How to Prepare for Your Perfect Day With Free Apps

Rob Nightingale 09-03-2016

Each of these tools can help you structure and schedule your most productive days by keeping your time in check, fighting off procrastination, and maintaining your energy levels.


It’s become common knowledge that successful people structure their days carefully. But to structure your own schedule is an art unique to you. Each of us is different, with varying highs and lows in productivity and focus. This means that the structure of your own day will be something you have to figure out with trial and error. To help with this, you could discover your own peak times using this spreadsheet Discover Your Most Productive Hours with This Simple Method Build your perfect workday around your energy levels. This simple Excel spreadsheet and a few seconds of work each day could help you change your habits and get more done. Read More .

Once you have an idea of when you’re most productive, and when you need to take things easier, the following list of apps and tools will help you structure your most productive days around these peaks and troughs. They range from strict time management apps, to tools that will help you maintain sufficient energy and focus to get through those scheduled tasks.

Let us know in the comments which other tools you use to structure your days.

1. Sleep Better

Platforms: iPhone and Android

The perfect day starts with waking from the perfect sleep 3 Relaxation Techniques to Help You Sleep Better Sometimes it takes too long to fall asleep. Technology can help us sleep better with some help from better sleep habits. Try these suggestions to shut off your brain. Read More . That’s where Runtastic’s free Sleep Better app comes in. Sleep Better is a sleep tracking app that offers valuable insights into how well you’re sleeping, but the most useful feature here is the app’s smart alarm.


Sleep Better

When your alarm goes off while you’re in a deep sleep, you wake up feeling groggy, with that brain-fog often refusing to lift for up to a few hours. But when you set an alarm with Sleep Better, the app senses how deeply you’re sleeping, and wakes you only when you’re in a light sleep phase, making it far more likely you’ll wake feeling refreshed and ready to go.

2. Journal to Improve Yourself


We’ve written before about how journaling can help to reduce stress, increase self-discipline Start this Simple Habit to Rocket Your Productivity: Journaling Journaling is an underrated career tool and a core habit of many successful people. From increasing productivity, to maintaining accountability, we explore why you should consider introducing journaling as a productivity tool into your workday. Read More , reduce absenteeism, and improve problem-solving skills. By developing a daily habit Develop Good Daily Habits with 7 Painless Tools & Guides You need to set very specific habits up for yourself if you're going to make them work. Discover seven great websites and apps to inspire your habit building. Read More of journaling, you’ll be placed in a strong position to reap those professional and emotional benefits.



One of the easiest ways to start journaling is to sign up to an online tool such as Penzu (free on Web, iPhone or Android). Another great, but temporarily unavailable option is, 5 Minute Journal. It’s currently being redesigned, but will be available again soon, I hear. In the meantime you could always purchase the paper version.

If you want to keep things really simple, write your journal entries in Evernote, OneNote, or Word. Each day record a few targets, things you’re grateful for, affirmations, and goals for the day. This really helps to clear your mind, and forces you into a more productive mode, by highlighting what it is that you should be concentrating on today.

3. Keep Information Handy: Evernote

Platforms: cross-platform


Evernote is a free, powerful note-taking app that’s available on all of your devices. The service includes plenty of powerful features Maximize Evernote with 5 Powerful Features With over 100 million users, Evernote is arguably the web's favorite productivity and note-saving tool. We are putting the spotlight on 5 under-appreciated Evernote features and detail their value. Read More that can help your day go that much more smoothly.


By having everything you could need wherever you are — meeting notes, personal information, research, to-do lists, Monday morning checklists, minute-taking templates, etc. — you never again have to worry about misplacing information, or forgetting a file. Evernote stores everything, and makes it all incredibly easy to find. This means that once your day is scheduled, you can get straight to the tasks at hand, without worrying about the logistics of preparing for each task.

Microsoft OneNote offers a similar service to Evernote. We’ve compared them both here Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? Evernote and OneNote are amazing note-taking apps. It's hard to pick between the two. We compared everything from interface to note organization to help you choose. What works best for you? Read More so you can find out which is best for you.


