According to a study of UK office workers, the average worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes. That’s right—you’re probably not even focusing for half of your eight-hour work day. And if you’re running a startup, you already don’t have enough time as it is, let alone wasting the time you already have.

Of course, the results of such productivity studies depend not only on the workers’ industry, but the idiosyncratic makeup of each workplace. Worker A might spend most days busying himself with the same repetitive tasks, while Worker B might be granted the ability to move fluidly between tasks of distinctly different disciplines.

Regardless of your situation, the point is to ensure that you don’t fall into the 2 hours and 53 minutes category. And there are two very concrete strategies to increase your personal productivity: to-do lists and gamification. The former allow you to organize your daily tasks into the most efficient progression, while the latter taps into your inner competitor.

To-Do Lists

When most people think of productivity apps, to-do lists immediately come to mind. Before you can even begin to consider how efficient your habits are, you have to also evaluate your organizational skills. Any weakness in your productivity could actually be how you prioritize each task then move between them, rather than your ability to focus on a particular task.


This app is popular for a reason. It’s pretty much exactly what you would want a to-do list app to accomplish, plus some basic 30,000-foot analytics. Via the Quick Add option, you can create a task the moment it pops into your head, and, if need be, recategorize it later into a project.

From your dashboard, you can either view tasks in your Inbox (the dumping ground for all tasks not assigned to a project), or within each project. You can also view your tasks according to those due today, as well as those due in the next 7 days, allowing you to shuffle them accordingly.

For the project function, you can map out goals step-by-step, including sub-tasks and color-coding according to priority. And, as you can share projects with other people, you’re also able to delegate tasks to the people you share with.

Then you can track all of this via a simple analytics dashboard that

  • visualizes the number of tasks you’ve completed today vs total number of tasks due today
  • the number of days in row you’ve completed all your tasks
  • the total number of Karma points you’ve earned by day (a mild gamification based on task and project completions)

Todoist also integrates with 60+ third-party apps, including Google Drive, DropBox, Slack, a variety of calendar apps.

Really, how different can two to-do lists apps really be? Compared to Todoist, however, offers not only a different approach to how you organize your task management, but also more capabilities to the free version of the app.

You have two options for viewing your tasks over time:

  1. A listview similar to Todoist

While you can still organize tasks into different categories, the listview defaults to an All Tasks view, and this is all about what you have to get done Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, or Someday.

  1. A calendar view

Under the date selected on the calendar, a scrolling task/event list populates, which includes both the tasks you’ve created in and the events from all of your synced calendars.

And the most unique element of this app is the Moment: you assign one time of day (typically the morning) where your phone rings, then the app takes you one by one through each task you’ve assigned to that day. As each task appears, you have the option to hit Today, Later, Done, or Delete. If you select Today, you have to set an alarm for Noon, 4pm, 7pm, 10pm, or No Alarm. If you select Later, you must reassign the task to Tomorrow, Two Days, Next Week, or Someday.


Now that you’ve got your to-do list organized, it’s time to optimize your work time! And what better way than to tap into your competitive spirit via a gamification app?

Productivity Challenge Timer

This app is based on a tried and true but simple productivity method developed by entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo when he was in college. Cirillo’s process went something like this:

  1. Choose a task.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the timer goes off, then put a check on a piece of paper.
  4. Take a short break (about 3-5 minutes).
  5. Repeat steps two to four until you’ve amassed four4 check marks.
  6. After 4 check marks, take a longer break (about 15-30 minutes).
  7. Repeat entire process until task is finished.

Cirillo would name this the Pomodoro Technique, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used while developing the method (pomodoro is Italian for tomato).

With Productivity Challenge Timer, you get the simplicity of the Pomodoro Technique coupled with customizable work intervals (10-180mins). If you’ve already done the work organizing your tasks with a to-do list app, then this app is all about putting your money where your mouth is. You’re also able to track your stats progress across day, week, month, year, and all time. There’s nothing cutesy about this app, but that’s its most effective feature.

Bounty Tasker

If you’re really competitive (or just a nerd), then Bounty Tasker might prove to be the ultimate productivity app for you. Where Productivity Challenge Timer essentially pins you against yourself, Bounty Tasker offers an RPG-style gamification akin to the The Legend of Zelda meets Oregon Trail.

The biggest perk of this app is that it combines gamification with a to-do list. While the to-do list component of it isn’t necessarily as intuitive as Todoist or, the anticipatory element of completing tasks to increase player health, level up, acquire weapons and protective armor, and defeat monsters adds a compelling hook to app usage.

If you’re someone that isn’t burdened with complex projects, the to-do list component serves all of your needs with tagging and sub-task capabilities. But this app isn’t about community project management. Instead it gives you a chance to elevate your daily workload into a fantasy adventure.

Are You Productive Enough To Succeed?

At tekMountain, we’ve watched dozens and dozens of startups grow to viability in our entrepreneurial and innovation center. And productivity apps like those mentioned above played a very big part in their success. Remember, it’s not the smartest people that win; it’s the people that consistently work the hardest.

Contact tekMountain today to learn more about productivity strategies for your business.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesKelly Brown, Elyssa Miller and  Bill DiNome  with lead writer Zach Cioffi.

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