online tools en-US 10 Self-Improvement Apps to Make You Smarter, Stronger, and Happier <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-self-improvement-apps-to-make-you-smarter-stronger-and-happier" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="meditating" title="meditating" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>There is an old adage that says &quot;if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.&quot;</p> <p>In other words, change is good.</p> <p>Of course, implementing real change in our lives isn't always easy. We are a culture of habit &mdash; equating the familiar with the warm and fuzzy concepts of safety and security, even if the &quot;familiar&quot; isn't necessarily good for us. As a result, we resist change as long as we can, all the while talking about it, wishing for it, and promising to do it tomorrow. (See also: <a href="" target="_blank">25 Healthy Changes You Can Make Today</a>)</p> <p>The solution is to find a way to introduce change gently, to incorporate it into our daily lives in a way that makes it as minimally invasive as possible, so that by the time we realize we've made a major change, it's already become a comfortable habit that we've learned to embrace instead of dread.</p> <p>And as with so much else in life these days, there's an app for that. Several in fact, and I've listed some of my favorites here. Use them to introduce some small changes into your day and let the momentum carry you on to bigger and better things.</p> <h2>1. Simply Being</h2> <p>If mindset is truly the key to success, <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">then this little app</a> will help you open that door. Choose how long you want to meditate &mdash; 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes &mdash; and then start your day with a guided meditation. You can also choose to add nature sounds and/or music to your meditation, as well as listen to just the music without the voiceover. Available for <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">iPhone, iPad</a>, Blackberry, Windows, and <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B004VSIEL4&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=best-apps-20" target="_blank">Android devices</a>.</p> <h2>2. Duolingo</h2> <p>I've mentioned this app before, but I'm mentioning it again because <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">it's definitely one you should have</a> in your arsenal of mobile tools. Duolingo is a free app that gives you <a href="" target="_blank">language lessons</a> and in exchange, you help to translate the World Wide Web (when you're ready of course). Currently they offer French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Italian. I'm learning the first three simultaneously (which is a challenge) and absolutely love this app. Each lesson takes 8 to 10 minutes tops, making it easy to work into your schedule. The unique interactive interface almost guarantees that you remember what you've learned. The app is available for <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">iPhone</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Android</a> devices, or you can use the web-based interface if you prefer to expand your horizons from your PC.</p> <h2>3. Workout Trainer</h2> <p>Okay, how many of you had &quot;work out&quot; or &quot;get in shape&quot; on your list of resolutions this year? And now, how many years has that resolution been on your list?</p> <p>The problem with working out is that it's addictive...but you have to actually do it before the addiction kicks in, and getting over that starting hump isn't always easy.</p> <p><a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">Enter the Workout Trainer</a>. This is by far the best workout app I've found to date. There is a pro version, but the free version offers more than enough to get you up and moving on a regular basis. Choose from a variety of workouts, add your favorite music, and you're ready to go. No equipment is needed, detailed instructional videos for each move are included, and you can connect with their workout community or share your progress via email and social media platforms. Available for <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">iPhone, iPad</a> and <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B007QV1H7G&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=best-apps-20" target="_blank">Android devices</a>.</p> <h2>4. Nike+</h2> <p>The <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">Nike+ app</a> uses the GPS on your phone (no extra devices or plugins required) to track your workout and show your progress. I've started walking in the morning, taking my dog along with me as part of his leash training. It's a simple app, but effective, and I get excited when I hear the computerized voice tell me that I've reached my goal or when I see that I've knocked two minutes off my time. (Of course, that's probably because my 90-lb dog is pulling me faster than he did the day before.) You can &quot;friend&quot; other Nike+ users and see how you measure up, which is good for those of us who have a competitive nature. And did I mention it's free? <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">Click for iOS</a> or <a href="" target="_blank">Android here</a>.