Since I started blogging in the summer of 2012, I’ve used and tested various applications, products, and blogging-related working tools. Below you’ll find a selection of the ones I love using most, some insight into how I use each, plus a few other recommendations, ranging from lifestyle programs and travel essentials to fitness and diet resources.
Please note that most URLs are linked to a resource’s original website (non-affiliate) while the URLs behind book titles and shopping cart icons (🛒) take you directly to the Amazon store (affiliate).
Last updated: August 9, 2017
· Simplenote – notes application
Whenever I want to take a quick note, I use Simplenote. I also keep my list of weekly working priorities on here, which helps me stay away from my far more intimidating “complete to-do list.” I don’t use Simplenote to store any notes; the scribbles on here either get deleted or copied to OneNote.
· OneNote – digital notebook
OneNote is my go-to notebook. I keep everything in here from working goals and project ideas to book highlights and travel itineraries. It’s the most important application I have, and quite a little monster by now.
· Pages – word processor
I edit my first drafts (handwritten) in Pages, before copying and pasting the final versions to WordPress. Link-heavy articles like this one, however, I prefer to write and edit directly in WordPress.
· New American Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form – dictionary
Roget is my best writing friend. I use him all the time to find the words that I can’t come up with.
· Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition – synonym dictionary
I regularly mix up the meaning of English words, so using a dictionary when I’m writing is indispensable. The Kindle edition works great with the Kindle search function and makes looking up words simple and quick. Plus, the internal links make it easy to jump from one definition to another.
· Grammarly (premium plan) – grammar checking tool
I use Grammarly to check all my writing, which includes, my blog and social media post, but also, for example, my e-mails. Grammarly always finds a few spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes that I missed or didn’t even recognize as such.
· Dropbox – cloud storage
I never store my drafts locally on my laptop. Instead, I keep them on Dropbox. Once I have a final draft though, I’ll move it from Dropbox, and back it up to my Amazon Drive (👇🏻) and an external hard disk.
· Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100M II a.k.a. “Spider” – point-and-shoot camera 🛒
Spider is the only camera that I’ve used for the last 2,5 years. She’s compact, takes great pictures, and has built-in WiFi (also see FAQS > What camera do you use?).
· Wacom Intuos Pro, Medium – pen tablet 🛒
Working in Photoshop with a pen tablet feels so much more natural than working with a mouse. It took me a couple of days to get used to it, but now I can’t imagine editing images in any other way. Even when I only have a couple of pictures to do, I’ll take out the tablet.
I found out about the Wacom tablet from Manfred Werner in his course “The Platform’s Biggest & Most Popular Photoshop Course.”
· Photo Mechanic 5 – media browser
Photo Mechanic 5 is my newest favorite application. It makes importing and organizing a batch of photos a breeze. I’ve been using it for all my recent photography works, but also to go through a crazy amount of old holiday photos.
Recommended to me by my dear friend and photographer Silvia Falcomer.
· Creative Cloud Photography Plan
Gives me access to the latest version of Photoshop, which I essentially use to retouch my wrinkles. Worth it.
· Canva – graphic design software
With Canva you can design anything from a social media post to a magazine cover and have the result looking pro in no time. I’ve used it to add text to my images (see photo below and #thespinoffproject), and even though I’m now a lot more familiar with Photoshop than I used to be, I would still pick Canva over Photoshop for this kind of design work.
Further studying: Learn to use Canva with Lisa’s free 20-minute Skillshare class: “Easy and Effective Graphic Design: The Ins and Outs of Canva“
· Multiplicity Photography Tutorial
The tutorial that I used to clone myself in the picture above.
· Amazon Drive – cloud storage
I use both an external drive and Amazon Drive to store and backup all my images (and all other files). That’s two backups of the same content in two different places. I also have the Amazon Drive mobile app installed on my phone, which gives me access to all my photos wherever I am.
*Since my photographer spin-off, my list of photography resources has expanded. For a more complete and up to date overview of the gear and applications that I use nowadays, have a look at Photographer for a Month: A Journey into Learning to Shoot Strangers > the resources that I used.
· Mosaico – Instagram planning and curating app
Before Mosaico, I used a complicated workaround to check whether or not my “next planned Instagram post” would fit my feed. I looked ages for an app like this one and at some point even considered hiring someone to make it for me.
