The 31 best minimalist apps that increase productivity

 

I have these minimalist apps on heavy rotation for both their beauty and utility as they increase productivity and help me streamline many areas of my life, especially work. Bookmark this page as I frequently add to the list.

As an entrepreneur, consultant, and coach I’m constantly looking for ways to increase productivity and better manage my personal growth and professional development. I heavily rely on my iOS devices, particularly when traveling, so apps are a necessity.

I'm not a designer but in my humble opinion a minimalist app requires a sleek interface, clean typography, and intuitive navigation. It does not necessarily mean it needs to be in black and white or have the bare minimum in features.

But even with the right design elements, an app still risks being deleted if I can't seamlessly integrate it into my day-to-day.

So I’m sharing my epic guide of the best minimalist apps that have it all – beauty, utility, and affordability (most are free) – and have managed to become an elite few of my favorite productivity staples.

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ACUITY

Acuity Scheduling is the online appointment scheduling software I use with my coaching and consulting clients and it’s a godsend.

First of all, the service integrates with Squarespace which is just amazing. Second, I can accept payments, include intake forms, and set up custom links for different types of appointments.

Both the website and app design are clean, straightforward and easy to use. I was using Calendly prior to this and, as sleek as their website is, they didn’t have an app and as many of the features as Acuity.

AMOUNT

For any type of unit conversion this should be your go-to resource. As a frequent traveler I use it often for currency, temperature, and apparel size conversions.

However the app has hundreds of other units including mass, length/distance, cooking, and speed. It is much more efficient to whip out this handy app than googling say, USD to EURO, on a regular basis.

APPLE APPS

If you have multiple Apple devices like I do (iPhone, iPad, and Mac Air) then I honestly think Apple’s suite of native apps (specifically email, notes, calendar) is the best way to go. They are simple in design and the most reliable when it comes to synchronization via iCloud.

My experience with Apple Maps has led to getting lost multiple times so I’d definitely replace that one with Google Maps. Other than that I regularly use most of the other built-in apps.

ASANA

I typically recommend and use Asana (both the web and app) as the project management tool when consulting (especially larger brands and corporates) as it’s a great way to manage work flow and organize tasks within teams.

I sometimes end up having to use Basecamp because some clients insist, but I just don’t think it does what Asana can in terms of having a really clear understanding of everything that’s in progress for a particular project or campaign.  

BEAR

This is one of the best writing apps I've come across. It's sleek and sophisticated with a stunning yet simple interface. I replaced Evernote with the Bear app because Evernote started getting too wonky.

You can use it for a range of writing needs but I believe it works best for actual writing. Also the syncing just isn’t as efficient as Apple Notes.

BENCH

Bench.co is basically a group of hipsters who run a bookkeeping service. It’s seriously one of the coolest startups I’ve come across and that’s saying a lot given the nerdy work they do.

Not only do they have a cool website but they also have an app that you get access to when you sign up for their service. If you are a solopreneur or small business owner they do an excellent job at helping you keep your together financials in order.  

BREATHER

Because I travel so frequently I often need to find a dedicated space where I can get a few hours of work down — especially when I’m in the states visiting clients, friends and family.

The Breather app makes booking an office space quick and easy. And not only is the app well-designed, they’ve done an excellent job at outfitting their offices as well.

CANOPY

The founders who came up with the idea to curate Amazon are genius. Seriously, everyone knows Amazon’s interface is cluttered and unattractive and for the longest we’ve just had to accept it because we’re all obsessed with the service. Well, not anymore.

Canopy has been around for some time now but I don’t think they are as well known as they should be. They do an excellent job at digging out minimalist, well-designed products from Amazon and presenting them in their sleek app or web shop. I love everything about it.

CURIO.IO

Reading is my preferred method of consuming content but I’m increasingly getting into the spoken article trend and curio.io is my go-to app. They curate articles from intellectual publications and high-end journals and have them read by voice actors.

The interface is basic (in a good way) but there are a few features for saving and sharing your favorite articles. I listen to their articles at the beginning of the day as part of my morning routine.  

