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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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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