How the iPhone Saved My Productivity

posted by Andrea | 02/16/2012

Dave and I recently renewed our 2-year cell phone contracts… and we both got iPhones!

Yes, it was totally against our ultra-frugal nature, but I have to say, the iPhone completely saved any shred of productivity I had left after Nora arrived!

Before we got our iPhones, we still had the old flip phones. We didn’t have any sort of data package, and we didn’t even have texting {told you we are frugal!}

It was actually a bit of an internal struggle for both of us, but especially for me, because we really didn’t NEED iPhones. Yes, we could afford to pay cash for the phones, yes we could get a great deal since we were going to renew our contract anyway, and yes, we could afford to pay the monthly data plans… but we still didn’t NEED them!

Another reason I was a bit unsure about getting iPhones was because I always hear how people “waste” so much time with their smart phones, iPads, Kindles, etc… and frankly, I do NOT have time to waste right now.

Well, it’s been 2 months, and I honestly think these iPhones are one of our best purchases. I can’t believe how much MORE productive I’ve been… or how we lived without them for so long!

Here are just a few ways the iPhone helps me be more productive:

1. Email:

I get loads of emails every single day and it used to be overwhelming for me… but now I have instant access to all of my emails and can quickly check, delete, file, and reply to most of my emails from my phone… even when I don’t have access to my computer — or when my other arm is tied up 🙂

Obviously, there are still some emails I can’t/won’t do from my phone — especially if they require attachments or lengthy responses, but I’ve saved SO much time by tackling many of my emails from my iPhone.

2. Social Media:

Since I’ve been a little short on time lately {OK, a lot short on time} I’ve basically “banned” myself from spending any time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. unless it’s on my phone.

I figure if we’re just driving, waiting, sitting around, etc. I’ll allow myself to play around on social media sites. Then when I’m sitting down to work, I keep those tabs closed, and am way more productive because of it!

3. Blog Comments:

I love reading all my blog comments, and I try really hard to respond to any questions or comments that require a response, but that had been getting more and more difficult to do… until I got the iPhone! Now I can keep tabs on my comments, stay caught up on responses, and I feel more connected to my readers.

4. Shopping:

As you know, I’m a big Craigslist shopper {and I’m semi-addicted to too!}… but I really can’t afford to “waste” my time searching for deals on the internet right now. So instead, I’ll use my phone to brows the web, inquire about sales, and even make purchases when I otherwise wouldn’t have access to my computer for one reason or another.

5. Shared Calendars:

Dave and I have a shared calendar on iCloud so we both know what the other person is doing… yes, this has been extremely helpful and I’m not really sure why I didn’t think of doing this before!

6. Productivity/Time Management Apps:

I still haven’t paid for any Apps yet, but I have found a handful of very helpful FREE productivity and time management apps that I’m having lot of fun with!

7. Photos:

I don’t naturally take many photos because I hate carrying my camera around with me all the time. But now that I have a really fantastic camera right in my iPhone, I’m taking pictures ALL the time! I can quickly edit the pictures and upload them to my blog or to any social media site with just a few taps of my finger… then I’m done.

No more lugging my camera around, plugging my camera card into the computer, waiting for it to load, then opening the photo editing program, etc. etc. I’m saving lots of time AND taking more pictures — win-win!

8. Navigation:

We don’t have any type of GPS in our cars so I’ve always just printed off Mapquest directions anytime I have to go somewhere. Seriously! Now, I can simply use a navigation app and don’t have to waste the time {or paper} printing off my Mapquest maps anymore!

Since Dave and I were still living in the ‘dark ages’ with our flip phones, we are simply amazed at how much more we can do with our iPhones — and how much time we save doing it!

I can do all these things while I’m riding in the car, waiting in line, or even when I’m feeding Nora. And obviously, I don’t spend every spare moment on my phone, but it is nice to have the option to “get stuff done” even when I’m not by my computer.

And yes, we do use our phones for playing games, listening to music, and even watching video clips every now an then 🙂

Do you have an iPhone — or any other type of smart phone?

