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The growing number of apps that provide a standalone solution will make you feel like a kid in a candy store
You might have one app for note taking that uses a handwriting function with a stylus, and another app for to-do lists and appointments. And even another app for storage, project collaboration, or work-sharing.
When we add more and more apps into our daily workflow, we start to find complications. Apps with overlapping functions start competing with each other. Because they both have a similar job, we forget which app we used for which project.
For example, your favorite note-taking app can also have a reminder function and you favorite calendar app might also have a reminder function. You certainly don’t need two. So which one do you use? Which one did you use? Did you even remember to set that reminder?
Further complications arise when some apps integrate with each other, while others don’t. And some apps can do one job great, but we like a different app for another job that the first app can do, just not as well.
Is your head spinning yet?
How do we keep track of all these apps? Isn’t there one mega-app out there that can just do it all?
It can be tempting to think that someone should come up with an app that can do it all.
But as tempting as that sounds, imagine what it would be like.
An app that covered all of the possible needed functions would end up being as big and complicated as an entire operating system. And it would have the glitches and bugs that go along with being big.
Not to mention, each function of this imaginary mega-app would be watered down at best, because the company who created it would have their focus spread over dozens of areas.
When an app serves one main purpose, or several related purposes, the developers can focus on making it the best possible solution for the problem it solves.
So what is the best solution for app overwhelm, if it isn’t a mega-app, or just embracing the chaos?
The answer is integration.
When it comes to using your favorite apps to their highest potential, app integration is the key.
What is app integration?
App integration is bringing the data (and/or function) of one app to another app so they can both work together. (Kind of like building your own customized mega-app.)
When your apps communicate with each other you won’t have to play the part of the data entry middle-man. Manually going back and forth between your apps to make sure all of the data is congruent can be a recipe for disaster.
Said another way, app integration gives you the ability to use your favorite apps without having to re-enter the same data into each app separately.
Individually, each app is helpful and does a good job of making your work easier. You end up with a few really great apps that you regularly use in isolation.
The power comes when you get all of these apps to work together.
Here are a few benefits of app integration that will make your workflow more efficient.
Integration lets you customize
No two businesses operate in the same way. Every business and every person has different needs. One of the biggest benefits of app integration is the ability to customize a series of apps to work together to best suit the specific needs of that business or person.
Because each app has its own area of expertise, you have the ability to pick and choose the apps that will work best for your unique way of operating. You can then combine these apps in a way that will give you an operating edge.
Integration saves you from frustration
Manually entering data into multiple apps, calendars, appointment tools, task managers, and file systems, can result in lost information, missed appointments, and data entry errors. It can become a job just to manage the apps.
You got the app to reduce your stress.
Trying to remember which app you used for which task, whether you updated one piece of info across all your apps, where you stored a file, etc., can cause stress that the app was there to eliminate in the first place.
Integration reduces errors, data duplicates, and task redundancy, and adds peace of mind.
Integration can help you achieve inbox zero
You may think that inbox zero is an urban legend, or an unachievable dream. But when you integrate your task manager app with your email, you can work on your task list and process emails simultaneously.
For example, you can integrate Gmail with an app like Todoist to organize and process emails that will need your attention later.
If you receive an email you can’t act on until later, you can add it as a task in Todoist. You just click a button in Gmail and the email that is open will be added as a task in Todoist with a reminder and a hyperlink that will take you back to the original email so you don’t have to search for it later.
Integration saves you time
Getting apps to share information in the order of your workflow can eliminate redundancy in your work. You enter the info once and it will automatically sync across many apps.
● A task management app can automatically add appointments to your Google Calendar and send alerts to teammates notifying them of the appointment.
● You can share info between CRM, accounting, and financial data apps within a business.
● Generate proposals, invoices, quotes, and contracts by entering info into one app and having it automatically duplicate that same info into the other apps.
● A project management / collaboration app, like Trello, can connect to an instant messenger, like Slack, where you can chat, send reminders, and share files.
