Listicles | Essential Digital Carry-Ons


I never thought I would actually write a list of apps I love. I see productive bloggers like Arden and I think about how I never see myself using any apps to take down notes or keep track of things. I mean sure I do carry around a small notebook where I sketch stuff for work and write down blog ideas but for the most part, I rely on my memory power which is pretty good when it comes to important things. However, recently, I have this urge to try out productivity apps just to see why some people swear by them. I'm happy to say I have found some apps that are slowly becoming a staple in my phone.

When it comes to "productivity" apps, my mind instantly wanders off to journals. Journaling, especially bullet journals, are really popular these days but that's not why I wanted to a journal app. The reason is for me to a). jolt down blog ideas the moment I randomly get some and b). take note of what happened and how I'm feeling on that day — sort of like a mood tracker without being too analytical. Tracking one's mood with journals feel more friendly and welcoming and definitely less robotic, at least for me. Even though I do keep a physical notebook with me everywhere I go, having it digitally can be a lot more convenient and practical. Plus, it can save some weight and space in my bag. Aside from journals, to-do lists and 'stay focus' apps are what I currently try to use. I try to make a habit out of using lists and tuning in to the sound of rain, forest or cicadas to focus on whatever it is I'm doing, especially at work.

The apps I'm about to share with you have been judged based on their functionality and design. One of my biggest pet peeves is to see products with horrible design, particularly when it comes to apps since I'm a UX designer (yeah, give me a penny every time I mention my profession) If an app has really bad design but really good features, I still won't use it. Keep in mind, however, that the term 'bad design' is really subjective. In my opinion, 'bad design' can be seen from boring, dull color scheme, bad margins and padding as well as fonts and user experience flow. I'm not going to get all tech nerd in this post but that's basically a summary of how I judge every app. Also, except for one, all of these are available on iOS and Android as I try to recommend something for all users (I hate exclusiveness!)

Reflectly by

Dubbed as 'the world's first intelligent journal' Reflectly is a simple, quick and sleek journaling and mindfulness app driven by artificial intelligence. It is perfect for those who are not into typing lengthy journal entries but still want to keep track of little bits and bobs for the day or those who are starting to try keeping a journal but is unsure on how to start a paragraph. For every entry, Reflectly will ask you to rate your day based on their designated presets between really terrible, not the best, completely okay, pretty good and super awesome. It will then generate dynamic questions asking you to talk about your days, weeks, months or life in general. Over time, Reflectly is said to have the capability to know you better and generate more personal and relevant questions. I have been using this app for a while now and I'm starting to see the AI generating some questions that are more...customized, I should say. For instance, I got a question asking me if I have been taking good care of my health yesterday and that somehow made me feel like I have a personal AI bot.

This app also has a very minimalistic approach to it design. I love how the text field is just plain white space and has no lines since I personally prefer my notebooks plain and without lines (because then I can sketch too!) Each journal entry will also feature a randomly generated header image which you can edit later once you have published said post. For people who like to insert images into their digital journals, Reflectly allows you to do so too.

Writeaday by Appaday Labs

If you are a busy person who prefer using journals to take down quick notes in bullet points as opposed to going through the process of a lengthy diary drama, Writeaday is perfect for that. Unlike Reflectly, Writeaday acts as my digital bullet journal and is suitable for me to quickly record things before forgetting about them. This includes what I feel, see, think or do. It can also serve as my planner if I utilize the hashtag feature to categorize my entries, a useful tip for saving blog ideas. The app's developer, Eddie (who happened to be a former developer of Evernote) said in an interview that the reason he created Writeaday is to help people who don't want to spend 30 minutes a day just to come up with what to write in a diary. In my opinion, this is such a smooth idea especially because most journaling apps out there tend to be a copy of one another. To make taking down notes less dull, this app generates a color based on a particular hue for each block per day. The more blocks you have, the more visible your gradient becomes. In my opinion, this is a subtle yet entertaining feature that has motivated me to write more.

Unfortunately for iOS users, this app is not available for you. To-do List, Calendar, Reminder & Planner by

Also available for tablets, web, Chrome and Mac.

I stumbled upon on my search for a great to-do list app with the purpose to discipline myself to read more before bed. When I saw the label "Editor's Choice" it was tagged with, I just knew it's going to be a great app. In fact, it has also won Apple Touch award so that's definitely promising. There are so many other good to-do list apps on the market but what caught my eyes is how there are a few helpful features in this app yet it still remains looking minimalist and pleasing to the eye. Dominated by white with accents of blue, this app allows you to create categories for each list, set a reminder, plot a 'when' and set a moment. The one trouble I have with to-do apps is that they tend to work for a day or two and then that's it, I forget about them. And this is where becomes helpful to me. Their feature, called Moment, is there to notify us our to-do tasks for that day. A pop up notification will show up, presenting to us each of our task where we get to choose between Today, Later, Done and Delete. I find this really useful to reschedule and re-prioritize my plans for the future. Additionally, if you are a busy gal, the app alerts you of missed calls and give you the option to call back.

