My App List: Apps I Use To Be Fitter, Happier, More Productive

Written by: Reinder de Vries, August 9 2015, in Guide, Programming, Q&A


Trello lies at the heart of any business I do. It’s an online and native app that organizes notes, pieces of text, for you as a individual or for teams. In the app you create boards; a board for each of your points of interest, or businesses. Each board has a number of lists, and these lists contain items: blurbs of text, to-do items, calendar events, and so on.

Generally, I use Trello to capture ideas and thoughts, and categorize those into “boxes” that make sense. There’s a board for blog ideas, for clients I need to chase after for something, for campaigns I want to run on the site.

Trello is simply a filing system on steroids. Every day I open the browser app, have a look at what seems interesting, and create a bunch of to-do’s out of the item in front of me.

Want to get started with Trello? See if you can take a page from your calendar or notebook, and start organizing what you see in logical categories. Take a week in your calendar for example. Can you come up with notes, to-do’s, things to consider, things you’ve already done and organize them in a sensible board?


Headspace is awesome. It’s an app for iPhone and Android that contains a number of guided meditations. Yes, the meditations like monks do – but different.

The first (free) set of meditations is called Take 10: 10 recordings of 10 minutes, that guide you through the principles of meditation. It’s all you want it to be (and not), because there’s no right way to do it. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself.

Some of the benefits I experienced after 6 days of Take 10:

  • I’m calmer
  • More focused, more creative
  • Worry less about arbitrary stuff
  • I’m more aware of my emotions


What would I do without Stripe? It’s the credit card processor for hackers, really. I use it to integrate the website and products with payment processing, i.e. to take payments on the website.

It’s incredibly easy to set up, and connected to a few dozen popular products. For instance, the membership plugin I use to serve content and course material for the Pro Course is called MemberMouse. It connects with Stripe, so creditcard payment is automagically integrated with the products I sell.

They have an iPhone (and Android) app of course, which makes it very easy to get insights on statuses of payments, and clients. The app pushes a notification to the iPhone when something interesting happens, like a new purchase.


Where would I be without Quora? This site has got to be the most awesome thing on the planet, in the learning and education scope. Quora is simply a question and answers website, but it’s gained massive popularity over the past few years.

I spend about an hour each day browsing and answering questions, to be of help to the community. There’s a lot of app learners out there, and Quora is a great way to reach them. Quora is essentially a website, but they’ve got an app too. Usually, when I’m not really doing anything (you know, those moments), I open up the app and start marking questions I want to answer later. When it’s later, I open up the desktop website and answer questions I marked before. It’s a great way to filter from the timeline, and not get lost in all the options the desktop website gives you.

Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is one of those lifehacking apps you’ve got to try. It’s easy: install the app, set the alarm, put it next to your pillow, and go to sleep. While you sleep, the app tracks your movement (with the accelerometer) and determines in which sleep phase you are.

Then, when your alarm is about to go off it figures out when to wake you according to your sleep phase. It’s easier to wake up from light sleep, as opposed to deep sleep. Sleep Cycle helps you to wake up less groggy, and track your sleep at the same time.


VyprVPN is one of those Swiss Army Knife apps. It’s a Virtual Private Network provider, which protects (part of the) data you send over the internet from your desktop or smartphone.

When you connect to VyprVPN, it sets up an encrypted tunnel between you and a network point of choice (based on country). Anything you send to the internet, and receive, gets sent through that tunnel. Any server, internet provider, or hacker between you and that network point is unable to inspect the data you’re sending. And if they can’t inspect it, they can’t filter it, and can’t eavesdrop on stuff you’re doing.

Essentially, it makes sure your internet data is safe on public WiFi networks, or in countries that block particular websites.


You know, I sometimes watch fail videos on YouTube. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but laugh at the unfortunate misfortunes of others. Until I discovered TED! You may have heard of it before: TED is a global network of talks and presentations, dubbed ideas worth spreading. Ideas on a global level, about design, education, technology, dare-devils, and so on.

Have nothing to do during a lunch-break, or some time to kill before a meeting? Get the TED app and get to know what the big thinkers of this world did today.

IF and Zapier

Speaking of a Swiss Army Knife, both IF and Zapier are the ultimate Swiss Army Knife of the app world. IF used to be called IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That. That’s programmer speak for: when A happens, do B.

Both IF and Zapier connect your apps to each other, and tie in to the events that happen. Someone tweets about a subject you’re interested in? OK, IF sends you an email. Just made a purchase, and you got an invoice in your inbox? OK, Zapier captures the email and puts important labels from the PDF attachment in a spreadsheet.

Zapier and IF connect to an armada of apps, and you sure need to check it out: both apps are saving me tons of hours by automating simple tasks.


So… this is not an app! No, it’s one of those notebooks with actual paper in it! I know, paperless office, but isn’t it great to just jot down some notes from time to time?

I once heard that the only thing you need to have to be in business, is a notebook and a pencil. Truth is, I start the majority of my working days with a notebook and a pencil. Just writing down some thoughts, connecting the dots, figuring out the most important tasks for the day and doodling a little bit. Recently I’ve begun to collect all my old notebooks, and it’s refreshing (and embarrasing) to see what I thought a couple of years back.

See, the most effective productivity of all isn’t adding stuff to your workflow, but removing stuff. Focus, focus, focus. And what greater way to do that with an empty page in front of you, and a pencil in your hand, ready to write anything you want?

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Written By: Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries is an indie app maker who teaches aspiring app developers and marketers how to build their own apps at He has developed 50+ apps and his code is used by millions of users all over the globe. When he’s not coding, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.

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Comments & Thoughts

  • Camie DeCovich

    Just curious … what tool(s) do you prefer to use for wireframing or designing an app? Do/have you used Sketch?

  • Great question Camie!

    I’ve used Balsamiq Mockups extensively for wireframing apps. Balsamiq makes creating mockups really easy, and it’s extensive enough to work with complex designs.

    When starting out with building apps (6+ years ago) I only used Photoshop for design and exporting assets, but a while back I switched to Sketch and I’m loving it. It’s really built with app (and web) development in mind. Many features make so much more sense — and it’s a lot cheaper.

    Have you tried Balsamiq, and what’s your experience with Sketch?

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