● Connect accounting software with direct payment apps like Square or PayPal.
The combinations are limitless.
The idea of app integration can cause even the tech-lovers among us to shudder. The task of getting our favorite apps to communicate with each other, and designing a customized system for our workflow can seem overwhelming.
Although it might feel like tackling a giant, integrating your favorite apps isn’t as daunting as it seems.
How can we make our apps work together like a well-oiled machine that will turn us into productivity geniuses?
Identify the jobs you do every day that could be more efficient if you had an app to help it out. You might include managing email, taking notes, using a calendar and a task management tool, and an app for storing and curating information.
Once you have this list, do an online search for apps that do those jobs. You want to find several apps that perform the same function so you can compare them to each other.
Now visit the website for each app on your list. Take notes about the capability of the app and which apps it will integrate with. (Each website should contain a list of apps that their app will work with.)
After you have all of the information for every app on your list you can start to narrow down the options to the apps that have the function you need and will also integrate with other apps on your list and with your existing email and calendar.
For example, let’s say I need a handwriting app. There are many to choose from (to find the best go to my comparision table here). For this example I’ll compare GoodNotes4 and Noteshelf2 in this comparision table. I find that both allow me to take notes and store them. However, Noteshelf2 will integrate (sync) with Evernote that enables me to read and search my notes in Evernote.
Hence, although GoodNotes4 does have handwriting recognition, I would go for Noteshelf2 as it will integrate with Evernote that I am using too. Using the combination of Noteshelf2 and Evernote makes up the lack of handwriting recognition in Noteshelf2 as the deep integration with Evernote will make my notes searchable.
So, the function of the app combined with the integration means that the overall solution, although a work around, gives me all the features I needed from GoodNotes4 and even more.
Another great way to quickly learn about the apps you might be interested in is to look at reviews online. By reading the reviews from someone else who has tested these apps in real-time, you can get the information you need without having to go through the frustration of experimenting and figuring it out.
I am passionate about living a paperless lifestyle. This leads me to review apps that are available so that I can find the very best apps for the things I want done. You can learn about the apps you’re interested in without having to do it yourself. Learn from my reviews and experience at tomsolid.com or use my App Comparison Tool.
What if integration is not supported by the app?
Ok, so now let’s say you’ve found the app of your dreams, and it fills the very function you need it to, and you love the way it works but… it won’t integrate with the other apps you regularly use.
All is not lost. Automation tools like IFTTT or Zapier can take two apps and get them working together. With these tools you can sync 2 apps that don’t support integration with each other.
Two very popular apps on the market today are Evernote and Todoist.
Each app serves a very different function. Evernote is great for storing research, clips of articles, notes, and documents. Todoist is for organizing tasks and staying on top of your to do’s.
On their own, they won’t sync. So how do you use Todoist and Evernote together?
I’ll use the automation tool Zapier as an example.
Zapier makes a connection between 2 apps by setting up a trigger and an action. (They call this a “zap”.) Whenever the trigger event happens in one app, Zapier makes the action event happen in the other app.
You can set up Zapier to automatically create new ToDoist tasks from new Evernote reminders. Or it can automatically create a new Evernote notebook each time you create a new ToDoist project. You can set your own custom triggers and actions, or take advantage of the predesigned “zaps” that Zapier has created for immediate use between your favorite apps.
Now that you know how to get the best out of the apps you love to use, you can get started integrating them and create your ideal workflow
Integrating your apps will make your work easier by making it more efficient.
Because each business is unique, the apps that work for you will be different from the apps that work in another business.
Each app is designed to be great at getting specific tasks done. In isolation, these apps work well, but they can be so much better if they are used in conjunction with apps that do a complementary job.
The ability to pick and choose from all of the apps available and then connect them into a customized workflow means you can optimize your own workflow until it performs perfectly for you.
The amount of time you put into setting up your integration and workflow system will more than pay off in future productivity, organization, and peace of mind.