Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat – everyday apps that allow us to spend hours watching funny cat videos and checking up on people – are arguably considered a completely inefficient use of our time if you are not a celebrity or a cat. But, hey, what else are we to do with cell phones when they provide instant and endless information at our whim?
Most of us over age 25 remember a time when the only “inefficient” time you had with your phone was dialing numbers to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Cell phones started up as bricks in the briefcases of business people for their busy needs, purely used to call someone (imagine that), but have definitely come a long way from their bulky, screen-less origins. Thankfully, they haven’t strayed too far from their business roots and still maintain their practical usefulness as intended, thanks to the help of apps that give cell phones a productive name.
We surveyed our PKF Texas team to find helpful apps that keep the messes of life organized and make their jobs a bit easier. Here are their top 10 recommendations:
Waze (iPhone and Android)
You might have already heard about this faith-in-humanity-restoring mapping app that relies on user feeds of current traffic conditions. Based on what has been submitted, Waze will show you the quickest route from start to end to help you avoid all the bottleneck headaches, including lane closures and train stops. There is even a “later” option that will suggest the ideal time to leave, based on historical traffic patterns, to ensure punctuality to your destination. This can be very productive, whether you want to be on time for your anniversary dinner in the busiest shopping mall or get to that important meeting with the company’s biggest client on the other side of town. Careful, though … sometimes Waze can show you some unfamiliar areas of town.
Files + Pages and OneDrive + OneNote (iPhone – Note, Files, OneDrive, OneNote and Android – OneDrive, OneNote)
iPhone users: remember a long time ago how we had all these standard apps on our phones and they couldn’t be deleted – and, as a result, we got really, really angry? Turns out Apple might have known what it was doing, and a couple of those standard apps can actually be quite useful. Consider Pages and Files. Files acts as a storage folder, and because it’s connected to iCloud, it gives you access to certain files from any of your devices. You can start a document at home with your MacBook and, should you get interrupted, you have the ability to finish it up on your iPad on the way to the airport. Pages acts as a great start-up tool, providing the capacity to create formal documents from scratch with specific formatting essentials and comment insertions. You are even able to export the document as a Word file or PDF, and it offers a password-protect option.
Oh yeah, Android users: Microsoft has you covered with the OneDrive and OneNote apps. OneNote keeps it interesting with a writing feature that allows you to take notes with a stylus in your own scribble to give you that modern, yet traditional element.
Remember the Milk (iPhone and Android)
Are you the type of person who likes to make lists, but can’t seem to remember to bring them with you or have to sift through your Notes/Memo app to find it? Remember the Milk has your back. It’s a digital to-do list that can cover all aspects of your personal and professional life. Instead of having multiple items floating around in different apps, it acts as a central location for all the reminders and lists of your life. You can assign due dates, start dates, recurring items (daily, weekly, monthly), apply tags for easy searching and even appoint time estimates to complete a task. Did you leave your cell phone behind or have it die on you? Remember the Milk allows you to still access the app online or through a desktop application.
Wunderlist (iPhone and Android)
This is similar to Remember the Milk, but with some other added cool features. Tasks, lists and notes can be added with hashtags applied and reminder notifications enabled, but with the added bonus of sharing it with, and assigning it to, other people. Wunderlist even allows the ability for the collaboration of multiple people on any certain list for them to make any changes to it in real time. Did the hubby make a grocery list but … forget the milk? The assigning function allows for you to edit as necessary, without the worry if he ever did receive your text or remember to even add it to the list. If you would like to make this app an integral part of your life in all facets, there is a Pro version available for $4.99 per month that provides unlimited file-size uploads, to-do assignments and subtask creations.
HoursTracker (iPhone and Android)
For the truly forgetful person or freelance worker, effortless time-tracking is essential. Both operating systems offer this free app that is able to keep track of your day-to-day work projects with ease. You have the ability to set up daily reminders or automatic times to clock in, and the app even tells you when your day is supposed to end (that’s always a good reminder). But, even if you forget to do any of it, you can go back to edit as necessary. You can customize your job name and hourly rate, set rounding times and breaks, and schedule pay period end dates. The app even has a swanky copy and paste feature when that client work will take a bit longer than just a day. Need to submit your hours to a higher-up? No worries because there is an export to email function that sends over an organized report.
MileIQ (iPhone and Android)
If any aspect of your life consists of a lot of traveling and mileage expensing, MileIQ is your best friend. This app makes it truly mindless for you by tracking mileage automatically, even when the app is closed. When you know you’ve driven some distance for anything of note, all you have to do is open the app, classify your drive (business, personal or charity) and enter comments, if applicable. Afterward, you can produce a report each month that shows, among other helpful information, the exact to and from addresses and mileage driven, with an annual summary available for any itemized tax deductions if you drove for charity reasons. With the free version, you are limited to 40 trips per month, but with the premium upgrade for $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year, the drives are unlimited.
Expensify (iPhone and Android)
Naturally, with any business, daily operations will beget expenses, and then we hope expenses beget more business. The Expensify app offers itself as an avenue to ease such methods of recording, submitting and processing expenses for all sizes of companies, from cohorts to corporations. You can sign up either as the submitter or processer and spread your wings from there. With the free version, you can categorize and split expenses with the option to automatically submit reports. You are allotted 10 free SmartScans a month, which involves taking pictures of a receipt and having all the information automatically populate into an organized format. But, receipt storage stays unlimited. With the $5-per-month (per user) Team upgrade, your SmartScans become unlimited, with the availability of next-day ACH reimbursements and connection of the app with other bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks®. If you like it so much that you want to get a whole corporation involved, there is a corporate upgrade for $9 per month (per user) that offers all the benefits of the team upgrade, but with more features to aid in supporting a company of substantial size.
Gone are the days of Star 69 and antennas, but who’s complaining? Whether it be that our multi-faceted lives responded to the multi-functionality of the smartphone, or vice versa, there is no denying that our phones have become both a professional resource and personal distraction of life. Regarding the former, hopefully the above list of apps has enlightened you with helpful efforts to de-clutter your life or inspired you to make use of what you already have. Which apps have facilitated more productivity in your life?
This article originally published in the Leading Edge Digital Magazine Spring 2018 edition.