It was Socrates who supposedly opined that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’, way back in about 400 BCE when he was on trial for impiety.
It’s taken us a fair while to come full circle, but in 2017 we certainly seem to be embracing that theory more tightly than ever – in our age of wearable technologies and always-on GPS data, you can now deploy a vast armada of apps and gadgets to track, log and scrutinize your every waking move. And most of your sleeping ones too, come to think of it.
Of course it’s all slightly neurotic, and of course it all works to perpetuate society’s already unhealthy fixation on our inboxes, social media rankings and meal-photographing instant feedback loops. On the other hand, a precious few of the myriad productivity apps out there can actually be incredibly useful tools in helping us cut a neater, more efficient swathe through the daily grind.
To find the gold, though, you definitely have to sift through a fair bit of dross. As at least one sprawling infographic attests, there’s a baffling quantity of these so-called ‘life tracker’ apps available in today’s market – and many of them have decidedly niche value at best. So, sifting out any that should be filed firmly under ‘obsessive curio’, which ones do we rate as offering us a genuine foot up in the 9-5?
5 ‘Life-Tracker’ Apps that Work at Work Infographic Summary
1. Rescue Time (Desktop, Apple, Android)
There’s a lot of advice bandied around with regards to achieving a better work-life balance, and not all of it is hugely realistic when you’ve got a looming deadline and a 90-minute commute either side of it. This free app, though, offers a worthwhile first step in identifying exactly where time vanishes to while you’re physically at your computer – and, crucially, the handy alert function means you don’t need to sink countless hours into checking it. The feature-restricted Lite version is free.
2. Who’s Off (Desktop, Apple, Android)
On the surface this is little more than just a neat way for companies to manage employee leave through a slick interface at the click of a button. What really gives it value, though, is the fact that employees who link their app to the company account can get an overview of the leave diary in real time. As well as being able to alert colleagues to absences without having to do a round of croaky phone calls, this means you can also scroll ahead in time and spot opportunities to book time off when there’s a suitable gap in the staff window, rather than making requests in January by basically sticking a pin in the calendar and hoping you haven’t picked the same fortnight as everyone else. The app is free, though your company will need a paid account.
3. Bananatag (Desktop)
One of several apps that enable users to view a timestamp showing if, when and by whom their outgoing emails have been received and opened. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a distinct whiff of George Orwell to this one, but it can have genuine workplace value in specific scenarios – particularly with helping you to gauge the most appropriate tone for that politely exasperated follow-up. The app gives you five daily tracked emails as a freebie, and you can upgrade to paying services if you need more.
4. Waze (Apple, Android)
Effectively a crowdsourced social commuter app, Waze works by allowing its huge user community to update traffic, travel and navigation information to the sat nav interface in real time. As well as giving you potentially valuable live insight into developing delays, hazards and other unexpected incidents along your chosen routes, it also boasts additional features such as fuel price monitoring in the local area and options for setting up carpooling networks. Free on both mobile platforms.
5. Expensify (Apple, Android)
A feature-rich one-click expense account management tool, Expensify lets you snap and upload receipts and then quickly codes and reports the claim for you – all you then need to do is check and approve it before submitting remotely. It incorporates handy timesaving devices for accounts departments such as automatic duplicate detection, ongoing travel expense logging, Direct Debit reimbursement, and even optional employee reward systems to encourage cost control. Free for individuals to use, with paid accounts available for signing up entire teams.
Infographic source: https://www.vouchercloud.com/