If so, do find that you SAVE more time or WASTE more time on fun games, etc.? Also, what are your favorite apps?


Filed under: WorkProductivityResources

Leave a comment


  1. Trisha Gronenthal


    Hi Andrea! Couple of questions:

    1. What productive/time management apps were you using when you wrote this and are you still using them? I don’t think you’ve ever gone into depth about them.

    2. Do you still have the same iPhones or have you uograded? We moved to T-mobile about a year ago and I know you are with Verizon, but I recently found out that we aren’t buying our phones, just leasing them. After 18 months we either have to pay full price for them and pay them off which is twice as much as what we are leasing them for, or upgrade and lease new phones. My question is do you think it’s worth it to buy a phone or do you feel they need to be upgraded every couple years like these companies want us to? I would love to just buy something and be done with it for 5-10 years but my hubby disagrees. Considering how far phones have come in just the last 5 years, he’s probably right, but I hate our fatty monthly phone bill and don’t want to lease forever! What has been your experience?


    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Trisha,
    I honestly don’t use very many apps for productivity — in fact, I can’t even think of any I use. I mainly use my phone to check and respond to email, take photos, text, and read! Sometimes I actually call people on it too 🙂

    Also, I think we’ve upgraded our phones at least twice since that post back in 2012 — maybe 3 times. We upgrade every 2 years with Verizon and we are ALWAYS shocked and amazed with how many new features our phones have each time. I definitley think it’s worth it to pay extra in order to have a more updated phone. We always just get the “free” option from Verizon (never the newest version but always better than what we have). I know nothing about T-mobile, but with Verizon, we just get the free phone every 2 years and pay for our data package. We have the lowest package possible (just 1 GB) and it’s roughly $90 a month total for both of us. It’s a lot, but considering we don’t have a landline or cable, it’s worth it for us.


  2. stacie


    Hi Andrea we are looking into a new phone service/provider and we live in Michigan as well! I know you are a savvy shopper and are always looking to make sure your not over spending, can you give advice on the best phone provider? We are with verizon and they are sooooo expensive I feel, wondering what you use?


    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Stacie,
    We also use Verizon — I’ve had the same plan since I was 18 years old… so it just seems like too much hassle to change it now 🙂 Plus, we’ve been locked in at the same rate since I was 18 and have just added Dave on as a “family plan” for $10 a month.

    Obviously, we now pay a database package fee which drastically increases our rate, but that fee is pretty much the same no matter what provider we looked into, so we’ve just stuck with Verizon in an effort to simplify. Also, almost ALL our family members are on Verizon which means we get free verizon-to-verizon calling.


  3. Phil


    I have loved my iPhone since the original version 🙂

    Question for you, how do you respond to emails from the phone? Is there a Gmail app? And if you have multiple email accounts filtered in to one Gmail account how do you reply using the return email that the message was sent to and not your Gmail address?

    I haven’t figured this out yet… The only way I can do it is setup multiple accounts in the mail app of the phone and reply from the real account and not the Gmail one…

    Love your blog, I have been thinking of doing a Daddy Blog 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    yes, there is a gmail app and it make email WAY easier. Just search for it and you should find it — it’s free!


  4. Janice


    I love the iphone. I do most of my blogging and facebook work from it. 🙂


  5. Heidi of Operation Organization


    I absolutely ADORE having the GPS feature in order to get me to clients homes and speaking engagements! 🙂

    I also love the voice feature for texting & web browsing!

    Evernote has been wonderful to use to document all sorts of bright ideas for blog posts or even general to-dos .

    Pinterest is another favorite app that I can bring up while waiting around.

    Viber has been amazing to keep in contact with my best friend overseas for FREE. (it’s like skpe for smart phones)

    have fun!



  6. J.C.


    I have an Android & one of my most-used apps is ReadItLater. When I have a website that I want to read but don’t have time or it’s just easier to read on the computer, I add it to ReadItLater, then I have a list when I login on the computer & there it is. I used to have tons of bookmarks on my phone that I’d e-mail myself manually, but ever since I found out about this app, it’s SOOO much easier. I’d imagine that the iPhone has the same or a very similar app, too.

