We've just been introduced to the new iPhone 6 and Apple watch (what an earth happened there? Within half an hour we went from ‘really not interested' to ‘oh my word it's amazing, we live in the future!'), which means there's sure to be lot of new developments on the productivity app front, so we thought now would be a good time to list the apps we've found most useful so far this year. While all the apps listed are for Apple products, most of them do have an Android and/or a desktop version as well. Our main criteria is for apps to be easy to use and functional, but also visually appealing, which is why some didn't quite make the cut. With all this technology at our fingertips, there really is no excuse for not staying organised!
P.S. Look out for an article on how to stop procrastinating and get things done later this week.
I want to start with this little app, which packs a real punch despite, or maybe perhaps, it's simplicity. I've really grown to love WorkFlowy when it comes to big picture thinking, and for sketching out ideas. The simple and intuitive way in which you can make and organise lists, with as many sublists as you wish (the flexible hierarchies are good for ideas that have different directions and/or stages of things to complete). It's also easy to drag items and whole sections to different places, and you can also mark things done as you progress.
Moving on to to-do-list apps, Things is probably one of the most long-standing ones. Its straightforward interface, beautiful graphics, and great synchronisation with its desktop versions make it a popular choice. It's hefty price tag does put some people off though, especially now that there are so many different options available. But if you are looking for a true and tested app, which does exactly what it says, you can't really go wrong with Things.
This is a basic, but pretty powerful to-do-list app, which has been around for a while now, and has it's die hard fans. I generally like apps that are seemingly simple in that they are straightforward to use, but have powerful features, such as tagging and ability to set reminders, to really keep you on task. Remember the Milk certainly ticks a lot of boxes.
My husband swears by this app, which is a mix between a to-do-list and a project management app. It has some nice features, such as automatically rolling your tasks that didn't get completed on the designated day to the next one. It also boasts features such as sharing tasks, turning emails into tasks, sending reminders via text, plus many others. What appeals to me most is how the founders have described the app as a ‘new way to focus on the important things in your life and enjoy those things that matter to you but you rarely have time for'. Now, that's a pretty lofty promise to make!
The Eisenhower Method is a way of organising tasks using the Eisenhower Decision Principle (said to have been used by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who is attributed with the quote: ‘What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important'), where all tasks are divided based on the criteria of important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent, and then placed in according quadrants in an Eisenhower Matrix. There are a few apps that are based on this method, which can be very powerful in helping you to prioritise your tasks. If you want to experiment and see whether this method works for you, you could try either the Eisenhower app, or alternatively the more beautiful looking Do Matrix app.
Trello can be used to simply organise the to-do's in your different projects, but where its real power resides is working with a team of people. I've used Trello when working with teams spread over different continents and time zones, and it has really helped with reducing the amount of never-ending back and forth emails. Within Trello you will be able to have multiple projects (even multiple organisations/businesses like I do), and you can assign specific people to each project. You can then set tasks to to, and you'll be able to see when someone is in the middle of working on a task, and when they have marked the task as done. The great thing about Trello is that, if you are managing a project, you will see at a glance what tasks are being dealt with and what has been completed without having to ask people for status updates all the time.
Well, we have to list the obvious choices, just in case you have been living on a desert island and missed Google taking over the way we use the internet. Where would we be without a service such as Google Drive? Her Lovely Heart wouldn't exist for starters, as we used Google drive to work on all our initial ideas and shared foundation documents. Nor would we have any finished articles if they didn't start their life on the Drive, allowing us to edit from where ever when ever.
If you really want to make the most of your Google Drive, the Docs and Sheets apps let you edit your documents on the go on your iPhone and iPad. How ever we feel about the Google dominance, they do know how to design apps that just work. Even working on twiddly spreadsheets on an iPhone is fairly straightforward with the Sheets app, which is a feat in itself.
What would a list of productivity apps be without the mention of Dropbox. This is a service that for us is indispensable along with Google Drive. If all our written stuff lives on the Drive, Dropbox is where we backup, store and share all the image content. Again, being able to access your files from where ever you are, regardless of the computer you're using, gives you freedom that we couldn't really even envisage only a short time ago.
