My 5 Favorite Apps for Productivity

My face flushes as my hand searches within my purse. Both the search and my heart beat become a little more frantic as seconds pass. Aside from nine bobby pins and a lipstick I was afraid I'd never see again, my search is fruitless.

My phone is gone forever.

Or. It's still charging on the kitchen counter because I grabbed for the mug of coffee instead of my phone. That scenario happens more often than I'd care to admit.

It's certainly not exciting, but it is embarrassing how worked up I can get when I can't find my phone immediately. For better or worse, this fun-sized piece of technology is an extension of me. (Holler if you hear me!) In addition to helping me keep in touch with the VIPs in my life, it helps to keep me on task and stay organized- thanks to a handful of apps I've downloaded and purchased.

There was a period where I downloaded several productivity apps a week thinking they would be a salve to my ever-growing to-do list. After some trial and error figuring out the apps that increased productivity- and which apps hindered productivity- I've learned a few things. Specifically, when it comes to getting stuff done, you are your own fairy godmother. There are no apps that will do the work for you.

Ugh. I know.

Over time, I've found that there are a handful of apps that do help me keep track of events and to-do's, and basically make my life easier. Without further ado, and in no particular order, I present my favorite productivity apps.

My 5 Favorite Productivity Apps

  •  Fantastical 2: I'm still mourning Sunrise and it took a while to find a calendar app that I liked using as much as I enjoyed Sunrise. Fantastical 2 is intuitive, easy to read and has a clean display. I love that it integrates Reminders and Gmail, two of my most used apps**, and that I can enter tasks or events using their parser feature. For example, I can type "Bike ride with the ladies at 6 pm" and it will schedule my bike ride for 6 pm. Fantastical 2 isn't free, but it is currently 40% at the app store.
  • Trello: Trello helps keep track of the various projects you're working on, and allows you to assign to-do's, make notes, and keep your projects organized. Trello is my online project manager and the app is free- yippee!
  • CapMetro: I'm a big fan of public transportation and am happy that Capital Metro released their app. The app is free and helps you with trip planning, shows you the bus routes and allows you to buy tickets. There's definitely room for improvement, but it does the heavy lifting of figuring out how I'm getting somewhere so I can focus on my work... and not have to mess with traffic.
  • TripIt: When I'm not traveling, this app admittedly gathers dust. But when I'm planning a vacation- whether it's an overnight stay at a B&B or an international adventure- TripIt helps me keep track of the Where & When's of travel. I just forward any confirmation e-mails I receive to my individual TripIt account and it populates my travel. It's free and there's the option to upgrade to a paid account- probably a great idea if you travel a lot for work or pleasure.
  • OverDrive: Oh how I love OverDrive! OverDrive lets you borrow audio books and e-books from your local library. Don't have a library card? Get thee to a library and get one! Then download OverDrive. It's free and you can read the e-books via the app or stream audio books either by downloading them or listening through the app. OverDrive lets me listen to books on my commute- making them more productive and making me a happier woman.

If you've (unsuccessfully) tried several productivity apps- or looked into them and walked away overwhelmed- Mike Vardy has some great tips for figuring out what you need in an app on his blog. He does great work, so even if apps aren't your thing I recommend you still check out his site.

Okay, now it's your turn. Are there any apps out there that I need in my life?

**You may be wondering why I didn't include the Reminders and Gmail apps in this list. I figured you know all about them and I wanted to tell you more about productivity apps you may not have considered. If you weren't wondering, thanks for reading all the way 'till the end!


Cover to Cover: Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is the story of two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana. Effina is married to a wealthy British slaver and lives in a castle, while Esi is imprisoned beneath the very same castle before she is sold into slavery and shipped off to America. They each find out about the other's existence far too late, and Homegoing follows each of Effina and Esi's descendants through the decades. 

Yaa Gyasi gives us a small glimpse of Fante and Asante nations in Ghana as their leaders contend with the British slave trade, colonization and what's best for their villages. The actions of each character having wider implications than I ever would have imagined- reaching all the way to America and her plantations in the South. From 18th-century Ghana to 20th-century Harlem and present day, Gyasi's Homegoing was a visceral read. It brought history alive in a way few things are able to do, although we're seeing some of the ugliest parts of our history play out on the news today. Homegoing is at once hopeful and frightening, and told in such a way that I forgot I was reading fiction.

What I liked: Yaa Gyasi is a wonderful writer. Full stop. She has a talent for bringing to light what makes each character and place unique. And speaking of each character, the character development was fantastic and very well-done! I thought I'd have trouble keeping track of Effina and Esi's family line, but Gyasi left breadcrumbs for me to follow- and she was so cool about it... Just when I was losing the connection, Gyasi was there with a subtle reminder.


What I didn't like: The struggles faced in Homegoing are the same struggles so many people are facing today. Despite the Civil Rights Act, I see examples every day- in 2016!- of the hateful and ignorant behavior Homegoing's characters faced. It's disgusting and embarrassing. I didn't like that this story felt so real because for so many people, it isn't a story at all. 

