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COTA: Resolution-boosting apps help New Year self-help prospects

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Jim Cota

There are really only two ways to live your life: with purpose or by chance. If we set out on a path with intention and expectation, we end up—maybe not exactly where we set out—but somewhere in alignment with what’s important to us. Without this purpose or intention, we end up in a default state where we look around and wonder where we are.

A quick assessment: Think about where you are with your career, your life, your financial situation, your relationships. And then ask, “How did I get here?” Was it by confident steps in a specific direction with your eye always on the horizon? In other words, are you where you expected to be?

If so, fantastic! If not, don’t fret. The thing about the future is that it’s perfectly malleable and always out there, one step ahead. You can set that course today and begin walking that new path immediately. (One moment while I step down off my soapbox.) 

The good news: We’re living in a world where there are amazing tools available to help guide your way. Here are a few of my favorites:

• For getting control of your finances, there is simply no better tool than Mint (www.mint.com). Mint connects directly to all your financial accounts (banks, loans, credit cards, etc.) and pulls the information together in one place. You don’t initiate any transactions here, but you can view everything. Create new goals for budgets or savings. Get detailed reporting on where your money is going and helpful suggestions on ways you can save money in each case.

Mint’s website and smartphone apps are the best way to get a clear view of your entire financial life. Best of all, it’s free.

• There’s a reason the FitBit (www.fitbit.com) was Amazon’s best seller in the personal product category last Christmas. This little wonder is part of the emerging “internet of things” and tracks your activity levels throughout the day (and your sleep at night.) The accompanying website and smartphone apps bring all the data to life with easy-to-understand charting. You can also track the food you eat (which is absolutely game-changing).

For better results, invite your friends to join you to turn fitness into a game with an ongoing leaderboard. Fun stuff (especially when you’re at the top, not so much when you’re at the bottom).

• I took three years of German in high school, and Mrs. Crone would have been much happier with my progress if I’d had Duolingo (www.duolingo.com) to help. Duolingo’s website and apps are both free (yes, really) and provide a college-quality language education in Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and English. Duolingo enables users (you and me) to learn a language while translating documents online. It’s cool, fun to use, and useful. What could be better?

• To help you build (and stay in touch with) your network, LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) has become the industry standard. With powerful tools to help you visualize your connections, you can quickly and easily see how the six degrees of separation work for you. Interested in meeting someone? Simply follow the chain back through their network to yours to find the common links. LinkedIn has also become the choice social network for business relationships, enabling the sharing of ideas and content with people who have similar interests.

• At some point, moving toward the future of your choice requires reflection. For that, you really need a journal. On the Mac and other Apple devices, you can’t go wrong with DayOne (www.dayoneapp.com).

Selected as the App of the Year in 2012, it’s continued to improve. Its aim is to help you easily record the moments of your life. To help, you can sync it automatically with your Twitter and Facebook accounts, making it work as a bit of a “life recorder.”

If you want to use it in the traditional journaling sense, it’s extremely easy to use, it takes only a second to add something, and your entries are immediately available across all your devices. If you haven’t written in a while, the app nudges you to add something new.

Have I mentioned that we’re a week into 2014? Time to get moving. Set a course for the future of your choosing! Go!•

__________

Cota is president and co-founder of Rare Bird Inc., a marketing communications firm specializing in Internet application development. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.

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