In today’s world, we are constantly being asked to do more than seems possible given the hours in a day – especially if we want to live lives filled with joy and purpose. Remember the good old days when the work day came to an end at 5 PM, and the only work taking place at home was what we carried in our briefcase? Of course you don’t! If you’re reading this, it’s probably on a smartphone, and you’re likely simultaneously checking stock prices on your Apple watch and tallying steps on your Fitbit wondering “what’s a briefcase?” Oh wait, you’ve got the Apple watch, so the Fitbit is obsolete now, right? (See what I mean?)
While we can point the finger at technology for being a big source of this problem, we can also look to it for solutions: Enter the app. Below are some of my favorite apps for boosting personal productivity and keeping stress levels in check.
Pocket lets you quickly save, discover, and recommend the stories that interest you. I found this app because my husband would complain that he’d find interesting articles, but didn’t have the time to read them at the time and would later forget where he found them. He’s the kind of person who likes to read his news at the end of the day, so having an app that allows him to quickly save and organize articles of interest was a huge time saver for him. It’s also great for collecting information over time for later use. For example, as you spot articles on traveling in France, you can save them to Pocket and then refer to them all at once when you sit down to plan your vacation to the French Riviera.
CamScanner turns your smartphone into a portable document scanning device. It uses your smartphone’s camera to take a snapshot of a document and then provides additional options like image adjustments, pdf conversion, document sharing, and cloud storage. You can use this to scan notes, whiteboards, even contracts (there’s a more secure version that works with Symantec if your organization has that). This is NOT the same as just taking a photo of a document: CamScanner performs a miracle after you take the wonky snapshot, finding the paper’s edges, squaring it off and clarifying the text. Just trust me on this – you’ll find unexpected uses for this app, just because you love to see it in action. Try the free version and then pay the $.99 cents to upgrade once you’re a believer.
There’s probably nothing more impactful to your productivity than getting a good night’s sleep, and that’s where the SleepCycle app comes in. The app is an intelligent alarm clock that analyzes your sleep and wakes you in the lightest sleep phase – the natural way to wake up feeling rested and relaxed. (You can choose a specific time if you really want to, but it’s not recommended to for the best waking experience.) The app also tracks the quality of your sleep, based on your movements, to determine which phase of sleep you are in throughout the night. It’s interesting to see how your daily activities impacts sleep quality, and how changing your sleep habits might make significant improvements in your waking hours.
Business owner working around the clock? Rushing to complete a project? Entrepreneur on-the-go? Say hello to Fiverr, which offers instant access to a global network of quality freelancers. Fiverr is both a website and a mobile app, offering services or “gigs” starting at just $5 (hence the name). It’s great for business users, but don’t ignore the endless possibilities for personal use. I used Fiverr to hire an artist create a cartoon character of one of my friends and as a birthday gift. It turned out great, took no time at all, cost only $5 bucks and she absolutely loved it!
Elevate is a brain training app designed to improve focus, speaking skills, processing speed and more. Each person gets a personalized game-based training program that adjusts over time based on performance. You might be wondering why I included a “brain training” app in this list – sounds kind of stressful, right? These games are actually fun so it feels like entertainment, but it also feels so much more productive than moving the same old “candy” around the game board. It’s also motivating because you can see real progress as you reach new levels. And of course, improving your communication and analytical skills will really pay dividends in your personal productivity. So an investment of a few minutes of “training” – which will feel like game playing – is really worth it. After trying the free 30-day trial of the Pro version, I was sold. So sold in fact that I committed to a lifetime membership. Check out the free version and see what your trained brain tells you to do next.
So there you have it. My top five personal favorites. I hope you will give each one a try and see what they might be able to do for you!
Senior Business Consulting Manager | Percipio Consulting Group, Inc.