Five amazing (and free) apps for overachievers on the go

It’s been a crazy few weeks. I moved to San Francisco three days ago, and all of my stuff is still in transit from NY. All I have is my laptop, my phone, and a suitcase of clothing. In order to get work done, I’ve been hopping around between my friend’s couch and coffee shops all over the city.

For those who need to stay productive on the go, it can be frustrating. Consider one particular scenario I was in this past Tuesday: I bought my laptop and AC adapter to a well-known coffee shop in SoMa, San Francisco, only to discover that there was no wi-fi, nor outlets, in the whole place. Nevertheless, I set up camp and began working using my FreedomPop hotspot (discussed below). However, during my second hour there, my battery died right in the middle of a task. In a desperate attempt to keep my productive momentum going, I tried to continue working through my iPhone, to little avail. As I left the coffee shop, upset and defeated, I swore to never let this happen again.

Here are five apps that have since solved my on-the-go productivity challenges (and will likely solve yours as well). Kudos to @gohnjanotis for showing me most of these apps!

1) Voxer – It’s difficult to get people together for a phone conference. It’s annoying and time-consuming to constantly use texting, email, and G-chat. Enter Voxer, the walkie-talkie app. Imagine real-time phone conversations that work like text messages. For example, if I needed to coordinate with two people on a project, I just “vox” them in a group chat. Because it works like a voice text message, they respond back to me at their convenience. It’s the speed of speaking on the phone combined with the convenience of email and texting. Plus, it’s on iPhone and Android, so almost anyone with a smartphone can use it (sorry, Blackberry users).

For those on the go, it’s invaluable for quickly and easily coordinating and communicating with colleagues, business partners and friends. Personally, I’ve been using it to keep in touch with my friends in San Francisco as I move about the city.

“Voxing” with my friend Kevin. When you have Voxer, who needs texting?

2) Trello – Imagine a whiteboard with super powers (that syncs across all devices). It can be used as a to-do list, project manager, Kanban board, and more. I really enjoy seeing my projects broken down in this format, and if my computer ever dies (or I’m walking around without it), everything is viewable from my iPhone.

I’m actually using Trello right now to help me with my apartment hunt (click the image to see it full sized).


Had I been using this app when my laptop battery died, I could’ve kept making calls and working through my apartment-hunting tasks without a hitch.

3) – When you’re on the go, combing through websites can be a pain (especially on your phone’s tiny screen). IFTTT is great for automating and organizing certain things for you. It works by linking together various online services in “recipes” that automate things you might be doing manually. For example, for those who love to use Instagram, it can automatically download all of your new Instagram photos into Dropbox for you. For productivity purposes, I’m using it to receive an email as soon as an apartment listing that matches my requirements is created on Craigslist. Receiving an email is so much easier than keeping up with the RSS feed in a reader application or searching manually on the site. There are so many ways to link various apps in IFTTT, it’s mind boggling.

4) FreedomPop – If you recall from my story above, I accidentally ended up in a coffee shop with no wi-fi. Nevertheless, I was able to start working. How? FreedomPop. Once you have their 4G mobile hotspot (you have to put down a deposit), you get 500MB of free bandwidth each month. Although this isn’t a lot, it’s a lifesaver when you find yourself working in a location no wi-fi. It uses the Clear 4G network, which I’ve had difficulties with in the NYC area, but it has done very well in SF so far (including both coverage and speed). It worked incredibly well during my last visit to Sightglass Coffee in SoMa.

The tiny hotspot (pictured below) requires you to pay a deposit on the device, but it’s well worth the money if you’re someone who is constantly on the go, or occasionally works in areas without wi-fi.

 FreedomPop next to a coffee cup


5) LooseCubes – Ever want to work on personal projects in a setting that isn’t your house or a coffee shop? Collaborative workspaces are a fantastic alternative, but are very costly to the non-professional. LooseCubes lets you book the space that you need for occasional use, without racking up the costs of being a full member of the workspace. Think of it as AirBnb for workspaces. It’s currently invite only, as of this writing. I don’t have much to say about it yet, since I haven’t  yet followed through on a space I booked (I had to cancel due to a last minute apartment showing), but I’ve heard fantastic things from colleagues.

So there you have it! If you’ve used some (or all) of the services/apps above, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

About Jon Guerrera

I'm Jon Guerrera, a life hacker at heart and the man behind the scenes here at Living For Improvement. This blog documents all of my successes, failures, and lessons learned as I experiment with finding happiness and fulfillment. I also wrote an e-book. If you like what I write on the blog, you can grab a free copy by subscribing.