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In this week’s #trending column, I decided to tackle a topic I’ve seen quite a bit of lately: New Year’s resolutions and technology.

All across my Facebook feed, I’ve seen declarations from friends that in 2013, they will quit or cut back their social media and smartphone usage.

That’s all well and good, friends, but for me, it’s not a realistic goal. In fact, my job requires me to use social media, my iPhone and iPad. So instead of swearing them off, I’ve found helpful ways to embrace these devices.


(Photo by Associated Press)

I’ve scoured the web for recommendations and pulled out some of my favorite mobile and Web apps that can help users stay on track to accomplish their goals for the new year. Here is my list of some of the top picks. (And by the way, all these options are free.)

Note: Some of the following appeared in my column, but I’ve also included runner-up selections and additional categories.


(Photo by Associated Press)

  • Health and fitness: Eating healthier is, invariably, one of the top goals every year. One of my favorite apps to help get and stay in shape is MyFitnessPal, a free calorie counter and diet plan. It’s both a website and mobile app and includes a social element, if you choose to enable it. You can track your progress and share it with friends for encouragement along the way, or you can keep it personal. (Available as a Web app and on Android and iOS devices)

    Runner-up: Lose It! is an app that allows you to set up a personalized weight loss plan and budget your calories. (Available as a Web app and on Android and iOS devices)
  • Exercise: If you’re looking for something that’s more focused on physical activity, Fitocracy comes highly recommended. It is a free daily workout tracker and fitness community online and as a mobile app. It uses social tools and gamification to make working out easier. (Available as an iPhone app; Android app currently being developed)

    Runner-up apps: Workout Trainer offers thousands of free workouts and premium programs that help you achieve your fitness goals. Some say it’s like having a personal trainer in your pocket. (Available as a Web app and on Android and iOS devices)

    Runkeeper is a GPS-driven app that allows you to keep track of your workouts, view your progress, and share your stats with friends. (Available as a Web app and on Android and iOS devices)
  • Organization: Evernote is one of my personal favorite ways to keep my tasks in order. It’s a website and app that’s a sort of memo keeper, perfect for lists and reminders in text, photo or audio format.

    But if you’re more checklist-oriented, you might like Wunderlist or Astrid, both are simple apps and websites for keeping track of multiple to-do lists. I’ve downloaded both and have been trying them out. They are both good options, but it depends on your personal preferences.

    Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention my other two favorite cloud storage apps — Dropbox and Google Drive. I use them both frequently, though for different purposes. They’re great ways to store files you need to access on your computer, phone and/or tablet. I’ve found Dropbox is great for video and photos files, whereas Drive is best for documents and spreadsheets.

    (All of these use cloud technology and are available as Web, iOS and Android apps.)


(Photo by Associated Press)

  • Reading: If you’re looking to get back into the habit of reading more books, Goodreads is a good way to do that. It’s considered a “social cataloging” site and mobile app that helps you keep track of books you have read or want to read. It’s also a fantastic way to get book recommendations and connect with your literary-minded friends.

    Runner-up apps: Pocket, formerly called Read It Later, is a way to digitally “bookmark” articles, websites and videos you might not have time to look at. That way, when you do have time, you can browse a list of items you marked and get to reading.

    You don’t need to own a Kindle device to enjoy Kindle books. You can use the Kindle app to start reading books on all your devices.
  • Finances: Doing a better job managing your money is, not surprisingly, another top objective. My favorite tool is Mint, a website and mobile app that allows you to manage your budget using personal finance tools, track your spending and monitor your online bank accounts. (Available as a Web app and on Android and iOS devices)

    Runner-up: Key Ring is an app that lets you scan and store existing loyalty cards, join new programs and receive mobile coupons right to your smartphone. For instance, instead of digging out your Kroger or Food City card, you can use your phone to keep these in order. Plus, you can find money-saving coupons you otherwise might not know about.

  • Quit smoking:For those smokers out there who are vowing to quit, Quitter is a good free app for that. It will show you how long it has been since you last indulged and how much money you have saved as a result. (Available on iOS devices)

Frankly, I could go on and on. I’ve heard so many great ideas for self-improvement when polling friends and colleagues about their New Year’s resolutions. And when searching for apps, there’s certainly been no shortage.

So start here. Maybe some of your goals align with the ones listed here; maybe not. But use technology as your ally, and figure out ways to better yourself with some of these helpful tools.

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