Smart Living | Lifestyle

Lifestyle | 26 Aug 2022

Get organised with these life-hacking apps

When the summer holidays end it can be hard getting back into a routine at school and work - but these apps could help you hit the ground running.

After the sun, sea and sand of the summer holidays, getting back into your daily routine can be jarring and a bit of a grind – especially if you have to wrangle your kids back into their routines, too. Fortunately, technology can help. With an app or two from this guide and a bit of determination and discipline, the day-to-day needn’t be a chore.

Cozi | iOS, Android

If keeping track of your kids’ extra-curricular activities, school trips and grandparents’ visits is doing your head in, then Cozi can help. A do-it-all organiser designed specifically for family life, it’s not only a calendar and to-do list. It’s also a meal planner too, with corresponding shopping lists – perfect for the picky little eaters in your family.

Cozi is free, supported by ads, although you can pay for the ad-free version if you wish.

Family Wall | iOS, Android, web

If Cozi’s utilitarian appearance and approach are a bit too business-like, then try Family Wall. Its more colourful, graphical user interface could be all the motivation you need to keep on top of your family’s calendar, to-do list and shopping lists. It even has its own private WhatsApp-style messaging service.

Family Wall is free, although a US$4.99 (£4.22) monthly subscription is needed to unlock more advanced features such as integration with your Google and Microsoft accounts.

Our Home | iOS, Android, web

Sometimes we need to ‘persuade’ our kids to pull their weight with the household chores, Our Home could help with the persuasion. Alongside the now familiar shared calendar and shopping list features, you can assign each of your kids a cartoon avatar and then various chores and tasks to complete. The more of them they finish, the more points they’ll get. Everyone can see their progress on a leaderboard, with the competition hopefully spurring them on to completion.

If they still need more incentive, you can even tie their pocket money or screen time to completing chores.

Our Home is available for free.

Todoist | iOS, Android, iPadOS, macOS, Windows, Apple Watch, wearOS and web

You can turn the humble to-do list into an organisational powerhouse with an app like Todoist. Quickly create tasks with a few keystrokes, attach files if needed and then keep track of your daily progress using speedometer-like progress indicators on a dashboard. You can even delegate tasks to other members of your household, as needed.

Plus, with versions of Todoist available on almost any device you can name from Android to Apple Watch, your to-do lists will always be just a glance away. The free version of Todoist will be sufficient for many. If you have an especially hectic life, subscriptions start at US$5 (£4.22) a month.

Fantastical | iOS and macOS

If your wall calendar, covered in scribbled handwriting and Tipp-ex, is in need of an upgrade, then try Fantastical. Rather than entering events using a fussy dialogue box with date- and time-pickers, you can simply type them in. For example, tap out ‘take out the recycling every Wednesday at 9pm’ and Fantastical will create a recurring calendar entry and reminder for you.

If you spend far too much time trying to find free slots in your calendar for numerous meetings, then Fantastical’s scheduling features allow you to share your availability easily with others and propose potential meeting times – features which work even if everyone else doesn’t use Fantastical.

Fantastical is free, although more advanced features such as scheduling need a subscription which starts at £3.25 a month.

Focus Keeper | iOS, Android, web

“Procrastination is the thief of time,” said Charles Dickens. Focus Keeper is an app that can help you steal some of that time back. Based on the ‘Pomodoro’ time management technique, Focus Keeper aims to help you focus using managed blocks of time. The idea is that you set yourself a 25-minute timer (a ‘pomodoro’) in which to get on with something. Once that time is up, you take a five-minute break. Repeat until your task is done. For longer tasks, take a 15-30 minute break after four pomodoros.

Although you can always use the included timer app on your smartphone for all this, Focus Keeper’s preset pomodoro and break timers aim to make it as easy to possible to stick to your procrastination-busting regimen. Focus Keeper is free, although if you become especially fastidious about your time then you can subscribe for US$1 (83p) a month to access the app’s charts and timer categories to analyse and divvy up your time to your heart’s content.

Tech you already have: Alexa

Straightening out your household’s daily routine doesn’t necessarily have to mean using a whole new app. The tech you may already have could help.

For example, by speaking to Alexa-equipped smart speakers – such as an Amazon Echo or Vodafone’s own Super WiFi Plus booster with Alexa Built-in – you can add new entries to basic lists of to-dos and reminders. You can also check what’s up next on your calendar, just by asking Alexa.

If your familial brood perpetually runs late, you can marshal the troops by saying “Alexa, announce that we’re leaving in 15 minutes” and your announcement will play on all of your household’s Alexa devices.

Digital Downtime: Research reveals only one-in-five families have a daily screen-free dinnertime

Vodafone launches ‘Dinnertime’ Alexa Skill to help the nation embrace 30 minutes of daily digital downtime.

And if the fam just won’t put down their devices and come to the dinner table, Vodafone Pro Broadband customers can pause their WiFi for 30 minutes simply by asking the Super WiFi Plus booster with Alexa Built-in to do so. This is all thanks to Vodafone’s Dinnertime Alexa skill.

Hey | iOS, Android, iPadOS, macOS, Windows, Linux and web

Struggling to find and reply to the most important emails in your swamped inbox? Try replacing your email app with a more powerful one.

Hey has numerous tricks up its sleeve, such as automatically categorising emails that are receipts or newsletters. There’s a ‘reply later’ feature which is a place dedicated to emails that you need to reply to when you have the time to do so, but without the distraction of your inbox. There’s also a dedicated panel for finding attachments without having to dig through lengthy threads and a proactive anti-pest and anti-spam feature called ‘The Screener’.

Hey costs US$100 (£83.50) a year and you can try it for free with a 14-day trial.

Spark | iOS, Android, iPadOS, macOS

Small or medium-sized businesses often share responsibility for managing a company- or team-wide email inbox. This can get messy. Email app Spark can bring order to such chaos.

You can delegate the task of replying to certain emails to particular colleagues. For particularly important or tricky emails, everyone can contribute to and edit a reply in real-time much as you would a Google Doc. There are also ‘reply later’ and automatic categorisation features, similar to those in Hey.

Spark is available for free, although most of the advanced team and shared-editing features require a subscription which starts at US$6.39 (£5.33) a month.

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