· VSCO – photo filter + editing app
Nearly all photos on my Twitter and Instagram are edited in the VSCO mobile app. My VSCO editing routine doesn’t involve much more than adding a filter (C1, H3 or K1) and adjusting exposure, contrast and temperature levels.
· QuickTime – media player by Apple
When I want to upload a screen recording of me browsing my blog (usually to announce a new blog post on Instagram stories), instead of using my phone’s camera to film my computer’s screen, I use QuickTime to make a proper screen recording.
Reading + Listening
· Kindle E-reader – eBook reader
I switched from books to e-books in 2012 and didn’t look back since. Although I still love books, I love having access to my entire library wherever I am more. Plus, I like the ease with which I can order e-books (literally with one click) and then have them instantly delivered to my Kindle.
I also use the Kindle App and Kindle for Mac, which means I have access to all my collections on both my iPhone (for easy access to city guides and cookbooks) and laptop (for looking up something quick and using the dictionary and thesaurus) too. Another feature that I use a lot is “Your Notes and Highlights” for viewing and copying my bookmarks and highlights.
· Audible – digital audiobooks shop and app
I listen to audiobooks when I’m commuting, doing my hair and makeup or dosing off at the pool. Recently I’ve been going through the Spanish trilogy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” which has proven to be quite educational. My favorite audiobook so far must be Elizabeth’s Gilbert “Big Magic.”
Related reading: Reader for a Month
· Spotify (premium) – music streaming service
Spotify is my only source for music. The premium subscription gives me access to all the music I could wish for (ad-free), wherever I am, for less than $100,- per year. I have it installed on my phone, laptop, and home sound system (see next resource). Spotify, by the way, is also fantastic for discovering new music (one of my all-time favorite past times). It lets you browse new releases with ease, search for “related artists,” and even generates a weekly playlist (“Discover Weekly”) based on your music preferences.
· Sonos – home sound system
Mr. G and I have an older generation mid-size Sonos speaker in the living room, and since recently, the PLAY:1 mini speaker (a.k.a. “Snowflake” 🛒) in the bedroom. We can use the speakers individually or group them and have the same music playing in both rooms. The wireless sound system is, furthermore, linked to my Spotify account, making it possible to stream all the music available to me on Spotify. I also love giving my friends access to the Sonos (all it takes is for them to connect to the same Wi-Fi network and download the Sonos app on their phone), so they can play their music favorites when visiting.
Somewhat related reading: Dancer for a Month
· “Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It” by Gabriel Wyner – language learning guidebook
If I were to do my first spin-off–Be a Polyglot–over, “Fluent Forever” would no doubt be the only guide that I would use to learn Spanish. Admittedly, Wyner’s method is crazy comprehensive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t even get through the book. Then again, if you’ve decided on learning a new language, which takes a lot of time anyway, you might as well invest some of it in Fluent Forever and find out how to do it best.
· Anki – flashcard program
I use Anki to learn Spanish the Fluent Forever way (☝🏻), that is, with flashcards. I make flashcards for every word, verb conjugation (using SpanishDict’s verb declaration charts), or grammar construction (following “Practical Spanish Grammar: A Self-Teaching Guide“) that I can’t seem to remember, and then let Anki do its spaced repetition magic. I use both the desktop and mobile application.
On a side note, Anki isn’t a very user intuitive app, so count on having to dedicate a weekend to figure it out. If you’re going to be following the Fluent Forever language learning methods, then have a look at Wyner’s article “How to use Anki.” I also recommend going through Anki’s own user manual. I know it’s quite a bit of work, but you only have to do it once, and compared to having to make actual flashcards (or worse, learning the wrong way), it’s fine.
· Calm (or Headspace) – meditation app
Using a meditation app helped me make meditation a habit. And being able to track how often I meditate, makes me do it more often. At the moment, I’m using the Calm app. I like the “breathe feature” and the nature scenes with background sounds. Besides doing a meditation (preferably) every morning, I’ll also hit the breathe button whenever I feel anxious throughout the day and follow it for a minute or two or until I calm down.
Related reading: Meditator for a Month
· The Five Minute Journal – gratitude journal
Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have –unknown
Keeping a gratitude journal reminds me of the things I have and the moments and people I treasure. I don’t use it every day (anymore), but I’ll write at least a couple of mornings a week, usually straight after meditation. Once in a while, I also like to scroll through my feed and read past entries. I use the Five Minute Journal app instead of the paper version because, among other things, I travel a lot and don’t like to own too many physical objects. And although I love the option of being able to add photos with the app, I would nevertheless recommend getting the paper Five Minute Journal. When it comes to journaling, I do believe that the act of writing beats the act of typing.