Currently Reading



There was a point in my life when reading more than one book at a time seemed like cheating- unfair to the characters and to my frazzled brain that was trying to keep track of everything. Welp. That is certainly not the case anymore. To me, books are like chihuahuas- the more, the merrier! I'm able to sink into one story like a hot bath, and then just as easily curl up with a different book before bed. I was going to share my review of Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing today, but I'm re-reading parts of the book that I couldn't stop thinking about... so I'll save that for next week. Instead, I'll share what I'm reading and what I'm about to put on my nightstand next.

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This is a book that will stick with you long after you've closed the back cover. Gyasi brilliantly shows how we are not as removed from our ancestors as we may believe, and the impact of every generation. Per Goodreads, "Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day."

  • A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin: My sweet friend gifted this book to me and I'm so grateful she did. I'm also embarrassed I wasn't familiar with Lucia Berlin. The woman can craft a sentence. It's simple and smart and makes me crazy that not everyone knows about her.

  • Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay: I just started listening to this on Overdrive- potentially my favorite app. It's the first in a series titled the Library Lover's Mystery... that's me, I'm a library lover. It seems like a wonderful series to listen to as the weather starts to cool and we all start to spend more time indoors. 

Books I'm about to crack open- in no particular order: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas; The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by (duh) J.K. Rowling; The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo; and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephan King.

What are you reading right now? Nothing? Well get thee to a library!

Cover to Cover: Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost is a love story- two love stories, actually- and Gray weaves those stories together sweetly. We meet Stella and Dan in 1942 in London. Dan is an American airman who strikes up an improbable friendship with Stella- one that keeps them alive in more ways than one. We hop over to London in 2011, where we watch as Jess and Will cross paths time and again. After running away from a horrid boyfriend, Jess finds Dan's letters to Stella... and then finds Will. The meet cutes are definitely screen worthy, and the end had me reaching for the tissues. If you liked The Notebook, I think you'll like this one. 


What I liked: I love love. So a book about finding love in sometimes bizarre places already has an advantage. Gray wrote simple characters, but had you cheering for them right from the start. Dan definitely has the dreamboat role down pat.

What I didn't: It's always hard to see how few choices women had back then, especially during the war. There were times I had to close the book for a bit out of frustration but I'm glad I kept going. Gray also touches on mental health issues, but doesn't stay very long. I especially wish there would have been more attention paid to on particular incident that the characters seem to gloss over.  

I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads for a great escape and because sometimes you just need a good cry.

3 Times It's Okay to Fail

Failure. The other f-word I don't like.

It doesn't feel good, can be super awkward, and usually leaves you wanting to just lie in the road. Right? Aside from being super humbling, failure can actually be good for you and your goals.

Wait! Don't go!

Failing at something- no matter how epic or small the fail-scale- can be huge for personal growth. If you let it, failure can actually spur creativity because it forces you to come up with a different approach to solving the problem at hand. Failure can give you the opportunity to try something new- the opportunity you didn't know you needed.

Of course, it's what happens after the failure that is really cool. When I say cool, I really mean tough, gritty, not Instagram worthy and plain ol' hard work. Because, yes, failure provides the opportunity at trying something again, but you have to do the work. It's the proverbial picking-yourself-up after failing that shows your tenacity. There are many ways to solve the problem in front of you, just remind yourself that through failing, you've eliminated a possible solution and move on.

With that, there are 3 times when it's okay to fail. Not just okay, actually, but great! In these instances, failing is a natural step in the growth and development process and can teach you a lot about how far you can go.

3 Times It's Okay to Fail

  1. When you try something brand new.
    Learning a new hobby, developing a new skill or trying out a new language gives us ample opportunities to fail. Why wouldn't it? It's a brand new experience for us! As frustrating as it is to be a beginner at any stage of our lives, eventually- through trial and error- we learn what works and what doesn't. When I was learning to clip my shoes into my pedals, I fell over 99% of the time... still clipped in to my bike. I looked kind of like a turtle on it's back... in lycra. Fail. But I eventually tried using my OTHER foot to un-clip and voila! I didn't fall over (as much, anymore). Success.
  2. Working out at the gym.
    Muscle failure. It hurts so good because your muscles are working to their full ability. Once you work them to this threshold, they let you know they're done and can do no more. This is when the magic happens and you build strength. I know this from working with coaches and trainers for years and years, and won't get into the science of it here. **Note this doesn't mean collapsing on the treadmill because you're not listening to your body. It does mean getting the muscle group your working on to experience muscle failure by targeting it with controlled exercises. 
  3. Making a "big ask."
    I saved this one for last because it scares me the most. Yesterday I reached out and asked for something I really want, because if I can't do this myself, why should I encourage you to do it? I lost nothing by asking, and even though it was not 100% the answer I wanted, I'm confident. My husband and I knew a woman who was the epitome of this- she got friends into sold-out shows, talked with fascinating people, had these really incredible experiences all because she made "big asks" all the time.

Think about this the next time you fail. If you failed and it didn't bother you, ask yourself why you tried whatever it was. Were you just checking off an item on your "should-be-a-goal" list? I've found that when you fail, you're provided with a little bit of clarity about what you really want. 

Want more? Here's JK Rowling's TED Talk about failure: The Fringe Benefits of Failure. Take 20 minutes this afternoon to watch it- she may give you a new perspective on the topic.