied emails
- Automatic deletion rules
- A daily digest for quick review of all filtered emails
- One-click AI training
- Domain and subject filters
Basic SaneLater email filtering is available on single accounts for $59 per year. Additional features and multiple account licenses are available on higher-tier SaneBox plans for $99 per year and up.
Front is an email management solution for teams. Emails get sent to shared inboxes, with each team member commenting on and annotating the same message. Front features include:
- Task assignments
- Automatic inbox rules
- Team analytics
- Message templates
- SMS and social media integrations
Front plans start at $19 per user, per month for teams of up to 9 people. Larger teams or those in need of greater customization may opt for Front’s $49 per user plan, or request an enterprise pricing quote.
Rooftop is an email and internal communication tool for customer-facing teams. It uses shared inboxes to help keep multiple people aligned on email progress and also helps with task management. Its features include:
- Customer support tools
- Call logging
- Response time tracking
- Customer management
- Smart email classification
Paid Rooftop plans start at $49 per user, per month and include unlimited users, inboxes, and categories. Enterprise pricing is available for large organizations.
Hiver is a Gmail-based help desk tool for teams using Google Workspace. It adds team-wide shared inboxes into each user’s Gmail account and allows for easy team delegation and email annotation. Hiver’s features include:
- Auto-assigned email tasks
- Team and workload analytics
- Custom report builder
- Inbox-based notes
- Unlimited shared inboxes
Hiver plans start at $12 per user, per month for up to 5 users. Larger teams or those with more in-depth reporting and integration needs may select a higher-tier plan from $24 per user, per month and up.
Calendar productivity tools
Calendars, like email, are another essential element of doing business. The way in which you choose to use your calendar may vary—some people like to plan their entire day in a calendar, while others simply use it to schedule meetings. The best calendar productivity apps include:
Calendly is a scheduling tool that helps people using different calendar systems avoid sending back-and-forth emails trying to find a time to meet. When using Calendly, you can create custom meeting invitations or allow others to browse your calendar and select from available times. Its features include:
- Multiple meeting types
- Shareable meeting calendar links
- Embeddable calendars
- Meeting registration workflows
- Payment processing for paid consultations
Calendly’s free tier supports one meeting type and one connected calendar. (It works with Google, Outlook, and iCloud.) Users in need of more event types, calendar connections, workflows, and other features can select a paid Calendly plan from $8 per user, per month and up. Enterprise pricing is available for large teams.
Calendar.com functions similarly to Calendly and supports team usage. You can connect multiple team members’ calendars to one event and Calendar.com will book appointments with team members who have time in their schedule. Its features include:
- Multi-person scheduling
- Automatic time zone recognition
- Individual and team meeting calendars
- Customized event links
- Automatic calendar app sync
You can use Calendar.com for free and create up to 2 events for as many as 5 guests. Paid Calendar.com plans start at $6 per user, per month and allow for multiple calendar and event configurations with more guests.
Google Calendar is included with free and paid Google accounts. Its features include:
- Automatic event creation from Gmail messages
- Multiple schedule views
- Help finding free blocks of time for recurring events
- Focus and meeting time insights for Workspace users
- Workspace team availability and group events
Google Calendar is free to use.
Microsoft Outlook is part of the paid Microsoft 365 suite and is also available for free as a web and mobile phone app. It includes:
- An integrated calendar
- Access to a cloud-based file storage system
- Built-in task management
- Event notifications from emails
- Team scheduling tools
Outlook is free for personal use. Paid Microsoft 365 business plans start at $5 per user, per month and include custom domain support with increased cloud storage.
Focus productivity apps
If you find it hard to focus when your email, calendar, and project management apps are sending you notifications, you may benefit from a focus productivity app. These apps help you plan your day and remove distractions to stay on task and get more done:
Serene is a MacOS desktop app that helps users identify a daily goal and then remove roadblocks to achieving it. Its features include:
- Daily goal and focus prompts
- Website and app blocking
- Focus music
- Session-based timers
- Synced phone silencing
Serene costs $48 per user, per year.
Freedom is another distraction-blocking tool that allows you to remove digital distractions on phones and computers. Its abilities include:
- Blocking apps and websites
- Blocking internet access
- Cross-device syncing
- Scheduled work sessions
- “Locked” mode to prevent ending a session early
A one-year Freedom subscription costs $39.99. The tool works on Apple iOS, MacOS, Android, Windows, and ChromeOS devices.
Forest is an iOS app and Chrome extension that helps users resist phone- and internet-based distractions through gamification. Each time you open the app, it displays a tree and an adjustable timer. If you do not leave the app for the entirety of the timer’s countdown, the tree is “planted” in your digital forest. If you do leave the app, though, you’re left with a dead tree in your forest. This app’s features include:
- A visual representation of time worked vs. when you broke focus
- Usage charts
- Adjustable work and break timers
- Audio tracks
- Website blocklists for Chrome
- iOS and browser sync
The Forest Chrome extension is free to use, while the iOS app requires a one-time payment of $3.99.
SelfControl is an open-source MacOS app that fully blocks any websites you add to a blocklist. This block persists until the end of the timer, even if you close the app, delete it, or restart your computer. Its features include:
- Customizable block lists
- Adjustable timers
- Up to 24-hour blocking
- Email blocking
- No way to end the block early
There is no cost to use SelfControl.
Work more efficiently from anywhere in the world
Whether you’re using one of the tools on the list to manage your own tasks or would like to build a team to collaborate with productively, Upwork is your home for finding the right people and projects. Use the world’s work marketplace to connect with independent professionals who have the skills you need or connect with clients who share your vision. Sign up today.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation. Prices are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on each service’s offerings.