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Persistence of Memory, Dali

Productivity trackers are like a mirror on a workday morning after a particularly convivial night: What you see is terrible, but it’s helpful to know what you’re working with. The best tracker is a passive tool that aids your efforts but that doesn’t require much more than a look.
 
RescueTime, for example, has a “forever-free” version offers tracking and reporting and thus fosters online accountability on par with iPhone’s hate-loved screen-time summary. But it also enables users to set goals. If you spend a lot of time on email, you can find out how much is too much, and you can set a goal to stop.
 
Related to RescueTime: a Chrome extension. The bare-bones web time-tracker is good for people (not me/me) who like having a tiny clock ticking dictatorially away in their browser. The counting may provoke complicated emotions—anxiety, annoyance, rage—but some people like the fight-or-flight mindset it triggers
 
Followup is a high-maintenance-to-be-low-maintenance app, but, alas, it doesn’t have a forever-free version. What it does have (for a steep $18.00/month), is email tracking capability. You’ll spend more time “processing” emails, but less time remembering when to respond to and then actually responding to them. If your work depends on networking, on bids and proposals, or on project-managed teams, Followup is a more powerful, more comprehensive, and far more active and participatory Gmail-nudge.
 
While I frequently wonder why productivity apps are even necessary—why do I sabotage my productivity when I definitely don’t want to (and when my time is so short)—until I answer that question in a way that permanently changes my behavior, I’m relying on apps like these.