</p> <h2>5. YOGAmazing</h2> <p>It's not always easy to make it to the yoga studio on a regular basis or, as in my case, to even find a yoga studio that's nearby. <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">YOGAmazing is the solution</a> to that problem, and you won't need a player or a studio to make it happen. The app includes 50 yoga sessions designed to increase your flexibility and bring a little body-mind-spirit balance. Each session is 25 minutes long, and you can favorite the ones you like best for easy recall. Available for <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">iPhone, iPad</a> and <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0062AC5C8&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=best-apps-20" target="_blank">Android</a>.</p> <h2>6. Office Yoga</h2> <p>Can't get away for a full yoga session? Then use this app to do some <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">beneficial poses at the office</a>. The app includes 75 sessions, organized both by time of day as well as situation, so you'll find stretches you can do while on the phone as well as more invigorating exercises designed for your walk to lunch. Available for iPhone and iPad.</p> <h2>7. Lumosity</h2> <p>I'm sure you've seen commercials for this app by now, but I'm going to list it anyway, just in case.</p> <p><a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">Lumosity is a wonderful collection</a> of brain games designed to test your mental acuity and give your gray matter a serious workout. There is a more comprehensive web-based version, but the app offers a free trial that includes five sessions of three games each and a pro version of the app for $9.99 per year. Even though the app version isn't as robust as the web-based version, it's still well worth the 10 bucks.</p> <p>Use it daily to improve your memory, increase your observation skills, and just generally make yourself smarter.</p> <h2>8. Lifetick</h2> <p>Want to get more in touch with the &quot;real you?&quot; <a href="" target="_blank">Lifetick offers a goal setting app</a> that doesn't just track your progress, it also helps you <a href="" target="_blank">establish your core values</a>, i.e., what's really important to you. The result is that your goals become more personalized, and by using the SMART goal-setting method, you can track your way to success. There's also a journal feature and status widgets to help keep you inspired and on track. There's a free version available, and it's $20 a year for the pro version. You can also create a bucket list for your long-term future and you can share your goals with other members for extra motivation. Available for iPhone and Android devices.</p> <h2>9. Lift</h2> <p>If <a href="" target="_blank">you want to start small</a>, this is the app for you. <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">Lift allows you to choose simple habits</a> you'd like to implement &mdash; from flossing your teeth to going to bed before midnight &mdash; and then you can &quot;check in&quot; every time you perform that task.</p> <p>The app tracks your progress and other users can give you kudos for your follow through to add to your feeling of satisfaction. <a href=";offerid=146261&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;tmpid=1826&amp;" target="_blank">Available for iPhone</a> right now, but the website promises a web version is on the way &mdash; you can sign up for future updates to know when new versions are released.</p> <h2>10. Instinct</h2> <p>This <a href="" target="_blank">last one is currently web-based only</a>, but the creators say they're working on a mobile version, and it's just so darn cool, I felt like this list wouldn't be complete without it. Instinct is the new (and fun) way to learn guitar. It uses the built-in microphone on your computer to listen to the notes you play and correct you as you go. It can teach you both songs and riffs, and it also has a tuner to help you find that perfect pitch for each string. It's free and offers a range of lessons to suit both beginners and advanced players.</p> <p>Incidentally, I regularly tweet about my adventure with change and love to cheer others for doing the same, so follow me on <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a> if you'd like to expand your support network, and we'll evolve together.</p> <p><em>So, there's my you have a favorite app or resource that helps you be all that you can be?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Self-Improvement Apps to Make You Smarter, Stronger, and Happier " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kate Luther</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Development Productivity apps goal setting motivation online tools self-improvement Fri, 24 May 2013 10:24:32 +0000 Kate Luther 974240 at Free Online Tools That Help Organize People <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/free-online-tools-that-help-organize-people" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="People using computers and phones" title="People using computers and phones" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Organizing people ought to be easy. Tell your team members where to go, when to show up, when to leave, what to bring, and what to do. That approach usually works for work-related activities. But if you are corralling people for non-work-related functions, like field day at your child&rsquo;s school, snacks for sports practices, book club meetings, fundraisers, scout outings, dinners, and so on, organization can be daunting.