Ed. Note: This series was first published in January 2017. As technology changes so do some of the apps I use, and as I meet more and more interesting people I am finding better ways to do things. So that means that this information changes on multiple levels. I’m making it a point to update this series periodically to reflect my current usage. If you’ve read this before, check it out again. You just might find something that makes your life a little bit easier.
Productivity is a funny thing. I think society tries to program us to think that we have to do more every day in order to succeed in life. So if you asked the average person what ‘productivity’ means, I think their answer would support my claim. And technology can help in so many ways if you take the time to configure and set it up. An hour spent downloading the right apps and configuring the right setup can help you to get the right things done. In the first post in this series, which focused on communication, I talked about how I make it a point to be effective over efficient. I.E. doing the right things, not just doing things quickly.
There is a perfect time to start being intentional with how you use your phone, and that time is now. Here are some of the apps and tools that I use to help me work better. I was an early adopter of cloud services because I know first hand the importance of keeping a back up (multiple, if possible) and I wanted to be able to access my information from any device, whether it is mine or a someone else’s. There are a multitude of options for cloud storage solutions, however, I chose to go with Google’s Drive and Apple’s iCloud. I have used other services in the past such as DropBox and Box, however, I feel like Google and Apple have their services baked into the OS quite nicely, their storage plans have the option to share with family members, and the companies are big enough that I don’t worry about them shutting down. If you haven’t embraced some sort of cloud storage and a backup solution I would highly recommend that you do so, sooner than later.
First and foremost, for me, the key to getting everything done that I need and want to do is first accomplished by writing down these objectives in a calendar. Currently, I am using a third-party app called Fantastical 2 which is available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Staying productive means putting every single planned thing on the calendar which is then shared with my family so that they know what’s going on. Communication is important in making our household work. Both my wife and I work and we have a daughter that is only getting more involved in activities, so managing our schedules in real time is so helpful. It has taken some time to develop this habit, but I don’t commit to anything before checking the calendar.
When I say that it is important to put ‘every single planned thing’ on the calendar, I mean it. In as much as it’s important to list the meetings and events I have with other people, it is equally, if not more, important to list the things that I want to get done for me. This includes wake up time, reading, meditation, workouts, naps, date nights, chats with friends, and…well you get the idea. Anything I want to get done goes on the calendar. This ensures I have the time set aside and, since I share my calendar with other people, there is an element of accountability that is baked in.
I have the folders on my phone, tablets, and computers that house my documents, files, images, projects, and memories set to sync to Google Drive and iCloud. I do this for multiple reasons, but peace of mind is the most paramount. Once you set up your folders to sync with these services, and after an initial upload (which can take a while), your information is backed up automatically. I don’t need to go into all of the benefits of cloud-based storage as they are pretty well known. Because I know that my info is safe I don’t have to worry about the computer or phone or tablet that I’m using breaking. It helps me to be a little less materialistic because I’m device ambiguous. I can get my stuff wherever. It is more freeing than you might think.
Keeping with the Google theme is Google Docs. I remember when people were limited to MS Word or some half-baked open-source word processing program. No more. Google Docs is the full suite- word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation. And it’s all online, it saves automatically to Google Drive and is available on any device. In addition, you can share documents with permissions that vary from view-only to full edit and you can see markups easily. It’s fantastic for collaboration.
For notes and lists, I swap between the standard notes app that comes installed on the iPhone and Evernote. In a pinch, Apple Notes will work just fine and has the benefits of opening very quickly and by being where Siri will place a note when I dictate it. But for more in-depth note taking and list making, Evernote is the shit. Not only does it allow for tagging, organization, tracking, and collaboration but there is a feature that transcends note-taking and singlehandedly justifies the $3.99/month ‘Plus’ upgrade. Evernote’s secret weapon is its ability to automate how you handle business cards. If you’re like me, you do a good amount of networking. It’s how I meet new people, find leads, and make connections. This means that I get a lot of business cards, and before I found this feature they would end up in piles on my desk, with nothing done with them. With Evernote, I can scan a card and it will figure out the good information and create a contact on my phone. Then it goes a step farther and sends an introduction email. And THEN it connects me with my new friend on LinkedIn. So what previously would have been a missed opportunity now has the potential for a new business relationship.
For reminders, I’m a huge fan of the stock iPhone reminders app. It’s easy to use Siri to set reminders and it uses geofencing for alerts at specific locations, in addition to standard scheduling. I set up multiple lists that include daily to-do, long-term to-do, health reminders (eating, exercise, weight, etc.) and specific stores like Kroger.
Lastly, one of the hidden gems of the iPhone is the AirDrop feature. This one is a big time saver because it allows me to transfer files, pictures, videos or whatever from my iPhone to my iPad, MacBook or a friends device. We don’t even have to be connected to the same network! This is hugely helpful when editing photos as sometimes there are things that can be done easier on my iPhone than on the Mac. Next to iMessages, AirDrop is THE reason that I switched from Android. It is hugely underrated.
So there you have it- the most used productivity apps on my iPhone. Sure there are others that I use, but these are the apps that do the most work. And that’s what productivity is about, right? I’d love to hear what you use and how you maximize the effectiveness of your mobile phone. Leave a comment or shoot me an email!