The app itself also comes in free and premium version. As tempting as it is, I'm still using the free version because monthly subscription isn't really my cup of tea. If you are an iOS user, you're in luck because they're rolling out a beta update of the Assistant, an AI based chatbot that will help you make decisions. Overall, it's a great app that does its work but gives you a little more. It's beautiful interface and intuitive experience is nearly perfect for me.

Dollarbird by Dollarbird SRL

Here's the thing about managing expenses: I hate it. I am not an accountant and I never studied accounting and the only thing I care about is to record my current balance, track my spending of each day and call it a day. I don't like seeing analytics and stats as they confuse me so when I tried to hunt down an expense managing app, I was pissed to find that most of them tend to be really confusing even if they try their best to come up with a minimalist looking design. In short, what I wanted was a digital version of my notebook where I write down my balance and how much there is left after I spent it on something. Luckily, I found Dollarbird based on the recommendation of a tech article and I love, love it! I love how simple, straightforward and user friendly it is. Unlike most finance managing apps, Dollarbird keeps track of our balance in the form of a smart calendar. All you have to do is manually input your credit balance and the app will automatically update your balance count every time you add a transaction. This transaction also works for spending and income marked by the sign (-) and (+) respectively. Each transaction can also be categorized and color coded to make everything easier to see. If you think most budgeting apps make no sense, I'd say give Dollarbird a try.

Forest by

What's the one difficult thing to do when you're trying to complete something productive? For me it's to stay focus. Sometimes, I can stay 'in the zone' pretty well if I have to but when I'm at home, I can't seem to do anything — not even to play my video game or read a book! So, trying to be productive like all the cool kids out there, I decided to pick up a 'stay focus' app and my interest landed on Forest, a fun little 'game' that allows you to plant trees while you're focused doing whatever you need to do. The goal is simple: to plant as many trees as possible in the span of minutes (which you can set with the maximum time being 120 minutes) What's great about this app is that while the tree is being planted, there's no way to exit the app without killing your tree so the only thing you are left to do is stay focus and let the tree grow. To me, this kind of feels rewarding and there's this weird motivation of wanting to plant as many trees as possible so my forest looks pretty and not empty. You will also get points for every tree that has been successfully planted and in return, you can use this point value to unlock ambient sounds, buy trees or bushes or plant real trees to help the nonprofit organization Trees For The Future. I think this is such a smart way to incorporate a PSA campaign all while helping you to stay productive — kind of like hitting two birds with one stone, right? Oh and did I mention that you can unlock Achievements and compete against other 'players' as well?

Pink Daily by Cheetah Mobile Inc

Unlike the others I previously mentioned, this isn't a productivity app. In fact, this is a necessary app for every woman out there — it's a period and fertility tracker app. Before using any digital helper, I never really tracked my period. I didn't even used a manual calendar either because I was lazy like that. But hey, habit's gotta start somewhere, right? I wanted a period tracking app that's easy but pleasing for the eyes because pfft, you know me, I'm an aesthetic junkie. I tried some of the famous and widely downloaded apps like Glow but it didn't work for me — too "crowded" especially with the whole community and articles, they just don't do it for me. But then, I came across Pink Daily by accident and I fell in love with it. It's cute and it works. Not only does it track your period, it also allows you to track down symptoms, mood level and blood colour. Other than your period, Pink Daily also doubles as your sexual activity tracker, giving you the features to record positions, feelings, time spent, etc. As an extra, the cute emoji and app's avatar can be quite entertaining, at least for me.

Spotify by Spotify Ltd

Aaaah, Spotify — such a classic. Who doesn't use Spotify anyway? Majority of the people today have used and subscribed to Spotify as it becomes an essential to our life anywhere anytime. Ever since Spotify landed to my country, I don't think I ever used my phone's music player anymore. I stopped using iTunes on my desktop and have switched every music player device to Spotify. So yeah, everything is self explanatory. It's nothing new but it's essential so I have to include it in the list. You go, Glenn Coco!

I never knew I needed any of these apps before because to me, having to write down my plans and whatnot makes me feel like I'm a robot set on schedule, haunted by reminders and followed by solid plans. I don't like that. But hey, apparently I found another purpose to use journals — take down notes, jolt down blog ideas! Truth be told, I'll survive even without these apps but why banish them when I can have them help me just in case my memory skill betrays me? Quite frankly, I'm pretty keen in discovering more productivity apps in the future.

What about you, what are your essential digital carry-ons?

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