In this episode we’ll talk about some apps that help me manage my life, get things done that are important to me, and stay productive throughout my day.
Using apps can help you stay productive and organized
A lot of what we do these days is digital. I mentioned in a recent episode that lately I have been using a paper planner to manage things, which I really enjoy doing, but a lot of the things I need to manage are online and the way I keep up with everything is by using some favorite apps.
The apps I included on this list are apps I use every day to manage certain elements of my life. The first 7 are available for multiple operating systems (Apple and non); the last 6 are Mac/iOS only, but where I can I suggest alternatives that work for Windows and/or Android.
I am excluding the common basics like Word, Dropbox, Email, Slack, MS Teams, OmniFocus, and Kindle app. I am also excluding TextExpander because I talk about them frequently, but it is absolutely one of the apps I use most frequently and that contributes most to my productivity at the computer
Apps that work on all operating systems
1. Backblaze – This is a cloud-based backup service that automatically and continuously backs up my computer and any connected hard drives. If you’ve ever had a hard drive fail or a computer stolen or damaged (such as in a natural disaster), you know the importance of having a backup. It’s recommended to have 2 backups–a local one (to a hard drive) and a remote or cloud-based backup. I use Backblaze for my remote backup
If you need to restore, you can order a USB drive of your data and mail it back to them in 30 days for a refund. It has the ability to restore multiple older versions of a file, has automatic or scheduled backup (so if you need to save your bandwidth during the day you can schedule it to back up overnight, for example.) It can also locate a missing or stolen computer and has Auto threading & throttling or set your own upload limit.
The cost is $60/year/computer if paid annually (with a discount if you pay for 2 years at a time). There is also a free trial available. I pay for it for both my iMac and my MacBook Pro and it’s worth every penny for the peace of mind it gives me knowing if the unexpected happens I’ll be able to retrieve my files.
Alternatives – Carbonite, among others.
2. EncryptMe – EncryptMe creates a secure VPN (a virtual private network) to protect your data when you’re on an unknown or public Wi-Fi network. This can be used on computers and mobile devices and it’s especially useful if you’re traveling and using airport or hotel Wi-Fi. The cost is $10/month for unlimited, or $100/year if paid annually. There is a 2-week free trial.
3. LastPass – This one is so CRUCIAL for me. This app is a password manager that I use to create, store, and activate strong, unique passwords for the various apps and websites I use. It is so very important these days where there are people whose JOB it is to try to hack into websites and get our personal information. I only have to remember the passphrase for the app itself, and then it stores my passwords and logs me into my sites securely. It has a feature that will let me know if any site I have a password for has been compromised, so I can change my password. There is a free version, the premium version is $36/year, and Lastpass for Families is $48/year. There are also various plans for businesses and all the paid options offer a free trial period.
4. SnagIt – This is a screen capture/screen recording software that allows you to capture the whole screen, whole window, or just a piece. You can annotate the screen capture by highlighting text, drawing circles around parts of it, typing a note, and more. I use this app MANY times a day to take little snips of documents to send with questions to clients or colleagues. I also use it if I am having trouble with my computer and getting an error message; I can send a screenshot to our IT department for help. The cost is a $50 one-time price. This app works on Mac and Windows and there are discounts for government or educational users.
5. LoseIt – I have found, for me, one key to managing my weight is the accountability of tracking what I eat. LoseIt makes that simple since they have a huge library of foods, including restaurant menu items and more, with the calories and other nutrients already calculated. You can also scan the barcodes of prepared foods and it will enter and save all the nutritional info for that item. The app offers more than just tracking, though; you can enter your current weight, your goal weight, and how much you’d like to lose per week, along with some other info about your age, gender, etc., and it will calculate your target daily calorie intake.
This app will also caution you if you’re being more aggressive than is healthy (e.g., if your daily calorie target is lower than is healthy). As you enter what you eat, it keeps track and lets you know your totals and what you have left. You can set other goals in addition to weight — protein, fat, and cholesterol intake; water intake, exercise, and more. I do all this with the free version, but the Premium version (about $40/year) has more features, including social/community accountability.
6. Paprika – According to their website:
“Paprika is an app that helps you organize your recipes, make meal plans, and create grocery lists. Using Paprika’s built-in browser, you can save recipes from anywhere on the web. Want to access your recipes on your phone or tablet? Our cloud sync service allows you to seamlessly sync your data across all of your devices.”
You can import recipes from pretty much any website and it brings all the info in–even photos–and organizes it into ingredient lists and instructions. You can tag them by categories and search and sort in a bunch of different ways. You can also assign dishes to days and create grocery lists from your selected recipes. I keep an old iPad mini in my kitchen to prop up with the recipe onscreen when I cook. It’s available for iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android, $30 for Mac or Windows (free trial for Windows), $5 iOS or Android.
