10 Apps That Genuinely Improve My Life

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Tracking and organizing personal data with apps can make a huge difference in your life — especially if it helps you become more mindful, healthy, or productive. On top of that, many apps out there make accessing great literature, music, news, and education as easy as a tap or a swipe! Although I often talk about the importance of unplugging and connecting with nature, I won’t deny that technology can also provide valuable tools for increasing happiness, efficiency, and knowledge. It’s just all about the balance!

Here are my top 10 favorite apps that work together to enhance my personal daily life (from waking up to bedtime!)


7:30am: Evernote

evernoteI’ve recently been starting my morning with a routine that uses Evernote, a productivity app that is basically a multi-device-friendly word (and image) processing genius. I use Evernote to collect and organize blog brainstorms, favorite recipes, useful resources, personal lists, random ideas, and more.

Evernote helps me boot up my brain and my heart in the morning. I pull up my notes tagged “daily routine” and work through them: first with 5 minutes of gratitude, then 5 minutes of writing whatever is on my mind, then 5 minutes of generating random ideas (a surprisingly productive practice if you do it every day!), and finally a couple of minutes of reviewing my upcoming to dos to make sure I am on top of things.

Available on: Web, Desktop (iOS, Windows), Mobile (iOS, Android, Windows)
Free, Plus ($24.99/year), or Premium ($49.99/year


7:45am: Calm

calmBefore breakfast, I try to commit to a 5 or 10 minute mindfulness meditation using one my favorite apps called Calm (tip: it’s best to meditate in the morning on an empty stomach if you can!). I’ve subscribed to the yearly premium version of Calm for nearly two years now and it’s my go-to app for a quick guided meditation.

The premium subscription gives you access to a large library of helpful mindfulness topics, ranging from 7-day programs to miscellaneous guides (such as sleep, focus, gratitude, anti-anxiety, and more). The free version is a great introduction, giving you access to their basic 7-day program, timed sessions, and a variety of soothing soundscapes. If you’re invested in using it regularly, though, I’d splurge for the premium version!

Available on: Mobile (iOS, Android)
Free, Premium Monthly ($9.99/month), Premium Yearly ($3.33/month), or Premium Lifetime ($299.99)


8:30am: Podcasts

podcastsListening to podcasts using the free iTunes Podcasts app is my favorite thing to do during my commute. I have even started to look forward to my time commuting since I get to enjoy such great programs! I’ve heard that there are “better” podcast apps out there, but this app’s basic (and free) functionality is more than adequate for me!

Some of my favorite podcasts include Happier, TED Radio Hour, BBC’s Global News Podcast, and Serial. I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Available on: Mobile (iOS)
Free


9:00am: ToDoist

todoistI started using ToDoist for work about 3 years ago and I have never looked back. I use ToDoist to track all of my top-level tasks and oversee the daily workloads of my small team. It’s easy to create and schedule new tasks, view your daily or weekly tasks at a glance, or make comments on a task (available with the premium version OR if you share your project with another ToDoist user!) You can also prioritize tasks and color code projects. I just started using it to organize my personal to dos as well!

ToDoist’s beautifully-designed UI is perfect for a visual person like me. And the cute “Karma” feature gives you an extra layer of motivation by helping you track and visualize your productivity with points!

Available on: Web, Desktop (iOS, Windows), Mobile (iOS, Android, Windows)
Free
, Premium ($28.99/year)


Throughout the Day: Spotify

spotifySpotify is my favorite music / radio app. It gives you on-demand access to millions of songs, and I particularly love the curated “Discover Weekly” playlist that they create for you each week based on what you’ve listened to recently. There is a wide array of mood-themed playlists available in their “Browse” section, which is my other go-to. Some of my favorites for the work day are “Atmospheric Calm”, “Brain Food”, “Focus Now”, and “Deep Focus”.

I signed up for a phenomenal special offer in December (three months of Premium for 99 cents!) and I have a little less than a month left. It’s been amazing! I don’t know what I’ll do when the ads come back… I might even keep paying!

Available on: Web, Desktop (iOS, Windows), Mobile (iOS, Android, Windows)
Free
, Premium ($9.99/month)


Throughout the Day: Pacifica

pacificaMy Pacifica app randomly pings my phone with a little question: “How are you feeling?”. I can quickly answer with a smiley face and a range of feelings: Great, Very Good, Good, Okay, Not Good, Bad, or Awful. If I want, I can tag specific feelings like “grateful”, or “relaxed” or “anxious”, or type a brief note to myself describing more about what’s going on.

