Top iPhone Apps to Increase Productivity

Tools are an indispensable part of your productivity strategy. Choosing the right tool for your needs can be a confusing and somewhat daunting task. The decision must be based on your needs, working style, and level of comfort with technology. With that in mind I have decided to do a series on productivity tools that I have found to be the most useful for improving efficiency, organization and focus. Each week in the series I will feature a different type of tool. Is there is some particular device or tool you’d like to learn about? Please let me know and I’ll try to report on it.

Since I have been absolutely enthralled by my iPhone lately, I’ll start with that device. *Note most of these apps have a version for the iPad as well so I am lumping them in together. I unfortunately don’t have the iPad yet, but one can dream…

These are the most useful iPhone apps that I have found to be effective, easy to use and as glitch-free as possible. This list is by no means exhaustive as there are literally thousands of apps available, but they are what currently work best for me.

Evernote – Free, open source note program, but way more than just notes. Evernote allows you to capture thoughts using text notes, voice recordings, photos and web clippings. You can tag notes or separate them into different notebooks. All notes are fully searchable and sync with a companion desktop application is desired.

Home Routines – This is my favorite home management app. It helps me to keep my home neat and organized, but keep those household tasks and maintenance off my business calendar. You can make as many routines as you want, and choose which days you want to see them. Routines can reset their stars overnight, or wait for you to clear them. Plan your most important one-off tasks for today, this week and the future with the handy built-in To Do list, and use the daily message feature to give yourself a short reminder for each day of the week. Home Routines is customizable to suit your home and priorities – get things done without cluttering up your calendar, email or to-do list.

HootSuite – Hands down my favorite iPhone app for every day social media management. Monitor Twitter and Facebook accounts, send and schedule updates, view statistics, watch lists and track keyword searches.

Paymo – I use Paymo to track my client and project time for billing and time management purposes. The Paymo iPhone app allows you to easily track your time while on the go. You can use it during client meetings or while working on tasks when you’re away from the office. Use timer or manually enter your time and it syncs with your online account to keep accurate time logs.

Pomodoro Pro – Really neat timer that helps you to focus for short periods of time and reminds you to take breaks. You can set the length of time and breaks if you don’t want to use the default 25 minute periods.

Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite – Create, open & edit Microsoft® Office Files (DOC, DOCX, XLS and XLSX.) Email, view & access attachments with popular file formats (PPT, PDF, iWork, HTML, PNG, JPG, GIF, SVG, TIF, MP3, etc.) Remotely access files via cloud storage services (Box.net, Dropbox, Google Docs and Mobileme.) Share files via email or cloud service providers. Manage and transfer files via WiFi. *Note – if you don’t need the “Cloud” features look at Quickoffice Mobile Suite.

Smart Time 4 Adaptive Organizer – I have just recently started trying this app, but it has serious potential, especially for those who use Google calendar and tasks. This is a really neat logic-based organizer and calendar for busy people. It looks at your appointments, then finds time for your tasks – and integrates both into one simple view. Keep track of lists, tasks, to-dos, appointments, events, and recurring anniversaries all from one integrated view. Categorize your tasks and events and share with family or team members. Don’t need the calendar views, look try Smart Tasks 4.

Shopper – This is the most useful shopping list app I have come across: Barcode scanning, customizable lists and stores, aisle layouts, local store sale flyers, multiple lists, recurring list templates, list sharing and more. This little app has cut my shopping headache down to practically nothing.

Todo – I tried many task management apps, but this is the only one that synced well with Outlook for me. Todo is able to sync with Outlook tasks using an interface that runs in the background on your desktop (though you can get a paid subscription to sync over the air. This app will sync categories which are crucial to me. It also has tags, different types of tasks (checklists, projects, calls, etc.) allows notes, recurring tasks and has the ability to share via email.

Traxitall – This is a very effective goal-setting tool. Track sales calls, social media followers, weight, spending budget, hours works, sleep, client load any anything else you can think of. It has recurring tasks, reminders, notes and best of all graphing of data and goal progress.

Please come back and let me know what you like or dislike about the various apps or if you have any to add to the list.

Royale Scuderi is a personal productivity expert and author. She blogs about productivity tips, tools and strategies at [http://www.personalproductivity101.com]. Her mission is to Help you to work smarter and live better! You too can have business success and life satisfaction through increased efficiency, organization, motivation and awareness.

The High Price of Home Design

All too often I speak with friends, family, and home owners who know that they need to do something with their house — but they don’t know where to start. Maybe they are bored with their same old vinyl exterior, tired of the lack of green space or gardens out front, or envious of their neighbors custom patio and deck. We all know that feeling – but acting on improving your house is a whole different matter!

I have to admit, my family members are big fans of that addicting web site and App called Houzz. We scrolled through their iPad app for weeks on end looking for cool ideas that may have worked for us – when we decided to do a big home reno. But ideas are one thing – albeit a fantastic starting point – committing to a reno without actually seeing what YOUR house would look like is pretty darn scary!

That’s when we decided to hire a professional house designer to draw up some sketches of “what could be”. Unfortunately we must have forgot to have her also draw up a more concrete list of what her deliverables “would be” along with a firm price quote. *sigh*. But, she was a friend of a friend and we were anxious to get moving. Lesson Learned.

After nearly $1,000 in “designer fee’s,” we ended up with a couple pages of loose leaf paper that had some new design concepts sketched of our homes exterior – plus introductions to some of her contractor friends who would give us a “great deal” on the work. Needless to say – we declined.

We wanted to do something to our house – but in our haste we learned just how expensive professional designer fee’s can be. We didn’t want architectural drawings, schematics, plans for city approval… we wanted some basic ideas, colors, and concepts that we can could quickly say we either like or dislike. We didn’t want any pretentious expert to have sit down meetings with us about our motivations, desires, likes and dislikes… heck we just wanted someone to make our real estate look great! This simple and quick approach is something that professional designers often have a hard time doing – and fair enough. They want to display their best talents, best ideas, and best abilities to you – a potential client. And their time is worth money. Lot’s of money depending on who you hire!

But sometimes we just want to get it done. Make it quick – make it affordable – make it great.

So here are the top three tips to get you started… and remember, you should always start out with the basics. Play around with your own ideas surrounding colors, materials, and landscaping before ever hiring someone to spend thousand of dollars designing your dream… because you may just find that all you really wanted was a little help spurring your own imagination and giving you that quick glimpse into “what could be”.

1) Outsiders Opinion

This is so important – talk to friends, family, colleagues and see what they would suggest for your home. But don’t forget they can be a little nice. The real home run opinion is that of your neighbors… you know… the ones with the perfect lawn, seasonal flowers, and freshly painted window trims. They have a vested interest in you doing the right reno’s as it only helps their curb appeal!

2) Online Ideas

Visit apps and websites for home design and home improvement. Don’t spend hours – spend seconds scanning photos & videos. Find something that looks like your house and quickly note what you like and what you hate. Can you recreate that archway with your roofline? Would that outdoor rock work be suitable for your climate? Take note of the improvements or designs that stand out the most to you as being “difference makers” then try to think about whether they would work on your property.

3) Affordable Designer Options

The web has an abundance of highly talented and highly motivated individuals and companies. You can hire a professional design Company half way across the world who may be hungry for work, or an independent contractor from Croatia who has just the skills you need. Search for “freelancers” or “online contractors” and then find the perfect worker for your needs.

So before shelling out thousands of dollars for exterior and landscape designs – start of with the basics. New ideas don’t necessarily have to mean big bucks, and who knows – maybe you’ll discover your own inner designer!