10 Mobile Apps That Boost My Everyday Productivity

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If you were in attendance at the Central Florida Chapter event on Tuesday, April 23rd (we had the yummy breaded chicken dinner), this post will sound very familiar. If you couldn’t make it, shame on you! Kidding … but if you weren’t there, this is a summary of my presentation on mobile apps.

Why was I the one to talk about mobile apps? Well, I once told someone in the chapter that I never use a pen … at all. They correctly assumed that I know a lot about mobile apps (using, not building) and invited me to speak. So, of the 750,000+ apps out there, here are the 10 I use every day to make me more productive (and ink free).

Why These Apps?

Before I get to the list, let’s review how I manage to select my apps when there are hundreds of them that do almost the same thing. When searching the App Store (yes, Apple fanboy alert), here’s what I look for:

  • Alignment – I want apps that will align to the way I work, not try to change how I do things to match their functionality.
  • Integration – I like apps that talk to other apps. I don’t want to have to use 15 different apps to do things.
  • Multiple Platforms – I want to access the same information from apps on my phone, tablet, and laptop.
  • Work & Home Use – I prefer to use the same apps at work and at home so I can manage my time and information cross-functionally.
  • Sharing Over Consumption – I don’t just want to consume … I want to add my opinions and suggestions and share this information back to my network.
  • Cost – I like cheap, but I LOVE FREE APPS. It takes a lot for me to pay for an app considering how many quality, free options exist.

My 10 Apps

9 of the 10 apps listed are available on both Android and Apple devices. Many also have browser-based versions for use on any device. Only #5 is iOS-specific. Sorry, Blackberry users, but I have nothing for you! J

  1. Twitter
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android, Browser
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone, Desktop
    Cost: FREETwitter is the center of my app universe.  By selectively following people with similar interests and who share quality information, I use Twitter to help me avoid the need to search the Internet for information. Twitter lists allow me to focus on specific parts of my feed based on my current interests. For example, peers in the L&D industry have their own list that I can quickly review for related content. By sharing and engaging on Twitter, I have built a considerable personal learning network with peers from around the world, most of whom I have never met in person.
  2. Pocket
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android, Browser
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone, Desktop
    Cost: FREEPocket integrates itself into other curation and sharing applications, as well as your Chrome browser, and lets you save websites for future review. I typically use it  from within Twitter to save links to blogs, articles, and other information that I don’t have time to review immediately. I then set time aside to review my “pocketed” content so it doesn’t over-accumulate. Pocket displays your saved information in a magazine-like interface and allows you to label, catalog, and share information in a variety of ways.
  3. Evernote
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android, Browser
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone, Desktop
    Cost: FREE (paid upgrades available)This is my note-taking app. Evernote automatically syncs your notes, which can include text, images, etc., with your cloud-based account. This means you can get to your notes on any device with the app, including your phone, tablet, and desktop. You can organize your electronic notes into notebooks and use labels to quickly search for information. For example, when I attended the Learning Solutions conference, I setup a specific notebook with individual notes for each session I attended. A paid Evernote account adds shared notebooks to the mix, allowing you to collaborate on note content with other Evernote users to whom you grant access. This is the Trapper Keeper of mobile apps!
  4. Flipboard
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone
    Cost: FREEYou probably sense a theme of content curation in my app selections. Flipboard is the best example of using an app to bring content to you based on your interests. This app allows you to select from a list of existing feeds or enter your own based on the content you want to see. Flipboard then presents this information with a magazine interface so you can quickly flip through topical information and read only what interests you. For example, I use Flipboard to curate information related to Atlassian, a software vendor I like, rather than trying to chase the company’s Twitter, Facebook, blog, and other information feeds. Recently, Flipboard added a feature that allows you to create your own magazines within the app with articles you enjoy. This adds the vital share feature I always look for and provides with more options for following users who curate the information you want, saving you the effort.
  5. SnapGuide
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Browser
    Device(s): iPhone, iPad, Desktop
    Cost: FREEThe first thing to note about SnapGuide is that all content shared within the app is public, meaning you can’t restrict or target anything. It is also for Apple mobile device users only (at the moment). SnapGuide lets users create simple, photo-based job aids for mobile consumption. The app guides you through taking photos and adding text for the steps to complete tasks you are skilled with. You can share your own guides, favorite and comment on others, and follow users who share quality information. While I still use YouTube for targeted learning, I like to flip through SnapGuide to find creative, well-built instructions for things I didn’t even know I wanted to learn. Imagine if you had this app in the workplace for creating and sharing mobile job aids! Maybe someday …
  6. TeamworkPM
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android, Browser
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone, Desktop
    Cost: Free Trials, Cost based on Project SpaceThis is my project management app. I lead a virtual team and require an app that allows for task delegation as well as larger-scale project management (no more spreadsheets). I also needed a cloud-based app that met all of my earlier criteria.  Last year, I found TeamworkPM from an Irish software company. So far, so great!  Beyond its dynamic task management capabilities, TeamworkPM’s cost structure is project-based rather than user-based. I find it much easier to manage my volume of work rather than the number of people involved, including vendors, partners, clients, etc. Therefore, it is much more cost-effective for me to use an app that charges based on space and allows as many users as I need. I also use TeamworkPM to manage my personal errands and at-home tasks.
  7. Google+
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android, Browser
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone, Desktop
    Cost: FREEYes, I have a Facebook account, but I like Google+ a lot more. Beyond it’s basic social networking capabilities, I leverage G+ for two specific reasons. First, all of my team meetings now take place via Google Hangouts. A free G+ account allows you to put up to ten people on webcam at the same time and eliminate the need for conference bridges or other more complex web conference setups. Hangouts also integrate with other Google applications, like Drive, to allow for real-time virtual collaboration. G+ Communities let users with common interests share, chat, and meet in a dedicated space. This feature is better organized and simpler than Facebook’s groups. If you asked me, I see G+ quickly becoming more integrated into the Google ecosystem and stealing some thunder from competing social networks due to its professional applications.
  8. Google Drive
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android, Browser
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone, Desktop
    Cost: FREEYou haven’t witnessed true virtual collaboration until you’ve working on a single document with 15 other users. That’s exactly what Google Drive adds to your productivity mix. Google Drive, the home of Google Docs, lets you quickly create and share simple documents, spreadsheets, drawings, forms, and presentations. Invited users can access these materials with their Google accounts and collaborate in real-time, eliminating the need to deal with more complicated shared drives and SharePoint libraries. You can also save other file types into your cloud-based Drive account for recall on any web-enabled device.
  9. Google Chrome
    Mobile Operating System(s): iOS, Android, Browser
    Device(s): Tablet, Phone, Desktop
    Cost: FREEChrome is my browser of choice. First, it effectively integrates with my other Google apps. Chrome offers a ton of extension and plugin options, including Pocket like I mentioned earlier. I can also quickly access open Chrome browser tabs from multiple devices using my Google account, meaning I can start browsing on my laptop and continue where I left off with my iPad. Even if you don’t like Chrome, I highly recommend finding a browser with the features you need and leveraging it across all of your devices and platforms.
  10. Camera
    Mobile Operating System(s): All
    Device: Tablet, Phone
    Cost: FREE (with a device of course)Yes, I mean ANY mobile camera app, even those on “less-than-smart” phones. I use my camera app to capture potential inspiration for future reference in my work. This could include websites with cool interfaces, print ads and billboards with nice layouts, and dry erase boards filled with sketches for random ideas. Any number of desktop and mobile photo apps will let you download your saved images and quickly reference them in moments of inspirational need.

