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12 Free Android Apps to Help Get Things Done (Part 1)

12 Free Android Apps to Help Get Things Done (Part 1)

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    With a raft of new devices scheduled to join the lonely T-Mobile G1 in Google’s lineup, the Android operating system looks like it’s not only going to be around for a while but may well give its fellows smartphones from Apple, Blackberry, and Palm a run for their money. With its Linux-derived core and slick user interface, the Android system is proving to be very adaptable – it will even be available on netbooks pretty soon.

    I’ve had a chance to play with a 1 for the last few weeks, and more importantly to try out some of the 5,000 apps currently available on the Market, Google’s built-in alternative to the iTunes App Store. Out of this amazing variety of available applications, I’ve found a good dozen free ones that would be perfect for Lifehack’s readers – apps that can help you stay organized, stay effective, and stay productive no matter where you find yourself.

    In the interest of space, I’ll post this list over two days: six now, six later, presented in no particular order. If you’re an Android user, feel free to let us know your favorite apps in the comments. If you’re not, just wait – you might find yourself using an Android device before you know it!

    Note: Although I’m including links to each apps homepage, where available, all of these apps can be downloaded directly from the Market app on your Android device.

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    1. Action Complete

    ActionComplete

      Action Complete is a GTD-based task manager allowing you to view your projects and next actions easily. The tab-based interface includes sections for next actions, waiting-for items (tasks you’re waiting for others to complete before you can move on to the next task in a project), projects, and “pending” someday/maybe items. Every task and project can be tagged and associated with specific people and places, and the app offers several sorting options to sort by tag, people, places, urgency, or project. A web-based version of the app is in development, although the site gives no details about what additional features that might offer.

      2. Locale

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      locale

        Locale is interesting – it allows you to set various events to be triggered when certain conditions are met. For instance, when the battery hits 30%, you can dim the screen, turn off wi-fi, or lower the volume. When you get to work, you can turn off the ringer, change the background, or send an SMS or Twitter announcing your arrival.  Conditions it will respond to range from GPS/cell tower coordinates, contacts, battery level, dates, and times. A number of third-party apps will also link to Locale so you can trigger them as well.

        3. Astrid

        astrid

          Astrid is a solid task manager developed by the Google folks (you know Google always makes good stuff). Tasks are easy to add and easy to check off when you’re done (my least favorite thing is having to “edit” a task to mark it “complete”). You can also add a timer – you know I like timers! – to help you build that sense of urgency. But what people like most about it isn’t the features but the notifications, which offer friendly encouragement to help motivate you to finish up.

          Also, Astrid plugs into Locale (see above) so you can set geographical reminders (as in Toodo, below).

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          4. TooDo

          toodo

            TooDo is another task management application, this time with online synching, either with Toodledo or Remember the Milk. Synchronization is both ways – tasks created or marked completed on TooDo can be seen online, and vice versa. It also has a couple of really nice features – first, you can add voice, photo, and video notes to your tasks, and second, you can set geographical reminders to pop up whenever you’re in a specific location (based on the GPS).

            5. PF Voicemail+

            PhoneFusion’s Voicemail+ offers a really slick way to get visual voicemail on your Android phone. You need to register for a free account and forward your voicemail to them (which not super-difficult, and is required for other voicemail replacement services like YouMail as well). Once it’s set up, though, you’ll be able to scroll through your voicemails, listen to the ones you want and ignore the ones you don’t (they’re identified by number and name from Caller ID), delete messages, and respond by text.

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            6. PostBot

            postbot

              PostBot is an open source app for posting text and images to WordPress blogs (WordPress.com or self-hosted). You can set up multiple blogs and choose which to post to from the settings. Control over how images post is somewhat lacking – you can choose to align them left, right, or center when you set up the blog; after that, all images will be posted the same way unless you change the settings. Other than that, this is a great little app for posting quick thoughts and photos from your Android phone.

              That oughtta keep you busy for a while. Make sure you come back tomorrow to check out six more!

              More by this author

              Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

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              Last Updated on January 21, 2020

              Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

              Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

              Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

              This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

              The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

              The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

              Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

              Curiosity

              Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

              People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

              Patience

              Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

              When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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              Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

              A Feeling for Connectedness

              This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

              A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

              The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

              How to Self-Taught Effectively

              With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

              1. Research

              Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

              Learning the Basics

              Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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              Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

              What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

              Hitting the Books

              Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

              Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

              Long-Term Reference

              While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

              My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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              2. Practice

              Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

              A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

              Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

              Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

              3. Network

              One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

              These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

              Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

              Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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              4. Schedule

              For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

              Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

              Final Thoughts

              In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

              If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

              At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

              More About Self-Learning

              Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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