After a blissful period of summer hours, relaxed lunches and bare arms, it’s time to start knuckling down again. Fortunately you should have plenty of energy; now you just have to set up some habits and routines to direct that energy properly so that you can carry it through well into the holiday season. These five apps — games, digital mentors and organizational tools — are guaranteed to reorganize, revitalize and refocus your mind.
Like Threes, But You Use Your Brain: It’s been pretty widely acknowledged since the beginning of the Aughts: video games can help sharpen your cognitive skills. In 2013, a study published in Nature (and later covered in Forbes) indicated that video games that emphasized multitasking can improve players’ multitasking abilities; another study similarly concluded that first-person shooters (e.g. Call of Duty) and puzzle games improve, respectively, multitasking and spatial attention and cognition. So as plenty of books will tell you, it’s a good idea to load up your smartphone with a diverse collection of games. Instead of Candy Crush, start with 0h n0. Like a cross between Sudoku and Minesweeper, 0h n0 is a demanding exercise in problem solving — a pretty universal skill. The rules of the game are best learned by jumping right in. In an abstract, numerical way, the game forces players to negotiate the needs of different fixtures within a given space, satisfying every one. In other words: whether you realize it or not, this game can help you figure out how to cooperate better with your coworkers.
For Android, iOS, Web, Windows and Windows Phone.
And Yet It Moves
Because Quiet Time Is Important: And Yet It Moves is a quietly atmospheric game that hones spatial awareness and ability (proficiency in which has been linked with creativity) in a problem-solving context. Players rotate the game world using touch controls; along with gravity, this guides the character onscreen through an elaborate, paper-based abstract maze. The challenge of navigation and reasoning out the effects of each rotation provides the basis for improvements in creative problem solving; meanwhile, the simple visuals and minimalistic sound design make it something of a meditative experience for those who are too impatient for proper meditation.
For iOS; Linux, Mac and Windows versions available here.
For Those Patient Enough for Proper Meditation: The beauty of the self-help app: unlike a self-help book, you can’t carelessly leave it on the coffee table, begging for one of your more judgmental friends to come across it. Headspace, a subscription-based audiobook-collection-cum-progress-tracker, has the top crop of self-help apps by popular consensus, offering hundreds of hours of audio-guided meditation on the subjects of addiction, relationships, creativity, and much more. So chances are you’ll be able to refocus on whatever New Year’s resolution you’ve left buried in the snow. And if you’re loud and proud about your self-help interests, the app has a social component — viewable self-help plans, progress tracking, rewards, and motivational systems.
For Android and iOS.
Time Out Free
Oldie But Goodie: Shaking the cobwebs out is one thing; pacing yourself is another. Who wouldn’t benefit from an app that’ll periodically remind you, throughout all those tense overtime office work sessions, that your eyes are burning? If the word “free” in the title didn’t already tip you off, then that one sentence should be convincing enough. Time Out Free’s virtue is its utter simplicity: every hour the app slowly dims your screen before overriding your work windows with a reminder to take a 10-minute break from your computer screen (which you can delay by 5 or 10 minutes if the situation demands it). The app also prompts you to take 15-second miniature breaks, the frequency and duration of which are customizable.
Do More with a Better To-Do List: You can try time and again to commit to your iPhone’s clunky Reminder app, or you can switch over to Any.Do, a much cleaner to-do list app. Any.Do’s sleek interface makes outlining your chores less of a chore, which should trickle down and make you more likely to finish them. The free edition boasts typical features like reminders and multiple customizable lists, in addition to the ability to organize tasks by expected completion time (“today”, “tomorrow”, “upcoming” and “someday”), attach files and personal notes to tasks, and share projects with friends or coworkers, along with a limited number of “Any.Do moments” — a process, activated by a button, in which the app takes you through each task one by one so that you can reassess the status and due dates of each. A premium account at $2.99 a month ($2.49 a month for a yearlong subscription) boosts your sharing capabilities, Moments and attachable file size, and also grants you the ability to set up recurring tasks (which you can set to reoccur in however much time you prefer, as opposed to just daily or weekly) and location-based reminders, along with color themes.
For Android, iOS, Google Chrome and Web.