Paul Little: The best apps to organise your life

Remember the beginning of the year? All those changes you were going to make? How you were going to get super organised and on top of things? But then… Covid and stuff?

It’s not too late. You can still get on top of things and take control now.

Whether you’re a cog in a big corporate wheel or someone working on their own at home, we’ve assembled a list of apps, advice and adages to help keep work and life in order.

The best of the apps keep the basic functions for which you acquired them front and centre and the dinky bells and whistles, of which there are likely to be many, tucked away out of sight where they won’t disturb you.


An ever-increasing number of note-taking apps are doing work that once was done on the back of an envelope. With Evernote, your jottings on one device are automatically updated anywhere else you have Evernote, and your notes can be accessed when you are offline. Scan and save documents, customise the home page so what you use most is what you see first, clip and keep website pages. It has an excellent voice to text note-taking function and there are good and regular updates to the basic app.


A next-level to-do list, Trello lets you break down a small task or big project into as many components as you like. Drag your info between columns headed “to do”, “doing” and “done” as you progress. Within sections you can break a job down into smaller component parts, and it is designed to be used by teams as well as individuals. Flexible enough that users can adapt it to suit their preferred ways of working.


Takes the “you” out of “you have to set up a meeting”. Calendly is a seamless appointment organiser. It knows when you are free (because you tell it up front) and sends a link with your available times to everyone you want to have a meeting with. They choose a time when they are also free and Calendly sends an appointment booking telling everyone when you are meeting, why, how (Zoom, Teams) and for how long. No more back and forth “that’s not good for me but Thursday at 3 works, is that good for you?”


Use this instead of an easily lost (and found or stolen) list of passwords on a piece of paper. The app stores all your usernames and passwords securely and autofills your details when you log in to sites and apps. No more stressful counting down the three attempts you have left before you get locked out of a site. Just one master password to remember. Also uses Face ID.


You’ll start with Dropbox as a way to secure your documents against loss thanks to its Cloud storage. You’ll stay because it also provides a great way to organise those docs within folders, lets you access them everywhere and lets you securely share large files with others.


Since Google Docs was added to the mix the world’s default search engine has become much the world’s default everything. Almost no one under 30 writes with anything but Google Docs, which is also the standard for educational institutions. Gone are the days of having to save your document every five minutes, Google Docs does it for you automatically, so you can’t lose your words. Add to these Google’s all synched-up Chrome browser, calendar and Gmail and most of your day-to-day organisational requirements are covered.


Once synonymous with 1980s yuppiedom, the Filofax is a pre-digital tool for a lot of the functions that we want in our e-diaries – especially the ability to organise and store information. It ingeniously uses a pen instead of a keyboard, dividers instead of folders, fingers in place of cursors and paper instead of GBs of memory. According to its website, Filofax has moved with the times. The traditional black cover is now available with a distracting confetti design and the team is “always on the lookout for ways to improve our carbon footprint”.

The Filofax goes everywhere with you, but a desk diary is an equally essential piece of stationery. Highly recommended is the W1 Diary in Panama crossgrain leather, “handcrafted by our artisans” in a choice of five colours, from Yours for NZ$550.

And just so you’ve always got something to write in that diary with, throw in a pencil case in crocodile leather for NZ$336.


A great timesaver and the single most useful tool for getting haircuts, workouts, restaurant meals and a host of other activities.


1. Stop getting emails and notifications you never asked for in the first place. Take half an hour to go through your inbox and unsubscribe from anything you don’t want.

2. No one wants to be seen working outside hours, but it can be a timesaver if you write that great email when inspiration strikes. Use Gmail’s “Schedule send” feature to delay transmission until you know it is most likely to get the recipient’s attention. This is usually around 8-8.30am, before they get to the main part of their workday. You’re much likelier to get an instant answer from them at that time too.

3. So little paper needs filing now that the simplest and best organised way to deal with it is have one pile in one corner of your home or office. Just put items on top as they come in and they are automatically filed in reverse chronological order. If you do need to refer to one, there is only place you need to look.

4. Accountants love any apps that scan receipts, but you can also do it by taking photos with your phone and storing them in an album called Receipts.

5. By now your emails are well organised. Add the finishing touch by doing a weekly roundup of the few unanswered ones you have left. Bin or respond to them and you will keep your inbox backlog to a minimum.

6. Instead of swiping from screen to screen looking for apps you’ve added to your phone in no particular order, use folders to organise them in categories like “Finance” (Paypal, your bank’s app, Xero, currency conversion) or TV (Netflix, TVNZ, YouTube) or “Travel” for all the apps you will use if you are ever allowed to go travelling again. Aim to get all the folders on your home screen.

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