It seems like everyday there is a new app released that claims to help us manage our days, increase our productivity or simplify our lives in some way. Most of these apps only deliver hype, but every now and then I’ll find something that truly works.
Here’s a short list of six apps that have earned a place on my iPhone home screen, without which I wouldn’t be able to stay organized:
1. Things – This is my most used app and the best to-do list currently available in my opinion. I’ve tried many of the others, from OmniFocus to Remember The Milk and nothing worked as well. OmniFocus is too complicated for anyone other than a power user and Remember the Milk is just too simple. I am a firm believer in the GTD methodology and Things works perfectly within this framework. It is easy to learn and their “Things Cloud” feature actually does what it is supposed to. If I had to recommend just one app out of this entire list, it would be Things by Cultured Code. Having a to-do list is a must if you’re ever to get all of your tasks out of your head and organized in a meaningful way.
2. Evernote – We’ve all heard of Evernote and their goal of helping us “remember everything, communicate effectively and get things done.” Well, this app certainly lives up to that promise. I put all kinds of information into my Evernote folders, from receipts to messages scribbled on scraps of paper to class notes. And since it is all saved on the cloud and searchable, I can find what I need on any device at any time. There are so many ways to use Evernote, I would need to write a separate blog post to begin explaining its usefulness. Furthermore, since having an organized reference file is an important part of the GTD methodology, this app works great in conjunction with a to-do app such as Things.
3. Dropbox – What Evernote does for notes, Dropbox does for files. The beauty of cloud storage is that you never have to worry about losing a hard drive, since your documents are always backed up. With plenty of free storage and some low-cost options to upgrade for more space, I believe Dropbox is the best cloud storage solution on the market right now (Sorry Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive).
4. Pocket – I do a lot of online reading, but I don’t always have time to finish what I’m reading the moment I find it. With Pocket, I can save articles and web pages for later. Pocket is super easy to use on pretty much any device and it works flawlessly. Also, since it is so popular, it works with many other apps, such as Feedly (discussed below). Some of the competitors such as Instapaper and Readability are nice, but just not on the same level as Pocket in my opinion.
5. Feedly – Speaking of online reading, an RSS reader is a must-have tool. With Google Reader on the way out, it appears that Feedly will be the new king of RSS. Their iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad are both stunning and provide a great user experience. Since Feedly integrates with Pocket so easily, I find myself scanning through my feeds throughout the day whenever I have a few spare moments and saving articles to Pocket for later. Then at the end of the day, I try to make a habit of getting through all of my articles in order to clear out my Pocket feed. That’s one way to stay current with the news.
6. Fantastical – Having an easy-to-use calendar app is an important part of a digital productivity suite. While the standard iOS calendar app is pretty good, I find Fantastical to be just a step above. It is very intuitive and understands how to parse a single sentence such as “Meeting with John at 10AM tomorrow at Denny’s” into a calendar appointment. This makes it easy to dictate events when the app is open using Siri’s speech recognition functionality. I have always said that there are three basic elements to personal productivity: Tasks, Files and Events. With Things for tasks and Dropbox/Evernote for files, Fantastical brings together the final piece of the puzzle with their excellent event management solution.
There are a couple more apps that I’d love to mention, such as Mailbox and Drafts, but I don’t want this post to go on forever so I’ll leave that for next time. I do hope you find some of these apps useful and if so, please leave a comment letting me know how they have worked out for you (or what apps you believe should be on this list). Good luck!