&nbsp;</p> <p>Having been on both sides of the organizing fence (that is, having coordinated people for special events as well as having participated and volunteered with various groups), I know it&rsquo;s not easy to clearly communicate with a range of people, all with varying expectations, attention spans, and background knowledge.</p> <p>So, that&rsquo;s why I love free online tools that help organize people in ways that avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings. Here are some that are especially useful. (See also: <a href="">25 Easy Organizing Changes You&nbsp;Can Make Today</a>)</p> <h3>Organize Meals for a Friend</h3> <p>If you want to organize meals for a friend, perhaps someone who has recently had surgery, has delivered or adopted a baby, or is dealing with a serious illness, there are several websites that make this process easy:&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li><a href="">meal Train</a>&nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">MealBaby</a></li> <li><a href="">Take Them A Meal</a>&nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">CareCalendar</a>&nbsp;(This site also organizes chores that the friend may need, such as mowing the lawn or taking the kids to activities.)</li> </ul> <p>Most have features to specify this information:</p> <ul> <li>Dates that meals are requested</li> <li>Special dietary requirements and food allergies as well as likes and dislikes &nbsp;</li> <li>Number of people who will be eating the meals</li> <li>Delivery instructions, which can include directions to the recipient&rsquo;s home and best times of the day to bring meals</li> </ul> <p>Plus, the sites have capabilities to send email reminders to those who have volunteered to prepare meals.&nbsp;</p> <p>The meal coordinator (typically someone other than the person who needs help) sets up the schedule and invites people to participate. If you want to help, you can see what days are available and what other people are bringing to avoid serving the same thing (like chicken casserole for five consecutive days). And you don&rsquo;t have to bother the person who is trying to recover from surgery, giving birth, illness, etc. with questions about when to visit or where to bring the meal.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Share Info So You Can Coordinate Next Steps<b> </b></h3> <p>If you want to share detailed information so that you can coordinate activities with another person or a group of people, online tools are handy. Google Docs (or the upgraded <a href="">Google Drive</a>), <a href="">SlideShare</a>, and similar tools enable you to create, update, and publish documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and then reference these files when communicating with other people.</p> <p>They typically have these features:</p> <ul> <li>Online storage for shared access and updating anywhere (home, office, on the road)</li> <li>Storage of most recent version&nbsp;</li> <li>Capabilities for publishing on the web publicly or privately</li> </ul> <p>Being able to access up-to-date information makes it easy for me to stay organized and coordinate with other people.&nbsp;For example, earlier this year I created a spreadsheet with details about scout families (names, positions, completed training, dues paid, etc.) and shared it with troop leaders so that we could develop a plan of action to alert people to requirements and deadlines.</p> <p>These tools are flexible, and you can use them for nearly any type of project that could benefit from sharing of detailed information. I love that only the most recently revised file is available, which helps to avoid confusion because everyone is looking at the same version. Plus, people who routinely <a href="">delete emails</a> can access the files easily.</p> <h3>Arrange Get-Togethers</h3> <p>If you want to organize a group outing, <a href="">potluck dinner</a>, book club session, etc. and need some sort of input from other people, then these types of tools can be useful:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Facebook Groups</a> (public or private)</li> <li><a href="">Evite</a> (invitations)</li> <li><a href="">Doodle</a> (helps you to find the best meeting date and time for a group based on individual schedules) &nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">Perfect Potluck</a>&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p>Features on these sites vary but may include:</p> <ul> <li>Ways for the organizer to suggest times and agenda items<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Polls or checklist items with various options to help determine what works best for the majority of people<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Ways to interact with each other and/or see what other people are planning to do (such as what dates they are available or what item they'll bring to the potluck)</li> </ul> <p>Typically, there is flexibility in how you design and present options for, say, the day you&rsquo;ll have the group outing or the number of desserts you need for the potluck. You can give a few options or offer one choice, and you can ask for an RSVP indicating how many people will be attending with you.