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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?

    More by this author

    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 October 15, 2019

    To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

    To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

    We are all about doing things faster and better around here at Lifehack. And part of doing things faster and better is having a solid personal productivity system that you use on a daily basis.

    This system can be just about anything that helps you get through your mountain of projects or tasks, and helps you get closer to your goals in life. Whether it’s paper or pixels, it doesn’t really matter. But, since you are reading Lifehack I have to assume that pixels and technological devices are an important part of your workflow.

    “Personal Productivity System” defined

    A personal productivity system (at least the definition that this article will use) is a set of workflows and tools that allow an individual to optimally get their work done.

    Workflows can be how you import and handle your photos from your camera, how you write and create blog posts, how you deploy compiled code to a server, etc.

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    Tools are the things like planners, todo managers, calendars, development environments, applications, etc.

    When automation is bad

    You may be thinking that the more that we automate our systems, the more we will get done. This is mostly the case, but there is one very big “gotcha” when it comes to automation of anything.

    Automation is a bad thing for your personal productivity system when you don’t inherently understand the process of something.

    Let’s take paying your bills for example. This may seem very obvious, but if you can’t stick to a monthly budget and have trouble finding the money to make payments on time, then automating your bill payment every month is completely useless and can be dangerous for your personal finances.

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    Another example is using a productivity tool to “tell you” what tasks are important and what to do next. If you haven’t taken a step back and figured out just how your productivity systems should work together, this type of automation will likely keep you from getting things done.

    You can only automate something in your personal productivity system that have managed for a while. If you try to automate things that aren’t managed well already, you will probably feel a bit out of control and have a greater sense of overwhelm.

    Another thing to remember is that some things should always be done by yourself, like responding to important emails and communicating with others. Automating these things can show your coworkers and colleagues that you don’t care enough to communicate yourself.

    When automation is good

    On the other hand, automation is a great thing for your personal productivity system when you understand the process of something and can then automatically get the steps done. When you know how to manage something effectively and understand the step-by-step process of a portion of your system, it’s probably a great time to automate it.

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    I have several workflows that I have introduced in the last year that takes some of the “mindless” work from me so I can be more creative and not have to worry about the details of something.

    On my Mac I use a combination of Automator workflows, TextExpander snippets, and now Keyboard Maestro shortcuts to do things like automatically touch-up photos imported from my iPhone 4S or open all the apps and websites needed for a weekly meeting to the forefront of my desktop by typing a few keys. Once you open yourself up to automating a few of your processes, you start to see other pieces of your system that can benefit from automation.

    Once again; none of this works unless you understand your processes and know what tools you can use to get them done automatically.

    The three steps to determine if something is “ripe” for automation

    If your workflow passes these three steps, then automate away, baby:

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    1. You can do this process in your sleep and it doesn’t require your full, if any form of attention. It can (and has been) managed in some form prior to automating it.
    2. The process is time consuming.
    3. The process doesn’t require “human finesse” (ie. communicating and responding to something personally)

    Automating your personal productivity systems can be a great for you in the long run if you are careful and mindful of what you are doing. You first need to understand the processes that you are trying to automate before automating them though. Don’t get stuck in thinking that anything and everything should be automated in your life, because it probably shouldn’t.

    Pick and choose these processes wisely and you’ll find the ones that take up most of your time to be the best ones to automate. What have you automated in your personal productivity system?

    Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

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