If you’re anything like me, you’re always ready to “turn over a new leaf” and you’re curious about ways to get better and do better. Unfortunately, it’s my implementation muscle that is my weakest. That’s where apps come in. Most apps are designed to be easy and many of them are gamified to make the experience of using them more enjoyable. I remember a former boss getting excited about an app that deposited coins in his account daily for logging in (not real money, mind you). He bragged about his daily ritual to get his coins as if he was making easy money. But that app became part of his daily habit because it awarded him a non-tangible item with no real-world value. (Imagine what he might have done for real money.)
There are many apps you can use to improve your life personally or professionally. The end of year/the beginning of a new one is the ideal time to look over the tools you use and see if there are areas you could improve upon. This article includes a list of the apps I use or have auditioned in 2023.
Things to Keep in Mind When Auditioning Apps
It’s easy to read this list (or others) and get excited. Shiny object syndrome is real. If you’re not careful you could be downloading or paying for a lot of things that just don’t work the way you do. Just because it’s on this list doesn’t mean it’s perfect for you. I don’t know what you currently use. Maybe what you have is better for how you work. On the other hand, don’t keep something just because it’s the way you’ve always done it. It’s important when auditioning apps that you assess not only the app, but the value it brings you and the operational efficiencies it may change for you.
Don’t negate the value of an app because it doesn’t work with something you currently use. Your way (or software) may not be as efficient as this new app.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before we look at the software:
- Your Needs: While synchronicity is nice (having the perfect app drop out of the sky–or appear on this list–and serendipitously change your life, it’s best to start at a point of knowing where you need the most help. Understand what specific tasks or processes you want to improve or organize ahead of reading a blog about awesome apps.
- The User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX): Evaluate the app’s user interface for intuitiveness and ease of use. A well-designed UI can significantly impact how efficiently you can navigate and use the app. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this other than a trial. You must get in there and play with it. What works for me, might seem annoying to you. That being said, don’t download an app trial until you have the time to work with it. You don’t want to be pressured into buying something (or your card charged) because your trial ran out.
- Compatibility: Ensure the app is compatible with your devices and operating systems. Check for mobile versions, web versions, and desktop versions, depending on your needs. You’d be surprised how many features on one version aren’t available on the other.
- Collaboration Features: If you’re using this for chamber work and collaboration is important, check for features that facilitate teamwork. This includes real-time collaboration, file sharing, and communication tools.
- Customization Options: Some apps allow you to customize settings and workflows to match your preferences and work style. For instance, a black screen is a popular setting these days (not one that appeals to me), but if it’s easier on your eyes, see if the app offers those types of design customization.
- Automation and Productivity Features: If you’re using this app for efficiency, assess its automation capabilities. Features like task automation, reminders, and notifications can enhance productivity.
- Data Security and Privacy: This is one of the most important things on the list but one many of us overlook. We figure if the app is in the app store, it’s legit. Not so. However, Apple’s “Our Favorites” and high reviews are a good sign it’s a reputable app. Prioritize apps that adhere to high standards of data security and privacy. Ensure that your sensitive information will be handled securely.
- Learning Curve: Consider the learning curve associated with the app. If it takes too long to learn or implement, you won’t use it and it is not likely to improve your efficiency unless you are super stubborn, and once you commit, you’ll keep at it.
- Scalability: Choose an app that can grow with your needs if you’re considering something in marketing or organization. Reminder apps are less likely to require scalability.
- Customer Support and Documentation: For a paid app, make sure you check the availability and responsiveness of customer support. Look for documentation and tutorials that can help you troubleshoot issues on your own in the medium you feel most comfortable learning in such as video, blog posts, etc.
- Cost and Value: For some of us, it’s hard to justify paying for an app when there are so many free choices out there. However, sometimes there’s value in the additional cost. For instance, if an app will help you become more organized or efficient, what is that saving you in time (your time is money)? Consider both short-term and long-term costs. Some apps are a monthly subscription. Some you buy outright. Which makes the most sense for you?
- Reviews and Recommendations: Read reviews from other users to gain insights into their experiences. Recommendations from peers or colleagues can be valuable in making an informed decision.
A Word About Motivation
There are a lot of gamified apps out there and they are terrific to help with adoption. But you should understand your motivators. I learned this one the hard way when I auditioned the Plant Nanny app to help me drink more water. First, it’s an endearing app where you choose a plant and every time you drink water, you water your plant. If any of you played with a Tamagotchi back in the 90s, it’s like that but on your phone and with better graphics.
The app is great but I quickly realized I am a people pleaser above all. Instead of being motivated to drink more water when I saw my droopy plant, I lied and said I had. I didn’t want to get up and get myself the drink I needed. So instead, I pressed the button giving it a drink I hadn’t earned. I couldn’t watch the thing shriveled up and it made me feel more guilty than hydrated. Keep that in mind when thinking about gamification tools in your app. (But seriously, it is a fun app. Don’t let my inability to follow rules discourage you from downloading it.)
4 Apps You Should Try in 2024 (or before)
- Artifact. This is a great app to access during your morning coffee. I use it the way I formerly used Twitter (back in the old days, long before it was X). This news-centric app uses AI to curate news content according to your interests, offering a personalized experience. The app includes a handy feature that provides article summaries so you can get the essence of a story without reading the full text. But before you think that’s problematic, Artifact also scrutinizes and rewrites headlines for greater accuracy so you’re seeing an article for what it is, not as clickbait.
- Todoist. Listmakers unite. Simple to navigate yet packed with a lot of features, this application is compatible with almost any device, ensuring your to-do list is readily accessible. You can assign due dates to tasks, organize tasks by project, and even visualize projects through a Kanban board. However, the thing I appreciate is that you can choose to utilize (or disregard) features based on your preferences. Being forced to use features I don’t want to is a dealbreaker for me on some apps. However, I will always use “paper” to-do lists too because I enjoy crossing things off. I use electronic to-do lists to keep track of everything when I’m on the move and then transcribe them onto a whiteboard every Sunday night so I can visualize my week. It’s inefficient but gives me pleasure. What else do I have to do during football season?
- GoodNotes. This year, I made the switch to a digital notebook on my iPad using an Apple pencil. (I also had to buy a “paper” screen protector because it was too slippery. Being a paper person, I needed the “drag” of that type of surface.) GoodNotes provides templates of digital notebooks as well as the ability to customize your own with a host of different kinds of pages and covers. I bought a digital notebook template from Etsy that is one of the biggest, most grand notebooks you can ever imagine. In it, I can document everything including my budget, mood, habits, and work.
- Pocket Casts. While I don’t think I’ll ever switch to audiobooks, I do love a good podcast. Before this app, my go-to player was Spotify. I like that you can skip silences and adjust quality. If you buy the paid version, you can organize your podcasts in folders too.
Apps I’m Going to Look Into
There are a few apps that I haven’t used but am looking into because they sound pretty amazing. They include:
- TickTick. Not to be confused with TikTok, this app claims it can “organize everything in life.” Yes, please.
- CapCut. This video editor might just help me get my Reels life together and going.
- Pocket. I have been dabbling in this app which lets you save articles on the web that you want to read later. The part I’m looking forward to using is that it gives you the ability to turn these articles into narration so you can get the info without setting your eyes on the piece. Perfect if you’re driving or otherwise occupied.