    And I agree with the PPs that Evernote is amazing–I have tons of recipes on it that I want to try that I can easily pull up when I’m shopping to make sure I buy all the ingredients & then open it up in the kitchen if I don’t want to drag my laptop over.


  7. Kathy


    A follow-up on Evernote, that a previous commentor mentioned. I have an Android phone myself and Evernote really has helped me get organized. It’s search capabilities are what makes it so useful – you can search your all of your Evernote notes pretty much the same way you google on the internet.

    Evernote is cloud-based data storage and there are apps for both iPhones and Androids that can access your data on the go. This of course depends on your comfort level with trusting confidential data to the cloud, but here are some ways that you can be much more productive using Evernote on a Smartphone:

    1. Recipes notebook – I have ’em all in here. I tag them by category (chicken, pasta, soup) and also use Favorite and “To Try”. (You can have more than 1 tag per recipe.) This is so convenient when I want to buy recipe ingredients on the run. Or share a recipe with a friend while sitting at a baseball game.

    2. Medical history info – I’m especially talking about immunizations here. I used to have paper in my wallet that had last tetanus shots for everyone. Now I can look it up on my phone. Open Evernote, enter “tetanus” and the notes with that in it show up so I can open the one I need.

    3. I keep notes for each family member where I record gift ideas and clothing sizes. I can always access them when shopping and can make a quick addition when someone mentions something they would like.

    4. Owners Manuals – I have started scanning or finding manuals for new items online, and saving to a Owners Manuals notebook in Evernote. It allows you to look up the furnace filter number when in the store, as an example.

    {Here’s a way-out-there idea I read once. Evernote notes each have a specific URL. You can create your own QR code (souped up bar codes that you see everywhere in the shape of a square) to point to a specific note, say the water heater manual, and print and tape that code right to the water heater. Scan it with a smartphone to pull the manual right up.}

    5. Book lists – I clip reviews from websites on my desktop computer for books I want to read. I can then pull them up on my phone when at the library or in a store. Or install the Kindle app on my smartphone and buy it from Amazon and read it while I am waiting for soccer practice to finish 😉

    6. I also have tags in my Reference notebook for holidays, crafting, sewing, organizing, etc. When I am in a waiting room and read something really interesting in a magazine, I can open Evernote, take a photo of the article with my phone, tag it and have it forever (without having to secretly tear it out of the magazine)!

    Also, on Android I use Ou rGroceries which allows multiple phones to access the shared (in the cloud) grocery list. Not sure if there’s something comparable on iPhone. I can enter my list on the web, by store, or on my phone. In the store, I can check things off as I buy them. AND I can also ask my husband to stop by the store on the way home and get the items on the “Grocery Store” list.


  8. Kelly


    I use my iphone to keep my gluten intolerence under control! I can look up menus and ingredient lists at the touch of my finger at restaurants and grocery stores.

    My husband and I make a lot of Rexbox purchases in the winter time. We LOVE to eat out on the weekends and there’s always the “what next?” after you eat. Instead of spending lots of money at a theater, bowling, shopping, etc. we compromise with a $1 movie to watch at home! When we are waiting for our food to come, I get on my Redbox app and look for a movie to pick up on the way home. You can reserve the movie(s) of your choice and once you get to the Redbox, all’s you have to do is swipe your payment card and the movie comes out. There’s no standing in the cold trying to find the movie with the guilt trip of holding people up.

    I also, like you, would not take pictures if it weren’t for my phone. I have more pictures on my phone from this year than I do on my digital camera from the last 6 years!

    The email is definitey a plus. I use to take forever in getting back with people via email. Yes, my emails may be a littl shorter via the phone but at least I am getting back with friends and family right away! There’s no longer the “did you get my email?” question that gives you instant guilt!

