5 Apps to automate your life and improve your productivity
Use technology the right way to save lost time and reduce mental stress.
Hi everyone, in my last post I talked about how it is important to have a goal-oriented mindset to be able to make good use of your time and become focused and productive. If you didn't already read it, check it out here.
Are you motivated to go ahead and crush those goals? Yes? Great!
But achieving the flow state is very difficult with the sheer amount of noise and distractions we have in our lives. We are also overwhelmed with so much information, that we are not able to remember it when the time actually comes.
It is a quite well-known belief that if you are able to automate the boring or annoying parts of your life, you will be able to have more time for the core stuff and also the fun stuff.
To give your mind peace, it's important to cut out that noise and make your own life easier so that you can put all your attention to the task or goal that is most important to you. And lucky for us, technology today is at its peak to allow us to do that.
Here are some tools I live by that help me. Even if you don’t like these specific tools, there are many that have similar features, but the problem is the same, so find one that works for you and is able to make your life easier.
Notion is one of the most talked-about apps in the tech space right now, and for a valid reason. What started out as a new way for document collaboration has evolved into a tool that basically can manage your life.
You can use this app and its beautiful interface and UX to create pages/boards/timelines/to-do lists and so many more things and you can organize them all in one space.
I like to think of it as the power of Microsoft Office combined with the convenience and accessibility of Google Suite, sprinkled with the design and UX of Apple.
I personally use it for many different things. I even wrote the draft of this article on Notion.
Here are some of them
- Taking notes for whatever I am studying or learning at the moment and organizing them into easily accessible pages
- Planning and drafting my writing (I actually wrote this on Notion before I published it here)
- Using it for budget planning, investments, and subscription tracking
- Long and short term goal planning as well as journalling
- Travel planner
- Creating shopping lists
- Personal website — yes I actually made my personal website using Notion and another cool app called super.so .
- Subtle plug to check it out — www.tanmaygoel.com
- And finally, I also use it for its original purpose, for collaborating with my team on side projects like Encore and mymizu
It can be used for anything you want to use it for, the possibilities are endless.
I think one of the best things about it is that I have everything I need within one app synced across all my devices. Their templates make it easy to stop wasting time on figuring out the style of the document and actually start doing it.
What’s more? It’s totally FREE and always being updated with new features, so definitely check it out!
If Notion is more for long-term, broader planning, then Todoist is my daily planner.
Todoist is not a planner, it’s the map of my day. I treat it like a communication device to my future self.
Many times during the day, I will randomly find myself remembering something I have to do, which could be something as simple as buying new toothpaste in a few days, or a complicated set of tasks that I have to do for my work or side projects.
Todoist’s quick add feature is perfect. I don’t need to even waste any time to set due dates or recurring dates, I naturally write it, and it will create all the settings in the background.
I just write all the tasks I need to do as a reminder for my future self, and my mind stays relaxed knowing that my past self has planned out my day for me already, and I don’t have to give any mind space to my pending tasks.
Additionally, I can also prioritize, tag, and organize them so that I am visually able to distinguish which ones are important to me, and which ones can be done later. Being a Product Manager, this makes me feel right at home.
Whenever I am unsure what to do, I just open my Todoist and it always has some stuff that I could be doing that was written to me by my past self.
I also use it as a habit tracker, by putting in a daily recurring to-do, and I am reminded of these habits every day.
And again it is on all platforms, so I can view them from whatever device I want.
Hey for Email
Hey was created by people frustrated by how little improvement there has been to email since forever.
We have so many emails coming our way every day and most of them are mixed in together. All the emails you actually want to read are mixed in with receipts and spam. Maybe important emails are auto-filed in a non-important folder or vice versa. You could create some workflow to fix that, but the makers of Hey took a big stand and decided to do it for you by re-thinking the whole experience from scratch.
Some of the features I really like about it -
- Every time someone new sends you an email, Hey lets you decide whether it is important to you or not. If you say no, you will never see that sender again.