CURVE

I recently ordered a smart card from this UK-based tech company and I'm hoping they don't go out of business like most of the similar startups in the US!

Curve allows you to manage all of your debit and credit cards with one card and one sleek interface. If you travel frequently and have accounts in multiple currencies it will make spending and tracking cash flow so much more efficient.

DROPBOX

My whole life is in the Dropbox cloud. They’ve made it so simple to save files and documents that I almost never use my hard drive (not sure if that’s good or bad but it sure makes file management easier).

There is so much storage on the Dropbox Plus plan that I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about space. It’s also incredibly easy to share links and folders and makes collaboration more efficient.  

ELEVATE

Elevate is a brain training app that’s designed to keep you mentally sharp, increase productivity, and build confidence. Not only does the app look cool but they personalize the games as you play to help you continually improve key mental metrics.

I’m not into playing games on my phone but made an exception because of the statistics that back up what the app is trying to do. Also, an excellent runner up to Elevate is Lumosity.

EMAIL

This is the app I turned to after the (super disappointing) phase out of Mailbox. I originally tried Inbox by Gmail but found the navigation and interface too cluttered.

I tried a few more Mailbox-esq solutions and Email is about as close as it gets to replicating the clean and seamless UX of Mailbox. For an easy way to get to inbox zero give it a try.

That said, I’ve become so efficient with my emails these days that I personally don’t need Email anymore so I reverted back to Apple Mail on my iOS devices. I wanted to keep Email listed though because it was very useful when I needed it.  

FEEDLY

Feedly is a news and blog aggregator that helps you follow and organize RSS feeds.  When Google Reader went a way a long time ago I found Feedly and have been using them ever since.

Both the website and app are simple and reliable and they have a lot of great features to support reading, organizing, sharing, and searching your content.  

GRID DIARY

If you love the idea of journaling but find it hard to stay disciplined enough to write on a daily basis, this is for you. This is a beautiful app with an outstanding set of features that make it easy for you to muse and reflect.

Your daily entries are made up of "grids" which are a set of simple questions (you can choose from or create on your own) that prompt a more focused response. You can easily read and share including exporting to other apps like Evernote. 

GOOGLE DRIVE

At some point Google Drive completely eliminated the need for me to use the Microsoft Office suite. Any file that requires continuous or real-time editing, particularly in collaboration with someone else, I produce in Google Drive.

With instant synchronization across all devices and smart collaborative editing, I’ve yet to come across anything that can replace it.

FRESH AIR

It’s hard to justify this app because the native weather app is just fine, but Fresh Air is beautiful and more useful if you want more than basic weather information.

Apart from the lovely design and visualizations, it has quite a few neat features such as seeing the weather for your calendar events and getting notifications.

HEADSPACE

Whoever designed the branding for this company is truly talented. Headspace is a meditation app with a gorgeous interface. Apart from a much needed service (teaching people how to meditate and live mindfully) it’s just a fun app to play with.

Sometimes I scroll through the app just to see all the lovely illustrations. Another beautifully designed runner up to Headspace is Simple Habits.

INSTAPAPER

I’m an avid reader and consume a lot of information in order to research insights that support my clients and coachees, and write compelling blog topics. I also just like to stay up-to-date on the topics I care about (philosophy, psychology, strategy, design, etc.).

Instapaper is a super simple way for me to save, organize, and search all of the links I accumulate each day. The app is minimal but has a few nice customization settings and you can also create folders and add notes to the articles you save.

KITCHEN STORIES

This might be the only recipe app that can join the ranks of the best in minimalist design. I typically avoid recipe apps and websites because they are cluttered, overrun with ads, and hard to navigate.

Kitchen Stories is a recipe and cooking app with step-by-step instructions, how to videos, easy-to-cook recipes, and stunning photography all wrapped up in a beautifully simple interface.  

