Apps I couldn’t live without

I decided to have a look through my apps and write about my favourite ones. The ones I use daily or least, weekly. The ones that make life just that little bit easier and they’re all free. I’ve kept them generic, nothing too specific to being a Virtual Assistant and I’ve not mentioned the obvious social media apps either. That’s a whole other blog post in itself. In fact – look out for that in the future!

1) Camera

Most people would agree with this. It’s very useful. I’m not a selfie queen; you’ll find very few photos of me within my gallery. It’s more so that I can show people things and email or WhatsApp them pictures. A picture says a thousand words. When I was struggling to work out which plumbing connector I needed when trying to install a dishwasher, I sent a picture to my friend of my progress and dilemma and waited for the reply from him the other end with his setup. Works both ways! When I can’t figure out how to put together flat pack furniture, I take a picture and send it around for advice. Love it – and such good quality these days. I remember spending hundreds of pounds on a point and shoot digital camera that you then had to download the contents afterwards, from an SD card. Smartphones make this all seem a bit redundant unless you’re a pro!


2) Online banking

I can transfer money at the touch of a button. No more needing to go into a bank. See all your account details and transactions on one screen. Move money to savings, move money to charities, move money to your friends, money for those hugely costly purchases you wish you’d never made, or, watch your bank balance go up – even better. Either way, have a visual record at all times.

3) Waze

This app means you don’t need to wait for the traffic to settle. You can head on the road at whatever time you like and Waze will work tirelessly on your behalf to get you to your destination with precision accuracy. Waze is constantly analysing fellow users and their speed, road closures, breakdowns, or pesky stand-still traffic. As a Waze user, it’s nice to help out by reporting (very easy to do) anything you encounter because you know it’s helping someone else. It’s like a secret community (not the TomTom one, another, more exclusive club) of road users who are all working together to get you to your destination as efficiently as possible. Great graphics and lots of voices you can download to tell you when to “turn left”. Or “make a u-turn”.

4) YouTube

Watching videos. We, as a nation, watch videos a lot. Whether it’s time wasting by watching cat videos or teaching yourself a new skill, there’s a video out there for everyone.

5) Calendar

Oh my days. I love this. My diary. This is my favourite app. I look at it several times a day. To plan, to check, to remember. I have a shared calendar with my boyfriend, which means either one of us can organise events without having to say “I’ll just find out, give me a few days to get back to you” and then we forget and the moment has gone.

I have the default set to ‘alert’ so that an actual reminder comes up on screen at that time. There is just no way I could remember everything in my head. 

Sometimes it’s got to the level where I will set a reminder, for example at a time I’m 99% sure I’ll be walking past the corner shop, to remind me to get milk. It’s simply no good for the reminder to go off once I’m home – I won’t go back out. No doubt I’ll keep ‘snoozing’ the reminder for another few hours until the need is desperate and then I have to make a special trip. No thank you. I would much prefer to plan my reminders.

I don’t always remember friends and family members birthdays so one day I became very organised and entered birthdays into the calendar, with a reminder that goes off one week in advance. This gives enough time to source a card (I now have a stack in the house) and pop it in the post. I used to just wish people a happy birthday on social media but much prefer being organised and sending a card. Which wouldn’t be possible without my calendar app.


6) Tesco Grocery

I don’t ‘do’ going to the supermarket anymore. I don’t like it and would like to spend my time in other ways. I found Ocado and Waitrose too expensive (at the time of trying it a few years ago) and ASDA to be poor quality. Tesco has been a solid, reliable friend for years. The app is great and user-friendly. I haven’t yet timed how long it takes but I feel a challenge coming on as it’s very quick. In several clicks, you can reserve a time slot (from really early to really late), with a knock at the door and there are all your groceries. I’ve never had trouble with poorly picked products or poor service. On the odd occasion that they’re running late –  they keep you updated and they’ve always waited for me (or come back at the end of their round) if I’m the one running late. You can instantly send back anything you don’t want with the delivery driver. If you like looking around the reduced aisles for inspiration, just look at their offers section on the app. It’s easy.  The service is awesome – honestly, try it once. I won’t go back into a supermarket unless I’m being dragged, kicking and screaming.

7) Pinterest

Very good for researching. I take a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and like to be able to save for the future. When looking at patio designs, straight to Pinterest, when looking at styles of dresses, straight to Pinterest, when looking for gift ideas, straight to Pinterest. You get the idea.

8) Google Drive (encompassing Sheets (Excel), Docs (Word), Slides (Power Point), Forms (Surveys) etc)

I’m relatively new to Google Drive in terms of being addicted to it. I now use it multiple times a day. If you have anything big like a wedding, moving house; anything that requires planning (and even day to day administration), download the app and get it online. Share your spreadsheet with people you need and access it to edit it or remind yourself of tasks, anywhere. This is key for me. I can access it at home, on the train and in outer Mongolia. You can even set it to be available offline and it’ll sync when you next have an internet connection. Another modern world delight. Most homes now have multiple smart devices with the ‘pick up and go where you left off’ feature the expected norm.


9) Gumtree

I think we’re all guilty of needing (or more realistically, wanting) to buy many items but how often do you actually need it to be brand-new? Whether it’s that garden swing seat, bedside tables, a mini fridge for a BBQ, a dishwasher, a table or a service, I take to Gumtree. If I don’t need to buy something from new, I like the idea of being able to recycle and spend less too, and I enjoy travelling to new parts of the city to pick them up! You’ll find this one becomes a bit of an addiction. When I moved house, I was looking for some white bedside tables and the good ones got snatched up in a matter of moments so you have to be quick but it does mean you get instant results if you’re able to collect pronto. They’re lovely bedside tables and what a steal. I did look on Gumtree for a few weeks, a couple of hundred times a day though….

10) Calculator

I like the security the calculator app brings. Whilst I can do maths, I like punching the numbers in and out pops the answer, of which I am 100% confident with, over my own estimations, which I might calculate a couple of times for peace of mind. I like that I don’t have to go rummaging through a drawer to find a calculator, only to find the battery has gone. Yet another glorious feature of a smartphone that renders thousands of different devices redundant.

11) Spirit level

An often forgotten app (in fact I always forget how to access it – swipe right from your compass on iOS) but it’s useful to know if things are straight. It might be straight by ‘eye’ but I like having it confirmed. Just a nice, simple app.

How can one small item (my mobile) be so useful? Whilst I go on annual Digital Free camping weekends to prove to myself that I don’t need technology and that I’m in control, not the technology, it is really, really, really useful! Just a shame it needs charging so often but hey, that the modern world of being a VA.