</p> <p>I like using online tools that provide visibility of what everyone is saying and how they are responding, rather than having to speculate about the content of private conversations among group members. That way, it&rsquo;s not up to the leader of an informal group to manage harmony; members can regulate interactions among themselves.</p> <h3>Organize Volunteers for Special Events</h3> <p>Among the online tools that I want to use (but haven&rsquo;t yet started using) are those that allow you to organize people for large events, recurring activities, and projects with lots of details.</p> <p>For example, if you need 10 people to chaperone a school event plus snacks for 115 kids for four consecutive Saturdays in October or 20 people to prepare and host a dinner for 400 people, then you could enter all the tasks and items needed in one place, and ask people to sign up on websites like these:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Signup Genius </a></li> <li><a href="">VolunteerSpot</a></li> </ul> <p>Using such tools requires the organizer to consider and list all the details of the event or activity, not just send a general plea for help. Specifically, websites with volunteer sign-up tools prompt you to include this type of information:</p> <ul> <li>Name of organization and title of special event</li> <li>Date and time of the event</li> <li>Organizer&rsquo;s name and contact information</li> <li>Items needed such as supplies or food and drink items</li> <li>Tasks to be completed</li> <li>Duties to be performed and time commitments</li> </ul> <p>Generally, there are options to send email reminders to volunteers a few days before the event, which saves time for the organizer.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a volunteer, I am hesitant to sign up for assignments that may be vague in terms of duties and time commitments. Plus, I may not have time to respond when requests are made and sometimes feel uncomfortable asking for details a couple of weeks later even if the need might still be pending. With an automated signup system, I can check at my leisure to see what items are still needed or tasks still need to be done.</p> <p>Sure, emails are often the easiest way to communicate with large groups, particularly ones that have established routines and involve people who all know each other well. As an organizer, though, I know that there are invariably participants who:</p> <ul> <li>Fail to hit &ldquo;reply all&rdquo; and communicate solely with you when they need to share with the entire group (or vice versa, and share too much information with the group)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Give responses that are out of sync with the request being made (for example, you ask for dates that they have available, and they tell you which ones they aren&rsquo;t available)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Attempt to revise the entire course of action, causing confusion</li> </ul> <p>In such situations, naturally, group leaders and volunteer coordinators often think that their would-be followers are resistant to being organized. And, while it&rsquo;s true that other people sometimes make no effort to consider and respond to opportunities, very often they just <a href="">don&rsquo;t have the creative energy</a> to read, interpret, and act on requests, especially those that seem unappealing or unclear. The easier it is to understand what is being requested, the more likely someone will respond in the way that is useful.</p> <p><em>What are your favorite online tools for organizing people? </em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Free Online Tools That Help Organize People" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Organization Productivity Technology online tools planning sharing volunteering Fri, 08 Jun 2012 10:24:14 +0000 Julie Rains 915135 at Time-Management Tools: Too Busy to Read This Post? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/time-management-tools-too-busy-to-read-this-post" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Multitasking man" title="Multitasking man" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I get up at 5:30. I run. I eat. I work. I go to the gym. I write for this blog. I attempt to keep my house somewhat presentable. I read. I go to bed. Then I get up at 5:30.</p> <p>My schedule may not be as hectic as a working mother (which I&rsquo;m not), or a lawyer (which I&rsquo;m not), or someone else who has an erratic schedule, but I certainly feel pressed for time every day. The feeling isn&rsquo;t unique; according to early results from the Boston Consulting Group study <a href="">Global Inquiry Into Women and Consumerism</a>, 45% of women say that there are too many demands on their time, and 47% say that &quot;demands on time&quot; is the number one challenge in their lives. So it&rsquo;s no surprise that a number of time-management tools have sprung up. (See also: <a href="">10 Ways to Save Time by Spending Time</a>)</p> <p>I made it through both undergrad and grad school without a time-management strategy, but now that I&rsquo;m in the working world, I&rsquo;ve decided that I&rsquo;m in serious need of some tools for managing my time better. Here are the best ones I&rsquo;ve found so far.