There are thousands of online lists offering recommended productivity or “life-hack” apps to help improve your time management, collaboration, and organization. Without question, many of these recommendations are immensely valuable. However, I’ve recently come to wonder what apps people use to support their growth and development, especially as leaders. Unfortunately, there are not as many lists targeted to this topic.
Thus, as a follow up to my previous leader growth tools blog post, I want to offer my recommendations of apps that I leverage to aid in my daily pursuits to learn and grow as a leader in the various roles in my life. Many of these are tailored to my preferred methods of learning and may not necessarily work for you. However, I believe this list can at least get you thinking of a system (app or otherwise) to fill that particular void in your learning efforts.
The Dropbox app serves as the centralized hub for maintaining all of my journals, recorded notes on books, and lessons learned. I am a Microsoft Word guy; I prefer to type and keep everything in a Word document. So, I use Dropbox to host and organize all of my documents. I’ve created a system of folders to organize my documents, where I keep notes targeted on topic and/or future use (such as ideas for my future battalion field grade officer assignment) for easy reference. Dropbox has a great folder download capability, where all of your content in your account can be accessed and saved like a normal “my documents” folder on your desktop; thus, I can drag and drop documents on my personal computer like I would any Windows document folder. When not on my personal computer, I can easily access my documents via their website or phone app as needed. Dropbox really is my #1 app for personal learning and productivity.
My next favorite app is Pocket. This app helps me manage a reading list of articles from the internet. So often, when on Twitter or online, I find a great article that I want to read, but don’t have the time to commit to reading it in it’s entirety in the moment. Further, I may not have the ability to write or type out any lessons or quotes from it that I may want to transfer into my reflection and learning journals. Pocket allows me to save the article to read it later, when I have the time and am in an environment that affords my best learning.
You can tag articles with coded designations of your choice to help organize them. For example, I have a “to read: HBR” tag for all of the Harvard Business Review articles I want to read. Tagging helps me categorize my saved articles to keep my to-read lists neat and organized, rather than a massed list of unrelated readings.
This dynamic app tends to be everyone’s favorite when it comes to note taking and list keeping. It is a superb app that allows you to create a well-organized hierarchy of notebooks and notes. I like Evernote for two main functions: first, I keep my running to-do lists. Second, I record notes on the app when I’m reading an e-book or an article from Pocket “on-the-go.” So, for example, if I’m reading an article before a meeting, I use Evernote to record any notes from it so I can later transfer those to my Dropbox journals for long-term retention.
I have recently been astonished by how many junior and emerging leaders (such as Cadets) don’t know what a Podcast is let alone what to listen to through the app. There are some great Podcast series available for leader development. I enjoy listening to them between my audiobooks while doing mundane tasks around the house such as washing dishes, folding laundry, morning hygiene, or even walking the dog. My biggest recommendation is having a 3×5 card or piece of paper and pen available while listening to your Podcasts so you record great insight from them; I jot my notes down while listening and then transfer those notes to my Dropbox journals later (you may even catch me hunched over writing on a 3×5 card on my leg while walking my dog…).
The Podcast app is included on all Apple iPhones; there is also an Android Podcasts app. You can search for and download particular shows through the app. I list my favorite leadership Podcasts on my 3×5 Leadership Resources page; additionally, From the Green Notebook blog created a robust list of great Podcasts. Lastly, many popular Podcast series often have their own website where you can access their episodes through there as well such as The Learning Leader Show, Building A Story Brand, and EntreLeadership.
I enjoy the breadth and quality of knowledge shared through TED and TEDx Talks. I use these to fill in gaps in my audio listening between audiobooks and Podcasts; these are easy because they are often so short, so you can fit them into small gaps in your day.
Beyond listening to or watching recommended TED talks by leaders I respect and follow, I also use the TED app to search for talks on personal topics of interest, such as “leadership,” “collaboration, or “potential.” I also love watching TED Talk videos as a means of observing and learning effective public speaking and storytelling, two behaviors I am always trying to improve.
As I discussed in my ‘Leaders are Readers’ series post about Twitter, I use this app as a learning resource. I pull some great insight from others through Twitter, which includes quotes, recommended books and articles, Podcast episodes, and even the ability to engage in some great conversation on leader development. There is a sizeable leader development community on Twitter and I recommend you tap into it. I’m selective in who I follow on the app so I’m not overwhelmed with unnecessary noise.
Also discussed in my ‘Leaders are Readers’ series post, I use Goodreads as my tool to manage my personal reading program. Through it, I keep a list of the books I’ve read, a running list of books I want to read (to help me select my next book), and a way to share my thoughts on a book through a review after I read the book. Additionally, through the app, I can interact with other avid readers and see what they are reading to get other good book ideas.
Digital Book Sources (E-Book & Audiobook): OverDrive and RBdigital
OverDrive and RBdigital are my favorite digital book resources for free e-books and audiobooks. US military personnel can benefit from these resources through the US Navy’s OverDrive library or the US Army’s MCoE library on RBdigital. Both act as digital libraries where you check out the book for a set number of days (10-30 days) and can read or listen on the app on your computer, tablet, or phone. You can download the checked-out files so it doesn’t require data coverage on your device to read or listen. When I absolutely love a book that I read or listened to on these apps, I usually add a cheap and used copy of that book to my Amazon book wish list to buy later.
Many public and academic libraries use these apps as well. I encourage non-military readers to check out if your local library does so you can start using the apps too!
Audiobook Sources: Audible and LibriVox
In addition to those above digital book sources, two great apps for audiobooks are Audible and LibriVox. Audible is a resource from Amazon where you can buy and download audiobooks to listen anywhere on your phone. With an Audible subscription ($15/mo), you get one “free” audiobook download a month plus 30% off all additional audiobooks.
LibriVox is a public forum resource where users read, edit, and publish audiobook files themselves. There is a large variety of topics available to include fascinating “classics.”
Other Non-App Resources: Email distributions
Finally, though not apps specifically, I subscribe to these email lists in order to help expand my learning resources to include books, podcasts, articles, and videos.
- The Learning Leader Show podcast: Ryan Hawk’s Mindful Monday email. His weekly Monday email announces his new podcast episode for the week plus half a dozen other interesting resources that he has found to include articles, videos, and quotes.
- Harvard Business Review’s publication announcement emails (requires an HBR subscription). I subscribe to six of HBR’s tailored email sends, which include a daily alert email of top new articles and weekly emails sharing recent top posts in the categories of leadership, technology & innovation, strategy & execution, and business bookshelf. From these emails, I’m usually adding 5-10 new HBR articles to my to-read list in the Pocket app.
- BookAuthority: a daily or weekly email of tailored book recommendations from “the world’s most successful CEOs, business leaders, and experts.”
- BookBub: a daily email of curated book deals based on your selected subjects and authors of interest. Book deals offered are Kindle or Apple books at reduced prices ($0.99 – $2.99).
What Do You Recommend?
Are there any other apps that are not on this list and that you recommend for others interested in learning and developing targeted leader abilities? I’d love to hear other recommendations; feel free to comment below with your thoughts!
All of the resources shared, except for Audible and HBR subscriptions, are free for use. Outside of being an Amazon Affiliate (receiving a small fee for Amazon product purchase referrals), I am not associated with any of the companies in this post. I am only sharing apps that I personally use and recommend.
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