    The NIKE running app is AMAZING! You can track your distance when you run or walk as you go AND have your phone with you in case you have an emergency situation. The NIKE app also creates average times and distances so you can ceate goals, etc.

    Ebay app…. ENOUGH said!! If you are big into buying and selling on ebay, this is by far the easiest way to keep up with bids.

    Facebook… LOVE IT! I can keep up with everyone on a whim as things happen and not sit on my computer for two hours every night writing everybody back. Same with PINTEREST!

    Panora – FREE RADIO! No need to subscribe to any expensive satellite companies if you don’t mind a few commercials every now and then. I use this a lot at work!

    I think I can go on and on and on but those are some of my favorites 🙂


  9. Elizabeth


    Some of my favorite apps that help with productivity are:
    Cozi – my daughter and I use it to share shopping lists and household chore lists
    Calendar – I sync my Outlook calendar from work with Google calendar and my daughter’s Google calendar and we both know what each has coming up. Great for planning and stopping double-booking our time.
    Toodle-do – online todo lists that can be shared. You can enter info using your computer, smartphone, etc. and they all sync. I have a lot of folders set up – some by project, some by location (in the car errands, at home, at work, on the computer, etc.) so no matter where I am I can see what I can get done with a few extra minutes.
    Mint – to monitor my bank accounts
    SparkPeople – to track my food and exercise
    For fun:
    Various video apps to watch news segments (all I can do on a small screen): Today Show, Rock Center, Nightly News
    Netflix – a smartphone screen is too small for me to watch but my daughter loves to watch Netflix on her phone in the car
    Tunein Radio: find lots of radio stations

    I have an unlimited data plan that’s affordable because I got it years ago before smartphones got really big and it’s been grandfathered into my account so be forewarned that the audio and video apps can use a lot of data.


  10. Firesparx


    I love my iPhone. I hardly use it as an actual phone though, and I’m not a huge texter. I got it because I wanted “the internet in my purse”. It has worked out really well, and I hardly use my desktop computer anymore. I find it most useful for making lists and having my calendar with me at all times.

    A few productivity apps you mights like:

    -If you want a really simple, straight-forward To Do App the “DoBot To Dos” is great.
    -If you want a more robust To Do App (deadlines, priorities, reminders etc) then “Priorities” is a good one.
    -Personally I don’t use it, but I’ve read good things about “Evernote”. I think it works well for creative people (and bloggers!) to capture ideas and inspiration. It’s server-based so I believe you can also access your notes from your home computer too.
    -“DocsToGo” is like having Microsoft Office on your phone. It’s a little annoying to make spreadsheets on an iPhone though…

    Most, if not all, of those programs have a cost to them. I have found that the best programs are not free. Free apps tend to have ads or have limited capabilities. But the most I’ve ever paid for an app is $10, which is like buying a few cups of coffee so not a huge deal.



  11. Tara


    I can’t even remember what my life was like before iPhone. I’ve had one for almost 4 years. That little device is the biggest time saver in my life. I use it to do all the things you mentioned, plus take pictures, read books, time stuff (as well as be on time thanks to the alarm), check the weather report, keep track of my bank balance, find restaurants, track my price book, and find the best deals on products. I do have a few paid apps, but most of those are totally free.


  12. Debbie


    Just want to say I love this web site! I love to keep our family organized and try to be the best wife, mother and every other hat we wear well! Thanks for the great tips. Keep up the good work.


  13. Julie


    I still have a flip phone and its a Trac Fone. That you pay as you go. I don’t know how to text, or send pictures and can barely recieve texts. Most of this is because I don’t need to right now. I know there will come a time when I will probably have to learn when my kids get older, but as of now I don’t need to know. It just an added expense. Until then I will just use my Trac Fone.


    Ann Reply:

    I have a trac phone too (much to my children’s dismay) and I also don’t know how to text, send pictures and can barely receive texts. (I did it once!) I’m content for now and it is by far the cheapest solution for us.


