Posted in education on June 27, 2017 12:50 am EDT

11 Top Apps for Personal Development

The digital world offers some compelling tools to help designers refine skills, capture ideas, and build new personal habits. Here are 11 apps worth checking out.

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TAGS: business, collaboration, design, inspiration,


By Cathy Hutchison

It's no secret that the world is moving faster than ever before. As a result, professionals often report feeling that the learning curve is getting too steep.

What if there was a way to keep your personal edge without burning out or experiencing "overwhelm"?

The digital world offers some compelling new tools to help improve your skills, build new personal habits and capture ideas on the fly. Here are eleven worth checking out:


Do you have a stack of business books on your nightstand that you know you will never get to? Blinkist offers insights, “blinks,” from more than 2,000 bestselling nonfiction books that you can read or listen to in just 15 minutes. It allows you to absorb the essential ideas from the best books ranging from productivity to business to science. Plans are yearly ranging from $49.99 for summaries you can read to $79.99 for the audio version that can sync with Evernote and Kindle.

(visit link)


Most audiobook services charge by the book—which can get pricey if you have a long commute. But Playster provides audio and digital books for as low as $9.99 a month. If you sign up for a year of the full service that adds music, movies and games to the book subscription, Playster will send you the Combo Box containing a tablet and headphones at just $9.95 to cover shipping.

(visit link)


Do you have a healthy habit you want to integrate into your life, but are battling making it stick? (Like maybe reading some of those books?) StickK leverages the driver of loss aversion to get us to honor our commitments. You simply set your goal, put some money in jeopardy to your “anti-charity” of choice, get a referee and add friends for support. Commitments for designers might include sketching daily, limiting time-wasting websites, reaching out to a new potential client each day, or anything else that makes you better at your work.

Anti-charities center around a host of political stances. (For example, someone who is for gun control might put money in jeopardy of being donated to the NRA if they fail to keep their commitment, or a Republican might put money in jeopardy of being donated to the Democratic party. If you are a soccer fan, there are options for Arsenal and Manchester United.) To be effective, the amount you select needs to be something that you would feel -- and the “anti-charity” just adds to the motivation.

(visit link)


Are you working internationally? Or maybe you just want to pick up another language for your next vacation. Duolingo offers bite-size lessons in many of the world’s major languages, and the process is gamified to keep your interest. The lessons adapt to your learning style and allow you to improve quickly. It is available free via your browser or through apps for iOS, Android and Windows phones. My favorite feature? The bots that chat conversationally with you in addition to the lessons.

(visit link)

Remember the Milk

You may already be immersed in a task management system like Wrike, Asana, Nozbe or Droptask. But if you just need a simple list and reminder system, it doesn’t get better than Remember the Milk. You access via browser or app, set up your lists, add to them, then Remember the Milk sends you reminders via the app, e-mail, Twitter, IM or text. There is a free version or you can upgrade to an annual subscription for $39.99.

(visit link)

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FutureMe is a service that allows you to write a letter to yourself to be sent at a future date. You can send yourself words of inspiration around a goal, visioning of where you want to be, or even a motivational kick in the pants. The service is donation-based and very simple to use.

(visit link)


Irunurun is a performance and accountability app that gamifies the process of building habits. You start with the habit you want to track (or action you want to take), then you give the action a point value. Once all your actions are entered, the game begins and you work to add points each day. The app focuses on how small habits create the trajectory of who you become. Habit tracking moves us from autopilot to intentional choosing. You can also connect with friends and compete with each other on points.

(visit link)


High performers cite gratitude practices as key to helping them be more creative, productive and less stressed—and there are plenty of scientific studies to back them up. The Happier app is designed to capture the things you are grateful for and connects you to what others are grateful for too. In addition, the app is free and offers in-app purchases.

(visit link)


Using your Twitter account to capture what you are learning in short snippets not only creates a powerful log of your ideas and learnings, but since it is public, it makes you look incredibly smart. Who knows who will start following you? Best of all, the Twitter app is available on most platforms, making it easy to capture on the fly. And you can include links to articles to expand the thought.

(visit link)


Do you ever wish you could uplevel your brain? Elevate is a brain training program designed to improve focus, speaking abilities, processing speed, memory, and math skills. Each person is provided with a personalized training program that adjusts over time to maximize results. Recommended use for best results is three times per week. Elevate is free with upgrades to unlock more features starting at $4.99.

(visit link)


Designers are fountains of creative ideas, but what happens when you run out? The thinking behind Brainsparker is that when you are facing a challenge on a project, you open the app and tap for a creative prompt. The random phrase can shift your thoughts to look in a different direction than you were headed. While the prompt itself won’t be your answer, it can “spark” you to shift your thinking to another direction. And who knows where that might lead.

Brainsparker is free with the option to purchase additional creativity packs.

(visit link)

Feeling inspired? Select one of these apps and put it to work for you. Then report back in the comments how it helps you get better over time.



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