The ongoing pandemic makes days blur into each other—they are no longer differentiated by the events and activities that helped split up our time. If you want to recover some of the structure in your day, then these smartphone apps can help in a variety of different ways.
Calendar apps are the obvious way of marking time and crossing off tasks, but we’ve tried to look for apps that go a little bit above and beyond in terms of how you can create schedules and block out your time with a specific purpose. Find one that works well for you, and it can stop your days from blending into one indiscernible blob.
Part of the appeal of Trello is just how flexible and versatile it is. You can use the columns of cards that the app presents you with in just about any way you like, which in this case means plotting our activities, distractions, tasks, and habits across the days and weeks to give them some kind of structure. It’s easy to add other users to your planning as well.
The cards and the boards and the tags you set up in Trello don’t have to be used calendar-style, either. You could keep track of the books you’re reading or the movies you’re watching, for example, if you’re not particularly doing anything else. In fact, you might not realize how best you can put the Trello app to work until you actually start using it.
TickTick combines an excellent calendar app and an excellent to-do list manager in one, which means you can use it to take a stand against days that all blur together. Of course it comes with all the scheduling and task-tracking features you would expect, but the deeper you dig into the app the more you’ll find.
There’s a Pomodoro-style timer here, for example, which you can use to measure blocks of time while you do whatever it is you want to do. There’s a handy time-blocking feature as well, so at least part of each day can be anchored in a specific task. The app is very good at tracking habits, so you can build up a daily routine of them.
Blocos is a time-blocking app based around the 100 blocks a day approach to time management. Basically, you’ve got about 100 blocks of 10 minutes every day to fill when you’re not sleeping, so how are you going to use them? In the best way possible, if Blocos has anything to do with it, as it encourages you to be intentional with your time each day.
The app is built primarily as a productivity aid, a way of squeezing as much as you can out of every 24-hour cycle, but you can also use Blocos to give some structure and some purpose to a drifting daily existence. Start by assigning just a few blocks each day to whatever you want—work, family, relaxation—and then build your way up from there.
Sometimes what you need to get out of a rut is to see time differently, which is certainly what Sectograph provides. The app essentially turns your day into a wheel of time that you can customize and control as you see fit. If you want to spend part of your day exercising or relaxing or catching up with the parents, Sectograph can make it happen.
You need to use it in combination with the calendar app already on your phone, but having your time displayed in a way that isn’t the usual grid of rows and columns might encourage you to make more of an effort to actually plan your days—and Sectograph is then able to tell you exactly what you wanted to be doing at any point during the day.
Habitica is an app that can help you hit your self improvement goals, and it also works as an app to relieve some of the mundanity of an existence where every day is the same. It lets you track habits or whatever you want, day by day, with some gamification and accountability along the way to make sure you stay focused.
If you think your day would have more structure and drive if you turned part of it into a role-playing game with quests to follow and challenges to complete, then Habitica might be the app for you. It’s simple and intuitive to use for everything from ticking off your to-dos to forming new habits, and you can easily link up with other people in the app too.
6. Google Calendar
A somewhat obvious inclusion, but we’re mentioning it here because you might not have realized everything Google Calendar can do, whether you already use it regularly or not. Besides the standard scheduling features—blocking out time on a daily, weekly, or semi-occasional basis—it can also help you set specific goals and then stick to them.
Tap the plus button down in the bottom right corner of the main screen and in addition to adding events, reminders or tasks, you can also set a goal—it could be walking, or reading, or just doing some admin. The smart part is that Google Calendar looks at your existing schedule commitments and puts your new goal into spots that are currently free.
- iOS ($5)
The primary purpose of Streaks is to help you form good habits or break bad ones: You tell the app what your habits are, and it can then chart the days when you do or don’t meet your goal. With a dash of added pressure and organization from the app on top of your own willpower, you’re more likely to be able to make the changes you want to make.
You can also use Streaks to make sure your day is structured, though—use it to track dog walks, or regular reading sessions, or a call to a friend. The habit doesn’t have to be particularly good or bad, and Streaks can still track it very effectively. The only aspects of the app that disappoint us are the absence of a free trial and the app being iOS only.