  14. Melissa


    I also was reluctant to get the iphone but we have 2 teenagers and were up for renewal and my husband had recently been given one as his work phone. I LOVE IT!!!
    I too feel that it actually frees up my time as I can check email, send texts etc while waiting in carpool line (while in park of course, I like to get there early so my daughter always knows I am the first car in the line) I only have free apps but my favorite is

    COZI–its a calendar that for us at least works better than the icloud one. it has different colors for each person and also an “all” color..with 2 children in different sports and a husband that travels 45% of the time it has been a lifesaver for us, you can set up recurring appts, have reminders sent to your phone or email etc. and we all know what the other is doing, now I even have my kids logging in and updating their schedules

    gasbuddy—you put in your location and it tells you where the cheapest gas is wherever you are.

    tango. this is similiar to I guess video chatting? (I dont know since don’t video chat) My grandmother is in a nursing home 45 mins away so there are many times I go to visit and the children can’t go too. SO when I get there we will call and she can see the kids thru the phone and talk to them. she tells every person that passes in the nursing home about it every single time I go. She loves it. We also use it since their dad travels so often he can call at anytime and see them while they are talking even if we are not home by their computers.

    I am sure there are plenty more apps that I have yet to discover but I only do the free ones. 🙂


  15. Laurel


    No, no iPhone. We’re just way too frugal. I can’t bring myself to pay the monthly fee for that. We’ve been with Verizon for ages, too, but we just have standard phones and probably will stay with them. Glad you enjoy yours, though.


  16. jerilyn


    My husband has one and I actually love that he does! He works a lot and so I like that he can use his breaks and lunch (if he gets one!) to check his email/facebook, return phone calls, even read on it and that way when he gets home he doesn’t have to worry about that- and can just be with his family. 🙂 My 4 year old would LOVE if he had angry birds on it (I know, 4 years old!) but that would defeat the productivity of it!

    The gps and internet everywhere has saved us in a few tight situations over the past few months (car trouble on a trip, etc.)


  17. Denise


    I had to laugh while reading this post…I also didn’t want to give in to the pressure of getting a smartphone, but love it….so glad that I got one. One Productivity App that I would recommend you try is Evernote….Love it!!!


  18. Angie


    Totally agree with you… Didn’t NEED the iPhone but sooooo glad I have it now (got one in January) syncing my schedule with my hubby’s = lifesaver! And the My Fitness Pal app has helped me lose 8 pounds already!! Life is easier to manage with my new phone.


  19. Crystal


    Just curious who your carrier is and what data plan you signed up for and if that’s enough (to avoid the dreaded overages)! Thanks!


    Andrea Reply:

    We have Verizon — and I’ve been with them since I got my first phone so we have some type of “loyalty” plan that is cheaper than most other plans. We get the 2GB data package and don’t even come close to using it all {because we are almost always near a wifi network that we can use instead}. Hope this helps!


    Crystal Reply:

    Gold star for you on the loyalty plan…..I’ve been with AT&T several years and to my knowledge, loyalty plans don’t exist!! Good point about being near the wi-fi! Thanks!!!!!


  20. Crystal


    Ha, Ha! We are mulling over our cell decision also…great info….we just have one cell between us and it’s a dinosaur…time to upgrade, but it’s so expensive!! Timely article for us! Thanks!


  21. Amber


    We have had iPhones for about 2 years now and we love them! A few of my favorite apps are Reeder (reading blogs), wunderlist, baby connect (keeping track of all of those feedings, milestones, etc)


  22. Melissa


    I also have an iPhone and LOVE it…It has come in handy too many times to count. I really didn’t start getting more productive though until I totally cut out Facebook. I’ve deactivated my account and it was the best thing I could have ever done to get my life back on track organizationally!!!


  23. Pyper


    I’d like to know what productivity & time management apps you’re using that you like. My contract is up for renewal in July & I’m considering getting an iPhone too.


  24. Allison


    I loooooove my iPhone. I believe it’s the best thing I’ve ever spent money on. I would at this point give up my laptop before my phone (let’s hope that never has to happen!)

