How my app addiction can help you in 2015

Barry Liang ‘15

Barry Liang ‘15

Can you be addicted to mobile apps? KPCB’s Partner Ms. Mary Meeker seems to believe so. According to her latest Internet Trends Report, Meeker states that “the average consumer checks their device 150 times a day” and a mobile addict “launches apps more than 60 times a day”. After downloading 300 apps in the span of 2 years, I’ve came to the conclusion that I, myself, might also be facing the problem that Meeker described in her report.

The moment when I realized I've downloaded 7 different versions of angry birds was when I decided to purchase a 'habit-breaker' app to break my mobile app addiction. New Year Resolution #1: clear out my digital closet.

However, as I went through my computer to permanently remove these digital demons from my life, I can't help but appreciate the ones that have helped me along the way. Given this is the season for fresh resolutions, lofty ambitions and admirable goals, I've decided to share some of my favorite apps to help you actually achieve your 2015 New Year's resolutions.

Time tracker to help you find your work-life balance: Rescue Time is a time-management app that can help you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive.. It tracks and reports time spent on applications, websites, even phone calls, giving you an accurate picture of your day. Knowledge is power. The best feature is the app's "Get Focused" mode, which gives the app permission to block distracting websites for a pre-defined period of time.

To-do list for procrastinators: Todoist is my favorite to-do list, mainly because of its ubiquitous nature. There are hundreds of task management apps out there, ultimately, a solution that I can use anytime, anywhere is the most important thing for me. Todoist supports Android, Chrome, Windows, iOS and Mac, it even integrates with Gmail, Outlook and Postbox. Through integration with these three major e-mail clients, you have the ability to have your task manager ready while processing your email inbox and with a click of a button, directly adding an e-mail as a to-do item onto your list.

Better manage your team with a team communication app: My favorite team communication app is last year's unicorn start-up Slack. Slack offers real-time messaging, archiving and a search tool that facilitates better communication within a team. Two features that make Slack a cut above the rest are the file editing and contextual search capabilities. Not only can you drag-and-drop files directly from Dropbox and Google Drive, you can also provide edits and comments to these files directly in Slack. In addition, users can search whole conversations and files, not just individual messages, this means you can search inside Word Docs, Google Docs, PDFs, Photoshop files or anything else you add to Slack. One last gem if you are a coder or work with programmers, Slack has a snippet mode that lets you copy and paste raw text, code, log files and other preformatted text, and yes, you can search inside of them too.

Stay focused: Forest is a cool app that helps you stay focused by playing a game, huh? Essentially the app challenges you to focus by planting a virtual tree. In the next 30 minutes the tree will grow when you are working, and the tree will be killed if you leave this app, forcing you to ignore all the other distractions for 30 minutes at a time. Eventually, you can build a forest, with every single tree representing 30 minutes of productive time. This app is also really helpful when you are out at dinner, it helps you be polite by curbing the number of times you check your phone, and I know I'm not the only one who does that.

Habit-breaker: Balanced is a simple and beautifully designed app that tracks the things you wish you were doing more often, or less often. After entering a habit that you are looking to form or choosing from a long-list of suggested habits, you will be motivated to go-on streaks to accomplish these habits. The app will only send you two reminders a day, if you haven't checked the app, to remind you to do those little things that matter.

For those of you who are setting goals this time of the year, I hope you find these apps helpful in getting you to the finish line. Some of us aren't proponents of setting goals, mostly because the goals we set are lofty, ephemeral things that don't ever turn into reality. However, by forming small habits one at a time, I believe all of us can achieve a little more with our goals this time around.

To all of us finding our unicorns in 2015.

Barry Liang is a semi-productive B-school student currently battling through app addiction