I <3 My Smartphone

Android 4.0.1

Android 4.0.1 (Photo credit: laihiu)

There, I’ve said it.  Ok, so I don’t love it, it’s not like I cuddle it, much.  But as someone who for quite a while didn’t bother to find out what was so smart about smartphones having one is a revelation.  I’ve written before about how useful it is to be able to share information across phone, tablet and laptop but this time I’ll share a few recommendations for apps that I’ve found invaluable to my life.

Interestingly I also found the other day that this little device even makes old fashioned phone calls.  Ha!

As someone who has intermittent memory Android’s notification bar is a joy.  For example, I have a checkup at the dentist next month, it was booked six months ago, I need to book a day off work to go – I don’t need to, it’s just a good excuse to have a lie-in on a Tuesday.  I opened up Google Calendar, added the appointment, added a reminder for the time then opened up Wunderlist and added a to-do list item for booking the day off complete with a reminder which will pop up on Monday morning.  The best thing about all these reminders – I also set them two weeks ahead for birthdays so I don’t leave cards until the last minute – is they persist in the notification bar until you remove them so every time I get a new email or app update I see the reminder too.  It’s pretty much foolproof.

Wunderlist is a well designed to-do list app which supports reminders, notes and nested to-dos and is cross-platform, i.e. it has apps on Android, iOS, PC, Mac and Linux all of which sync via the web – there is also website based access if you’re using someone elses computer.

Regularly is a tool for remembering events that happen predictably and regularly.  You set up a new event, set the interval that it needs to be done, each day, each month etc and then every time it’s due and you’ve done it you add an entry to that item’s log and the counter resets, if you don’t do it the app reminds you that it’s overdue.  Perhaps scheduling a chinese takeaway every month could be a bit too much, not that I have done, honestly.

There are many notepad apps for quick notes, the one I use is OI Notepad, in the end I chose it because it looked nice and had a colourful icon.  It’s useful for quick notes when the phone isn’t connected to the internet.  I could use Evernote which is also installed but I prefer to use that on my Nexus 7 where it has a bit more screen to play with.

Of course there are other apps I particularly recommend such as the Met Office Weather app which allows you to have multiple pages of favourite locations, includes five-day forecasts and even sunrise and sunset times; the Facebook app if you’re signed up which is pretty good now; the BBC’s News app is useful and finally Firefox which I personally prefer to the built-in browser because I use it on the laptop and I can sync the bookmarks between the two.

The always-on nature of smartphones and tablets is also particularly useful to me as I can just quickly look at a webpage or make a note without having to put the laptop back on – usually this happens just before I’m about to go to bed.

It has been said recently that people have now started to use technology to get round the problems caused by other technology, like carrying an always connected smartphone in order to always be able to get work emails, but for me my technology just helps me with my annoyingly poor memory.

Where To Start, How To Keep Going

73: "Send up a prayer for me..."

(Photo credit: practicalowl)

I enjoy writing this blog but still find it hard to motivate myself to do it, the problem being that I get home from work, some days I go shopping for bits I’ve inevitably forgotten to get with the weekly shop, other days I have a hot bath, other days I get home a bit late.  By the time I’ve made and eaten dinner I find I’m just too tired or just can’t get into the right frame of mind to write anything.

Often by the time I’ve caught up on other sites I read I think that there wouldn’t be time to write anything.  This is an excuse.

I have a read-it-later list in Firefox that would shame War and Peace.  The sheer volume of information available to me seems too great and the feeling soon becomes “where do I start?”

It seems I’m not alone in this, Lifehacker recently asked its readers How Do You Stay Productive After Work and many of the commenters said much the same as me.  (Update: they followed this up with more good advice here including doing some work as soon as you get home, to keep up the momentum).  It can be frustrating when you have side projects that excite you but you just can’t find the energy to do them.  Personally I’ve found that making sure I get enough rest so my work day doesn’t completely flatten me and pretty much shaming myself into not neglecting my projects works for me.

As for where to start – well there’s a lyric in Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver by Elbow that says “just pick a point and go”.  That’ll do for me.