That Digital Life – apps and services to Keep Your Shit Together

I turned 30 last week, and I’m in a rather “get your fat arse in gear and do something before you move to Australia” mood. This means employability (ie. actually endeavouring to, y’know, have some), health, and upping my workload to be somewhat equivalent to a real 9-5 (being out of the house for work for 13 hours on 30th bifday seems like a good start on that front).

Before I get started on my own efforts to Sort My Life Out, I thought I’d throw together a list of the things I already use to Keep My Shit Together. If anyone has any other suggestions, lemme know.

Scheduling/time management/notes

Google Calendar

It’s multiplatform, and it uses the Google account that is constantly logged-in on my phone. The most basic way to write events down (AS SOON AS I KNOW ABOUT THEM), and set up a reminder that will show up on my phone or PC. I usually set a reminder for events a day or two in advance, because chances are I will have completely forgotten about their existence.

The Android version has a widget which you can drop on the home screen of your phone, so I have plenty of opportunities throughout the day to happen across my upcoming events. I use a Chronus widget because it’s a bit prettier, but it does the same thing as the built-in Google Calendar widget

Google Keep

Post-it notes, pretty much. You can attach reminders to them, and also invite other people to collaborate on them. My wife and I use a shared checklist for groceries, so that any time either of us go to a supermarket, we can immediately tick off each item, and the other person will see it instantly.

Finance

Goodbudget

Goodbudget uses an envelope system, which took me a while to get my head around. You set budgets (food, rent, phone bill, etc.) and “fill” those envelopes on payday. Then every time you actually pay for something, you deduct the amount from that envelope. You can also have savings “envelopes” with targets. Using the web browser interface, you can set up recurring payments. You can also have multiple people logged in at once. It’s a really easy way for us to see how much money we’ve saved up for our move. Plus, just being aware of how much you’ve spent in a given month has made me much more mindful of the bigger picture (“if I buy another expensive thing this month, how long will it be until the budget hits zero again?”)

Communication

Google Inbox

It’s Gmail, but a lot better. Things get automatically sorted into categories, leaving you with just the important emails showing up as notifications. Promos, updates (“click here to reset your password”), social (“some bloke you’d forgotten wants to be your Myspace friend!”), and purchases (“your order has been shipped”) sit at the top of your inbox, but don’t create a notification in your phone (unless you tell them to), so email quickly becomes much more manageable.

Google Hangouts

It’s a chat app for Google accounts. It can do the things Skype does, and the things that WhatsApp does (free messaging over the internet rather than using SMS), and it also works on desktop seamlessly.

Line

Pretty much the WhatsApp of Japan. Lots of cute stickers, and growing in social features such as groups and photo album sharing, but really just a messaging app.

Social

Tweetcaster

It has a dark mode, and it lets you have multiple Twitter accounts logged in at once. Which is basically all I ask for in a Twitter. It does all the now-standard things, like showing you the full conversation in a chain of tweets.

Facebook

The vast majority of my friends are on it, and it’s where they make events, post photos, and share articles. It’s pretty decent. Maybe you’ve heard of it already though.

Instagram

I find it a lot less taxing to just scroll through a “Twitter of pictures”. This has decent options for sprucing up photos quickly and easily, and it lets you share directly to Twitter and Facebook as you upload. Easy.

Health

MyFitnessPal

I mainly use the calorie counting features of this app (mainly as an eating/exercise diary and to give myself a conscience rather than to stick to a strict calorie count). It has a lot of foods already on there, and you can add your own meals.

White Noise

We slept in a big room with our niece recently. She slept with a nightlight app that also played the sound of “TV snow” pretty loud. I expected it to be really annoying, but instead I fell asleep quickly and woke up feeling energised and ready to go. The White Noise app (along with a Bluetooth speaker for my phone, otherwise there’d be zero bass) does the trick. You can layer sounds from a library on top of each other. At the moment I’m sleeping with “office murmur” and “rain on a car roof”, and it’s working well so far.

Fabulous

I’m just now getting into this app, but it has a very pretty interface, and is basically intended to create new habits by giving you reminders. At the moment I have it telling me to make sure I drink water a couple of times a day, and reminding me to eat breakfast early at home (rather than decide I’m hungry on the way to work and end up eating convenience store crap).

Entertainment/Reading

Feedly

I started using Feedly when Google inexplicably stopped running their RSS reader (along with cancelling ways of categorising your YouTube subscriptions, Google have really tried to make it harder for me to keep up with websites/video channels in the last couple of years). You can categorise subscriptions, and save quickly longer articles to longform reading platforms, such as Instapaper:

Instapaper

Instapaper is a clean, easy way of reading articles. It has Chrome plugins and Android apps, and I use it mainly as a way of quickly saving something to read later.

Reddit

Reddit is a news aggregation platform. Rather than subscribing to content creators (blogs/YouTube channels etc.) directly, Reddit is a way to subscribe to a topic (“subreddit”). You can also group subscriptions into multireddits, so I can say to myself “I want to read about films”, and in front of me pops up the current most popular links to stories about indie films, photography, sci fi, new trailers, film discussions, and every other subreddit within my Film multireddit.

In the last 3 years, Reddit has become the first place I go to on the internet. If you take the time to explore and subscribe to the things you’re interested in, it really can become page after page of things you want to click on. Make sure you immediately delete the default subreddits from your subscriptions; they’re generally full of memes and people being shits to each other.

Card Crawl

Yeah, this is just a game, but it’s a perfect mobile game. It’s got the depth/progression of an RPG where you have to pick your loadout in advance, and are always unlocking new items, but it’s also very simple and doesn’t have fiddly controls or time pressures to play. You just drag cards around the screen and play a form of Solitaire where you’re killing monsters. It lands right in the middle of being mindless and in-depth. It doesn’t hog your attention and brainpower, but it doesn’t feel like a pointless waste of time, either.

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