Don’t Worry, be ‘Appy’

Written by Eliza Parry-Okeden

Recent changes to some of our most used apps, such as Instagram’s removal of likes displayed on posts, have highlighted some of the negative impacts of social media. As part of a trend, Instagram’s move exemplifies increasingly mainstream efforts to minimise toxic screen time and promote more wholesome online experiences with social media and technology in general.

Amidst the uprising of influencers and the commercialisation of social media and our online world, it is easy to forget that our mobile phones, and the wealth of resources that they afford us, can be used to have a positive and meaningful impact on our lives.

Here is a selection of apps that may actually improve your productivity and overall wellbeing, rather than suck you into an unhealthy cyber cycle.

Trello

What it is: An online management tool

Cost: Free (in-app purchases available)

In its most simple form, Trello is a tool that allows you to organise, plan and track progress through the creation of tiles which can be arranged across columns on a board. It is this simplicity that makes Trello truly productive; you can use these tools however you like to create flexible and functional management systems that suit you. It can be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as creating to-do lists and setting reminders or for management across a team or project.

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Trello is available to use online as well as through the app and can be synced up to a number of other applications, such as Jira or Confluence. 

Forest 

What it is: A virtual forest that flourishes while you work

Cost: $1.99 (in-app purchases available)

Mobile phone distraction may be one of the biggest threats to not only productivity but your overall happiness as well. Research conducted in 2018 by Rise, an Australian workplace happiness and media consultancy, found that one in three people are regularly distracted by their phones at work and 51% reportedly check their phones more than ten times a day. The research also found that distraction at work correlated with overall happiness.

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Forest, on the other hand, is an app designed to help you stay focused, productive and, most importantly, off your phone. While an app that is designed to keep you off it may sound oxymoronic, the premise is simple. Forest allows you to set a timer for as little as 10 minutes up to 2 hours and, while you are completing your task, a tree grows on your screen. If during this time you swipe out of the application, your tree dies. If not, your fully grown trees will accumulate and thus begins your very own virtual forest.

Embark 

What it is: An app to get you where you’re going (literally)

Cost: Free

Embark calls itself your number one global transit companion, and with public transport information for over 1,000 cities worldwide, it may very well be just that. The app provides clean clear travel instructions that includes live-tracking so that you can find your destination in real-time. 

The app allows you save favourite destinations, sync with your uber account, and receive alerts so that you’ll never miss your stop again. Whether you’re jet setting around the world or just need help getting from one side of Brisbane to the other, Embark is here to help.

Raiz 

What it is: A micro-investing app for spare change

Cost: Free to install, however account keeping fees applyThis app rounds up transactions from a linked bank account to the nearest dollar and invests the difference in a variety of Australian Exchange traded funds (ETFs) from a portfolio level of your choice so that you can hopefully reap the rewards. For example, if you buy a coffee for $3.60, Raiz will round the payment up to $4 and the 40 cents change is invested. In addition to the round-up feature, you may also wish to set up regular, automatic or one-off lump sum investments. The app can also be used to track your account spending and has partnerships with online shopping websites, such as Woolworths and The Iconic, which provide special offers and discounts.

Overall the benefits of Raiz have been contentious and, as with any form of stock market investing, it may be risky and your account may fluctuate. However, Raiz is a fun and easy to use investment app that enforces regular savings and may be the perfect introduction to share trading for the novice investor

Meetup

What it is: a networking app for joining groups of like-minded people

Cost: Free to download, subscription fees apply if you would like to start your own Meetup group

Like Tinder for group activities, this app allows you to find and meet with people in your area for a plethora of reasons, such as parent support groups, business networking events or foreign language classes. The app says that it revolves around a single idea, “When we get together and do things that matter to us, we’re at our best.”

So if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, do a pottery class or run a marathon, there is probably a Meetup group out there for you! 

Sleep Cycle

What it is: An alarm clock and sleep tracker in one

Cost: Free (in-app purchases available)

Getting a good night’s sleep is a common obstacle for many Australians, with research showing that one in three people don’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Furthermore, at the end of 2018 the Federal Government initiated an inquiry into the country’s sleeplessness and the subsequent social and economic costs. The research found that good quality sleep is an essential requirement for a person’s wellbeing and that between 2016 and 2017 the Australian economy lost an estimated $26.6 billion dollars from inadequate sleep, mostly due to reduced productivity.

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SleepCycle is a combined sleep tracker and alarm clock that may be able to improve your sleeping habits, which in turn may increase your productivity and overall health. The app provides you with daily sleep analyses, statistics and graphs, and a customisable wake-up window for a period up to 90 minutes. The alarm feature wakes you up while you’re in a light sleep within the wake-up window that you choose, which, the app explains, provides a more natural way to start the day.

Headspace 

What it is: A multi-purpose app for your overall health and wellbeing

Cost: Free for basic features (in-app purchases and subscriptions available)

The headspace app promotes mindfulness and meditation as being a daily essential to relieve stress and improve your physical and mental wellbeing. This app has a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on the Apple App Store from 74,336 ratings, has been nominated for numerous Webby Awards, and one-third of the app’s founders is a Buddhist monk with over 10 years of Tibetan monastic training across Asia.

If you still aren’t convinced, the Basics pack can be downloaded for free and includes a 10 day beginner’s course which provides meditation and mindfulness guidance so that you can experience the benefits for yourself.

Plant Nanny

What it is: A virtual plant that relies on your daily water intake to survive 

Cost: Free (in-app purchases available)

The final app in this list focuses on something that we all know is essential for living but rarely get enough of: water. According to WaterLogic Australia, our body function, cognitive ability and mood can be significantly affected by a decrease in our body’s total water content by as little as 1%. Plant Nanny provides fun, interactive motivation throughout the day to ensure that you are meeting your daily water intake goals.

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