5. Good Habits (free)
This is an incredibly simplistic app, but I love the idea behind it. This is actually Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity method (I’m sure he didn’t create it, but he’s the first person I heard associated with this method). Seinfeld would get a big calendar to put on his wall, and every day that he worked on new stand-up material, he’d marker a big red X over that day. After a few days, the motivation to keep the red X chain going was stronger than the motivation to not write new material, so he just kept it up. That is the idea behind this app. You enter in a particular habit you’d like to start or sustain, pick what days of the week you want to count towards the habit, then mark the days as you complete your habit. No frills, just motivation to keep going. And it works. I went from flossing like once a month to almost every single day in the last month (I missed October 1st so my longest chain is 28 days). But with blogging, I was on a pretty long dry spell, so I resolved to try and publish something at least once a week. So I marked that habit with only one day I had to check off, and whenever I check that day off, it makes the chain connect from my last checked off day, but my chain length is technically only 2 days. So while my blog habit chain covers the last few weeks without a break, my habit chain length is actually only 8 days. And if you complete a habit on an off day, it counts towards your numeric habit chain length. So even though Saturday is the one day I have to check off in order to keep my blog habit chain going, if I publish something in the middle of the week, my chain advances that far and my chain length number goes up by 1. Pretty sweet. I’ve definitely brushed and flossed more consistently this entire month, and compared to the first half of this year, my blogging consistency is through the roof. It works!
4. Swipes (currently free, they should release a paid version in the next two months or so)
Out of the 10+ to-do apps I’ve tried out, this is my favorite by a long-shot. The methodology is exactly like Mailbox, which, if you’re a Gmail user and you haven’t tried it yet, I would very strongly recommend giving that a try. So the methodology: you add a task or something you want to be reminded of (e.g. water the plants, buy a hose, change the locks, etc. Is it obvious we just moved into our new house?) and then a quick left swipe, and you decide if you want to be reminded on a specific date/time or a general time period like tomorrow or this weekend or next week. Then Swipes reminds you of your tasks when you’ve told it to, and you can left swipe to be reminded again later or right swipe if the task is done. Very simple, and nearly identical to the Mailbox app, just focused on to-dos rather than email messages. You can add tags and notes to each task if you’d like, and all of these are searchable within the app. Again, simplicity is key here. The next update will include a web app, cloud-based syncing, location-based reminders, task-sharing and adding priority categorization, all of which will be part of a pay package. That should be released sometime before the winter comes, and the pricing will be approximately either $0.99 per month or $9.99 per year. Phenomenally reasonable. The only real change I could want aside from that would be a cool Instagram picture when all the tasks are completed, like Mailbox gives you. Either way, this is a fantastically easy to use and helpful to-do app.
3. IFTTT (free)
IFTTT stands for “IF This, Then That.” It’s basically an automator for tasks you find yourself doing over and over. So you give it an “if” statement, and then tell it to do something if that thing occurs. IF I favorite a tweet, THEN save it to a particular Evernote notebook. It works by connecting to several different services and using recipes to complete tasks you do normally. For example, do you use Dropbox to store all your Instagram posts? If not, do you want to? It’s incredibly easy. You activate IFTTT to access both your Dropbox and Instagram accounts, and then everything is done on the backend by IFTTT, so every time you post a new Instagram picture, it automatically saves that picture to the Dropbox folder you specify. Think that’s a lame example because all your posts are already saved in Instagram? Then even better, how about saving all the Instagrams you like into a Dropbox folder for future use, like using them as rotating wallpapers? Bingo, you can create a recipe for saving Instagrams you like into a Dropbox folder.
The value of IFTTT really comes in when you can identify tasks that you do all the time via your computer or phone. So if I find I’m constantly trying to save all the pictures that I’m tagged in on Facebook, or I want to share a new blog post across all my social media accounts, or I want to save all the tweets I’ve favorited into Evernote, or basically whatever you can imagine, IFTTT can do it. Just to get an idea, these are just a few of the services IFTTT can access if you give it permission: Blogger, Craigslist, Dropbox, Etsy, Evernote, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google services (Gmail, Docs, etc.), Instagram, Soundcloud, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, YouTube…and this list keeps going. And if you’re thinking “I can’t think of anything I’d use it for” just do a quick Google search for Useful IFTTT Recipes. You’ll find LOADS. It’s really an awesome service.
