In the age of the Internet and smartphones, there’s a lot of talk popping up nowadays about how we should stay away from our computers, electronic devices, and all the pesky social media sites and apps that come with them. In 2012, we even created a new word to describe the instance of looking at one’s phone rather than interacting with another person: “phubbing,” a portmanteau of “phone” and “snubbing.”
But does that mean we should all go cold turkey and go on nature hikes forever in order to get any writing done?
Mmm… nah. Not necessarily.
While I don’t believe I’ve ever been guilty of phubbing, I have used my phone to avoid social interaction or pass the time. Sometimes, when I don’t want to be bothered by strangers in a public space, I whip out my phone and pretend I’m reading an article or scroll through Facebook. Other times, I genuinely am looking at my phone, Googling something or skipping a music track I’m listening to.
I’ll be honest, though. What might have been better for me, in some of those instances, was to bring a book, write in a journal, look over my writing plans for tomorrow, meditate, or study Japanese. But having a phone and access to the Internet allows me to switch from topic to topic, check on my Twitter feed, laugh at someone’s Facebook post, and anything else I can do at the touch of my thumb.
That’s why, during the last few weeks, I’ve tried to develop a better relationship with my phone through the apps I use. Here are three of my favorite apps that help me with productivity, writing, and self-improvement.
During freshman year of college, I used Microsoft Outlook to keep track of recurring tasks, like homework, and more distant deadlines, like final papers and projects. Until the beginning of March this year, I used Outlook for pretty much everything writing-related, too (e.g. when to block out writing time and what projects to take care of first).
But then, I realized that I had outgrown it.
I would make all my plans in Outlook, but I wouldn’t be reminded of them until I opened Outlook on my computer. I needed something that could remind me throughout the day, not only when I booted up the computer.
Enter: Google Calendar, the free-Internet based calendar that’s integrated with my email and phone. Reminders now pop up throughout the day on my phone to work on my writing in case I get distracted by funny cat videos 🙂 . While I miss the ability to assign certain colors to certain tasks, and that the tasks bar is a little cramped, I’ll gladly take that over setting reminders and not getting them until the computer is on.
One of the first things I’ve scheduled on my Google Calendar, after waking up and eating breakfast, is a 15-minute meditation session using Headspace. Headspace is a digital meditation service provider that has several guided and unguided meditations on topics like depression, sports, focus, and creativity.
Headspace so far, has been really good for calming me and getting read for my morning workout of treadmill-walking and leg weights. And I admit that this app isn’t directly related to writing, but I’ve found that the more I meditate, the more mindful I am. And the more mindful I am, the better I’ll be at writing. I’m looking to try out other meditations apps in the meantime like Calm and Stop. Breathe. Think, but I admit that Headspace has grown on me.
I recommend it if you’ve found stress to be overwhelming or want to become a more mindful, focused person.
Pacemaker isn’t an app, but it’s an awesome website for writing. It takes the daily grind of having a word count for writing and turns it into something absolutely fun and exciting.
Want to do the same amount of words every day to finish your project? You can set it to do that.
Want to have random word count amounts to do each day, instead? You can do that, too.
Want to work only the weekdays and not the weekend? You bet it can do that, too. Whatever work schedule you want, you’ll likely be able to chart out and record your progress.
I’ve been using Pacemaker for the current draft of my novel, and I’ve chosen to steadily rise to the challenge of my word count goals. Been reusing old drafts to get there, but I have no shame. Word count is word count. I’m not on NaNoWriMo, but rather MyNoWriMo, thanks to Pacemaker.
What Apps Do You Use?
What’s your favorite writing-, productivity- or self-improvement-related app? What helps you be a better person? What app would you rather stay away from, if you could?
Let me know in the comments below.
And as always, see you next post.