5 apps for self-improvement in 2013

Having survived the near-miss apocalypse, today we’re all turning our calendars over to 2013. Many are pausing for a natural moment of reflection and resolution — all those things we were yesterday will henceforth cease to be, and today we begin again as our newer, better selves. At least until we remember where we hid the cookies.

Here are five apps useful to those looking to track time, create new habits, or merely keep a firmer grip on their to-do lists in 2013. I recently read The Power of Habit, which underscored the importance of documenting what you intend to do in order to actually get the damn thing done. The social overlay is powerful in these aspirational apps — it’s one thing to tell oneself in the mirror of one’s intention to walk five miles a day, and quite another to tell a couple hundred Facebook friends. These apps promote behavior change by understanding the importance of social capital, and that “‘individual’ health behaviors are actually complex network phenomena” which play a part in spreading conditions like happiness to obesity.

  1. Wunderlist 2 :: Ideal for the task management obsessed, this app has elegant list making and sharing. Am still muddling through its recent (Christmas Eve!) upgrade and attendant syncing problems, but a really lovely user interface.
  2. Evernote :: This is my go-to productivity app, and Evernote 5 delivers a raft of useful, new features. It always makes me feel vaguely guilty — am I Evernoting to my full potential? — but features like the page camera and the audio are killer.
  3. Lift :: Think of Lift as cleanly-designed reminders to be that better person in 2013. Pre-set options include “Unclutter” (4,190 participants); “Go to gym” (10,867 participants); and “Tell my wife I love her” (3,426 participants — presumably the husbands are already hearing this, or the wives just can’t be bothered?). The social network feels like a big benefit here: if that many other people can unclutter a cabinet, why shouldn’t I?
  4. Everest :: Everest captures your long and short term goals and allows you break them into small steps. It’s designed to be a lush, photo-rich experience. As the name implies, much of the user content seems more focused on long-term goals rather than the banal day-to-day. (h/t Eric Kuhn for prompting me to check this out.)
  5. Timer :: If you’re anything like me, a task can expand to fill any amount of time allotted to it. There’s no hidden, killer feature — it’s set of lovely, clean programmable buttons that prompt you to keep yourself on track and on time.
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