- After that, you can decide where these emails belong. If they are important and require your attention they go to the Inbox if they are just some transactional emails that you need to have, but will never look at, they go into the Paper Trail, and if they are newsletters, they go into this beautiful feed where you can read them like a social media feed.
- It has a ‘Reply Later’ bucket where you can put all the emails you want to reply to later (so you don't forget them), and you can reply to all of them in one go when you have the time and mind space.
- You can also ‘Set Aside’ some important emails like travel bookings, meeting emails, tickets, etc that you might need to quickly access whenever needed.
Although it comes with a price tag of a 100$ per year, you get a 14 day trial period to check it out without putting in any credit card information. I forward email from all my multiple accounts into my Hey email and use it as a common source of all my email.
I really love their mission and bluntness, and now I cannot imagine email in any other way. I have not opened any of my Gmail accounts for months since I started using it.
Lastpass (or any password manager)
This has seriously been a LIFESAVER. If you are like me and cannot remember passwords to save your life, you need to get a Password Manager.
If you have an iPhone, you can directly use Keychain, Google also has its dedicated password manager (synced across google chrome), however, if you are using multiple devices across multiple platforms, it might be a good idea to have it all in one roof.
Password Managers safely store all of your login information for different websites and apps and if you also download the chrome extension, it will also auto-fill it when you access the website. You can also simply use them to view your passwords and input them whenever needed.
I use LastPass simply because they are a company built for this purpose, so I trust them to provide the best service and features for remembering passwords and other details.
Gone are the days when I have to go through ‘Forgot Password’ flows, or I get locked out of my account for inputting the wrong password multiple times. Also now I never repeat passwords, and I am able to input stronger passwords for all my accounts.
Also if you don’t already, whenever you get a chance, opt-in for 2FA. Trust me, it could make a huge difference to your privacy!
Alexa (or Siri, or Google Assistant)
I am an IoT NERD.
If I could, I would automate everything I own. (Maybe someday). But for now, I make my life easier by using whatever I have at my disposal.
First of all, I would recommend buying an Amazon Echo. It’s a really great investment that will slowly integrate into your life, in a very positive and productive way. Most importantly, it reduces my smartphone usage and always blows my mind how far technology has come that we are able to control things using our voices!
Here are some interesting ways I do that.
- I use Alexa to control my music, and they also double up as good-quality speakers.
- All my lights are Alexa enabled. You don’t need to buy expensive Phillips Hue lights, you can buy very cheap 10$ lights that work as well.
- For example, I set different lighting combinations for different times of the day. If I say “Alexa, night lights’, all my lights will turn off, and my lamp turns on at the dimmest ambient colour to prepare me for my sleep.
- I use Alexa for alarms, reminders, current time, weather, the status of my amazon deliveries and even to read out my calendar, all without the need to touch my phone at all, it does not even distract me from what I’m doing and keeps me in my flow state.
- For example, creating a morning routine with Alexa, first, it rings the alarm, then tells me my calendar for the day, followed by the weather, and then plays my morning playlist from Spotify. By the time the songs start coming on, I am pretty much awake and ready for the day without even looking at my phone.
- The Skills store has an enormous amount of different companies making apps that you can use for Alexa. So definitely experiment with it. It could help with meditation, learning languages, or even play your news or audiobooks.
Also, this recent ad for Alexa made me lol!
But the main takeaway from this is to use your voice assistants to the fullest. They can easily save you multiple steps on your phones or devices and reduce your screen usage.
You can buy the Echo on Amazon.
These apps (although not majorly life-changing) provide you with mini-upgrades in your life and over a period of time it definitely adds up. It integrates into your daily life and workflow and makes it a bit smoother so that you can use that extra time and mind space for something you really need it for.
I have personally seen the change and it has improved my time management as well as productivity and focus, so I hope they are useful to you as well.