MINDLY

Mindly is a lightweight app for mind mapping (a process for organizing ideas). It is incredibly useful for anyone who is brainstorming, problem-solving, or creating, and trying to stay on top off all the thoughts they are generating.

I sometimes use this with my coachees to help them remember and stay focused on the insights that come out of our sessions. Not only can you use the Mindly app across all devices you can also easily share and print your mind maps.

MINIMALIST

MinimaList is the epitome of a minimalist to-do list manager. If you require any kind of advanced task managing features this isn't for you. This is completely stripped down and straight to the point.

You can add simple tasks, reminders, and a "focus timer" with most of the features manageable on one screen. You also have the ability to search tasks, change theme colors, and adjust simple settings like snooze time, but that's about it. I love it for that reason.

MINIMALIST CALCULATOR

This is another app that’s hard to justify downloading (because the standard iPhone calculator is just fine) but again, this one looks so much better!

It has custom fonts and colors (useful if the bright orange in the iPhone version feels off-putting) along with a few more functions and features. Moreover, it also looks good on the iPad which doesn't have a built in calculator.

N26

If you live in Europe and are in need of a bank take a look at N26. It's part of the rise of startup banks hoping to be a welcome supplement (or even replacement) to stuffy, complex, and inflexible traditional finance institutions.

They brand themselves as a mobile bank because everything is run through a gorgeous app with an intuitive interface that makes it easy to manage all of your day-to-day money needs.

They are eventually launching in the US. I personally think the bank’s German-style customer service team will need to step their game up and understand what service means in the U.S. before they expand. But substandard service aside, the app itself is outstanding.

NIKE TRAINING CLUB

I’ve been using this app for years to do quick and guided workouts at home. Nike packs so much value into this stunning app that I can’t believe it continues to be free (talk about smart branding).

With this app there is no excuse not to exercise as there are tons of trainings to choose from based on level, time, equipment, and goal. Add to that the cinematic production and this has to be one of the best apps ever designed.  

NOISILI

This is one of the best ambient noise resources I've found for focusing or relaxing. It's nothing more than a handful of clean screens with subtle colors and simple icons representing the different high-quality soundtracks (cafe, train, water, wind, birds, etc.) you can choose from.

It also allows you to mix your own sound combinations and create timers and fade outs. I keep this running on low in the background everyday. A runner up is the Tide app.

PASTE APP

I recently started using this app as a way to make creative presentations and present concepts to my consulting clients. I love creating presentations but ditched powerpoint a long time ago for Canva, but think Paste is more lightweight and better when you want to quickly produce a deck.

SLEEP CYCLE

I only use an alarm when I have an early morning flight because I find them to be terrible for sleep hygiene. On the rare occasions that I need an alarm, I use the Sleep Cycle app.

It’s a nice way to monitor your sleep and be gently woken up at the lightest phase of sleep (your natural waking point). It’s a wonderful alternative to regular alarms that jolt you out of deep sleep causing you to feel groggy and frazzled.

VSCO

This is the most beautiful image capturing and editing app on the market. I love it for the sophisticated filters that enhance my photos 10-fold.

VSCO is also a community of photographers and you can publish your content in-app like you would other social networks and explore the work of others.

I’ve even gotten to the point where for small projects I skip Adobe Lightroom altogether and just use VSCO. Snapseed is a good runner up alternative but is different enough in features that it can also be used in conjunction VSCO.

WEALTHSIMPLE

A while back I did a bit of a financial overhaul and started researching all of these new age auto investing services to assist with a particular investment goal.

I ultimately decided on Betterment for a number of reasons but I was so impressed with the Wealth Simple website and app that I wanted to list it here.

WIKIPEDIA

I’m always on Wikipedia looking up something. I’m one of those weirdos who skips the writeup (who knows how reliable those are) and navigates all the way down to the references and further reading section to pull sources as a jumpstart to deeper research.

I use it so much that I needed to save time by skipping the browser and having the app on hand. For quick access and easily saving and sharing articles, the app is the way to go.

Streamline each area of your life with the simple set of strategies presented in the minimalism challenge.

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