Business Today

Up Your Game

Five must-experience apps to improve productivity at work
twitter-logo Nidhi Singal   New Delhi     Print Edition: July 14, 2019
Up Your Game
Illustration by Raj Verma

In a fast-paced world where work and non-work boundaries tend to overlap and iconic leaders like Jack Ma, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos praise gruelling office schedules, working smart to push up your performance level a notch or two might not be a bad idea. Most of us want to succeed without tilting the work-life balance too dangerously (one should be extra careful here as the WHO recently recognised work burnout as a serious medical condition). On the other hand, nations favouring four-day work weeks are also keen on good performance to beat any productivity dip. One way of doing it is to use specialised apps which can reduce distractions and stress and keep one focussed and productive.

In fact, these apps are becoming increasingly important as we move away from dedicated tools and work across devices to enjoy maximum flexibility and efficiency. For instance, people no longer use diaries to keep track of work engagements or use dictaphones for voice recording. The smartphones and tablets do it all this and more, thus splitting the workload with laptops and desktops. The future of work could be more sophisticated as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and connected wearables are expected to rule. But until we reach that phase, let us take a look at some of the top productivity apps (they are not necessarily new) which can help you work smoothly and collaborate better.

Any.do to stay organised: This app has been around for a while and is considered the best in managing to-do lists. To start with, you can easily add all sorts of tasks and organise them into lists with due dates. You can create your reminders, but the app, too, has a vast inventory of prompts to choose from. Besides, Plan My Day gives you a snapshot of the day in advance to help schedule/reschedule tasks. Any.do focusses on two core areas - tasks and calendar. Tasks allow you to create and see activities/reminders; the same can be synced with Google and Outlook calendars so that you can see all your tasks and appointments at one place. However, some features such as Repeat Tasks and Location Reminders can only be accessed by paid subscribers. Any.do is Alexa compatible. You can use your virtual assistant to learn about upcoming reminders.

Platforms: Web; Android OS; iOS; Windows Mobile

App type: Freemium

Otter for work automation: From creating minutes of the meeting and fetching crucial data to taking dictation and transcribing - Otter is a one-stop solution for all your office needs. Conversations can be recorded using the Otter app or via the web browser and a transcript can be obtained within minutes. These are searchable and can be edited and shared with team members. There is an option of live-reviewing the transcript as the audio plays. But to do all these, it requires decent Internet connectivity. You can import or sync recordings from other services. Otter works well with American and British accents, and a person with an Indian accent may struggle initially. But with AI on board, it improvises with every use. The app is available for individuals and teams, and the basic plan offers 600 minutes of free service every month.

Platforms: Web; Android OS; iOS

App type: Freemium

Travel Phrasebook for smooth interaction: Do you interact with colleagues and clients who are located across the globe or travel to different parts of the world? If so, do not let language barriers pull you down. Travel Phrasebook, a language translation app, will make those overseas trips quite a breeze as it features a compendium of words and phrases in several popular languages, including Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Thai, Russian and more. When you select a language for the first time, the app downloads a pack (not a large file) to facilitate the service. It has an intuitive user-interface and puts words and phrases under useful categories for quick access. Better still, when you tap the word/phrase, the app will speak it out loud. This can be used for communicating or learning the basics of a new language.

Platforms: Android OS; iOS

App type: Free

CamScanner for easy scanning: Thanks to new-age smartphone and tab cameras, scanning and digitising documents have never been so easy. You will find loads of apps doing it but none is as good as CamScanner. In just a few steps, it will turn any document into a PDF. Plus, it can capture notes and slides. This one is easy to use - just hit the camera button at the bottom of the app, select one of the options (single, batch, image to excel, ID card, etc.) and capture the image. The app will do the rest. When the scan is finished, you will be able to add watermark and ink annotation, use smudge tool or add a signature. Scans can be saved in a folder and later searched via file name or scan date. Only one folder is allowed in the free version, but the premium version allows multiple folders, cloud storage, ID card format, and more.

Platforms: Android OS; iOS

App type: Freemium

Use LastPass for smart password management: From e-mail and chat apps to net banking, shopping, travel booking or ordering food - every online service asks for a digital account and a password to log in. To prevent any security breach, we usually create different passwords for different accounts and tend to forget them. Here is a reliable password manager which not only remembers all your passwords but also creates a hard-to-guess unique password for each site. And the auto-fill feature logs you into the accounts without having to type the password. Better still, all passwords are stored securely. While LastPass has implemented AES256-bit encryption, the data is encrypted and decrypted at the device level.

Platforms: Web; Android OS; iOS; Windows Mobile

App type: Freemium

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