7. Calm – Fair disclosure: they are a sponsor, although not sponsoring this episode. I included this app because it really is one of the apps I use nearly every day. I use the Sleep Stories at night to get to sleep and if I wake at night and can’t get back to sleep, I’ll put my headphones on and listen to another Sleep Story to get back to sleep. I also enjoy the 10-minute morning guided meditations–they call them the Daily Calm. Just a few minutes as part of my morning routine, it really helps get me centered and in a good frame of mind to start the day. The download is free and there is some free content; Calm Premium subscription unlocks much more content. Although they’re a sponsor, I personally paid for my premium subscription. Premium is $70/year, and worth it, but remember they’re offering TPW listeners $40 off if you go through the special TPW link: Calm.com/TPW. The website also currently (as of the date I’m recording this) shows they’re offering a 60% discount on a lifetime Calm Premium membership–normally $400, offered at $160 for lifetime access to all content.
Alternatives – Headspace; free trial, $70/year if paid annually.
Apps that work on Mac/iOS only
8. PDF Manager (I use two different ones – PDFPen Pro and PDF Expert Pro) – I work with PDFs all day long in my legal practice. These apps allow me to not only read them but edit them, annotate them, OCR (optical character recognition) them so they’re searchable, move pages around in them, convert them to Word or other formats, and all sorts of other things.
PDFPen is Mac and iOS only and is made by the same company that produces TextExpander. The regular version for Mac is $80; PDFPen Pro, which I have and which has additional features, is $129 (these are one-time prices); for iOS, it’s $7. PDFExpert for Mac is $80; iOS is a free download. Both offer free trials so you can try them out to see how they work for you. PDFPen has video tutorials on the website and PDFExpert offers free downloads of templates for various kinds of business forms.
Alternatives for Windows-based computers include Adobe Acrobat. If you only want to be able to read PDFs, you can download Adobe Reader for free; if you need to be able to do things with PDFs, you can try Adobe Acrobat DC, which is a subscription-based app at $13/15 month (when paid annually) depending on which features you choose. They offer a free trial.
9. Drafts – I use Drafts as a digital scratchpad. Each time I open it, it opens to a blank text space where I can just start typing or dictating. I use it to capture ideas, quotes, links, notes–anything I want to quickly capture. I create lists in there, such as episode topic ideas, or questions I want to ask someone. From there I can do whatever I want to with it–send it as a text message, Tweet it or send it to Facebook or other social media, add it to my calendar or task manager, send it to another app like Evernote or Dropbox or any number of others, or open it on another device to do something with it. I have it on my iPhone, iPad, and Macs, and even can dictate notes on my Apple Watch. The download is free and the Drafts Pro gives extra features for $30/year.
Alternatives – check out Google Keep; I haven’t tried it, but have heard it mentioned by several people I know who really like it. It’s free.
10. Fantastical – this is a calendar app for Mac & iOS devices. It has an easy-to-use interface–very quick and easy to add events–and it syncs with all my various calendars between all my devices. The basic version is free but the Premium gets you more features for $3.33/month if you pay annually. There is a 14-day free trial.
11. Due – This is an app that lets you quickly set reminders for anything, whether one-time or recurring. It’s different from calendar alarms or phone alarms in that it will keep reminding you about the task until you check it off as done. As their website says,
“With so many notifications coming in from everywhere, it’s easy to miss the important ones. That’s why Due repeatedly notifies you of overdue reminders until you mark them complete, reschedule them, or turn off their auto snooze.”
The app is very customizable in terms of how often you want to be reminded, etc. I use it to remind me to take my vitamins each day and to water my plants each week. During the spring and summer, I have a reminder to water the flowers in my porch planters, set to remind me again 3 days after the last time I marked it done. It syncs with my Apple Watch, so even if I don’t have my phone nearby, I’ll still get my reminders. You can also use Due to create countdown timers. It is $15 for Mac; $7 for iOS.
Alternatives – check out Any.do–to-do list, reminders, and more. I haven’t used it so am not sure whether it does the exact things Due does, but I know people who use it and swear by it. It is $3/month when paid annually.
12. Deliveries – This app tracks packages. You enter the tracking number (Fed Ex, UPS, USPS, Amazon, etc.) and it tracks your packages for you, alerts you to changes in status, etc. It is for both Mac & iOS. There is a free version or if you want the ability to sync back and forth, it is $5/yr.
Alternatives – this article lists several alternative apps you can use that are similar to Deliveries.
13. Reminders – This is a simple list app that comes on Apple devices and allows you to create various lists and share them with others if you want to. We keep a running grocery list there that my husband and I share, so either of us can add things and whoever happens to be at the store can access it, see what’s needed, and check things off as we buy them. We have other lists, some shared and some not–I have lists for household items needed, movies I hear of that I want to watch, office supplies I need (basically different lists for different types of stores). Mike has a home repair supplies list that he shared with me, and I created a “Short-Term Honey-Do” list I shared with him.
Alternatives – I’m sure Windows and Android devices come with some sort of to-do list type app. Also check out Any.do or Google Keep (mentioned above) or Remember the Milk, which you can download for free or the Pro version gives unlimited sharing options for $40/year.
What do you think?
What apps do you use in your daily life to stay productive and organized? Please share your questions or thoughts in the comments section below this post or on The Productive Woman’s Facebook page, or send me an email.
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Royse City, Texas