Amidst the flurry of apps and other productivity tools vying for our attention, I have found five indispensable to my ministry. Technically they aren’t indispensable. I was in ministry before the internet even came on the scene and managed to get along somehow 🙂 But, given how I work these days, these five apps play an enormous role in my ministry.
6. WhiteSmoke (Mac) or StyleWriter (PC). These programs are writing style editors. If you write anything from sermons to books to bulletin articles, these programs and eerily adept at catching grammar snaffus, spelling mistakes and recommending ways to be less wordy and, at the same time, use better words. I was a black-belt at Stylewriter, but am now getting used to it’s closest Mac equivalent–Whitesmoke. Like most Mac equivalent things, it’s got a much cleaner user interface and is more expensive 🙂 Whether it can match Stylewriter’s capabilities, we’ll see. I simply recommend that you get some such program that can instantly improve your writing. Maybe I should start using it on blog posts 🙂
5. Dragon Dictation/Dragon Go. These are voice to text apps that take instruction. Dragon Go is the poor man’s Siri. Dragon Dictation allows me to capture things I think about while I’m driving, or a tune I’ve got in my head–whatever–when I can’t type. I can then email it to myself or into Nozbe or Evernote. It’s shockingly accurate, and for those that hate typing, it’s really, really valuable.
Reeder is a very polished feed reader for the Mac family of hardware. I’m sure Android has something equivalent. When all else fails, there is always Google Reader. However, Reeder has two big pluses to commend it–the biggest for me is it’s direct save to Evernote function. But, it has a ton of tools that are great for sharing blog posts or organizing them for reading. It’s visual polish is also nice. I always hated reading feeds in the old days because it was an ugly experience. Reeder, and now some of news readers that allow feed syncing (like Zite or Google Currents), provide a really pleasant reading experience visually.
3. Twitter. I know for some of you, you’re going…well, duh. But, the thing I’ve come to realize is how much more I can do with Twitter than I knew. Twitter has become a primary source of news, task management, and text messaging for me. Both Nozbe and Evernote (fleshed out below) allow tweets to be sent to my accounts directly. It’s a superfast way for me to write down a quick reminder–even slightly faster than Evernote. It’s also become the place where my news and social networking scrolls all the time. It’s like a feedreader, text messaging hub, social networking hub, and task assignment tool all in one. Plus, it’s quick. I know a lot of preachers avoid Twitter. I don’t understand why. You get to set the rules with Twitter, which is one of it’s best traits. It doesn’t overtake you like Facebook can–and the 140 character rule makes sure you’re brief…it limits your time spent typing.
2. Nozbe. Nozbe is a very stout time/task/project management app. It’s available on virtually every platform known to man. Three things make this stand out over others. The first, is what I just mentioned–integration across all platforms. I access it every day via web, IPhone, IPad, and with the Mac app. All sync together. The second feature that makes it stand out is it’s extensive labeling system. You can input the time the task will take, context (@home @work, etc.), and it call those tasks up by those labels. If I’m sitting at my computer and have 15 minutes, I can pull up something I can only do on my computer that takes 15 minutes or less. It will handle an infinite amount of information. Third, it’s internal calendar lets me assign tasks to certain days on their interface, but it also syncs with all the major calendars elsewhere (ICal, Google Calendar, etc.). This gives me two unique ways of viewing my tasks–in their way of presenting, and in ICal’s way of presenting. That might bother some, but I like it. Both ways of presenting my task calendar are important for different reasons. Nozbe also allows me to compare how much time is in my day to how much time the task I’m supposed to do that day will take.
The super basic account is free. It allows five projects and five contexts. I have the next level up and it covers everything I could want. What’s exciting about Nozbe is that it’s still young as a company. It’s only going to get better. It needs to make it’s user interface more attractive and improve it’s calendar and Evernote integration (though it does integrate). It’s price is a little high for me for what it offers right now. Nevertheless, there isn’t a better product of it’s kind on the market for those who are fans of David Allen’s GTD time/task management philosophy.
1. Evernote. Evernote is the undisputed king of all apps. Evernote has taken over my life. If it had a calendar function, it would literally take over the universe. It reads everything–pictures, voice notes, text notes, articles and PDFs and makes text searchable. It takes pictures, captures and organizes information, and is available on virtually every platform known to man. Now that I use Nozbe, Evernote has become like an enormous filing cabinet and Inbox. Almost everything in my life starts in Evernote. When I take pictures on my phone, I take them with Evernote. I use Nozbe for tasks and Calendar. Evernote to capture and organize everything.
Here’s a simple example of why: If you’re as tired of filing reimbursement requests and organzing receipts as I am, Evernote is a must. When a meal is finished, I take a picture of it and tag it “Receipts,” or even with the expense line it goes under. I can now search for any terms on the receipt (restaurant name, what I had to eat, etc.) . So, if you take a trip to Abilene, you can literally pull up all your receipts, and print them out in one long printout, by expense line. You’ll never have to carry another paper receipt around with you as long as you live. Evernote is straight up all that, some more, a bag of chips, and then some more. Unbelievable app. You can write sermons in it, capture and file illustrations, copy pages from books that you can search later–it’s almost limitless for ministers. It’s basic account is also free. For some of the bells and whistles mentioned above, you’ll need to upgrade the account. But, it’s worth it. Michael Hyatt has written extensively on Evernote’s usefulness to his ministry. Michael Smith uses Evernote and Nozbe to organize prayer.
What apps do you use? Which do you find “indispensable?”