Smartphone apps can do all kinds of clever things to help you organize your life, like tracking the nutrition of the food you eat or the number of steps you take.
Work, school, family, meetings, appointments, assignments — whatever is going on in your life is probably enough to keep you busy into the next millennium. And you have that amazing smartphone in your pocket — the one that connects to the internet and takes pictures — with a calendar app to keep you on schedule. Not that you’ve ever used it.
There are thousands upon thousands of apps out there, some (like that calendar) that claim to actually help us organize our lives, but finding the ones that work is itself another chore to be added to an already long to-do list.
Not to worry. Here are eight great apps that get you on the way to start organizing your life. They’ll help you remember things — like to-do lists and passwords — and keep things from getting lost, like documents, ideas and your precious time. That way you have time for more important things — like playing more Candy Crush. Bonus: All of these apps are free, although they may charge for a premium version with more features.
1: My Fitness Pal
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to keep an eye on day-to-day nutrition, My Fitness Pal is a must-have tool. The free app is populated with thousands of foods, so it’s a cinch to quickly plug in breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. In addition to giving you the calorie count of any meal you plug in, the app will also give you its macronutrients, including protein, fat and carbohydrates. Many people are shocked at what they learn after just a day or two of logging their food!
My Fitness Pal also allows the user to input water intake, important because most people drink far fewer than the recommended amount (half your bodyweight in ounces per day). You can also track your daily exercise and weight, and get a nifty little graph to visualize progress.
2: Microsoft To Do
People today are juggling more than ever before. Enter Microsoft To Do to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. The free task management app integrates both personal and professional tasks as needed, and is easy to connect with other Microsoft programs like Outlook, Teams and Planner.
Thanks to Microsoft’s integrated functionality, it’s supremely simple to create to-do lists and reminders. For example, flag an email, and it’ll then be automatically added to your to-do list. Or, highlight part of an email and the same thing will happen. No referring back and forth between multiple platforms to stay organized!
Scheduling meetings with busy professionals can be a painful process. Instead of engaging in far too many emails and texts, use Calendly to facilitate the process. The concept is simple and elegant. Enter your availability, then Calendly provides a shareable link. Other meeting attendees can visit the link and indicate what works for them, then the meeting is added to everyone’s calendar. The app is time-zone intelligent, a big plus if people in multiple areas are involved. It also works with Outlook, Google, iCloud and Office 365 calendars.
4: Google Photos
If you’ve never had a situation where your phone and all of your cherished photos were lost for good, count yourself lucky. Then keep it from ever happening by downloading Google Photos, stat. The app automatically backs up images from your phone, so no need to remember to do it yourself. It then subdivides photos by date. It’ll also recognize individual faces (even pets!), so if you’re looking for old images of a particular person it’s easy to click on their face and pull up pics they’re in. You can also search by location, activity type depicted in the image (baseball, football, etc.) and much more. Files are also categorized by whether they’re selfies, videos, screenshots and so on. Plus you can easily make your own photo books or print images from the app, should you wish.
Dropbox is so simple. It makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. When you sign up for an account, you’re given a virtual box to drop anything you like into. It’s password-protected and free with 2GB worth of storage. (Subscriptions are available for up to 2TB of storage for media-heavy users.)
Any file can be kept in Dropbox, which works like any other folder in your computer’s system. You can even make specific Dropbox folders public for sharing with other Dropbox users. If you want to share a file with someone who does not use Dropbox, you can send them a link.
Never lose another great idea by using Evernote as a capture system. Music, pictures, text, screen shots, spreadsheets, links — if you can see it or hear it, Evernote can store it for you to use later.
Not only does Evernote store this information, but it’s also searchable and taggable. Take a picture of a business card or to-do list written on a sticky note, and Evernote can search the words in the image. Tag everything to make searches even easier or organize information inside notebooks, just like you used to in class.
Create a wish list, dream up a business plan and keep track of travel documents on just about any device you can think of. Evernote syncs them all so the same information is available everywhere you need it. Basic (free), Premium and Business plans are all available.
Everything seems to require a password now, and as encryption gets stronger, the passwords required get more convoluted, thus difficult to remember.
Enter LastPass, an app that stores all your passwords in one place. It sounds scary, but this storage space is itself password-protected, which means you only need to remember one master password to access LastPass. It even stores online form information, like your name and address, to save time on new sites.
LastPass works everywhere, even across browsers and operating systems. The basic plan is free, but there are paid options that allow multiple users and more storage.
At the end of the day, even with all of these apps working for us, we still feel like we’ve lost track of time. If those lost hours were supposed to be billable work hours, it’s a big problem.
A simple time tracking app like Timr, which works on most phones, as well as PCs and Macs, tells you exactly where the time has gone. It’s easy — just start Timr when you begin a work session and stop it when you’re done. While lots of offices have time tracking systems, the mobility of Timr means you can track work on a project even while you’re out at a meeting or on a job site.
The free Timr account is pretty limited, but paid plans with more features are available for up to 50 users, so it can grow as your business does.
Now That’s Cool
People who need a little extra personality from organizational apps should turn instead to the CARROT line of AI apps. Billed as the "judgmental" app, it uses oddly motivating insults to make people more productive. Then, when you do well, you get little rewards from it.
Originally Published: Aug 8, 2011