</p> <h2>Remember the Milk</h2> <p><a href="">Remember the Milk</a> is one of my favorite online time-management tools. This free task manager allows you to keep track of your to-do list in ways you&rsquo;ve probably never imagined before. Not only can you enter tasks and due dates, rate them by priority level, and sort them by category (like work, personal, and study), but you can also set reminders (by text, e-mail, or AIM), e-mail to add tasks, and manage tasks with the calendar you&rsquo;re currently using, including Google Calendar. I&rsquo;ve also added a <a href=";feature=search_result">Remember the Milk app</a> to my Android phone to manage my to-do list on the go. And, as an added bonus, Remember the Milk is known to be a helpful tool for followers of the <a href="">Getting Things Done</a> system.</p> <h2>Evernote</h2> <p><a href="">Evernote</a> is a personal digital assistant that lets users capture interesting websites, store PDFs, and take notes. The main premise of Evernote is capturing everything (thoughts, documents, websites, pictures, and audio files), organizing them, and helping you find things later when needed. I&rsquo;ve found Evernote to be insanely helpful in planning my wedding next year &mdash; as I find pictures of things online, I can snap and save them to my &ldquo;Wedding&rdquo; file. It&rsquo;s also great for planning trips, keeping lists of recipes or restaurants you&rsquo;d like to try, or keeping documents for classes organized. The basic version of Evernote is free, although you can upgrade for $5 per month in order to save Word and Excel documents, search PDF documents, and upload more documents.</p> <h2>Thymer</h2> <p><a href="">Thymer</a> is a project-management tool that bills itself as being easy to use for people who hate task management. Simply enter in a task that needs to be completed and Thymer will figure out who needs to do it and what the deadline is. Another great feature of Thymer is the ability to keep track of time spent on tasks. Not only is this useful if you&rsquo;re a freelancer who bills clients by the hour, but it&rsquo;s also wonderful for notorious time-wasters such as myself. Keeping track of time spent surfing the web versus working on a project at hand is a powerful time management tool. Thymer has a free plan for individual users, although it has limited features compared to its subscription plans. Paid plans range from about $4 per month (for a single user) up to $80 per month (for unlimited users and usage).</p> <h2>Toggl</h2> <p><a href="">Toggl</a> is a time-tracking system that aims to help you increase productivity. Just click on the timer on the app, type of a description of your work, and Toggl keeps track of how much time you spend on that particular task. Click the timer again to stop, and you can see how much time you&rsquo;ve spent instantly. You can access Toggl from the web, from your phone, or as a standalone app on your desktop. If you fill in time on the desktop app, it will automatically sync up with the web once you get online again. Toggl also generates reports that can help you refocus your time on more profitable projects and kill time-wasters. Like Thymer, Toggl has a free version.</p> <h2>ToodleDo</h2> <p><a href="">ToodleDo</a>, like Remember the Milk, is an online <a href="">to-do list</a> that allows you to create folders for your various task categories, assign priority levels, and search to-dos. ToodleDo also has a cool feature called the Scheduler, which the developers describe as perfect for when you&rsquo;re not feeling particularly motivated or don&rsquo;t have the energy to be as productive as you&rsquo;d like to be. All you need to do is tell the Scheduler how much free time you have at hand, and it will tell you what to do based on upcoming due dates, priorities, time estimates, or other characteristics. Perfect for me on those indecisive Sunday afternoons!</p> <p>So there&rsquo;s the long and short of some of the most useful (and free!) time-management tools on the web. I&rsquo;m currently giving each one a trial run to see which work best for getting my hectic schedule in order. If all goes well, I&rsquo;ll avoid becoming part of the 47% of women in the BCG Study who say that &quot;demands on time&quot; is the number one challenge in their lives. I&rsquo;ll let you know how it turns out!</p> <p><em>What are your thoughts on time-management tools? Have you tried any of these, or are there others out there you like better? Share your thoughts in the comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Time-Management Tools: Too Busy to Read This Post?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Janey Osterlind</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Productivity articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Productivity online tools time management time tracking Thu, 12 May 2011 10:36:18 +0000 Janey Osterlind 536802 at