Happiness, Life Hacks, Productivity, Technology

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Harness the Great World of Apps

From a very young age I’ve been quite comfortable around technology.  In fact, some of my earliest memories were helping my parents package up mid 1980s computer technology.  Floppy disks (yes those strange things you inserted into slots in the computer hard drive) and dongles (no not a sex toy!)

My crazy, risk-taker entrepreneur parents built a business around the cutting edge of technology at the time, their software helping the staff at NASA calculate payloads on the Space Shuttle.

Just talking about the Space Shuttle makes me sad that this new generation, our own kids, will not grow up knowing the SPACE SHUTTLE!  And Michael Jackson… oh I could go on.  Sorry.  Anyways  Back on track. 

There is always a fine line to tread with technology; it truly can be a double edged sword.  As I write this here at 9:30pm, I am well aware that the blue light from my laptop is probably going to interfere with my sleep (generally I try not to get on my computer within an hour of bed.)

It can be addictive downloading apps, and before I get into some of the most useful for maternity leave, I want to emphasize that it isn’t as simple as downloading an app.

For it to be truly useful, and not just take up room on your phone screen, you have to build the app into your daily habits to truly benefit from it.  What use is the Tiny Scan App if you constantly forget to scan your receipts?   What use is Wayze if you keep forgetting to check traffic on it and get stuck on your way to work?  You get where I’m going, right?

I’ve done a whole lot of reading, studying and self-experimenting on the habit creation side of things and have really progressed in looping habits.  I can’t wait to share this with you in a future post.  So stay tuned, I’ll come back and link to it here.

So be an app snob.  Download them.  Try them out.

“If it isn’t a hell yeah, I’d use this every day!” Delete it.

“If it’s a hell yeah!”  Keep it.

Really, you don’t have the time/energy/attention/memory space on your phone to dl apps and not use them.

When it comes to apps, it is better to be a master of some than user of none. 

And work on at least 7 days of using it consistently.  Start creating those habit loops.

Another technique I suggest is to keep new apps outside of folders for the first little while (on the first screen of your phone.)

New additions are easily forgotten when they are stowed away inside app folders.

Since you are focused on building a habit and making it an automatic part of your day, you need the visual reminder.  There’s just far too much stuff for you, maternity leave pro, to remember among the 200 other things to do!

So without further ado, let’s run through some of the “hell yeah!  Every day!” apps that make your life easier. And whoa there tiger, one app at a time, ok?  Remember, master of some, not user of none.   

Trello (replacing “Notes”) for to-do lists.   Free. Satisfying lists, visual board.  It’s almost like a Pinterest board version of a to-do list.  Easy to use & share with your husband. Grocery lists will never be the same again.

Battery Doctor A rather addictive free app that allows you to clean your phone, free up memory and maximize the battery life.  It keeps incredibly fascinating and useful data for the nerds out there who are curious about power, time left, rate of battery decline, and other phone behaviour.  I use this once a day to clear down unnecessary stores of caches, cookies, etc. and consistently free up 200mb of data. Trust me, it’s addictive.  You don’t even have to remind yourself with this one.

Evernote – For the longest time, I didn’t get into Evernote, it seemed like a beast, but it’s actually quite simple & intuitive once you invest an evening checking it out.  What converted me to Evernote from my trusty basic “notes” built in app on the iPhone, is the fact you can easily add web clippings, hyperlinks, photos and other useful things into each note.  Just today I was taking notes at a workshop, and then captured the handouts with the built in camera function.  This is great – when I go back and look at the notes I made this morning after 3 hours of sleep, and think, wtf, I can verify with the formal images.  I wish I had this in university to study with.  Visual techniques + written techniques is an all-round winner for studying and memory retention!

Everalbum – 3 laptops and multiple phones later, I have lost many digital photos.  For the longest time I’d manually add them into Dropbox.  I sort of felt like a magpie, you know… Collecting lots of objects and stashing them in different places.  I am sure I have at least 4 dropbox accounts, and a maxed out iCloud account from baby pictures and videos alone.

