A New Obsession with Apps: 10 Apps That's Made Me More Productive pt 1

There's an app called Mailbox for iOS that's begun what has become a week long obsession with productivity apps.  Using my iPhone as a machine that thinks and does as much as a personal assistant, so that eventually, I can think and do other things.

The big problem about prod apps is that it (A) takes a while to get used to using them, to rely on them and (B) sometimes, getting set up with them is a hassle and seems like more effort than it's worth.  However, I'm pretty stoked about a few, that I'd like to share here.  I'll probably break this up into a series of entries...

First up, the app I use most:


MAILBOX.  This, for me, was a whole new way to look at mail. I'm someone who used to never delete emails. In fact, I have emails since I got into the Gmail Beta back in 2005.  This is about 14.5g worth of email, close to 8 years.  And everyone of those emails was in my Inbox.

What Mailbox has done, was train me to look at an Inbox as not a place to store every email, but a place to hold until it can be dealt with.  Like an inbox/outbox on an office desk.  You want a clean and clear Inbox.  The first thing it does, is just removes the ungodly amount of unorganized email as just an Archive.  Nothing deleted but it cleans out your Mailbox so that it's empty.

Moving forward, when an email comes in, you have 4 choices.  One, delete it forever.  I used to just not read it and move on, now when an email comes in about new movies at the Arclight, I don't need to save that, I delete it. You can just archive it, unsorted (a feature I hardly do).

The last two things is what keeps you organized: the first is to sort each email into their own folders.  Not a new idea but definitely a new concept for me to learn but the second thing is what's made Mailbox so appealing.  

Let's say, I'm at work in the middle of a hectic day, lots of emails coming in from Vendors and things.  Then, I get an email from a friend who wants some advice and another email that looks like a really great article for upcoming an Fantasy Football draft.  If I just archived those or put them in my social folder, I'd never read them - but I don't have time to read them now.  What I do instead is send it later. 

I swipe to the right and choose a time that I think I'll want to read these emails.  My friend's email, I'll want to read tonight.  So, I'll tell it to be sent to me tonight.  Then the article, I'll want to read this weekend. With two simple swipes, the emails are gone forgotten... until they're sent again.  One tonight and the other Saturday morning.

It's brilliant. And nothing is more satisfying then finding out that email you wanted to read wasn't actually forgotten. It's amazing.

For now, Mailbox only works with Gmail however I discovered that my personal email with a domain name and hosting I have purchased elsewhere can be funneled through gmail and essentially act as a gmail account. It took some intermediate knowledge of DS Names and things but with some helpful guides online, I can now send and receive emails with my own personal domain through Mailbox.



YNAB. The next sort of game changer for me is YNAB or You Need a Budget.  The big problem here, is its price tag: $60 (for Mac and iOS).  However, I believe it's worth every penny.  I can be an impulsive buyer.  I'll budget my month out with checks I know are coming in and have it all spent in my head but then get to a store and decide I want a new game or some gadget that yesterday I didn't know existed.  This works, alright, except I tend to go into periods of having money - and then having no money.  These great waves of feeling I can buy practically anything and then having to stay home and not spend a dime.  

To even me out, I use YNAB.  Which is a sort of new way to look at your spending and it's also a new way to look at a budget.  First of all, at the beginning of the month or whenever you like, you put in your inflow, what you have in the bank to spend. And then you go through the budget and spend every dollar, down to the penny.  Every dollar.  So, if you have $1000, you go through, line by line, bills, savings (long term, vacation, christmas), movies, clothes - whatever you spend things on throughout the month.  It takes a few minutes to set up but when you're done you go about your day.  Then, at the end or beginning of each day, you sit down and enter in all your purchases.  Doing it manually, the 3 or 4 purchases you've made, allows you to really sort of what you did.  

When you do enter them, you'll see the budget for that line go down.  So if you bought a $30 item, your $100 budget is now just $70 for the month.  Moving forward, you start having to do a sort of whack a mole.  If you're going to buy this new gadget, you're going to have to eat out less because you're entertainment line is at $10.  It doesn't say you shouldn't buy the new gadget - you just have to reorganize your lines so that it all ends up 0s - and you don't overspend.

You also forget about the savings lines - so at the end of the month, you've actually saved money you sort of forget you have.  Instead of looking at an overall number - I have $1000 in the bank, you look at smaller numbers... I have $100 for food and $50 for shit I don't need.

There's also a quick and easy iOS app that allows you to enter in purchases on the go, using lines that are more frequent (eating out, entertainment, etc). And it learns how you sort vendors, so plugging in Chick-Fil-A is already calculated out to the restaurant line.  You see instantly how you're doing on your budget.

I'm in a free 34 day trial but if it's all that it seems - I'm definitely going to be buying the app.

MINT. Mint is a good way to get an overall impression of your current financial state.  It's not much more than that but I found it to be most useful as an app and installed as a little icon on my tool bar that I can bring down (with a password) and check on my finances throughout the day when I just want a snapshot.

FREE CREDIT SCORING: The last two are sites: www.creditkarma.com (run by TransUnion) and www.creditsesame.com (run by Experian) both are legit FICO score sites.  And both are 100% free... not pay $15 for something else and get a freescore.com free - FREE.  They use the same information that TU and EX uses and creates a sort of simulated score.  As checking your REAL score too often can actually affect your score negatively. Being run by the actual companies, makes them fairly accurate.  Enough to know if you're doing well, not well, etc.  It gives good advice on what to expect, how to improve scores and taking yourself out of that financial hole.

It's a long process.

That's it for now... upcoming: Evernote (the beast) and Wunderlist (the sexy one).