I remember when I got my first iPhone, my friends and I would frequently discuss what apps we had and how we used them. Several years ago, when the iPhone revolutionized the mobile phone industry, we were all trying to make sense of how to use these things productively, rather than just for entertainment. Fast forward a few years, and a recent study by Nielson reported that more than half of all mobile subscribers now own a smartphone. If you’re reading this, it is likely you are part of that 50%. Smartphones can be tremendously powerful tools when used as such. And, several years later, the tool is only as good as the apps you have on it.
Before recommending the apps I can’t go without for my self-storage business, I am going to make two assumptions: 1) You’re very busy and don’t like to waste time and 2) You prefer to have your devices operate within an “eco-system,” so that whether you’re on a PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, whatever, you can get access to what you want, when you want it. Now that I’ve made that disclaimer, my top four apps are:
Have you ever started working on something at home, say a document or a report, then forgotten to save it to your USB drive before leaving for the office? So, you show up at the office ready to be super-productive and… your doc is on your other computer. With Dropbox, you install a virtual drive on each of your computers that works in conjunction with your native file system. When you start working a document, just “Save” as usual, and when you get to the office, the document is right there waiting for you.
Dropbox also has an awesome mobile app that allows you to review documents from your smartphone or tablet. With great companion apps like Quickoffice, you can even work on a document away from home or the office, save it back to Dropbox, and then resume again when you get back to a computer. For anyone who works from multiple locations, this is an essential app.
Evernote is the ultimate note-making app. I say note-making rather than note-taking, because it’s really powerful. You can geo-tag your notes to remember where you had the thought— I’ve actually used this feature to find my car in a crowded parking lot. Also add photos, create folders and tags, and so on. You can also create voice notes, which is great when you’re on the move. Like Dropbox, all you have to do is fire up Evernote on your computer, smartphone or tablet, and your content goes with you. Similar to Dropbox, any edits you make to your content sync across platforms. Evernote works with a variety of other apps, so you can extend to its functionality considerably.
So, how are Evernote and Dropbox different? Dropbox is more of a file-management system, whereas Evernote is better for creating content. With Dropbox, you can save any type of document (Word, Excel, PDF, Powerpoint, etc.) and access it from different platforms. With Evernote, you’re creating notes inside its native interface that sync across devices. In other words, it’s better for light content creation to help manage your day-to-day.
Asana is a really powerful project management app created by one of the guys who helped found Facebook. The app is built for people with different roles and skill sets who need to collaborate on projects. You can define project milestones, set timeframes, create goals and assign tasks. You can also set authority levels so you can review and comment on others’ progress as they’re working. Like the other apps I recommend, you can log in here and access it there. Their mobile site is a little less powerful, but it gets the job done.
Toodledo is a great personal to-do app. Like Asana, the web platform is more powerful than the mobile one, but both are really good. With Toodledo, you can set personal goals, milestones, and tasks to help you accomplish those goals. You can make notes to yourself and print out reports on how you’ve done relative to meeting your goals. There are also a lot of ways to tag tasks and group them based on different roles you might play. For instance, I might have a goal to complete a marketing plan by x date and set that up as one category. I might have another goal to build my daughter a treehouse and set that up as a different goal.
There is quite a bit of overlap between Toodledo and Asana’s capability, but I think they both shine in different lights. I think of Toodledo as being a better (maybe even the best) personal to-do list manager out there. I think Asana is better for collaboration.
There are scores of other apps that I love, but these are four I use nearly every day. They are really simple for anyone to use, even the person who just got a smartphone and doesn’t know how to use it! If you have any other recommendations or are looking for an app to solve a specific problem, I’d love to read them in the comments. Good luck!
Jesse Flores is the co-founder of FifthRoomStorage.com, a full service alternative to self-storage based in Atlanta, GA. You can follow him on Twitter (@5throomstorage) or send him a note via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.