Use your phone to live the life you dream, instead of letting it control your life.
“Why won’t you type ‘T’?”
“What is this weird ‘Service Message Not Found’ thing that’s popping up?”
“I’m this close … I’m gonna throw this thing against the wall.”
Luckily, my friend Logan Lo convinced me otherwise. Instead, I wiped my phone, got rid of all the apps and reinstalled the operating system (for you tech geeks out there, I actually installed Cyanogenmod).
It was a breath of fresh air. My 3 year old Galaxy S3 is smooth as butter again. But, a bunch of the apps I used daily were gone. Time to reinstall ’em:
Wait a second. These apps are all the same: press to launch, turn brain off, thumb scroll.
Sure, it can be nice to see what the rest of the world is up to, and it’s good to turn off every once in a while.
But we can do better.
Let’s take a look at some apps you can actively use for growth and self-improvement. Apps to optimize your life. Apps you can use to organize yourself, apps to enhance your mindset, and apps to track your progress.
Just a quick note – I use these apps to optimize my life on Android, but I included links to the same or similar apps on iPhone where I could find them.
Apps To Organize Your Life
I want you to remember that all tools are useless without the foundation of mission and values to use them appropriately.
The first step is to change your paradigm – to understand that to be effective, you must be proactive. To reach your goals, work proactively within your circle of influence.
Next, you should work on your mission statement. Some of these tools (like Evernote) might help you work on it, but regardless, the mission statement is imperative to understand your values and your goals.
Only once you truly understand your values and goals, can tools become helpful in reaching those goals.
Without further ado, here’s a list of my favorite apps for getting organized:
Create notebooks and notes. I wrote my mission statement in Evernote. I also keep a single note – called a commonplace book, in Evernote. Here I save my favorite inspirational quotes, profound thoughts and other musings.
Otherwise I also use Evernote to save ideas, and write down post drafts whenever and wherever I’m inspired.
Especially useful is the search feature. I can find most notes easily by typing in a vague description.
Trello boards are fantastic for lists. On each board you create multiple lists and to each list you add as many cards (basically, virtual post-it notes) as you want.
Each person you invite can access the board you invite her to, but not any of the other boards you own. You can make each board public or private.
I love to use Trello Boards to keep track of goals. You can also use Trello to make and share travel plans, as I’m doing with my fiancée. Finally, it’s perfect for simple to-do lists.
As weird as it sounds, google calendar has helped me the most with my diet and nutrition.
For example, I forget my Vitamin D more often than I remembered it. But since setting a daily, recurring Google Calendar event titled “Drink Water & Take Supplements” that goes off in the morning, I’ve been able to build a habit.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle
I also use Google Calendar to remind myself to write down (in Evernote ofcourse) something that I’m grateful for at the end of my day.
Apps to Enhance Your Mindset
Once you’ve got things figured out, it’s time to take yourself to the next level.
The Headspace.com byline goes something like this:
Headspace is meditation made simple. Learn online, when you want, wherever you are, in just 10 minutes a day.
If you haven’t heard me preach on about meditation, then you haven’t looked around.
Josh Waitzkin highly recommended Headspace to me:
Meditation is intimate and nuanced. I hesitate to recommend any app for such a personal pursuit. Nevertheless, Andy is a fantastic teacher and Headspace can be very useful for building the meditation habit.
Although I’ve used the trial period of the app before for myself and my wrestlers, Josh has convinced me to put this fantastic tool back in my daily rotation.
This one’s intense! Brain N-Back by Philip Nguyen is one mobile version of what are generally called Dual N-Back games.
I’m sure you’ve heard how video games improve hand-eye coordination. It’s true, in fact, they’re a much better activity for your mind than passively watching TV. But dual n-back takes it to another level.
It’s similar to the old memory games, where you have to match 2 cards in random locations. But dual n-back is orders of magnitude more difficult you have to remember both location and sound “n” steps back. Because you have to remember both audio and visual cues, it can kinda feel like your brain is being pulled into 2 different directions.
Dual N-Back are the only games that have been shown to improve working memory and fluid intelligence, which are crucial for your personal and professional success. It’s basically the only “game” scientifically shown to raise your IQ.
Improving is not easy, but then again, easy workouts don’t help us get better!
There’s nothing like travel and meeting new people to expand your horizons.
I recently had the good fortune to practice my Spanish with a wrestler from Argentina I coached while he was in NYC. And just a few weeks later, a tourist from Barcelona struck up a conversation with me at a Steep Bouldering because I spoke Spanish, “un poquito”.
After both experiences I felt sharper, my mind felt more nimble and I was excited by these opportunities for connection that wouldn’t have come up, if I was unwilling to practice a new language.
Besides the opportunities to expand your horizon, there are more tangible benefits of learning a new language too:
- Improved attention
- Boosted memory
- Faster brain growth
Unfortunately Duolingo doesn’t have every language available, but it’s free. So we take what we can get…
Languages available in Duolingo for English Speakers:
Apps to Track your Success
Sleep As Android
How’s your sleep? Chances are you’re not sleeping enough and your sleeps not as good as it could be.
And you know how important good sleep is to your performance, right?
Well, Sleep As Android is here to save the day.
The triple whammy of white noise generation, sleep pattern tracking and an alarm clock that only wakes you when you are on the light end of your sleep cycle
My fiancée, and seemingly the rest of her family, is obsessed with fitbit. From observing their behavior, I think Fitbit’s killer feature is the Connect With Friends capability. It gamifies your fitness, making every step you take another point in a competition with friends and family.
Of course, the Fitbit App does quiet a bit more than that. It helps you:
- Track All-Day Activity
- Log Food
- Record Runs, Workouts and Sleep
- Set Goals
- And more good stuff
Apps To Automate Your Life
The goal here is to automate those time wasters, the non-value add activities in your life, so you can focus on the important stuff.
IF by IFTTT
Remember the iconic black turtleneck and jeans of Steve Jobs? There’s a reason he wore that outfit every day. It was to eliminate all the little decisions (like picking what clothes to wear) that aren’t a part of his focus.
IF helps you automate the electronic versions of those decisions. This background automation is accomplished with recipes. IF is dependent on a simple phrase: if this then that. Sample IF recipe:
(Yes, I see the irony of showing a automation example with Instagram, when I started this post with a rant against Instagram. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention.)
IF is made by IFTTT, a company that gives you control and automates your “electronic life”.
Another option for offloading the tasks that don’t add value to your personal mission.
The more time you have to focus on the 4 pillars of mindset, fitness, technique and nutrition, the faster your performance will improve.
Use my Fancy Hands referral link for half off your first month. Ripped right off the site, here’s what’s best about fancy hands:
- We’re more friendly than a fist bump
- We’re more dependable than a handshake
- We’ll tackle any task you can imagine, within the bounds of science and the law
- We’re smoother than Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands”
How To Get Started
The 15th century poet Kabir said, “Wherever you are that’s the entry point.” For me it was a broken phone.
There are so many ways to begin, begin where you are. Pick the apps to optimize your life, not anyone else’s.
One way to get started and use your phone with more purpose is to sign up for my newsletter on optimizing performance and living life in the flow state.