Keeping a journal is one of the most valuable things you can do as an entrepreneur. While hand-writing a journal has a lot of value, and there's a lot of research about how writing by hand makes your brain process information more deeply, it's absolutely invaluable to have a journaling app, which you are sure to have with you at all times when an idea might strike. Once you start journalling digitally, especially about your business ideas, you'll soon grow fond of the extremely powerful productivity benefits. The ability to tag and search through your journal entries is hugely beneficial, and will help you turn ideas into reality, and to connect the dots between different thoughts much more efficiently than trawling through hand-written journals. I'd recommend doing both, perhaps for slightly different purposes, but for digital journalling my go to app is Day One.
When it comes to visual journalling, or moodboarding, you can't really beat Evernote. With every new development Evernote just gets more powerful and user-friendly, and its beautiful visual interface really makes collecting visual inspiration an enjoyable experience. The ability to share boards with other users is also a powerful feature. As a personal example, one of the ways I've used Evernote is for building scoring forms for assessments tests that a panel of judges can use at live events and then collate the results in one place. There are so many ways to utilise Evernote, from collecting recipes, inspiring websites and articles, to creating custom lists and forms, which makes it one the most used apps on all my devices.
Every day I stumble upon articles online that grab my interest. It's easy to get into the habit of jumping from one distraction to another, which really plays havoc with your productivity. But there's also a lot of valuable information you want to read and learn from, if only you had the time. You can add and endless amount of bookmarks in your browser, but it's not the most effective way to come back and read something, and especially then move on without cluttering your bookmarks organisation to no end. What works for me is sending articles I want to read to a ‘read later' app. My current favourite is Pocket, as I really like the look of it's interface on most devices. It's bookmarklet is also pretty simple and straightforward to use. I tend to save a lot of business related articles, which I'll then dive into on a long flight or at other instances where I have time to kill
This news reader app has rather replaced Flipboard, which I used to use for it's beautiful design. The power of Zite comes from the way it learns what kind of things you are interested in. It looks at your social media activity, and the way you use it, in order to show you news and articles you didn't even know you'd be interested in, but are absolutely fascinated with. You can also send any articles you want to dedicate more time to, to a service such as Pocket to read later.
This one doesn't really require much of an explanation. It keeps your passwords and other important information, such as passport details, safely in one place behind one master password. Much better than little notebooks full off incomprehensible scribbling at the back of the drawer. It also syncs across different devices and has a desktop app for more powerful organising.
Straying on top of all your social media can get a bit overwhelming at times. Add to that possibly running multiple businesses, or being in charge of multiple social media accounts for other reasons, and it can all get just a little bit too demanding. With Hootsuite you can stay on top of all your different accounts, plus you can schedule posts and plan your social media presence in a more strategic way.
Forget sorting through shoeboxes full of receipts when the time to sort out your tax return comes. With Receipt Catcher you can keep track of your ad hoc expenses on the go. All you need to do is take a picture of the receipt and fill in the information, and when it comes to getting your expenses to your bookkeeper or accountant you can send a neatly organised report straight from your app. Simple and brilliant.
I've really grown to love the ‘If This Then That‘ app. IFTTT allows you to automate processes on your iPhone. You can create recipes such as, ‘If I post a new photo on Instagram, then save it to Dropbox'. Or something like ‘If I add a new contact, then add it to a spreadsheet on Google Drive'. Basically, it allows you to really harness all of the apps you use, and automate things that will save a lot of time and help you complete tasks that you might not otherwise get around to doing. You can also browse through libraries of recipes other people have created to get you going.
I'm going to finish with a bit of a wildcard. Coffitivity brings a coffee shop working environment to where ever you are. Apparently there is a lot of research about how the soft murmur of a coffee shop aids productivity, and I have to say that I've become slightly addicted to this app, especially the desktop version of it. When ever I feel my focus starting to slack, I stick Coffitivity on and for some reason it really helps with getting me back on track. There's just something about the calming murmur that helps with breaking a silence, which can lead to boredom and procrastination, but without the distraction of having a TV on or listening to music that might draw you out of some tasks.
I hope you've enjoyed this round up of our favourite productivity apps. If you want to share your personal favourites, please do leave a comment below!