Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Time-Saving Apps That Want To Free Up Your Day

The Time-Saving Apps That Want To Free Up Your Day

Rob Leane checks out apps that save time, not steal it...

Technology is meant to make our lives easier, but it doesn't always feel like it. Replying to messages across a zillion different platforms, searching endlessly for something you can only half remember, and getting lost in the procrastination-friendly wasteland of the web are all ways that having a phone in your pocket or a computer on your desk can actually make your life more complicated and crowded.

Our technology regularly becomes a sinkhole for time, making the modern age a difficult place to be productive and stay on schedule with work, personal projects, and anything else that you should be doing instead of faffing around online. A few brave apps are standing up to this status quo, however, by actually attempting to save you some time rather than stealing it away from you. With these guys on your side, you may be able to rescue some of the spare minutes that have seemed so elusive lately...


Trying to keep on top of your workload is an easy way to waste time; many of us spend valuable minutes each day composing and editing detailed to-do lists. Over the course of weeks, months and years, this time adds up. We waste hours upon hours planning, when we could be doing instead, painstakingly plotting rather than ticking things off.

If that previous paragraph is ringing a few bells, it might be wise to download Todoist, which allows you to manage your tasks easily in a dynamic calendar format. You can add tasks in a second and tick them off when they're done. Or if it doesn't look like you'll manage to get something done today, you can just drag and drop it onto tomorrow's schedule instead. There really is no need to be writing new to-do lists every day when an app like this can do it for you.

Full Contact

Trying to find someone's contact details is another common sinkhole of time; working out which of your email accounts they last messaged you on, tracking down that one message you need to refer to - it's easy to waste important minutes this way, especially if you've changed your contact details recently.

Enter Full Contact, the ideal app for contact management. Full Contact synchronises your address book across all the major communicative platforms and presents its findings in an easy-to-navigate list interface. The need to rummage through all your email accounts to find that one vital contact is completely nullified by this app.

If you add up all the minutes you've spent searching through your inbox for some contact details, across your whole career, you'll be looking at a big pile of wasted time. That's time that could've been saved by using Full Contact.


This is an app that could seriously save you some major amounts of time. In fact, it's very smart piece of software. IFTTT, for those uninitiated, stands for 'if this, then that.' It's a common term among spreadsheet lovers and coding aficionados, and it basically means setting up a function to automatically occur under certain circumstances. IF by IFTTT is a new app that brings this very handy process into the palm of your hand.

IF allows you to set up sets of commands that your phone can follow. For instance, 'If I post a picture on Instagram, then post it on Twitter as well' is cited as a common command on the app's website. Another is 'If I like a video on YouTube, then post it on by blog.' Even if you just use IF like this, to speed up your social media/blogging technique, it can undoubtedly save you significant amounts of time.

IF's functionality is wide reaching, though, and can do far more for you than that. It can access your phone's GPS, too, allowing you set commands like: 'If I'm in the local grocery story, then text my flatmates and ask if they need anything'. What's more, if you have smart tech in your home, it can link up to that, too (for example: if I leave the house, then turn down the Nest Thermostat).


You're online at your desk, on a mission to look up something important and very much work-related. Then, however, you see something: an article that sounds super interesting, or maybe a link to video that a friend reckons you'll really love. You don't want to forget about this and miss out on the cultural nourishment. To hell with work - let's procrastinate.

That tiny decision - reading or watching something you shouldn't - is often the first step to wasting loads of time at work and subsequently failing to get something done. Pocket is the app that wants to help, by eliminating the age-old internet excuse of 'I don't want to forget about this, I'll never find the link again!'

Pocket allows you to save an article for later. So if you see something at work that you really don't want to forget about, you can 'put it in your Pocket' and read it on the commute home later, once the day's work is done.

Linkedln Job Search

Not everyone has time to hunt for a job, no matter how much they'd like a new one. Finding those extra minutes a day to trawl through all the relevant websites in search of that elusive yet perfect opportunity is pretty tough when you have a job and/or a social life and/or a family. If you've been struggling with this recently, we'd recommend Linkedln Job Search.

All you have to do is find ten minutes one day to download the app, fill in some details and conduct a few searches. From this information, Linkedln Job Search will use its algorithms to work out the type of job that you're looking for. It'll then run searches on your behalf daily, and come back to you with a notification when it finds something for you.

Linkedln Job Search also makes the application process easier, allowing you to throw your hat into the ring using the app rather than sending you to a third party website with a clunky, aggravating web form.

1 Password

We've all been there: when you just can't remember a password, and end up trying umpteen subtle variations on your usual one, wasting time and wearing down your patience. More often than not, this ends with you having to reset the damn thing, which takes up even more time. Even then, there's no guarantee you'll remember it next time.

1 Password is an app that aims to save you from such horrors. This is in app that dubs itself 'your digital vault.' It saves all your passwords and user names (and even your bank details, if you've had enough of typing those in time and time again), so you don't have to remember them. All you have to remember is your one unique password for the 1 Password app, and the app itself will do the rest.

A time saver, and a life-saver, this one - especially for those of us with lots of different accounts and weird passwords.


