One of my hobbies is trying new applications to make life easier, more productive, or just more fun. These ten applications have been added to by productivity arsenal in recent weeks.
- ActiveInbox You may recall my love affair with Goodtodo. The Goodtodo website and accompanying iPhone app helped me get to inbox zero and stay there. There was only one thing I didn’t like about it and that is that it isn’t fully integrated with Gmail, my email client of choice. In other words, while I could forward emails into Goodtodo (and that’s the point), I often had to go back into Gmail to access emails with lots of links, as these aren’t clickable in Goodtodo. I had heard of ActiveInbox before, but was put off by the Getting Things Done moniker. I don’t use every aspect of the GTD approach. What I didn’t realize is that ActiveInbox does everything that Goodtodo does and more. While it’s not meant to be your primary task manager, that’s exactly how I’m using it and I love it. I have the paid version and feel it’s worth every penny.
2. Springpad Everyone knows Evernote and lots of people love it. I liked it, too, but had a particular frustration. I didn’t like that I couldn’t make a checklist that I could easily rearrange or easily make a note that was a task to complete. Springpad does that and more. The user interface is much more appealing to me as well.
3. SmartPad Even though I have my tasks neatly organized in ActiveInbox, I have days when I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in. One app I love to use in that situation is SmartPad. This iPad app tells you how much you can get done given your schedule and time you have to work. If you dawdle, you can watch the tasks you hoped to accomplish fade from possibility. SmartPad will soon integrate with a SmartDay website which will make the app even more user friendly.
4. Final Version – Wunderlist The man pictured above is not an app, but Mark Forster, who comes up with a new productivity approach every few months. As long as you don’t think of the “Final Version” as the be-all-end-all, but rather as a fun way to gamify your task list, you might enjoy it. I like to use it when I am feeling unmotivated and then Wunderlist is the iPhone app I use. As you tap the stars to indicate that this is a task you prefer to do before the last starred task, the items are put in order at the top of the list for you to begin working on.
5. Clear This is another iPhone app that works for doing the Final Version or just as a great list app. The beauty of it is its simple, clean interface. To make an item a priority, move it up on the list and it’s in the red zone. To add an item between items, simply spread your fingers apart to make room for the new one. If you just want a simple means of organizing tasks in terms or priority, Clear is a great option.
6. Schedule Planner Pro Research shows that we accomplish more of the tasks we schedule. This iPhone app not only allows you to schedule your tasks, but compare what you actually did with what you planned. It’s not perfect, but I love the concept and will use the app when I am working on schedule discipline.
7. Task Current I think of the Task Current iPhone app as a Fun To Do list that I can use to inspire me or even as a reward for doing less-than-fun to do’s.
8. Fitocracy Fitocracy is a seriously addictive website/iPhone app for people like me who thrive on compliments. This diverse community will make you feel like a million bucks for completing your workout, whether you’re a seasoned exerciser or just getting started. There are groups for Christians, but I’ve found the whole community to be very supportive. I was doing squat thrusts at 11:00 p.m. just to finish a “quest” and earn the approval of my fellow fitocrats. What on earth?
9. Daily Feats In case you were wishing there was a pat-on-the-back app for things like housework and parenting, I have good news. Daily Feats gives you points, social approval, and even tangible rewards for doing tasks related to your goals. While company reps are often giving out what are called “props” and sharing links to their products, I’ve found it to be welcome as the products are appropriate to my goals.
10. 750 words Are you a writer who wishes there was a social gaming app to help you get writing done? There is! Earn points for logging 750 words into this writers’ website and compare yourself to others with writing muscle.
What new apps have you found for getting things done?
A few weeks ago, a woman I had exchanged a couple of emails with, wrote that despite having hours of work to do, she had gotten caught up in reading a sample of my book, So You’re Not Wonder Woman, instead. She told me everything she loved about what she had read thus far and wrote, “You’re a great writer.”
At the time I received her email, I was meeting someone for lunch (a happy occasion), but it was all I could do to stop bawling. This dear lady had no idea that I had been wondering if I was wasting my time writing in a digital world that seems to have more writers than readers. We have corresponded quite a bit since then and she has become a treasure to me.
My new friend isn’t just an encouragement to me as a writer, however. She’s an encouragement to me as a homeschooler and a Christian woman. How many times have I missed an opportunity to encourage a fellow home educator? Bloggers get more positive feedback than homeschoolers do. Our work is so trying at times, so vitally important, yet it goes mostly unnoticed. While I pray that whatever I write on this blog will be an encouragement to others, how much more effective can I be by giving genuine praise to a fellow blogger, tweeter, homeschooler, or sister in Christ?
My new friend had no idea that taking a few minutes to send me an email would motivate me to keep doing what God has called me to do. Please join me in utilizing the motivational power of encouragement by:
- Commenting on a blog post you loved
- Leaving a review for a book or product you appreciate
- Replying to a tweet of someone you don’t know, but you’d like to bless
- Telling a fellow homeschooler how you see her excelling
- Sharing with your husband and kids the great qualities you see in them
Encouragement is like lifting someone up on your shoulders so they can do the work God has called them to do.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Want more encouragement? Check out these great links:
I Believe in You
Write a Note
P.S. I’d love to encourage you! Are you frustrated or just want someone to read what you write? Comment or shoot me an email and you’ll have some encouragement coming your way!
