Work, school, family, meetings, appointments, assignments -- whatever is going on in your life is probably enough to keep you busy into the next millennium. And you have that amazing smartphone in your pocket -- the one that connects to the Internet and takes pictures -- with a calendar app to keep you on schedule. Not that you've ever used it.
There are thousands upon thousands of apps out there, some (like that calendar) that claim to actually help us organize our lives, but finding the ones that work is in itself another chore to be added to an already long to-do list.
Here are five apps that get you on the way to start organizing your life. They'll help you remember things -- like to-do lists and passwords -- and help keep things from getting lost, like documents, ideas and your precious time. If you do want to let time get away from you, there's always Angry Birds.
Dropbox is so simple. It makes you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. When you sign up for an account, you're given a virtual box to drop anything you like into. It's password-protected and free with 2GB worth of storage. (Subscriptions are available for up to 100GB of storage for media-heavy users.)
Any file can be kept in Dropbox, which works like any other folder in your computer's system. You can even make specific Dropbox folders public for sharing with other Dropbox users. If you want to share a file with someone who does not use Dropbox, you can send them a link. This is a great way to share documents with coworkers or photos with grandparents.
Dropbox is about as universal as an app gets these days. It works with Mac, Windows, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and Blackberry, so files you create at home on the computer can be called up anywhere you've installed Dropbox.
Remember that great idea you had last week for a new business or the great American novel? No? Never lose another idea by using Evernote as a capture system. Music, pictures, text, screen shots, spreadsheets, links -- if you can see it or hear it, Evernote can store it for you to use later.
Not only does Evernote store this information, but it's also searchable and taggable. Take a picture of a business card or to-do list written on a sticky note, and Evernote can search the words in the image. Tag everything to make searches even easier or organize information inside notebooks, just like you used to in class.
Create a wish list, dream up a business plan and keep track of travel documents on just about any device you can think of. Evernote syncs them all so the same information is available everywhere you need it.
Everything seems to require a password now, from your bank to your yoga studio. As encryption gets stronger, the passwords required get more convoluted. On top of that, you should have a different password for each Web site that requires a login -- no reusing your pet's name. Sorry, Fluffy.
Enter LastPass, a free app that stores all your passwords in one place. It sounds scary, but this storage space is itself password-protected, which means you only need to remember one master password to access LastPass. It even stores online form information, like your name and address, to save time on new sites.
LastPass, too, works everywhere, even across browsers. It can sync automatically between Mac, Windows and Linux computers; iPhone, Symbian, Android, Windows and Blackberry smartphones; and Firefox, Explorer, Safari, Chrome and Opera browsers -- and probably anything that's coming on the digital horizon.
Welcome to the 21st century, where remembering your to-do list is as easy as telling your smartphone what you want to remember.
The reQall app allows you to tell your iPhone, Blackberry or Android what you need to do, like pick up your dry cleaning (you can also e-mail, text, IM or call reQall with information). ReQall analyzes what you've told it and decides what kind of task it is, such as a meeting, a shopping list item or a to-do, and organizes the information appropriately.
That's helpful enough, but it gets better. If you told reQall when and where you had to pick up your dry cleaning, reQall will remind you when you drive by the dry cleaner that day via e-mail or IM. ReQall can also analyze upcoming items and group them together, so if you've got a coffee date in the same neighborhood as the dry cleaner, reQall will let you know that you can pick up your clothes after your coffee.
At the end of the day, even with all of these apps working for us (and against us, Angry Birds), we still feel like we've lost track of time. If those lost hours were supposed to be billable work hours, it's even worse.
A simple time tracking app like Timr, which works on most phones, as well as PCs and Macs, tells you exactly where the time has gone. It's easy -- just start Timr when you begin a work session and stop it when you're done. While lots of offices have time tracking systems, the mobility of Timr means you can track work on a project even while you're out at a meeting or on a job site.
The free Timr account is pretty limited, but paid plans with more features are available for up to 50 users, so it can grow as your business does.
For more information about apps to organize your life and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.
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- Dropbox. (Aug. 3, 2011) http://www.dropbox.com/
- Evernote. (Aug. 3, 2011) http://www.evernote.com/
- LastPass. (Aug. 3, 2011) http://lastpass.com/
- Pogue, David. "Reminders from Out of the Blue." The New York Times. April 1, 2009. (Aug. 3, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/technology/personaltech/02pogue.html
- ReQall. (Aug. 3, 2011) http://www.reqall.com/
- Timr. (Aug. 3, 2011) http://timr.com/