A yearly tradition on this blog at the end of the year is a round-up of the top apps that I found to be indispensable. Some apps stay on the list, and then new ones get added. As 2015 is coming to a close, here's my list for this year.
My love for Evernote is clear to anyone who reads this blog, and this year I expanded the way I use it. I already used this app, both on my laptop and my iPhone to keep track of recipes, articles I wanted to come back to, and my lists for planning work. This year I also used Evernote to save versions of my author bio and other aspects for my book promotion efforts. I was able to save a lot of time keeping the frequently used documents I need in Evernote. One of my favorite uses is to tag notes I use over and over as a shortcut. Being able to create separate notebooks for each book and each aspect of the publishing process made everything easier, as I branched out with more promotional efforts this year.
This tool, available both as a downloadable app and through your favorite web browser, has become another indispensable tool. I schedule most of my social media promotional efforts through Buffer, and the ease of use of the tool as well as the helpful tips and articles provided by the team make it one of my favorite apps. I keep finding new ways to use it and ways to save me time and hassle that never occurred to me earlier. I definitely recommend the excellent Buffer blog (link) for tons of social media marketing advice.
This year I finally read David Allen's productivity bible, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and I decided to implement the system. I tried several new list management apps, and ended up abandoning each after a month or so. I returned to Wunderlist, and implemented my own version of GTD. I love Wunderlist because it is simple. I created separate lists for each type or function of work, and created specific Someday lists for these functions, so I can save ideas that occur to me, but don’t need to be done right away. I have found this system has been working remarkably well for me recently, and I have been getting more done with far less stress. Wunderlist allows you to make more lists than you will need, and you can modify your favorite productivity system to suit your needs and match it with Wunderlist.
For the first time on this list, Scannable is an app for the iPad and iPhone that captures paper through the camera, and scans it into a high-quality image that can be emailed or stored in Evernote. I use it to scan work-related checks and receipts easily, or keep an image of a document that I need. It is incredibly easy to use and the resulting scans are very high quality. The app can also be used to scan business cards and convert them into contacts, but that is a feature that I have yet to use. I very rarely have access to an office scanner, but with Scannable, lately I have never found that to be a problem.
Scribd is an e-book subscription service, with thousands of books by both indie and traditionally published authors, as well as an impressive audiobook collection. I found using the Scribd app allowed me to make the most of all my travel via public transport, and I ended up reading far more books than I would otherwise. I like to read 4-5 books at a time, which is easy with the app. The app also keeps track of which books were read in which month, and as I recently updated my 2015 reading list, this data was pretty useful. If the idea of a subscription service appeals to you, the Scribd app is pretty great.
6. Honorable Mention – Fitbit
While the list is technically for the top 5 apps, I had to mention Fitbit. I believe that fitness is really important to being more productive and creative, and my Fitbit app keeps me on track, ensuring I get more exercise than I might otherwise. The iPhone app is quite handy, and I have completely given up using the desktop application. You can track your steps, activity, food, water and sleep using the app, although I only use it for automatically tracking my steps and sleep quality. Not everyone needs or appreciates so much life data, but I kind of got hooked on the idea of seeing trends and using the patterns from the data to make improvements in one's life, and now I love the idea of having as much personalized data about my activities as possible. If you like that idea, the Fitbit app is well-designed and works well. The only grouse I have is with the design of the tracker – charging it requires removing it from the band and I end up needing to replace the band pretty often. Other than that, I love my Fitbit.
I hope this list inspires some of you reading this post to try out a new app. All of the apps mentioned above are either free, or have a free package (Scribd comes with a 14-day free trial), so it doesn’t cost anything to try. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a productive and wonderful new year!