Lately I have been struggling to determine how to spend my writing time. I have a limited amount of time and an unlimited number of ideas. I’d love to do it all, but that isn’t reasonable when I have a full-time job homeschooling my six kids.
My writing timeline thus far can be summarized as follows:
- Childhood diary writing, school assignments, and the beginnings of novels never finished
- High school compositions and speech writing for competition
- College compositions and speech writing for competition
- Grad school thesis, dissertation, and professional writing
- Christian periodical and booklet writing when I had children
- Christian speech writing and secular freelance writing for periodicals
- Started blogging
- Wrote and self-published nonfiction book; continued speech writing and blogging occasionally
- Wrote a first draft novel for Christian middle schoolers and families; continued speech writing and occasional blogging
That’s how I got to where I am today. I am now trying to finish my novel, speak more (requiring more speech writing), build a blog following for at least two of my three blogs (what’s the point of blogging if few people read what you write?), and generate more sales for my book. Meanwhile, I am writing what amounts to enormous amounts of material via email to friends–much of it potentially helpful to many people.
So I wonder what I should do. I’m over my phase of wondering if I should be writing at all while trying to homeschool. I’m past the idea that I can’t try to make money selling what I write simply because I don’t need the money. I now know that I can make money to support charities and missions and can make time to write despite my busyness.
But do I drop my blogs completely until I finish my novel? (I do know that I need to finish and publish it.) Do I just blog post haphazardly (which is what has been happening despite my repeated resolve to make my blogs a priority)? Do I spend my writing time on speeches, articles for publication, or even video scripts (which is yet another thing I love writing and developing)? Do I spend my time promoting what I’ve already written? Do I focus on writing more books which I could sell at my speaking engagements? Do I keep trying to do it all?
For today, I’ve decided just to write about where I’m at, like I would to a friend.
I was recently asked how I was able to write for Woman’s Day magazine and thought many would-be writers might have the same question.
While I’ve always been a writer, once I was in the midst of diaper changes and a very part-time clinical practice, I didn’t think my dreams of being published could be fulfilled. While I am far from being a full-time freelance writer, I have enjoyed seeing my work in print and have even enjoyed getting paid to do something I love.
I’m not going to give you the standard advice about perusing The Writer’s Market guide or the The Christian Writer’s Market guide and then sending off good query letters. I’m not going to do that because that isn’t how I was published. That certainly isn’t to say that it’s a pointless approach; it isn’t. It just so happens that I spent hours fantasizing about which periodicals and publishing houses I would send my work to, but never did. I understand from other writers that pursuing publication in this way can be both rewarding (a presenter at a writer’s conference I attended was making over $100,00 a year as a freelancer) and frustrating (with long wait times and lots of rejection).
I’m going to tell you the atypical way I was able to get published because I believe it can work for you, too.
Let People Know You Want to Write. In my first job as a psychologist, I made sure to let our clinic supervisor know that if there were writing or speaking opportunities, I wanted them. Tell your pastor, workplace, organization, or municipality that you’d be glad to write for their newsletters, blogs, and more. I’m not talking about knocking yourself out to put “writer” on LinkedIn or marketing yourself aggressively. Simply mention it!
Write What You Know. We often try to write what we think will sell, rather than what we know. To get published, start by writing the information others ask you for. Because I was a psychologist, I was often asked for information on a host of relationship and mental health issues. My church was the first to ask me to write for them. Without any action on my part, a parachurch organization asked me to write an article for its family newsletter. Are people asking you how you make delicious homemade bread, stay so fit, or organize big events? Write about it.
Give it Away. I wasn’t paid anything for my work for quite some time. Honestly, seeing my published work was payment enough! Share your writing with others for free and let it be reprinted without charge. Early on, you want as many people to have your name in front of them as possible. The combination of these three steps led to my being hired to write booklets for another parachurch ministry. I was well paid and rewarded by seeing my work in our pastor friend’s office in another state.
Write in Love. The reason I was able to write for Woman’s Day, a magazine with a circulation of 6 million at the time, was because I responded to a request for nominations of women who make a difference in their community. My nominee was selected as a winner and I was invited to New York to meet the editors of the magazine as well as the First Lady who would be giving the award. My friend, Deb, was able to write for Woman’s Day after responding to their online request for bloggers on The Happiness Project–an idea she loved. She also responded to a request for bloggers by her favorite store and is now a regular HomeGoods contributor. Respond to and write about people and organizations you love and you may end up published, too!
Pray for Publication. If the Lord wants you to be published, He will make a way. When I learned I would be meeting with the editors of Woman’s Day, I prayed about a topic idea. Immediately, I thought of FLYLady (the online organizing system I was using at the time), but she hadn’t responded to an email I’d sent her. I prayed about it and that day, Marla Cilley emailed me back. I was able to pitch the idea to an editor and received a rewarding contract several weeks later.
I believe publication is possible for any aspiring writer no matter the competition, the changing nature of periodicals, or the writer’s season of life. Do you have other suggestions for aspiring freelancers?