Use phone apps to organize your time and increase productivity

Track how you spend time and plan for the future

An iPhone with the BlockyTime app on the screen

If you work in an office, your hours and tasks are probably fixed, but when working remotely, such as from home, you must organize your time and tasks yourself. Use your phone to help you.

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Avoiding distractions and focusing on your work and tasks is harder than it looks when you work remotely. There are too many ways to waste your time and it is too easy to put off things that need to be done when the boss or your clients cannot see you. They assume you are working, but you may be browsing the web, checking for social media updates, or even watching TV.

Making sure your time is organized and that you use it productively is more important than ever, but how do you do it? Phone apps can help and there are time trackers and organizers that can show you what you need to do today or tomorrow or what you did yesterday, this or last week.

BlockyTime time organizer

Some people seem to be naturally organized, but others need prompting and pushing. A phone app called BlockyTime could help and there is an Android BlockyTime app, and an iOS BlockyTime Lite and BlockyTime with extra features. I started with free BlockyTime Lite on the iPhone and then bought the full BlockyTime for $1.99.

Divide your day into blocks

BlockyTime app for the iPhone

BlockyTime divides a day up into half hour intervals (this is customizable in the full version) and presents each day as a grid. Down the right-hand side are activities and the color and name can be customized, and more activities defined.

Tapping or dragging in the grid of half hour slots and then tapping an activity tile sets it. So if you exercise between 17:00 and 18:30, you can select that time block as Exercise. If you work between 9:00 and 12:00, you can tap the half-hour slots and tap the Work tile. It is not very precise, but it is good enough and quick and easy.

Look at the past, organize the future

You can map out your day and organize your time into whatever activities you regularly perform, like work, gym, study, reading, a hobby, and so on.

This has two purposes and it can be used at the end of the day to record what you did. You can quickly and easily fill in the slots according to the activities you performed. It is not necessary to be precise and record activities to the minute and half hour slots (or 15 minutes in the full app) is fine.

BlockyTime app for the iPhone

Charts of how you spend your time over the last day, week, month or year are available and this makes it easy to see if you are spending too much or too little time on various activities. Trends are plotted on a chart, so you can see increasing or decreasing time spent on activities over weeks or months.

The other way to use BlockyTime is to set activities in the future. At the start of the day you can spend five minutes mapping out how you will spend your time for the rest of the day. Swiping up takes you to the next day and you can plan tomorrow, the day after and even the whole week if you want to.

As you set activities in the future, you are asked if you want to set a reminder. When you are due to start a new activity, the reminder appears on the phone prompting you to start.

Is BlockyTime useful?

If you need to see where you are spending your time or want to plan how to spend your day or the whole week, BlockyTime is excellent. It is not for people that need to schedule one-off things like a meeting or appointment, and it is not for tracking time spent on projects for invoicing customers.

I like it and you should at least try the free Lite version. I wasn’t keen on the blocky graphics and fonts, but they can be disabled in settings.

Alternatives to BlockyTime

I have not found anything similar to BlockyTime and apps like HoursTracker, Toggl, Clockify and others are very different. They are brilliant at recording the exact time spent on tasks for billing customers and they can even monitor your location and start and stop timers automatically based on where you are, such as one company or office or another. They are too detailed for me and too focused on business, but they are recommended if you need to track your time precisely.

The Calendar app on your phone could be used to create one-off or repeating activities for each day and this is an option. The Calendar app on the iPhone for example, has agenda and daily views that you can add activities to. This is useful for regular activities like the gym and work, you can set them to auto-repeat and set a reminder for each activity. You can plan today, tomorrow or the whole week quite easily, but it is more time consuming than BlockyTime.

Rooster: Calendar is a sort of mashup of a calendar and to-do list and is worth a look on the iPhone, especially as it is free and ad-free. You add tasks you need to perform for today, tomorrow, even the whole week ahead. You can set a time when they need doing and they can be ticked off when they are done.

Rooster to-do calendar app for the iPhone

It is like a to-do list that is organized into days like Calendar in agenda view. Repeating tasks and events can be created and you can repeat them every day or only on the days you select. That is useful for having different events during the week and weekend. Alerts can be created to remind you at the chosen hour that you need to do a task.

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