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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!

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              Last Updated on July 17, 2019

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              What happens in our heads when we set goals?

              Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

              Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

              According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

              Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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              Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

              Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

              The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

              Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

              So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

              Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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              One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

              Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

              Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

              The Neurology of Ownership

              Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

              In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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              But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

              This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

              Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

              The Upshot for Goal-Setters

              So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

              On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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              It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

              On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

              But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

              More About Goals Setting

              Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

              Reference

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