Five apps to help you work smarter, not harder
It’s all about that work-life balance
Apps can help to ease your workload by getting rid of some of the tedious tasks or helping you keep track of things. Photograph: iStock
Want to make your life a little easier?
There are plenty of apps that can help with that, easing your workload by getting rid of some of the tedious tasks or helping you keep track of things.
If you use a tablet regularly , then you need Goodnotes. You can turn your iPad into a notebook, using a stylus (or the Apple Pencil if you’re on a Pro) and use it to take notes, backing everything up to the cloud so you can access it wherever you are.
No more forgetting notebooks, no more searching for scraps of paper. And if your handwriting is good enough (mine really isn’t when taking quick notes, admittedly) you can convert your notes to text for sharing/emailing/saving. It’s not just for tablets though.
The same app will work on your iPhone, so you can import PDFs and sign them - handy for getting emailing documents, for example - and get on with your day.
Some people like to make lists. Others prefer to just wing it, confident they can remember exactly what they need to accomplish throughout the day without noting every task down. Sometimes they do (and sometimes we hate those people by the way). For the rest of us, there’s Any.do. The free app will allow you to easily create a list of things that you need to accomplish throughout your day and give you timely reminders. You simply click the + symbol, and choose from the list of available actions - Pay, Make, Send, Clean, Buy, Meet, Email, Call and so on - and create your task. If it’s a call or email, you can give Any.do access to your contacts so you can add the right person to the task. You can also add your calendar into the app to keep everything in one place, and share tasks with friends or family.
It’s mostly free, but if you want to set up things like recurring tasks or unlimited collaboration and attachments, or location based reminders, you’ll need to shell out for a subscription.
The service also has an assistant, which will take some of the tedious tasks you need to do - book flights, send emails, order flowers and so on - and do them for you, for a fee.
iOS, Android, Web
There are many reasons why I love Evernote, but here are a couple: I can save anything into it, regardless of whether it comes from my desktop, my phone or my tablet; it syncs across all my devices; and in the Windows or Mac desktop app, I can encrypt certain notes to keep them safe from prying eyes. Like GoodNotes, I can organise things according to specific notebooks, with notes and to do lists included, and search across them, but it’s also suited for collaboration too, so you can work on group projects and see everything update as you go. Also, up to a certain point, it’s free - for extra features such as offline notebooks you’ll need to pay, but it’s not strictly necessary.
iOS, Android, Web
At its most basic, Slack is a collaboration tool, with a built in instant messaging system. You might wonder why you need it; after all, there are plenty of instant messaging systems already available, and sharing documents can be done over email, Dropbox, Google Drive or other file sharing systems. But Slack offers a way to bring all that together in one place, and is adding new functions all the time, including voice calls, and and there are apps you can add to help you bring your existing services into Slack, such as Qualtrics for creating surveys or Skype for video calls. You can have “channels” for different teams and subjects, open to a select group of people, your whole company or private for you alone. It acts as a searchable archive too. You don’t have to pay for it, unless your usage is fairly heavy and you want to keep a complete archive
iOS, Android, web
If This Then That has been knocking around for a while. It specialises in helping you do more with the services you are already using everyday, whether it is email and SMS or instant messaging and cloud services. For example, you can use IFTTT to automatically sync all your contacts to a spreadsheet in your Google account. Or perhaps you’d like to keep track of your work hours in Google Calendar automatically, using your phone’s location services. You can create your own “recipes” in the system that fit your needs - maybe you’d like the system to email or text you every time a reminder is added to a shared list, for example - and get everything around you as automated as possible, freeing you up for more pressing matters. Incidentally, it’s also good for connecting all your smart home bits and pieces too, and reminding you of important things such as Facebook updates or new Instagram photos being posted to accounts you follow.