4. Block Time: Google Calendar

Platforms: cross-platform

Time blocking Time Blocking -- The Secret Weapon For Better Focus Are you looking for a more efficient way to organise your work-days? Try Time Blocking. This time management tactic can help keep you on track while keeping distractions, procrastination, and unproductive multitasking at bay. Read More  is the simple idea that you should block off sections of your day for specific tasks. This is because tasks naturally tend to expand to fill whatever time we allocate to them. So by creating specific, undisturbed blocks of time for each task, we prevent this from happening.

Google Calendar

I personally prefer Google Calendar for this, as the visuals of the time blocks are particularly strong. You could equally use Apple’s Calendar, or even Windows Live Calendar, if you wished. The point is simply to ensure you can see your allocated time blocks, and stick to these religiously, giving you confidence that you’ll complete all the tasks on your list that day.

5. Create a Timed Task Flow: 30/30 [No Longer Available]

Platforms: iPhone

With a 4.5 star rating from over 3500 users, 30/30 is a free iPhone app you’ll wish you discovered much earlier (I certainly did). Piggybacking on the idea of time blocking, 30/30 is a simple but powerful way to create and arrange time blocks to keep your day on track.


The developers explain, “You set up a list of tasks, and a length of time for each of them. When you start the timer, it will tell you when to move on to the next task”.

6. Keep a To-Do List:

Platforms: cross-platform

If you love the satisfaction of mind-dumping your tasks 10 Ways To Dig Yourself Out Of Task Backlogs The feeling of drowning in a list of never ending tasks is a fear common to all of us. The cure is available. Here are ten ways to claw your way back. Read More , then crossing off items from your to-do list The 5 Commandments for Choosing the Right To-Do App for Productivity Different people organize in different ways. So choosing a to-do app really depends on what kind of person you are. Here are five commandments you can think about for your own productivity system. Read More , is a perfect solution. There are indeed similar to-do list apps out there, but’s beautiful design, and it’s availability as a mobile, web, and desktop app, make this option stand out.

If you wish to upgrade to the premium version, you’ll have access to a host of collaboration tools, and also be able to add recurring tasks to your to-do list, to help automate a few parts of your scheduling.

7. Schedule Group Meetings: Doodle

Platforms: web

We reviewed Doodle 5 Calendar Management & Scheduling Tools for the Year Keep on top of everything in your schedule. Here are five free tools that can be particularly helpful for keeping your calendar in order. Read More back in 2012, and four years later it’s still the go to app for millions who want to more easily schedule events and calls, no matter what time zones everyone is in.


Instead of going back and forth between a group of people trying to establish a convenient time to get together, Doodle (free) removes much of the hassle. It does this by allowing each person to select a few different times and dates during which they’re available, and the organizer can at a glance see which is the most convenient time for the majority.

8. Maintain Your Focus: Momentum [No Longer Available]

Platform: Chrome browser

When you open a new tab for the first time each day, Momentum (a free Google Chrome extension) will ask you what your main focus is for that day. Each time you open a new tab, you’ll be reminded of that task, along with a stunning photo, and an inspirational quote to catch you before you venture off-piste.


An additional feature is a simple to-do list in the corner of the app to let you know what else you need to do.

Al alternative extension is Dayboard, which instead of focusing on just one task per day, allows you to add up to five. Like with Momentum, you will be reminded each time you open a new tab what you should be working on.

9. Manage Your Attention: Pomodoro Timer

Platforms: any type of simple timer works for this method (recommendations below)

The Pomodoro Technique How a Simple Pomodoro Timer Made My Life Better The Pomodoro Technique is one of the simpler time management life hacks. Break through distractions with the help of 25-minute chunks and a timer. It could be a life-changing routine change if it suits you. Read More is a time management system that’s incredibly simple, and has a huge number of followers. The basic gist is that you pick a task you’d like to get done, then set the Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes. During those 25 minutes, you can do nothing but work on the chosen task. Once the timer rings, take a short break. And once you’ve completed four Pomodoro cycles, take a longer break.

Pomodoro One

10. Block Distractions: Cold Turkey

Platforms: Windows and Mac

When you have a schedule you need to stick to, the last thing you need is the temptation of time-sucking websites and apps that’ll take you far from what needs to be done.

Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey has been built with this problem in mind. The free program (with premium options available) allows you to build lists of websites that you want to block. Then, during certain times, you can activate those lists to ensure you won’t be tempted by Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, etc. There are few better ways to beat procrastination Beat Procrastination And Prioritize Your To-Do List With Laterbox If you never get through the tasks that need to be done, you need to prioritize your to-do lists. Try the simple 1-3-5 productivity method with a new web app called Laterbox. Read More .

StayFocusd (Chrome), and SelfControl (Mac) are two alternatives that offer a similar service.

11. Outsource Reminders: FollowUpThen

Platforms: cross-platform

If you’re in the midst of an emailing time-block (or if you’re trying to quickly work toward Inbox Zero 5 Action Steps for Curing Your Inbox Zero Email Frenzy Inbox Zero is one of the most popular buzz words. To truly solve your email issues you need to go beyond Inbox Zero and address the underlying problems. Read More ), is a godsend.


As you’re working through those emails, there will be plenty that don’t need a reply right away. Once you have a FollowUpThen account, you can email those non-urgent messages to an email address, knowing that the message will be bounced back to you in a certain amount of time.

For example, if you send the message to, that same message will land back in your inbox in three days time. You can use other emails such as, or The free account allows you to send 50 follow-up emails per month, though you can purchase more for a low monthly fee.

12. Rest Your Eyes: F.lux

Platforms: almost cross-platform (no Android app)

This isn’t strictly a scheduling app, but using it could certainly increase your productivity. F.lux adapts the color or your screen’s display to the time of day. As the sun begins to set, your screen will display warmer colors that help your eyes and body to relax 4 Ways To Prevent Computer-Related Eye Strain Without Losing Productivity Do you spend many hours in front of a computer screen? If you do, you’re probably familiar with the inescapable eye strain that comes with it. Headaches, burning eyes, itchiness and just being tired, are... Read More , and thereby help you to fall asleep more easily.


And as we said at the start of this article, “the perfect day starts with waking from the perfect sleep”. By using F.lux to help with your sleep schedule, you should expect to wake up feeling more refreshed, and ready to tackle more throughout the day.

Which Apps Do You Use?

You can draw on a huge number of tools to help you with structuring your perfect day. These are the best I’ve found, but there will most certainly be more that are worth trying out. That’s not to say that they will all contribute to your productivity, after all, much productivity advice is over-hyped 4 Popular Productivity Tips That Should Be Ignored Some of the productivity ideas sold to us are sometimes unfounded, and often mistaken. Let's debunk a few of these productivity myths by showing that the opposite may just as likely be true. Read More . But trying out a few of these recommendations for a couple of weeks will allow you to see which work for you.

Which other tools do you use to create productive days? And if you use any of the above, how have they helped you?

Related topics: Multitasking, Productivity, Task Management, To-Do List.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Niraj
    March 17, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Excellent article, Rob. Great list, covers a lot of ground. Such tools will certainly help you reclaim some lost time and make your workday more productive. Thanks, Niraj (Founder at

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 17, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Thank you, Niraj!

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 17, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks Niraj!

  2. Jennifer
    March 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Great list here! And thanks for including Dayboard as well. ????

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 15, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks Jennifer! :)

  3. Anonymous
    March 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I've tried f.lux. Used if for several weeks, in fact. The night time sepia-look annoys me to no end, no doubt disturbing me more than relaxing me. I end up wanting to wash the visually dirty monitor screen, but it's not dirt...just out of tune colors,making me feel as if I'm slowly losing my vision.

    I'll take the risk of losing sleep (which I really don't seem to have a problem with anyway) so that I can see what's on the monitor clearly. But for all those who it helps...yay!

    Compared to OneNote's total package, Evernote can't really be considered to be free. To do in Evernote what I do in OneNote requires $$$.

    Rob, you made a lot of great points. Valuable article!

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 15, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      Thanks Kelsey! I thought a similar thing with F.lux when I first used it, but after about 20 minutes, my eyes adjusted. Now when I turn it off, the blue light is almost blinding... and good points about Evernote vs. OneNote!

  4. Anonymous
    March 9, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Great article, thanks

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 15, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      Thanks Louise!

  5. FuzzyCurtain
    March 9, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Just a heads up, there's no platform list for Penzu.

  6. Anonymous
    March 9, 2016 at 2:46 pm


    • Rob Nightingale
      March 15, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      This was mentioned in the article already, Sukant :)