Six smartphone apps I’m using to stay motivated this year 🤞


Yes, 2020 pulled up the floorboards of our contemporary societies and shoved our noses in the rot. We’re all glad the year is done, while also recognizing that a change of the Gregorian guard means pretty much nothing except a mindset shift. I got you. Same floorboard-free boat, baby.

So, armed with a fragile optimism and a new year’s-inspired reaffirmation that the only actions I can control are my own 🙃, I’m sharing six apps I started using in the past 12 months that have helped me feel not so gross about everything. And you can too!

For current events: Audm

This app offers audio versions of magazine articles from a range of national and international publications. I like it because I don’t have to buy a million magazines or subscriptions (which I used to purchase in a flurry and follow-up only with a sweaty regret of the space they eventually take up on my bedside table). And Audm saves me time. I can listen to the latest issue of The Atlantic, for example, while I wash my face masks or clean my zombie-repellent flare gun. 

Audm is one of two apps on this list that isn’t free (see also: Sun Basket). But at only $8.99 a month, it’s worth the time it saves me, the depth of knowledge it offers through the articles, and the variety of publication sources—not to mention their archives—to choose from.

For fitness: Pumatrac

Rarely does one download a free app and, soon after trying it, find one’s self exclaiming, “HOW IS THIS FREE?” But it’s 2021, anything is possible, and Pumatrac blew my cynical lil millennial mind. This ~free~ training app is from Puma, so there are ads for the brand’s clothes and workout items, but only on the homepage, and the ads are shockingly unobtrusive; way less distracting or overwhelming than most banner ads or YouTube spots. (Trying to read an article on a newspaper’s website at this point is like trying to uncover a dusty old article from the bottom of a stuffed time capsule.)

The app has video workouts in a variety of themes, like HIIT, pilates, running, and ballet. You pick a workout, download it to your phone, and then go through the circuit with your “trainer” in tow describing the technique and doing the workout with you. It’s as close to an in-person class as I’m going to get right now. My other favorite aspects: It tracks your runs, connects to your Spotify so you can listen to your own workout playlists in the background, and includes a daily calendar feature so you can plan your workouts for the week in advance and, hence the name, track what you’ve done in the past. The calendar automatically records your workouts to each date after you’re done.

For food: Sun Basket

I signed up for Sun Basket, a subscription meal kit delivery service, mere days before the pandemic started. It’s proven essential during our continued shelter-in-place predicament. The food is nice and fresh, and the app where you select your meals for each week is easy to manage. Sun Basket is based in San Francisco so, as you might expect, it has the sustainability thing down; the food is responsibly sourced and the packaging shows up with recycling and composting instructions. 

I also like that I can order more than just meals for the week. The app has a la carte options for snacks, pre-wrapped breakfasts, yogurt, dips, juices, soups, salad kits, cuts of meat, and more. In a time when long, luxurious grocery shops are a thing of the past (oh, to spend a day dillydallying in the magazine or pasta aisles!), this app has been a game changer for my desire to eat healthier and more thoughtfully.

For books: Libby

My brother, who is a gentleman and scholar and a librarian, recommended Libby last spring after I complained about OverDrive, the app I was using to download and listen to library audiobooks. He was, as he often is, right. I love Libby (which is by OverDrive). Superior to any other audiobook-related app I’ve used, Libby’s books download fast, the audio is smooth, and the download and returns (and remove-from-phone!) processes work efficiently. 

I also like that Libby directly connects to my Chicago Public Library branch, which means when I log on to the app, I’m visiting my branch’s homepage. It’s become my one-stop app to place holds on physical books, as well as peruse, request, and listen to audiobooks. I like that Libby tracks my progress as I listen; lets me set my preferences for item searches, like format and availability; and has an intuitive UX that makes me excited to find my next read—err, listen. 

For time management: Asana

I love learning new project management tools. I’ll admit it. Asana, a familiar program to me thanks to several freelance clients who use it, is far and away my favorite. Asana is just so easy to use and manage. The flying rainbow narwhals that occasionally shoot across my screen when I check off a task don’t hurt either.

The user friendly simplicity of Asana is exactly what I need for my individual *stuff*. When I started building shop.jackiemantey.com last April, I wanted a place to dump all the tasks I was racking up—a list that kept getting bigger by the hour as I moved through the process and realized how much work it would be. I tried Asana for this purpose, and it delivered.

With the free version, I’ve created several channels for various projects, separating them by art, writing, and personal goals; then I divided those up by project; then projects by tasks; tasks by dates; and so on. The board view is better for brainstorming than a Google doc, and the calendar view is more ideal than putting tasks on my personal cal. I also like that I have a place to dump related links I find or ideas I have that correspond to a particular project, versus putting them in a notes app or emailing them to myself to place later.

For calm: Insight Timer

This meditation app is free and lets you choose from numerous guided recordings based on meditation type (i.e., sleep, yoga, singing bowls, cello music, mindfulness); intention (i.e., feel grateful, don’t freak out, really don’t freak out, calm the f*ck down); and, most valuably, timeframe (i.e., 5 minutes, 30 minutes, an immortal’s nirvana-ish eternity). With Insight Timer, you (I) can easily find a five-minute “calm the f*ck down” meditation, for example, to help you (me) out between Zoom calls. Or zombie attacks. Or whatever embarrassing, disheartening news is next. 🙃


Roundup of Ruth Asawa stamps from the USPS

Ruth Asawa’s creative time management advice


Y’all. Ruth Asawa had six kids. Did you know that?

What an impressive human. To raise even one offspring and have an internationally successful and personally meaningful art practice seems like a near impossible achievement. Actually, having an internationally successful art practice AND/OR personally meaningful art practice child-free seems like a nearly impossible achievement.

Here she is with four of six. FOUR OF SIX.

I learned this fact about Ruth in ^this video promoting new USPS stamps featuring her work, intricate wire sculptures that explore how “the relation between outside and inside was interdependent, integral.”

How very relevant in a pandemic that has us all stuck inside and having sweaty pastoral dreams! Also relevant: Stamps, supporting the post office, sending care packages to all the people you miss, etc.

Also, also relevant: The following quote from the USPS video about how Ruth found time to meet her practice, continually pushing her process and forms (all while being, let me just say this one last time, a mom of six, in the mid 20th century).

“Use your little bits of time. Your five minutes here, your 10 minutes there. All those moments begin to add up. … Learn how to use time when it is given to you.”


The 1% you can actually control

I keep listening to this speech by writer James Clear from the 2017 Craft + Commerce conference. In it, he gives great advice for staying productive throughout the work week. For example, he has his assistant change his social media passwords every Monday so he can’t log in (and, thus, be totally distracted) until the weekend. I know most of us don’t have personal assistants, but we do have opposable thumbs that can turn off our phones during precious writing hours. But the most meaningful aspect of his talk is how succinctly he puts something we all know instinctually but don’t act on realistically: If you get 1% better at whatever you’re working on every day, you’re going to be in a much better place after a year has passed.

Whenever I get down on myself about not accomplishing enough in regards to a pressing deadline whose harbor I’m about to crash into, I remember this speech and I’ll ask myself, “Am I 1% closer to my goal? Is what I did today 1% better than what I did yesterday?” The answers are usually yes and yes. And that’s a win.

What are you doing today to make yourself 1% better or push your project 1% forward?