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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 September 18, 2019

              How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

              How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

              Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

              I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

              One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

              Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

              The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

              And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

              What to Write Down

              Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

              Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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              Dates of Events

              Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

              For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

              Names of People

              Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

              Theories or Frameworks

              Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

              Definitions

              Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

              Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

              Arguments and Debates

              Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

              This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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              Images

              Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

              Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

              Other Stuff

              Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

              I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

              Your Own Questions

              Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

              3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

              You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

              1. Outlining

              Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

              Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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              For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

              2. Mind-Mapping

              For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

              Here’s the idea:

              In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

              The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

              If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

              You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

              3. The Cornell System

              The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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              About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

              You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

              In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

              You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

              The Bottom Line

              I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

              I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

              More About Note-Taking

              Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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