We all have apps and services we use every day to get things done. I don’t mean things like Facebook or Twitter. I mean things that really do help achieve a goal, not distract from it. So I wanted to share with you the apps and services that I depend on most. One of the biggest criterion for me is the accessibility of the app or service – it needs to be available just about everywhere and at any time. So here they are, my 7 most loved apps.
It should come as no surprise that my absolute can’t-live-without app, one that is so unique and personal that I dependent on it every day for all areas of my life, is Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote since January of 2011. I started out as somewhat of a skeptic, but quickly become an absolute advocate of its million-and-one uses. So much so that I wrote a book to help others (including you?) to get more out of Evernote every day.
Evernote is my second brain. It is a place I can put things and know that they’re safe and secure and that I can retrieve and reference them in all their detail whenever I need to, from whatever device I have access to and from wherever I may be.
Free or Premium? I am a heavy Evernote user so I subscribe to the Premium service for an increased monthly upload quota and being able to search within files.
Where Evernote is my system of reference, Asana is my system of action. I’ve tried many task management apps, and have certainly been through what Daniel Gold (author of Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done) calls GAH, or “GTD App Hell.” Finally, I landed on Asana for almost everything I have to do. I only add things to Asana that have a clearly defined action that needs to be taken. Though sometimes that “action” could be to better understand something – like “researching” something.
I use Asana for all of my “larger” projects. Basically that means anything that isn’t on my honey-do list. Many of the projects I’m working on in Asana involve one or more other people. Asana makes it really easy for each person to track tasks, brainstorm and collaborate.
Oh, and you’ve gotta love the unicorns that can appear when a task is completed too – enormously motivating! Hint: Check the “hacks” in the Account Settings area.
Free or Premium? At this stage I am using the free edition. Purely because the size of the teams I’m involved in are under the free limit and the permissions I use don’t yet require the premium model. However, I am more than happy to upgrade as soon as needed… which will be soon I think.
OK so if Asana is my system of action for all my main projects, what do I use Wunderlist for? Wunderlist is where all my errands live. It is where I put things like: get more Nespresso capsules; update budget in YNAB, or; get a haircut.
Wunderlist is really simple and clean. There are some bells and whistles hidden inside it such as file uploads and comments, but the reason I keep using Wunderlist for all my errands and the like is just because it’s so basic. I don’t collaborate with anyone else in Wunderlist (despite having attempted to convince my analog wife, Mrs Cloud Productivity that it would be really useful for her if we shared some lists, or that she used Wunderlist at all), so the free edition is enough for me.
Free or Premium? Free. Being a single user I don’t need the Premium features such as comments and attachments right now.
Yes, I really do have a task in Wunderlist that prompts me to update the budget – it repeats every Monday and reminds me about it at 8:30pm. YNAB, or You Need A Budget, is a personal money management app for people who are not money-savvy. It’s true that I am hopeless when it comes to money management. Well, I was anyway. I’ve been using YNAB since January of 2012 and it’s been an incredibly enlightening journey learning where the money goes each month.
At the end of each month I spend some time budgeting for next month. It’s a constant battle keeping to budget, but YNAB has given me flexibility and an understanding that money is a very fluid thing and what is committed to one category of spending can change from week to week.
YNAB is a paid app all the way. You can start with a trial, but I recommend you commit upfront for the one-time fee. It’s well worth it.
Ah the beloved file system. While I do keep a lot of reference files inside Evernote, everything that used to exist in the “My Documents” folder now lives inside my Dropbox folder. Dropbox acts as my backup plan, keeping a copy of everything important nice and safe for me, while at the same time giving me access to every single one of those files from anywhere, and from any device (that I use).
Dropbox makes sharing files that much easier too. Gone are the days of floppy discs, CD-RW and for the most part USB sticks too. Instead, by simply creating and sharing a link I can share a file with whomever I like. Or, I can share entire folders and let others work on the same files as me. They don’t have to be in the same room, or even the same country, and no special hardware or networking setup is required. It just works and it’s awesome.
Free or Paid? 2GB for free is definitely not enough. I have moved my entire iPhoto and iTunes libraries into Dropbox (and it’s awesome!) so I need a lot more. At the time of writing this I am using a 200GB account. Definitely worth it.
Email is everywhere and, at least for now, it’s not going anywhere. Email really is an old technology when it comes to this digital age, but we all use it so heavily. It’s a truly robust and dependable means of communication at speed an scale.
Gmail is my app of choice for email. And I don’t just mean having a gmail.com email address. I’m referring to the actual Gmail web application. I have tried other apps such as Airmail, Sparrow, Mail.app, Outlook, and Mailbox to name a few, but I always come back to using the web. I find that the tabbed layout in Gmail really helps me to see what’s important without first having to sort through a mountain of notifications and promotional messages. The ability to quickly archive emails I’m finished with helps me to keep my inbox clean. I’m not a big user of labels or rules (but it’s good to know they’re there). I love the simplicity and speed and that I can easily focus on exactly what I need to.
Free or…? Well, free! I also use a browser extension called Rapportive that replaces the banner ads on high right with details and social links for the contact I’m emailing with. Looks awesome and works brilliantly.
Pocket is my app of choice for saving things I’d like to read later. Often I’ll stumble across an article on the web that I don’t have the time or focus to read straight away, but that I do want to read at some point. With Pocket I can easily capture that page for later. Pocket is so clever that when I come to read the article it will be cleaned up and formatted to make reading it simpler – no ads, banners or distractions. Just the content that originally caught my interest. It’s especially handy when browsing Twitter on my iPhone or iPad. Everyone loves to share content (links) on Twitter. The Twitter app lets me then save a link to Pocket with a single tap.
The articles that I want to hold on to, and possibly refer to again later, I send to Evernote, right from inside Pocket!
While Pocket isn’t really an app that helps me “get things done”, it’s something that helps me to continue learning and discovering. And that is one of the most important things to do.
Free or …? Free. All the way. It’s the only way.
I hope you have found some inspiration in this post. I’m sure you may have already heard about some or all of these apps, but hearing how and why others use them is always valuable, at least it is for me. If you had to pick your one all-time favourite app or service to help you be a better human what would it be? Share your thoughts in the comments below.