I have been tracking my mood for a few years now to become more mindful of when, how, and why my emotions change. Discovering Pacifica has made this “mood journaling” become incredibly easy and informative. And the mood tracking barely scratches the surface of this app’s functionality! It also guides you in thoughts, goals, or relaxation exercises (based on cognitive behavioral therapy), lets you track other aspects of your health (such as how much sleep, exercise, outdoor time, and relationship time you get each day), and cultivates a supportive online community. If you struggle at all with anxiety or want help becoming a more mindful person, this free app is the best. Upgrade to the premium version for full access to their guided relaxation and thoughts activities.

Available on: Web, Mobile (iOS, Android)
Free, Premium Monthly ($3.99/month), Premium Yearly ($29.99/year)


Whenever: 1SE (1 Second Everyday)

1seDuring late 2015, I was obsessed with this app. It’s such a cool idea! 1 Second Everyday allows you to stitch together brief moments of your daily life into a continuous chronological video, one second at a time. I found that it was a great way to appreciate the present moment, boost memory, and enhance gratitude. I loved re-watching what I’d been up to the month before in a quick 30-second recap! The founder has been doing it for over five years and watching his video helps you understand this awesome concept.

I unfortunately had to stop using the app in December of last year because I ran out of storage on my phone. That’s the only downside — if you don’t have a large amount of space on your phone,  the daily video footage fills it up pretty quickly. I really hope the developers figure out a way to solve this problem! That said, it’s still a very cool thing to do, even if only for a couple of months at a time.

Available on: Mobile (iOS, Android)
Free


5:30pm: Overdrive

overdriveOverdrive is another great app for your commute (if you take public transportation). This digital library app allows you to borrow thousands of ebooks, audio books, and videos from your public library. With over 30,000 libraries accessible, there’s a good chance a library near you is affiliated. All you need is your library card number to make an account.

Although there is often a waitlist for popular titles, this app is incredibly easy to use. You simply tap a button to borrow a book, and it appears on your device for two weeks. It conveniently syncs with your Kindle account, too! I love that I can always have a book at my fingertips.

Available on: Desktop (iOS, Windows), Mobile (iOS, Android, Windows)
Free


8:00pm (sometimes): Mint

mintAlthough I haven’t established a solid habit yet, I try to check in on my budget using the Mint app about once per week. I seriously love this app. It syncs all of your financial accounts into one place so that you can track your money at a glance, create monthly budgets to keep your spending in check, set trackable goals for saving up and investing, and watch for trends to improve spending habits. It also gives you visibility into your credit score from time to time.

I definitely trust this app and think it’s a great way to stay on top of your finances and become more mindful of your spending!

Available on: Web, Desktop (iOS, Windows), Mobile (iOS, Android, Windows)
Free


11:30pm: Sleep Cycle

sleepcycleBefore bedtime, I open up my Sleep Cycle app to set my alarm for the next day. I place my phone face down on the corner of my mattress, and while I am sleeping, the app uses my iPhone’s accelerometer to analyze my movements. It tracks when I am in REM sleep, light sleep, and awake, and in the morning it displays a graph that clearly shows the previous night’s cycles. The app also has an “intelligent snooze” function that will time your alarm clock to try to avoid going off when you are in deep sleep (which often makes a big difference in how rested you feel when you get up!)

I have used this app to track my sleep for a few years now, and I think it is pretty accurate! It rates your sleep quality and helps you track factors that may affect your sleep. Over the years, it has helped me to clue into what improves my sleep quality (working out, meditating) and decreases my sleep quality (drinking alcohol). It also provides a variety of graphs to better understand your personal sleep trends. The extra premium functionality is so cheap that it’s definitely worth the investment.

Available on: Mobile (iOS, Android)
Free, Premium ($1.99)


So, I’ll admit — most weekdays I’m pretty plugged in from morning to evening. But when I’m using these apps, I feel pretty good about it. That said, I try to mostly unplug on the weekends. I’m still working on finding a good balance.

What apps do you use to improve your life? How do you balance being unplugged with utilizing useful technology? I’d love to hear!

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