2. Brightnest (free)
Ever had a weird household problem to which you couldn’t find a great solution? Like the tub not draining well, water/calcium stains on a toilet, figuring out your mysterious electrical panel? Brightnest will help you tackle a very wide range of household issues like these. The app basically has a bunch of mini-(like seriously mini, very easy to read)-articles that run you through a particular problem or use for an odd household item or how to do that one odd job. All the mini-articles are categorized into:
- Healthy: Detox Your Kitchen, Safety Check: Your Stairs, Disinfect the Five Germiest Places in Your House
- Green: Kitchen Composting Made Easy, 7 Eco-Friendly Laundry Room Tips, Eco-Friendly Air Fresheners
- Savvy: Budget Breakdown: The Cost of a Bathroom Remodel, 5 Cheap Ways to Beautify Unsightly Furniture, Conversations with a Burglar: 7 Common Home Security Mistakes
- Curious: 2×4: Four Unexpected DIY Projects, Get More From Your Mudroom: Ideas and Tricks, Fold a Fitted Sheet the Right Way
- Clean: Forget the Brush! 3 Easier Ways to Clean Drip Pans, De-Stink Your Home, De-Clutter Your Kitchen
- Handy: The Hunt: How to Find and Prep Your Electrical Panel, Inspect Your Weather Stripping, Inspect Your Air Ducts
- Creative: 5 Frightfully Fast Halloween Decorations, 6 Ways to Make an Unfinished Basement Awesome, Pick Your Palette: 5 Tips for Choosing a Color Scheme
- Hungry: 2×4: Four Unbeatable Grill Recipes, 7 Kitchen Gadgets That Are Worth Your Money, From Bacon to Brie: 11 Thanksgiving Appetizers
There are only 24 mini-articles culled from a much larger list. You have to be interested in at least half of these, right? And I keep calling them mini-articles because they seriously don’t take longer than a minute and a half to skim through. Tons of handy information.
Other great features, you can favorite articles to save ones you’ve found most helpful, and the more task-oriented articles have difficulty ratings and average time estimates, and you can even schedule them so you’ll be reminded to rotate your mattress and clean your sheets next Saturday if you don’t have time to do it today. Pretty slick.
1. Day One / Narrato (Day One desktop: $9.99, iOS app: $4.99. Narrato Free is free, Narrato Pro is $0.99/mo or $4.99/yr, and Narrato Awesome is $4.99/mo or $39.99/yr)
These are two separate apps with the same end goal: life-tracking journals. They pull it off in slightly different ways, and each have their merits. I learned of Day One earlier, and I’ve been using it more frequently. Day One is basically just a journal app that allows you to write as much or as little as you’d like in an entry, as well as add photos and tags to your entries for better organization. That seems extremely simplistic, but it’s got a great user interface. When you make a new entry, it tracks your location (if you allow it) and even the weather. What I haven’t bought yet (I’m waiting until I finally purchase a new laptop) is the desktop complement, which allows for printing, export in a number of different formats, Map View, etc. I’m rereading this summary and I really feel like I’m completely underselling the app. Suffice to say, it’s been a neat way to journal thoughts, ideas, goals, connect photos with all of those, and see it in a very visually dynamic way. Also, it’s been highly recommended by major media outlets, including Apple itself. Take a look here.
Narrato is the newest journal app I’ve found, and the idea behind this one is fantastic. Basically, the goal is to not just have a dedicated journal for text entries, but rather, what the app makers call a “life stream.” The idea is rather than creating strictly text-based entries from your own brain, finding inspiration in a host of other social media platforms. Narrato can connect to Twitter, Facebook, Moves, your iOS photos, Instagram, etc., and you can choose what content from these services to add to your particular journal. It also allows for text-based entries, weather/location tagging, and even a moods-based icon tag (basically adding emoticons. Cute). What I love about this is how easy it is for you to add a wide variety of different content to your journal. It’s quick and effective, not making the journal process a chore. To me, the main downside is that currently, there is only an iOS version. I despise typing on my phone, and for the most part, I’ll be wanting to add actual text-based journal entries, rather than just a hodge-podge of pictures, tweets, etc. But, much like Day One, it’s very visually pleasing and fun to use. Take a look here.
So which of these wins? I’m torn. If you are a social media content floozy (meaning you use loads of different platforms and post a lot of stuff), I’d go with Narrato. It’s a great platform to aggregate lots of what you post into a singular, very good-looking spot. If you are more reserved with your social media content posting, I’d go with Day One. It allows less flexibility for what kind of content you post (that will most likely get better as they continually release updates), but it also is more conducive to adding bulkier content (i.e. a long journal post) that takes a long time to create. For my money, I’m sticking with Day One.