Honorable App Mention

  • Vine is a video-sharing app that integrates with Twitter and allows you to share 6-second video clips. It doesn’t sound like much, but a lot of people, including Jack Dorsey, are creating amazing 6-second cinematic masterpieces for consumption on Twitter.

App Organization

I’m not only picky about my apps, I’m very specific about how I organize them on my devices. I want to access my favorite apps quickly while engaged in work activities without having to hunt. I do this by …

  • Placing my favorite apps on the first screen on my device. The apps I use the most are positioned on the edges of the screen since my thumb most naturally hits these spots.
  • Using subfolders on the second screen of my device to store lesser apps based on topics. For example, I have a “Music” folder with apps like Music, Pandora, Twitter Music, Spotify, etc.
  • Keeping a dedicated test area on my third screen. This is where I place apps that I download based on recommendations or general interest. I keep them there while I try them out and determine if I will hold onto them. Then, I either delete them or move them forward to the appropriate screen.

So What Should I Do?

That was about 1890 words on mobile apps. Thousands of books, blogs, articles, and courses have been created on this subject, all filled with their own recommendations.  So, what should you do with this info?

  • Keep trying new apps. Ask your peers what they’re using. Check apps stores for what’s new and popular. You can do amazing things without paying for a single app.
  • Find apps that fit into your workflow. Don’t bend too much to match an app’s functionality. Use apps that match the way you want to work.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed. If you like your paper planner, it’s fine to stick with it. I still recommend trying out apps that could replace older methods, but ultimately do what makes you comfortable and allows you to do your best work.

If you have any questions about mobile apps or want some recommendations for other topics, like my favorite dining reservation application (OpenTable), send me an email at jddillon@hotmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @JD_Dillon.

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4 Responses to “10 Mobile Apps That Boost My Everyday Productivity”

  1. android gadgets Says:

    I do believe all the ideas you have presented in your post.
    They are really convincing and can definitely work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for newbies. May you please prolong
    them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

    • JD Dillon Says:

      Thanks for your comment! Do I interpret correctly when I say you are looking for some more detail into the suggested apps and how I would suggest leveraging them for learning/productivity purposes?

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