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Some iPhone Apps for Productivity
February 23, 2012 - 9:51pm

 

This GradHacker post is by Terry Brock, PhD candidate in Anthropology at Michigan State University, @brockter

The smartphone has become a regular part of my daily workflow, and I find myself using it regularly for To Do lists, email, reminders, and keeping up to date on news and such. Recently, I've found a couple of apps that have been particularly helpful in keeping me on track, so I thought I'd share them with you all. There are some similarities in these apps: they all do one thing and one thing only, and they place a premium on doing those things as quickly as possible, so you can spend less time on your phone, and more time doing other things. Also, most of them have reminder systems built in, so you don't forget to use them to do the things you want to do. As a side note: I'm an iPhone user, and I've done my best to find alternative apps for other smartphones. Please use the comment field to add any useful alternatives for other platforms!

Tell Me Later

If I could count the number of times I've turned to my fiancé and said, "honey, don't let me forget to _________", I would, er, spend all of my time counting. Same for the amount of times asking someone else to remember something for me actually works. The Tell Me Later app actually does work, however. Whenever I find the urge to ask someone else for a reminder, I just open up Tell Me Later, type in a reminder and schedule it to remind me at the time I need to be reminded. When that time arrives, I get an email, a direct message on Twitter, and a phone notification. The only thing it doesn't do is remind my fiancé to remind me to do something. What I particularly like about his app is its simplicity: it does one thing, and it does it well. There are no to do lists or multiple screens, and it loads up quickly so I don't have to spend a lot of time in the app. I just set it and forget it. The app costs $0.99 at the Mac App Store, which has been worth it already (it is, in fact, responsible for me remembering to write this very blog post!). For Android users, here's an alternative.

Quickshot with Dropbox

For quite a while, I have been trying to figure out a quick way to take photos of receipts so that I can have them catalogued somewhere. Then, when tax season approaches, I'm not stuck with a giant wad full of receipts (which is my current scenario). Instead, they'll all be nicely digitized. I had tried using the Evernote mobile app, but I have found that it is too slow to do things quickly, and I don't like sitting at the restaurant with colleagues, waiting for my app to load. Quickshot with Dropbox solves all of these problems: take a photo, and it automatically uploads it to a folder of your choosing in your Dropbox account. It loads quickly, because it only does this one thing. There isn't any syncing or intro screen, just straight to the camera. After you take your picture, it immediately starts uploading it, even if you switch to another app, or turn off your phone.

I have taken this one step further, and have crafted an If This Then That recipe that transfers any photo I put in that special Dropbox Folder and upload it to Evernote. This way, my receipts are searchable and catalogued in Evernote, but I don't have to hassle with their slow mobile app. Also, this allows me to have all my receipts in one place, including ones for Internet purchases. I could imagine this would also be useful for taking quick photos of documents, notes, or sections out of books, so that you'll have them filed away. Quickshot with Dropbox costs $1.99 in the Mac App Store. Let us know if there is something similar for other smartphones in the comments!

PaperKarma

One of the best ways to be a bit more productive is to reduce the amount of information you have to sort through. PaperKarma is a godsend of an app, that helps reduce the amount of junk mail you receive in your actual mailbox. It is, in short, a junk mail filter for your snail mail inbox. The concept is simple: when you get a piece of junk mail that you never want to see again, take a picture of it, upload it to PaperKarma, and then kick back and enjoy not getting junk mail. The gnomes on the other end take care of removing your address from their distribution lists. Imagine: a mailbox that only gives you mail that you actually want to receive. Of course, you can also give yourself a pat on the back for helping the environment a bit, too. This one is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone, and is FREE.

Day One Journal

One of my New Year's resolutions was to start keeping a journal on a more regular basis: this didn't necessarily mean a full page log of each day, but just a quick sentence or two looking back on the day. In some cases these are quick notes stating my happiness with a productive day, or disappointment in failing to write as much as I'd hoped. Before I got started, though, I needed something that would ensure that I'd write in it every day. Day One Journal provided just the thing, because it has a built in reminder system. It is also a well-crafted app that is easy to use and looks nice. It also works on your iPhone, Mac, and iPad, and syncs your notes over Dropbox or iCloud. The real proof of it's success, however, is that I'm still writing in it, after almost two months. Day One costs $1.99 in the App Store. Memoires for Android appears to be one of the top journaling apps out there, as well.

Are there any mobile apps that you've been using lately that are helping you through your day? Do you have any alternative apps from the ones above for other platforms? What types of tips and tricks do you have to handle junk mail, receipts, reminders, or daily journaling? Share them below!

[Image Courtesy of Flickr user TerryBrock]

 

 

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