This year, my personal resolution is to cultivate a better relationship with technology, starting with my smartphone. Our phones connect us but they also overwhelm us. The ubiquity of a smartphone tethers us constantly to our digital life. It’s an ever-present reminder there are emails to open, feeds to check, and notifications to sift through.
What if instead of letting our smartphones stress us out, we instead harnessed their power to our advantage? With this in mind, I’m sharing my top five tips on how to use your smartphone to hack your life (read: get organized and become a better, more well-rounded person) in 2019
1. Get on the Cloud
If you’re not already taking advantage of free cloud-based apps like the G-Suite, you’re seriously missing out. Last year, I transitioned from keeping important documents, photos, templates, and more on local devices to keeping them all on the cloud. This means I can work from anywhere, regardless of the device I’m carrying with me. Gmail is an obvious one, but the utility of Google Drive and Google Calendar cannot be understated, especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur. My Google Drive stores everything from the templates for my newsletter to podcast scripts to important client materials. This way, if my computer crashes or my laptop gets stolen, I don’t have to worry about not being able to access the tools and resources I need to do my job.
In addition to G-Suite apps you’ve probably already heard of, there are also less popular ones that can be real lifesavers. Google Keep is my favourite discovery of 2018. Just as the name implies, it allows you to keep notes, lists, and even photos and voice recordings for yourself and access them across devices. Use Keep to store your grocery lists, lists for next steps on a current project, or even just reminders to do things like fill prescriptions. Keep integrates easily with Google calendar, so you can assign notes and tasks to specific days, making it easy to execute like a boss.
Another lesser-known (and free!) cloud-based app for simplifying your life is Google Trips. It stores travel information such as flights and hotel bookings all in one place. Through the app, you can discover attractions like museums and landmarks, as well as learn about local transportation, acclaimed restaurants, nightlife, and performances. The best part? Use the toggle beside the trip name to download your entire itinerary locally on your phone so you don’t eat up data while on the go.
2. Become an Expert
Whether you’re starting a new company or scaling an existing one, chances are a part of your job is staying on top of industry news and trends. Your smartphone can help you consolidate the publications you read and efficiently store articles for later. Over the last year, feed.ly has become one of my favourite apps for staying on top of my niche. Simply input the URLs of the publications, columns, or blogs you frequent and feed.ly will create a custom news feed for you each day. For example, my niche is fashion tech, so I have a feed for fashion and a feed for technology. When I log in via the app, I can sift through the headlines from both industries and decide what content is worth reading.
Another app for helping you become an expert is Pocket. Put simply, Pocket helps you manage a reading list of articles from the internet. Often times I’ll be working on something and am distracted by an article that pops up on Twitter or in my inbox. Rather than divert my attention, I use the Pocket browser extension for Chrome to save the article for later. That way I can close the window it appeared in without worrying I’ll lose it. Later, when I’m waiting for the bus or riding the streetcar, I’ll use the Pocket app to read through articles I’ve saved for later. I actually find so many interesting and articles per week that I’ve actually developed the habit of “pocketing” articles throughout the week and then going through them on Fridays.
Notice that both of these apps are cloud-based, which goes back to point number one!
3. Make a Content Strategy
It’s 2019, and every company is a media company. This year, make it a resolution to plan your content in advance. “Content” can refer to any articles, videos, podcasts, or images you intend to share this year that help you reach your business goals. My advice would be to map out the entire year, but then revisit your content calendar at the beginning of every quarter and every month. Of course, it’s impossible to plan out every Instagram post and tweet in advance, but having some images and messaging in a schedule will make you feel organized and help avoid a sense of panic when you think about updating your blog or social media channels.
Later is a marketing platform that helps you visually plan and schedule social media posts. In twenty minutes, you can plan a week’s work of Instagram posts so you can spend less time on Instagram and more time growing your business. Un Um is also a popular free app for organizing and previewing your Instagram grid so you can make sure each post fits in with your overall aesthetic.
Twenty nineteen is supposed to be a big year for Instagram stories, so it’s about time you levelled up your game. Apps like Storyluxe and Jane can help you storyboard with interesting templates. With a range of custom backgrounds, frames, and filters, you can elevate the look of your stories. Make them last longer than just 24 hours by adding them to your highlights. Highlights are a great way to showcase different aspects of your personal brand or business, as they’re the first feature people see when checking out your feed.
4. Control Your Finances
A new year means a fresh start for your finances. When it comes to using your smartphone for managing money, it has never been easier. Chances are your bank has an app so you can always view your accounts and keep on top of transactions. Another tool that’s amazing for small businesses and entrepreneurs is Freshbooks. An all-in-one small business invoicing and accounting solution, Freshbooks lets you create and send invoices, track expenses, and log time all from your desktop or mobile app. It’s easy to use and simplifies your life when it comes to tax time.
Adobe Scan is a simple app for turning receipts (or anything) into PDFs using the camera on your smartphone. Files can be saved and organized in folders or sent to any other app (like Freshbooks).
5. Take Care of Yourself
Last but not least, let the apps on your smartphone help you take better care of yourself. A new year may provoke you to resolve to lose weight or get in shape. Chances are the gym or yoga studio you’ve just joined have an app for viewing schedules, signing up for classes, or booking one-on-ones with your trainer. If you’re not ready for commitment, Classpass is a flexible app that provides you access to gyms and studios in your area. For a monthly membership fee, you can try cycling, strength training, yoga, martial arts, boxing, and more.
Just as it’s important to get into shape physically, it’s also important to nurture your mental well-being. Part of this may include limiting or at least curbing your scrolling time. Screen Time is a new feature on iOS 12 that lets you know how much time you spend on apps, websites, and more. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap the graph. There, you can see your usage and even set limits for most used apps.
Headspace is a modern meditation app that helps more than 30 million people stay mindful every day. Whether you’re at home or on-the-go, Headspace enables you to show your mind some love with guided meditations for everything from cultivating kindness to calmness. Sleepy Time is one of my personal favourite apps, and I use it for taking power naps. By tracking sleep cycles, Sleepy Time makes sure you wake up at an ideal time so you’re not feeling groggy.
Journalling can also be a great way to keep in touch with yourself. Use the free Notes app on your phone, or start a dream or gratitude journal in Evernote. Day One is a paid cloud-based app that easily lets you capture memories and ideas with text, images, voice, maps, and weather information. The elegant design and interface makes capturing everyday moments easy and pleasurable.
What are your favourite apps for productivity, organization and wellness? Let me know in the comments or tweet @Electric_Runway.