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Why and How I Went on an App Diet

Why and How I Went on an App Diet

    If you are a smartphone user, particularly and iOS or Android user, you are faced with the choice of hundreds of thousands of applications. Most of these apps promise that they are the best at something, or the easiest to use, or the most beloved, or whatever. But what I have tend to find is that most apps are junk and a waste of your time.

    Yep, that’s right. There are many more applications that are pure junk than are golden and even more that are a total waste of your limited, use-to-be productive time. So, under this premise there are only a few applications that you both need and are worth a damn.

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    I remember getting my first phone with apps several years ago and downloading and trying everything that I could. It was fun at first, but then got in my way of being productive and became a real nuisance. This may not be the case for everyone, but I found that going “minimal” in my app selection is a must and since taking this step I have been much more productive and less “finicky” during my day.

    Here is how you too can go on an app diet and start using your phone instead of it using you:

    Find out exactly what you need your device for

    This is the primary step in trying to figure out what apps you need and what apps you don’t. What do you need your phone for in the first place? Just making calls, email, calendaring, and messaging? Then why do you have every variant of Angry Birds taking up space and time on your device?

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    This is where you decide exactly what your device should and shouldn’t be used for.

    Identify awesome apps that fill the needs of your device

    Now that you know what your devce is and what it isn’t you have to find apps that bring that idea to reality. At Lifehack we have featured some of the best productivity apps for iOS and going through lists like those here and elsewhere can really help you narrow down your choices.

    The best way to find the apps that suit your needs is to search the web for them, see what many people suggest and use, and then give them a try to see if they fit.

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    Awesome apps cost money, so pay the piper

    I know. Shocking, right? Great apps are made by great developers and tend to cost money. If you are a “I only download free apps” kind of guy or gal (which tend to be Android users more often than iOS users) then you probably can settle for apps that really are sub-par to their paid counterparts.

    In my experience and many others, there aren’t too many free apps that are better or even equivalent in form and function than their paid counterparts.

    Personal apps defined

    So, what I have done is limited myself to a small selection of applications. Mostly to keep my phone out of my hair and allow it to be used for productive means.

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    Like I said above, many people don’t have a problem with having tons of games and such on their phones, but trust me, I have seen many people at work and school doing more Facebooking than pure work. That is why, on my iPhone games had to go.

    I’ve limited myself to 15 apps plus the stock iOS apps that came with my iPhone. This is a pretty tough exercise to do, but here are my picks:

    1. Reeder
    2. TuneIn Radio Pro
    3. Mog
    4. OmniFocus
    5. Instapaper
    6. Kindle
    7. Outliner
    8. Notesy
    9. IMDB (fastest way to shut down a co-worker on some movie related trivias)
    10. You Need a Budget
    11. Dropbox
    12. 1Password
    13. Wikipanion
    14. Tweetbot
    15. Runkeeper

    I know, I know. You may be saying, “I thought that you were all about being productive and cutting out things like Twitter, Mr. Minimal App Diet Man.” Well, yes that is true sort of, but I use Twitter to keep abreast of things in my industry and of course to share things myself. I consider it a guilty pleasure on my device and feel that it hasn’t interrupted my work flow like games or crappy apps have in the past. So it will stay for now.

    Challenge yourself

    So here is the deal. If you are feeling bogged down by your personal device because of the crazy 100 apps you have installed, take the time and identify what this device is actually for and better yet, what it isn’t for. This can help you narrow down your app selections so your device can stay out of the way of you being productive.

    And hey, why don’t you list the 15 apps (other than stock apps that shipped with your phone) that you absolutely without any doubt must have to get your work and life done below?

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 29, 2020

    19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

    19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

    Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

    There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

    This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day:

    1. Todoist

      Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

      Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

      If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

      Download: Todoist

      2. 1Password

        You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

        1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

        You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

        Download: 1Password

        3. Bear

          Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

          It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

          Download: Bear

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          4. Hazel

            Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

            For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

            Download: noodlesoft

            5. Alfred

              Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

              For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

              It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

              Download: Alfred

              6. TextExpander

                TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

                For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

                An individual account is $3.33 per month.

                Download: TextExpander

                7. Backblaze

                  If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                  Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                  Download: Backblaze

                  8. Keyboard Maestro

                    Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                    Download: Keyboard Maestro

                    9. Snagit

                      There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                      Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                      10. Bartender

                        Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                        If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                        Download: Bartender

                        11. Otter

                        Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                        Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                        Download: Otter

                        12. Flux

                          Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                          Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

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                          Download: Flux

                          13. PDFpen

                          If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                          PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                          Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                          14. OmniFocus

                            OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                            It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                            A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                            Download: OmniFocus

                            15. Franz

                              It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                              Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                              Download: Franz

                              16. MindNode

                                If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                                The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                                Download: MindNode

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                                17. Focus

                                  The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

                                  This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                  Download: Focus

                                  18. CleanMyMac

                                    Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                    Download: CleanMyMac

                                    19. Grammarly

                                      A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                      This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                      A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                      Download: Grammarly

                                      The Bottom Line

                                      These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                      Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                      More to Boost Productivity

                                      Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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