When you're in a rush, and need to send a quick text, nothing is more infuriating than an autocorrect or a typo. That's especially true if you realise too late and have to type a whole other message to clarify what you meant in the first one - meaning you've wasted twice as much time and effort than the original message should have taken.

If this happens to you all the time, you might think you have massive thumbs or poor coordination. Maybe that's true; still, it's no reason for texting to take up more of your time than it should. You shouldn't be punished for your huge digits and subpar hand-eye skills, but if you feel like you are at the moment, here's our advice: download SwiftKey.

This is a smart keyboard, which will integrate itself into your messenger apps and spot the common errors you make - and correct them. Once you've used SwiftKey for a while, your number of typos and wasted minutes will greatly reduce.


Snowball (only available for Android, sadly for we iPhone users) looks terrific. It's an app that infiltrates your whole phone, links up with other apps, and controls what you see based on your preferences. If you're fed up of getting notifications about things you don't care about (Candy Crush invitations are lampooned in a promo video for Snowball), you just tell the app and it hides them from you.

Snowball streamlines your notifications, then, saving you from the disappointment of picking up your phone after it dings to be met with something you didn't want to see. The app doesn't stop there, though: it also streamlines your messenger apps.

If you're fed up off flitting between texts, Facebook messages and WhatsApp chats, for example, Snowball can help you out. It'll put all your messages in one place, as well as save you from annoying and unwanted notifications.


To even things out a little, this one's an Apple exclusive. A bit like IF by IFTTT, Workflow allows you to automate your phone. This is handy if there are certain tasks you do all regularly, spanning several different apps, which gobble up hours of your life over time. For example, you can set up a 'Workflow' the dictates 'when I take three pictures, convert them into a GIF and Tweet it'.

This makes Workflow good for people who have repetitive little tasks they always have to do on their phones, then. The app offers over 200 'actions', all functions of popular apps, which you can manage as you please by dragging and dropping them into a list. It'll save you time swapping between different apps, but could be deemed a bit niche.


Evernote is ideal for those among us that are constantly picking up business cards, scribbling notes on bits of paper, or recording audio files of our musings so we don't forget ideas - it's essentially an app to help you organise everything that's on your mind, from work projects to personal flights of fancy.

The downside of being the sort of person who hordes information and cool stuff is the time it takes to find something again after you've squirrelled it away somewhere. Personally, I've lost lots of time looking through messy drawers for that one idea I wrote on a post-it note last month.

With Evernote, you can make a note of anything, in any format. You can save a picture of a business card in there, with a note to explain to your future-self why you picked it up, for example. Evernote is a marvel for scatty people who are bursting with ideas but lacking a good place to organise them.

Focus Keeper

It's all too easy these days to lose a full day of what should be work to the perils of procrastination... Well, it is for me, at least. One funny YouTube video can lead to a Facebook chat, which can lead to reading an article, which can lead to more chat, more videos, more inane time-wasting... and nothing of worth achieved all day. If this happens to you a lot (or even a little) you might want to check out Focus Keeper: Work & Study Timer.

Focus Keeper is an app that looks to incentivise you to use time productively: if you can concentrate on getting some work done for 25 minutes, you can earn yourself a five-minute break for cat videos and chitchat. After four 25-minute sessions, you earn a longer break.

It's a simple app - essentially just a series of timers and bleeps - but an effective one, too. It's perfect for people who struggle with productivity, offering just enough free time to keep the spirits up while still prompting you to concentrate most of the time.

Another niche one here, but nonetheless a big time saver if your job involves chasing people up using emails. is an app that could save you umpteen hours - and lots of effort - in the long run by essentially automating your workflow.

For example, when you start an important email exchange, you can get to schedule a follow-up message if you don't get a reply in your desired window of time. You'll never waste time chasing people up again, because the app will do it for you. It can also track when your emails have been opened, schedule emails to be sent at specific times, set reminders so you don't forget to contact someone when you said you would, and even 'snooze' low-priority emails when you're too busy to deal with them.

All these functions could save you time and effort, as well as helping you streamline your email usage. It's marketed pretty hard towards sales executives, but all sorts of people could make use of it, especially if their job revolves around email communications.

Sleep Cycle

Finally, here's an app that doesn't save you time in the traditional sense, but instead ensures that you start each day in a way that will stop you from wasting it yourself. Sleep Cycle is a smart alarm clock app that aims to wake you up at the best possible time, ensuring in the process a smooth start to the day and fewer minutes wasted in a grouchy, wrong-side-of-the-bed state.

Sleeping badly and waking up in a bad mood can really ruin a day, pushing productivity out of your mind and letting fatigue seep in instead. This is bound to cause wasted time through procrastination, which is not what you need on an important work day. Sleep Cycle stops this from happening.

It monitors your sleep using your iPhone's microphone, and determines the best time to wake you up - in time to get to work, of course - based on how deeply you're sleeping. You'll start the day in a better state, allowing you to make the most of the minutes and hours ahead.

In Conclusion

So, there you have it: a collection of apps designed to help you manage your days and save you time. Using all of them might be overkill, and - ironically - probably cause you to waste time keeping an eye on all of them. But we'd recommend picking out one or two that sound relevant to you, downloading them onto your phone and seeing how they can help you make the most of your time.