Enhance personal productivity with Android phone

Mobile phones are no longer designed to be used as phone or texting device. With so many hardware features packed into a very small box they start to replace a dozen of other devices. And while the hardware development has a huge impact on functionality of such devices the greatest impact comes from the software side.

First was the iPhone and now Android operating systems that allow for building applications that further expand the functionality of smartphones to the level not seen before. When you look at currently available options the choice is far greater than that available for full featured computers of ten years ago.

Smartphones are one of the few devices that are always with us.This is why they are perfect devices for personal productivity.

Out of the box any Android device supports Gmail and Google Calendar applications.

But these devices can do much more than that. Below is little rundown of interesting apps that I’m planning to use once I have the phone. (A good site to visit if you are looking for some nice apps is Appbrain.com.

Do/Track

Keeping a todo list at hand is always a good thing. You can use those couple minutes here and there and knock few items out. Also it relives you from figuring out what is the next thing you need to do.

Remember the Milk – this is one of the best online applications for managing tasks. It provides a slew of features allowing you to structure, review update your list the way you want.

Astrid – is a simple and easy to use task manager with nice notification and reminder system. In addition allows you to backup/sync your tasks with Remember the Milk so when you are at the computer you can use desktop interface.

MyTasks – another interesting app for managing tasks on your phone. MyTasks provides a host of features to sort, categorize, input tasks. Each task can be enhanced with a note, priority and due date. The only missing element is that your tasks sit on your phone and can’t be synced with any online service or your PC.

There are two more applications for managing your actions that caught my attention and both were inspired by the GTD methodology.

Action Complete – it provides out of the box basic GTD setup for managing actions, projects, waiting for’s. Task can be created and assigned to projects, context, people and places. Actions can be sorted and filtered so you can match your actions to available context, time energy, etc. At this stage unfortunately there is no option to move/sync actions with computer or web but it’s in the development.

Goals ToDo (free or paid) – second GTD inspired app is Goals. This program provides you with a full featured system for managing, reviewing and clarifying your actions, projects and goals. It’s very well designed and thought out.One of the elements that caught my attention was the dashboard screen which allows you to see and access different element of GTD systems. The other one worth mentioning shows you the concept of goals and how to think about them from the start to the completion. There is paid and free app available unfortunately no sync to web or computer app.

Read

As much as it’s easy to imagine using phone for managing tasks and calendar, reading on it is completely new thing for me. I know it’s possible and practiced all over the world – hey, look at all the blackberry users. I’m hoping that reading on the HTC Desire will be good enough experience and easy on eyes. The plan is to be able to read my Google Reader or Read it Later articles whenever possible. Android platform offers broad spectrum of apps designed for reading in the go.

Paperdroid (free or paid) – this is most promising and interesting app. If you are a user of Read it Later your can synchronize bookmarked items with your android phone and take it offline and read whenever you like. It’s great if you want to read on the go and would like to avoid data charges.

iReader (free or paid)- this is mobile ebook reader application that allows you to read over 2300 books that are available for free. It supports TXT, CHM, UMD, Palm PDB formats so you can always add your own content if you like.

I think another program worth mentioning as the side note is Gutenberger, which allows you to access over 25499 books.

This is less about reading but still about consumption of information.If you are big fan of audiable.com the bad news is that there is no app for listening their books on Android phone. However you can always listen to many great podcasts available for free. One of the best app for managing them is software called Listen. It allows you to stream podcasts or download them and listen them offline. You can manage feeds directly on your phone or on desktop PC via Google Reader. 

Think

Maybe there are times when your head is full of ideas and you just want to get them out of there or maybe there is a challenge that you have to think through and asses from various angles?

One of the best ways to deal with that is to let it all out put it on a mind map. And Android has an app for that actually two apps. It’s Mind Map Memo and Thinking Space. Both apps look like they are very easy and fun to use. Interface is simple and well laid out. What’s more important, once you’re done with map on the phone it can be further expanded on the desktop as they are compatible with Freemind format.

Obviously this is not all that Android operating system can offer. This is what I envision doing the most on my phone. Your own situation can be different and you may prefer consider different use scenarios.
Since there are over 40k apps so I’m sure everyone will find something interesting, useful and fun.

[If you use Android phone to enhance your productivity and keep on top if your life please share your thoughts in comments sections.]

Using two systems for GTD

Most people lives have two main facets. First is the home area and second is the workplace area.
When implementing GTD one of the first elements I stumbled upon was making a decision whether to keep two separate systems or just one.

This may appear a non issue for some people but for others including me it was not such clear cut.

General recommendation is that single system is the way to go. This was the route I’ve taken first so a had all my work and home projects in one place, all the actions were with me etc. Although this worked reasonably ok after the initial period I’ve decided to abandon this approach.

Why

There were couple elements that influenced that.

  • I would need to carry all my stuff everywhere even though I would not be able to do it.I do realise that having next action all the time gives opportunity to knock off couple items while waiting in the queue or before appointment. Yet I really prefer not to mix work and personal stuff and keep a firm separation between both.
  • Everything in my system would have to be in paper. My workplace would not allow to sync company info to non-company equipment. This would be quite a burden as electronic organising is a better approach for my work tasks. Sometimes i find this lockdown a pain but mostly I like it. There  are no regrets that I might be doing something for my work when I’m at home.
  • I could go in the direction where all my stuff would live on my work computer but again this would not be best. First of all I’m not be able to access my stuff after the work hours. Also we are constantly reminded that work equipment including email etc is for business purpose. Then I would not be comfortable keeping my personal stuff there as it would be backed up to company servers and would be available for other people to access. Personal stuff is personal and it should stay this way.
  • At the time of single system I still used a top level divider to separate home items from the work items. So regardless of the approach you take for your GTD system the tendency for separate home/personal stuff from work. This is mostly achieved by using sub contexts or splitting master lists into two.  I think unless you work for your self there is no way  you will avoid having some sort of separation between what needs to get done at home versus at work.

Strategies

With two systems there is some additional work needed to maintain both. It’s important to develop some strategies which would allow you to make both systems work appropriately.

  • To make sure things are moving as desired so need to accept that weekly and daily reviews are duplicated as I have to review both systems. Fortunately it doesn’t take all that long for my personal stuff. 
  • Proper use of inboxes and ubiquitous capture allows me to dump any relevant ideas and then pass them into my work or home systems for further processing and organisation. This way I’m not worried that I’m missing on things. Because my personal system is always with me I jot down any ideas straight into it. When I have some work items to note I just email them to my work address.
  • A good reminder system. It’s not unusual that I need to call someone or go somewhere during the work hours. To make sure that I don’t miss that I use a dual approach. I make a note in my filofax and also I add it into my Google calendar. This way each morning when reviewing calendar I will make a mental note about the task. Also Google will send me a sms (text) reminder once the action is due.
  • Train yourself to focus on a location/context you’re in. If at work don’t focus on home stuff and vice versa. Although in some cases a change of environment can have very beneficial effect.

Setting up two systems my not be the best option for everyone. As usual it’s a matter of personal preference and situation. In my case it appears to work reasonably well.