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11 free mobile apps to streamline your life

Thursday 10 December 2015

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Organising your busy lifestyle can be difficult, let alone the lives of your family, but help is at hand: here are 11 mobile apps that, with the touch of a button, will help you restore order in these multitasking times.

  • Automate repetitive jobs, travel smarter or store information efficiently
  • There are even apps that help you manage your apps!
  • Tech journalist Dan Oliver reveals his 11 favourite apps for life management

In a 2015 report on the effects of multitasking, the American neuroscientist Daniel Levitin claimed that “asking the brain to shift attention from one activity burns up the same fuel you need to stay on task”.

So, where we might assume that multitasking makes us more productive, it doesn’t. In fact, our brains are struggling to keep up with the pace of modern day life as we struggle to fit everything in.

And technology doesn’t always help, either. Whilst fiction often paints a utopian picture of tech freeing us from the shackles of day-to-day life, the reality isn’t always quite so rosy. With so many apps and gadgets vying for our attention, it’s easy to get bogged down.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you choose the right apps, it’s amazing how much help a smartphone can provide, enabling us to take on troublesome tasks in the most efficient way.

1) Evernote (Android, iOS, Windows Phone)

Evernote has become the poster-child of note-taking apps, and it comes with some great widgets.

These widgets enable you to post notes directly from your home screen on Android devices, or via the Notification Center on iOS. You’ll be surprised at the clicks and time that you’ll save.

2. Dinner Spinner (Android, iOS)

This easy-to-use app from Allrecipes puts delicious meals at your fingertips. Only have 20 minutes to cook a family meal? Dinner Spinner can suggest quick and easy meals to prepare in minutes.

There are over 50,000 recipes to choose from, so whether you are going gourmet or clearing out the fridge, Allrecipes Dinner Spinner could have something for you.

3. Dropbox (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)

The cases for using Dropbox are numerous, but here we’re going to focus on just one feature of the world’s favourite cloud-based backup service: photo and video backup.

To do this, you simply need to enable ‘Camera Upload’ in your Dropbox settings, and all the images and videos you take will be instantly and securely backed up to the cloud – so you needn’t worry about losing your family photos if you misplace your phone.

4. Track my life (Android, iOS, Windows Phone)

Track my life helps you work out exactly how long you spend at work, travelling, on holiday and at home, so that you can better prioritise your life and make the most of your time.

Do you spend too much time on the road, or not enough at home? This free app will give you a new perspective on your life and what you should be devoting your time to.

5. TripIt (Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone)

TripIt is an app that, bookings and insurance aside, can pull all your travel info into one handy place, even suggesting attractions and activities, whilst also updating weather info and providing directions.

All you do is forward hotel, flight, rental and restaurant confirmation emails to, and the app creates a bespoke travel plan for you. And if you go Pro, you can also access live flight information and get text alerts.

6. Goodbudget (Android, iOS)

The great thing about money management app Goodbudget is that you can sync it across other mobiles and the Internet, helping you to manage you or your family’s budgets on the go.

Using the reports function, you can also analyse your payments and finances to better manage your accounts and pay your bills, from mortgage to life insurance payments.

7. Cozi (Android, iOS)

An all-in-one family organiser, Cozi helps you synchronise everyone’s schedules so that you know who needs a lift where and when they need picking up.

You can even share shopping lists so if Mum has a chance to pop to the shop after work while Dad’s picking up the kids, she can get the family groceries and Dad will know in real-time as she checks things off.

Cozi’s family journal feature, meanwhile, helps you store and share all those special memories.

8. FitBit (Android, iOS)

Ideally, you’d have a FitBit exercise-tracking device to make the most of this app, but the great thing is that is still works with many phones that include pedometer sensors.

The FitBit app also includes the ability to log food for nutritional tracking, and its gamification (notifying you of milestones) and leaderboard functionality offer up a real incentive to get and stay fit.

9. QualityTime (Android)

QualityTime enables you to monitor how much time you spend on your phone, and provides a timeline of which apps you’ve been using, and for how long (with a daily report listing your activity).

You can also set one-off or scheduled breaks, which stop you accessing apps on your phone, and help you maintain focus (you can even set penalty times for exiting a break early).

10. IFTTT (Android, iOS)

IFTTT is a tool that enables you to connect multiple web apps together, and have them perform automated tasks, known as ‘recipes’. For example, when you ‘star’ a message in Gmail you could have it instantly sent to a Notebook in your Evernote account.

The possibilities are endless, and hundreds of apps are supported (including most in this list). And now you can add, edit and review ‘recipes’ from your mobile device.

Among the ‘recipes’ suggested on the website include one that lets you sync photo posting on your social media profiles, and another that sends you a reminder to take an umbrella if you are going out and rain is forecast.

11. GumTree (Android, iOS)

Sometimes the clutter in your life isn’t digital, sometimes it’s just clutter, but how do you get rid of it in the quickest and easiest way? Enter GumTree.

GumTree is the UK’s leading classifieds provider in the UK. Prices are often better than eBay, and the money comes straight to your door. What’s not to love?

The right technology can help you streamline your family life and your work life, rather than hindering you with ever-increasing demands on your time. Why not try some of these apps so you can have more time to spend doing the things you love.

Dan Oliver is a UK-based content specialist with 20 years of publishing experience, both in print and online. Dan has contributed to the Sunday Times, the Guardian, T3, PC Format, Mac Format, the Institute of Directors Magazine, and many more. You call follow him on Twitter at @danoliver.

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