So why is Ever Album brilliant? It consolidates EVERYTHING.  It goes hunting for all of your random picture stashes, including Facebook and puts them all in one place, sorts them into albums and even has a backup that will import your iphone photos.  Amazing.

I am not sure if I am proud, or ashamed to admit that after 20 minutes of running the app, it sorted and consolidated more than FOURTEEN THOUSAND photos across various accounts.  I haven’t even begun to dig into its other awesome features but I’m pretty impressed so far.

Overcast – Every day I play a podcast while I am getting ready.  First, it gets my brain going for the day.  Second, I use it as a motivational and mindset tool to put me in the right place mentally.  For the longest time I’d have a little house music dancey dance in my bathroom as I put on some makeup basics for the day – but I alternate between podcasts and music now. I’m finding it hard to find the time to read these days and after years of resisting, have begun to incorporate auditory brain food!

Flipp – A coupon site, because who isn’t a bit more conscious of their budget on mat leave?  Flipp has most of the major stores.  A simple double tap lets you read the details on deals, and a single tap lets you “circle” the coupon and save it.  What I love most is the search function.  Search “diapers” and it will pull all of the deals it can find. The days of trying to wrangle your baby’s fingers from a crumpled coupon flyer are done.  Now you can just work on peeling his / her fingers off your iPhone instead!

Google Map – The traffic function is brilliant, even though I admit I am still building this habit loop in.  I’m still at the stage of remembering only when I am in traffic and am wondering what on earth is going on.  That being said, I am using Google Maps a heck of a lot more these days when I have to get across to the other side of the city and am in a time-sensitive day. Lately, it has been incredibly useful for looking up “gas station” with the search functionality and the route mapping based on “fastest route” has been so accurate so far.  Google Maps is funny in a relationship sort of way. I’m still learning to trust the app’s recommended route.  I’ve decided to override Google Maps a bunch of times thinking my way is quicker, and it’s been right every time, dammit.
This app is a good time to mention that there is a second important piece to seizing technology and really making it work for you.

You must dedicate 20-30 minutes to truly explore the functionality of each app.  Apps are powerful little things that by no means, replace the power of our own minds, but make our days a little easier and more efficient.

When it comes to technology, most of us are actually just “surface level” users, unless we’ve been fortunate enough to have had some instruction.  Once you dig below the surface of apps – or any technology for that matter, there are additional tool sand great features that most of us don’t discover.

It’s like your MacBook.  An hour on the Apple forums looking at Macbook functionality will blow your mind.  There’s finger taps and slides I didn’t even know existed that I’ve now worked on building into my typing. I’m still ridiculous and maximize / minimize windows with the green and red buttons, even though I know well that I can do it quickly with the keyboard (there you go, a habit loop I haven’t built up yet.)

Photo Shop Express – I’m really writing this post with maternity leave people in mind.  My photo habits were excessive when I was just taking photos of meals, my cats, and pints of beer – but I know that now pales in comparison to the photos I have of my babies!

Photoshop Express is an editing app that is free, intuitive and has a great sharing function once the photo is saved.  I use this app to run my Etsy business almost exclusively from my iPhone, and pair it up with the great Typography app Typorama for any kind of graphic needs. It’s also a useful little app when you try to catch a 2 year old on camera.  It’s either blurry, or they have satanic red eyes (which is actually quite ironic, no?)

Tiny Scan is my final recommendation & I have mentioned this app, along with Secure Safe in a previous post.  Again, hard habit to build but once you do, you will never be digging around for a receipt or document again.

Tiny Scan is going to be the foundation of one of my bigger mat leave projects; going completely, yes, completely, paperless in 2016.  No more statements.  No more trying to find random pieces of paper in my filing cabinet with an overly enthusiastic 2 year old helper! I can see the glory of it now!

Alright.  So there you go. Happy app-ing.

Psssst.   Fox and sheep gmbh and their app  goodnight circus – the greatest things you will ever see if you have a 2 year old and ever have to get on a plane.  Ssssh.  My secret.  Thank me later. 




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