When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2009 I thought, here, finally, is a device that will bring a little more organization to my life and which will, surely, make me more productive. And so I sold my Palm Treo and delayed my anniversary vacation so that my wife could wait in line for me at the AT&T store in order to fork out $700 for one. While the original iPhone was a noticeable improvement over previous smartphones, it was still very limited. After all, it had only half a screen of applications and lacked basic tools like a task manager. Fast forward to 2013- past the advent of the app store, social media, cloud-based solutions that sync data, and better hardware (including gps and the accelerometer). The iPhone has become a much more integrated device for managing productivity. More recently, a new breed of iPhone apps have begun to hit the App Store that have more intuitive and sleek interfaces. After testing many, here are 11 of the best productivity apps that I've found for the iPhone.
If you desire to build a social media following- and you should- then Buffer is an essential app for you. In my book If Social Media is a Game, These are the Rules, I write about the importance of consistently posting to social media networks in order to build both influence and followers. But let's face it, that can be impracticable on some days. Buffer is the solution. With Buffer you can add updates, links or articles to a "que" and then the app releases them at scheduled times allowing you to be more consistent. In one hour you can create weeks worth of social media posts. To set Buffer up, simply connect your social media accounts online and then create a schedule for how often you'd like to post to each network. From there you can easily add updates anytime from the app or online.
Evernote is my go-to app for organizing the big-data of life. I keep everything in it; meeting notes, audio notes, quotes, blog ideas and drafts, important documentation, articles that I've saved and a great deal more. Evernote is the last notebook you'll ever need. It's easy to get notes into Evernote by either typing, clipping (from your iPhone or web browser), scanning or uploading. And within each note you can include audio files, photos and other attachments. The true power of Evernote resides in its unique search capabilities that allow users to filter notes and documents quickly to access the information they need. If you're using Evernote for your iPhone, I highly recommend EverClip- a companion app that runs in the background and allows you to easily clip items to Evernote without having to leave leave the app that you're in.
On the surface, Dropbox is another app that allows users to sync, store, share and access files across all their devices. It solves the problem of having files that are always inaccessible or out of date at the most inopportune times. Because Dropbox supports Apple, Microsoft and Android platforms, it is by far the best app for collaborating, storing files and backing devices up. I've set Dropbox up to automatically back-up the photos taken on my iPhone and my wife's iPad (no more having to connect our devices, transfer them to the computer and then try to back them up onto a hard-drive). It's easy to do- simply turn on the Camera Upload option in your Dropbox settings (but be sure to turn off the "use cellular data" option if you have a limited data plan). I realized the value of this for the first time when my iPhone went swimming in the Caribbean Ocean with all my vacation photos on it. While Dropbox is a free app and comes with 2GBs of free storage, it's become such an essential tool that I pay for the 100GB plan ($9.99/ month). The ease and assurance that it provides make it well worth the price.
I hate email. Actually, hate is not strong enough a word- I despise it. Email is a productivity killer. Too many email apps, including the native iPhone mail app, have tried to bring the desktop email experience to mobile. But, they're cumbersome and impractical for organizing email. Mailbox is a tool that allows users to manage their email instead of letting their email manage them. Mailbox has rethought how to process email on a smart phone making it easy to reach the fabled Inbox 0. It does it by introducing a scheduling option to email. Rather than reading through emails and then letting them accumulate in your inbox, you can utilize several intuitive swipes to either archive, delete, file, or schedule them to reappear at a later time. Mailbox is new and only supports Gmail for now- I'm looking forward to them rolling out support for other clients and for IMAP.
There's no shortage of task managers in the App Store. The difficulty is in finding one that doesn't take longer to enter tasks than to do them. Any.Do has a sleek interface that marries simplicity and functionality. Tasks are easily created by swiping down on the screen and it's easy to prioritize, add notes and alerts to them. Any.Do recently launched a feature called Momentwhich is designed to help users plan out their day quickly and with focus. What's more, Any.Do also gives users the ability to share, assign and collaborate on tasks with others. The tasks sync almost instantly across each device making Any.Do more of a project management app than just a task manager.
Humans have used codes, cyphers and encryption like passwords to safeguard information for a very long time. Unfortunately, we're generally not very good at creating or remembering strong passwords that don't include our pet's names or the last 4-digits of our social security numbers.1Password encrypts and stores login information, credit cards, account numbers and other critical information so that users need only remember 1 password to access them. It has a built in internet browser that will automatically log users in to websites and auto fill account information as they browse on their iOS device. And as a bonus, it has a built in password generator for people like you. 1Password can be backed-up to either iCloud or Dropbox. Users need only purchase the app once and it's available on all of their iOS and MacOS devices.
While many calendar apps, including the native one, are designed to allow users to create and manage their appointments, Tempo uses artificial intelligence to provide users with relevant information and action-items as events are created and when they're referenced. Tempo processes information found elsewhere and attempts to pull relevant maps, email threads, contacts, documents and presentations into calendar events. If you're running behind, Tempo knows it and will prompt you to send a pre-populated message to attendees telling them so. Tempo supports multiple calendars- including Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo and Facebook.
Mint is a free personal finance tool that allows you to connect your savings, credit card, loan and investment accounts and view your balances and bills in real-time. It also allows you to create a budget and then track and analyze your spending habits.
Sleep Cycle Alarm
Sleep deprivation is responsible for some of the most notorious industrial accidents in history including Chernobyl, the Titanic, the Exxon Valdez and the Challenger. It not only impairs concentration and motor skills, it's also a big reason that people are so sick. Sleep Cycle Alarm utilizes the accelerometer in the iPhone to analyze a users sleep cycles and then wakes them when they enter the lightest sleep phase- the phase that our bodies would naturally wake if we didn't have an alarm. It's when we're woken from the deeper phases of our sleep cycle that we feel groggy and as if we didn't get a good nights sleep. While Sleep Cycle will not help you to develop better sleep habits, it should help you to wake up feeling more rested and ready to tackle the day.
We are, by nature, creatures of habit. Now, there's an app that will help you to break bad habits and develop good ones. Whether you'd like to drink more water each day, exercise, read the Bible in a year or stop drinking soda, Habit Lists is designed to help. Simply enter the habits that you'd like to develop, or the one's that you'd like to break, then enter the intervals in which they should repeat. Each time you enter a new activity, you begin to develop streaks(the number of consecutive intervals in which you've successfully completed an action). The app can be addicting and, if used regularly, it works.
In my article How to Use Batching to Become More Productive, I wrote about the adverse affect that disruptions have on productivity (every time our focus is disrupted, it takes an average of 15 minutes to regain complete focus back). Our brains have become attuned to the beeps, buzzes and vibrations of our phones and never before have we given a device permission to be a bigger disruptor of our lives. Focus Time is a simple tool, built around the Pomodoro Technique, and it helps users to build healthy habits of "batching" similar tasks into uninterrupted blocks of time. These are my top iPhone productivity apps for 2013, what's yours?