My 10 favorite life hacks

Now that we all carry smartphones 24/7 loaded with apps, some things in life have become simpler, others better. Here are some of my favorites apps, technologies and how I use them:

  1. Depositing checks from home. This has got to be one of the most amazing things ever. Take a picture of a check and whamo, its in your bank account. I bank at Wells Fargo and their app is great for this.
  2. Using Dropbox & Carousel for photos. For years all our family photos going back to 2000 were precariously saved on an old PC (thousands of them). One frazzled harddrive would have wiped them. A couple years ago, I finally got around to uploading all of them to dropbox. Then discovered the dropbox app which automatically uploads all the photos you take from your phone. Best of all was when Dropbox came out with an app called Carousel, which does two things: it automatically wipes the photos from your smartphone regularly to save harddrive space (after dropbox has uploaded the full fidelity copies) and allows you to browse and view all of them (they are downloaded from the cloud to view) in a fast, beautiful interface. So now all my photos are automatically backed up and I can instantly view all of them anytime from my phone without using any storage space.
  3. Watching Netflix on my iphone. If you subscribe to Netflix and haven’t used their app, check it out. It’s done really well. Loads of great shows–watch them instantly on your phone. It always remembers where you left off also.
  4. Using Google sheets to track carpool schedules. Now with our kids getting older, we have carpools galore. The best way we’ve found to manage the schedules is to do them in advance in a Google sheet and share them (I give Laura the credit for scheduling most of these). Inevitably, there are schedule changes. Using Google sheets ensures that everyone always has the latest. Install the Google sheets app on your phone and when you are lying in bed wondering if you are driving the carpool in the morning, you are two clicks away from the answer. Some people in your carpool might have a challenging time logging in to Google sheets. For them, you can just download and send them a pdf or excel file.
  5. Use Strava to track bike rides and push you to ride harder. Strava is really amazing. Drop it in your pocket before a bike ride and when you return your ride has been tracked. Strava allows people to set up “segments”, portions of a ride or run that get tracked separately. When you review your ride on Strava, you’ll see dozens of segments that other people have set up and and how your time compares to theirs.  You get to know popular segments and ride these harder knowing that you are essentially racing with anyone else that’s ever ridden that segment (and also racing yourself for all the times you’ve done it.) I can see that it might get old after a while, but for now I love it.
  6. Shazam. Every time I use Shazam to name a song or artist, I am amazed.
  7. Uber. For getting a ride somewhere, there is nothing better. The little things matter… the super simple interface on their app, the fact you can see where the car is as it approaches, and not having to awkwardly get your wallet out to pay as you juggle your bags.
  8. Spotify + bluetooth speakers for music. When we remodeled our house 8 years ago, I had grand visions of setting up an awesome home audio system to play old Van Halen songs. We ran speaker wire all over the place, most of which are still dangling unused. Our music is scattered on devices and not connected to any sort of real amp or soundsystem. We bought a little bluetooth speaker for Thomas at Christmas. It works great. Its simple to connect and using Spotify you can play almost any song you want or set up a playlist. I since went out and bought an inexpensive soundbar for our TV which also has bluetooth. Great for parties.
  9. Common Sense Media to moderate your kids movies, shows, apps. Common Sense media is a great little app that’s gotten better over time. Use it to get a rating on any movie, show or app to understand if its age appropriate for your kids.
  10. Tracking things to do in Wunderlist. This is #10 b/c I’ve been a bit hot and cold with Wunderlist. It used to be very buggy, but has recently improved. However, its the best app I’ve found for tracking to do lists. Its also great for sharing shopping lists. I use the desktop version at work to track my daily tasks, and always can access these lists via my phone.

I’m sure you’ve got some apps and technologies you love as well. Share them below.

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