    There are two apps that will just blow your mind as a organizational lady:

    Orchestra To-Do: FREE.
    You and your hubby should both have it. You share to-dos with one another, you can assign each other a task. You can even input your tasks be speaking to it (probably easier to do if you’re feeding Nora.) It’s got a million uses, and they’re improving it constantly.

    Similar is Wunderkit also FREE

    Evernote: FREE.
    I don’t know if you use it yet. But I’m imagining you’ve checked it out. If you haven’t it’s basically a cloud-storage-system for all your information, that you can tag. Like the best note-book you’ll ever have. If you have looked at it, having an iPhone *revolutionizes* your use of it, I promise. Having the ability to photograph everything, instantly, and upload it, instantly is going to change the way you store information. (Your photos which contain text also become *text searchable!* Amazing) Check out their blog for amazing ways people have used it to stay organized:

    This post in particular first showed me how powerful this can be for organizing life:

    Finally, I do pay for apps quite a lot, because I’m studying app-development and often want to see what’s out there. There are many out there that are worth your money, many many many more that are not.

    Apps Gone Free: FREE is a fantastic app that tells you everyday which apps are free (developers often will have weekend or one-day sales to boost interest in their products.) A lot of great paid apps are free occasionally for holidays (Snapseed, a brilliant but expensive photo-editor was free over Valentine’s day), and if you check out this app daily you can find a lot of things over time. It’s well designed, and easy to use. There’s actually a blog that you can to that this originates from to get the same information, but I find this app actually encourages me to check it out more often.

    And once you download an app, it’s yours forever, even if you delete it, you can re-download at anytime for free. So if anything even remotely strikes your fancy, snap it up when it’s free, delete if you don’t have time to check it out, and then it’s yours for when you want it.

    I highly doubt you’ll waste much time on your phone. it’s good for a few minutes of stress reliving games, but I find it too small to want to do anything on it for more than 30 minutes.

    Enjoy your new toy!!!


    Lesley T Reply:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up Allison!


  25. Tanya


    I have an IPOD and I love it. I am considering getting an IPHONE, since my contract on my phone is up as well. I love my IPOD though because of the many apps from recipes to calendars, to kids apps. When my kids get ancy in the doctors office or in the car, I can give it to them and they play games or music. They too love it.


  26. Cindi


    We love our Iphones!! We do everything on them. I really like that it keeps my nine year old entertained in the car while I drive, or he listens to it while he is going to sleep. (music)


  27. Kadie


    My husband and I are on our second round of iPhones. I am not much for keeping the calendar so my husband would do it before we had the phones and I would call him and ask what is on the schedule. Since we got our phones, I do not have to bother him at work as much to find out what is on the calendar.
    It has also been a lifesaver when we are waiting somewhere or driving long distances. Since my husband and I are on our second phones, my 2 and 4 year old use the old phones for read out loud book apps and educational games. My husband always says if our kids could read they would know the phones better than us.


  28. Kelekona


    Since we got Windows phones, I spend time angsting about which cool apps I can’t have. Texting is cool because it’s not as intrusive as a call; we can shoot a message and wait a few minutes for the response.

    Games are a good distraction because I hate browsing with my phone. Keeping a shopping list on my phone is handy. The calendar isn’t very powerful but okay for garbage-day reminders.

    We finally found a way to get tracking on our phones, useful for a shifting pick-up point or a way for him to tell when to get out on the side of the road.


  29. Natalie


    Just discovered your blog and I can’t sto p going through and reading it. Thank you for posting it! Your daughter is ADORABLE!

    This post came just in time. We are gearing up to get our iphones and I was having trouble taking the plunge! Thanks!


  30. Stacey


    I love my iPhone. I play games occasionally but mostly i use it to save time. My 4 year old is ultra talkative, especially when we are at the dr office and im trying to listen to what the dr has to say. i can load up angry birds for him and hes quiet for a while, lol. i like words with friends for myself and the apps/functions i use most are email, facebook, google and gps.