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7 iPhone Apps to Boost Your Productivity

7 iPhone Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    The iPhone has been out for more than a week and the hubbub has started dying off and the realities are starting to set in. Not to try and put more fuel on the fire of hype, but I always think the point when the Reality Distortion Field effect starts wearing off* is the best time to look at the technology objectively as well as the application options available to you.

    I mean, when an application that tests how long you can push a button gets web-wide coverage, you know there’s some kind of reality distortion going on.

    So, I’ve compiled a list of apps from the iTunes App Store that I’ve found useful and good for productivity that you might be interested in trying out. That is, if you hadn’t already done so during the week’s excessive hype. Or if you’re not busy playing Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart.

    To find any of these apps and install them, fire up iTunes and run them through the iTunes Store search box. And if you’re favorite productivity application isn’t listed here, it could be because I haven’t tried it or didn’t like it—but then, just as likely, it might just be because of the bone-headed decision to restrict some apps by country.

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    * I purchased mine well before this point in time arrived.

    OmniFocus

    I’m bringing out the big guns first, when it comes to productivity. OmniFocus is a great GTD task management application. It’s a “port” (and I use that word loosely) from Omni Group’s popular desktop application of the same name. Though it’s on the pricier end of the available iPhone apps, the functionality offered can be accounted for.

    Some developers just want to get a mobile version of their desktop application up at the App Store, but OmniFocus is one of the few that leverage the iPhone’s capabilities as distinct from the Mac with location-based task lists thanks to the iPhone’s GPS location services.

    OmniFocus for the iPhone will sync and integrate with OmniFocus on the Mac if you’re running the latest version of the software. If your tasks are important to you, make sure to keep your data backed up, because I’ve read a review or two where an application crash caused complete data loss.

    Mocha VNC Lite

    Oh, crap. I’ve just got in bed and want to do some reading online with my laptop, to relax before going to sleep. But I’ve left a torrent running on the computer in the home office and the Internet connection is so slow, it’s almost unusable!

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    I’ll have to get out of bed, turn the torrent off, and if I want it done by morning, I’ll have to get out bed again when I’m done and turn it back on.

    Okay, I’m sure you can think of a scenario that’s more about becoming productive and less about pandering to laziness, but Mocha VNC works like Screen Sharing on the Mac does. You can use Mocha to control your Windows, Mac or Linux computer and the level of interaction is surprisingly high. You use the multi-touch finger controls to zoom around the screen just like when you’re using MobileSafari. Best of all, it’s free.

    BookShelf

    BookShelf is an ebook reader for your iPhone. It does text documents all the way to Mobipocket books. I definitely think this app can boost your productivity because it allows you to get more reading done quicker. You can read any book in your entire library in the living room, on the train, heck, even when you’re pedaling away on your exercise bike. Ever tried to lug an entire library of books around? Not fun. This is simple and easy. I’ve had the iPhone 3G since Friday and I’ve already finished two-and-a-half books thanks to BookShelf.

    Mobipocket, the ebook reader I’ve been using on Windows Mobile or CE devices for close to a decade, is apparently coming out for the iPhone in months to come. But BookShelf beat them to the punch and they get a vote from me.

    What I’d like to see: a smoother desktop app for shoveling books onto your phone and a revision of the “chunking” process that turns it into a background function you don’t need to worry about.

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    Evernote

    I can barely live without Evernote on the Mac these days. The iPhone version makes it easier to create notes on the go and also easy to view them, but if you want to edit them, you won’t be too happy—Evernote doesn’t allow it. I’m hoping, nay, begging, that they’ll build the ability to edit existing notes into a future version. Please, guys?

    You can do snapshot notes with the iPhone’s camera or audio notes. And, of course, you get searchable images as usual once your snapshot has uploaded to the Evernote server.

    NetNewsWire

    I’m a user of NetNewsWire on the Mac, so this app had me excited. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the experience I had hoped for, and not only that, but it won’t seem to download my entire collection of feeds as synced with Newsgator.

    But, where before I spent precious office time catching up on feeds (after I got my real work done, of course), I can now get (most of) them done when I have an idle moment—like when I’m waiting for someone to say something interesting at that dinner party! This frees up extra time to work on new projects or take on another small client project back at the office.

    Sidenote: before you lambast me for my previous habit of reading feeds when I could’ve been working on a new client, feed reading is actually an important task for a writer whose work is primarily online. It’s not extra time I was desperate to have before, but thirty minutes a day can add up.

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    Google Mobile

    There may be no Spotlight on the iPhone (yet, the optimist would add), but Google Mobile does the job just as well as a Mobile Spotlight would. That is, aside from the system-wide integration that it obviously lacks.

    Google Mobile will let you perform a search that hunts through your contacts and the web and provides you with the most relevant and local results first. Does the job damn well, while we’re waiting on Spotlight. You hear that, Apple? We want it along with copy and paste, okay?

    Twinkle

    You might be surprised to find a Twitter client in a list of productivity apps, but there’s a good reason for it. Since I’ve installed Twinkle, I’ve stopped using Twhirl or constantly refreshing the tab I have Twitter open in; I know Twinkle will let me know when someone replies to or messages me and since installing it my time spent on the site in general has decreased a lot—without really affecting my participation in the community there.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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