Let's face it: your smartphone is a Pandora's Box of potential distractions. Conversely, it's also a small box that plays Pandora. Anywho, the need to actually get things done throughout the day is constantly being thwarted by the impulse to check Instagram or scroll through a seemingly never-ending Facebook feed.

The truth is, though, there are ways we can optimize our phones to be our own digital personal assistants, namely through the apps we decide to throw on them. Here are a few of the best ones available.

iTunes/6 Wunderkinder

1. Create the ultimate to-do list

The app: Wunderlist
iOS: Free
Android: Free
Wunderlist lets you not only make lists, but also attach files, set reminders, and share your lists with others so you can divvy up the responsibilities. Because, let's be real here, the best part of the to-do list is the section "Things I Can Make Someone Else Do Instead."

iTunes/DevHD

2. Streamline the way you read the news

The app: Feedly
iOS: Free
Android: Free
Keeping up with all your favorite blogs and newspapers takes effort and time out of your already busy day. Adding a news reader service like Feedly to your phone will minimize the damage done to your schedule, bringing all your preferred publications together in one spot.

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3. Play a game to develop productive habits

The app: HabitRPG
iOS: Free
Android: Free
Identifying the good habits you want to develop is easy. Actually adopting them? Not so much. To make self-improvement more appealing, the HabitRPG app hacks your inner Legend of Zelda nerd to turn daily tasks into a mythic quest. Formatted like a classic RPG video game, the app prompts you to "level up" in life by taking care of the goals you've set for yourself throughout the day. Thankfully there's not a Grand Theft Auto version. Yet.

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4. Use music to eliminate distractions

The app: focus@will
iOS: Free
Android: Free
All these professional performance-enhancing apps don't change the fact that our smartphones have left us with the attention span of WAIT NEVER MIND THEY'RE BUILDING A STAR WARS THEME PARK?

Right. Short of giving up your phone and living in the woods, there's little you can do to avoid the distractions of technology. You can, though, use that technology to build your attention span. Focus@will is a neuroscience-backed subscription service that uses music to help focus your mind and keep you from noticing the types of distractions that would normally kill your productivity at work. It will be extremely helpful when you DID YOU SEE THESE STAR WARS PHOTOS?

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5. Scan your documents before you lose them

The app: TurboScan
iOS: $2.99
Android: $2.99
Discarding important docs like business cards robs you of more professional opportunities than an undeleted MySpace account. The TurboScan app lets you scan them—along with any other important documents—quickly, before they end up buried in a back drawer somewhere. Because, strangely, there are some documents in the world that didn't actually begin life as a PDF. It's up to you to take that next (but very necessary) step.

iTunes/Mindfulness Everywhere

6. Achieve mental clarity through meditation

The app: buddhify
iOS: $4.99
Android: $2.99
More and more companies—everyone from Google to Goldman Sachs—have begun to realize that the practice of mindfulness meditation actually boosts worker productivity, mainly by preventing stress-related health problems and reducing the urge to give in to distractions. Your impulse might be to write off technology and meditation as essentially incompatible, but since mindfulness is really just about accepting the current moment as it is, rather than as you think it should be, you don't need to ditch your phone to cultivate these qualities. An app like buddhify will instead help you leverage your electronics in favor of enlightenment by offering a collection of guided meditations designed for everyday situations like "Walking In The City" or "Being Online."

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7. Link your social media accounts

The app: Hootsuite
iOS: Free
Android: Free
These days, getting something done also means making sure that everyone connected to you via social media knows about it. Not much use in launching a new product if your Instagram followers are left in the dark. Apps like Hootsuite help you to automate your social media identity and greatly decrease the amount of time spent engaging with your audience by connecting your various accounts to one service.

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8. Keep all your precious files stored in one place

The app: Dropbox
iOS: Free
Android: Free
So much depends on making sure you submit your TPS reports on time. With tools like Dropbox, you can use your smartphone to manage all your files efficiently, never losing anything important. Productivity isn't just about getting your work done; it's about having it readily available when it's time to actually use it.

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9. Listen to this podcast

The app: Back to Work. Technically, this is a podcast, but you get the point.
iOS: Free
Android: Free
Getting things done isn't just a skill, it's an art. Using the apps on your smartphone to optimize your daily efficiency will shave some hours off your schedule, but to ensure that you never stop taking steps forward, it's equally important to keep learning as much as you can about productivity. Back to Work is a podcast devoted to exploring the strategies you need to stay ahead of the game. It's worth checking out.


Joe Oliveto is a staff writer at Supercompressor. See what happens when someone decides not to be productive by following him on Twitter.

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