· “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron – 12-week creativity program 🛒
Without “The Artist’s Way,” I would’ve no doubt killed the creative in me sooner or later. After following the 12-week program to the letter, I still keep working with the exercises in the book to strengthen my creative esteem. I also continue to plan artist dates with myself and have stuck to journaling for 15 minutes every morning, except for one day in the weekend, when I’ll journal the full six pages per the program. Following “The Artist’s Way” is quite an investment in time, but if I could recommend only one resource from this page, “The Artist’s Way” would be it.
Related reading: Artist for a Month
· Quote Cards by kikki.K
I’ve placed kikki.K’s quote cards, which I interchange weekly, in corners of the house that are more mine than Mr. G’s, like at my dressing table and writing spot. The quotes lighten my mood whenever I’m taking my work (or myself) too seriously. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that over time, these inspirations have weaved themselves into my everyday thought patterns. And when my self-doubt rises, they tend to come to my defense in the form of encouraging echoes. Do note that the collections change and the styles can be hit-or-miss.
· The Minimalists – website about minimalism
Since my early twenties, I’ve been using The Minimalist’s essays as a blueprint for living with less. Their ideas help me crystallize my thoughts on buying and owning stuff and give me the encouragement I need to make sensitive decisions on things like, gift giving, and what to do with old photos.
Health + Fitness
· “The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman” by Timothy Ferriss
I base part of my diet on the “4-Hour Body Slow-Carb Diet” by Tim Ferriss as introduced in this book. I don’t follow the slow-carb diet continuously, but I do stick to its rules to keep my weight in check. All this comes down to is that I’m careful not to eat too many carbs and dairy products. Still, whenever my jeans get a tad too tight, I’ll go full-on slow-carb for 2-3 days or for as long as it takes to loosen them.
· I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program by Sarah Wilson
Inspired by Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program”, I’ve been cutting down on sugar since 2014. Although I’ve followed the program more than once, I now just follow Wilson’s nutrition principles. I’ll go without sugar (which includes honey, cane sugar, coconut nectar and fructose-heavy fruits) anywhere from four to ten weeks. During these no-sugar streaks, I’ll only have some berries, a few blocks of 90%+ chocolate and perhaps a treat made with stevia or rice malt syrup. When I break my streaks, I do so pre-planned and intentionally. These breaks last about one ice-cream-affair, after which I go straight back to cutting sugar out of my diet again.
· Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines – 12-week exercise and training plan
After having completed the full 12-week training plan, I now follow a lighter, self-customized, Kayla workout routine. It consists of a 5K jog, HIIT run, and two full body resistance workouts per week (in contrast to the original plan which includes another run and resistance exercise and an optional challenge). The resistance workouts are intense and leave me with muscle pain for days. However, they only take 28 minutes to complete, and furthermore, make my body very strong. Even though I can’t go surfing, kite or snowboarding most of the year, I’ve noticed that when I do, my body has no problem handling the intensity of the physical effort that these sports require.
· Nike+ Run Club – running app
I logged my first run with the Nike+ Run Club application in June 2015, and have since added more than 200 runs to my name. Being able to track my runs and progress with the app played a pivotal role in making running a habit. While there was a time that I didn’t run because I thought I was bad at it, not only can’t I now even grasp the ridiculousness of that assumption, but I also can’t imagine not running. Running makes me feel strong, clears my head and helps me to relieve stress. Also, when traveling, going for a morning run is one of my favorite ways to get to know a place.
· “The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin” by Charlotte Cho
Charlotte Cho is the woman who introduced me to the 10-step Korean skincare routine and the world of double cleansing, vitamin C drops, and sheet masks. Ever since I’ve been following the Korean glow recipe, I’ve barely had any breakouts, and my skin looks better than never. A few of my favorite Korean beauty products are the Clean It Zero Purity oil cleanser by Banila, the Black Sugar Mask Wash Off from Skinfoods, and Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum.
Suggested introductory reading: “The Korean Skincare Routine.”
· Philip B. Rejuvenating Oil – hair care product
Philip B.’s oil treatment resurrected my hair after I left it to the unforgiving mercy of the Indonesian ocean for more than a month. Ever since then, this oil has been my weapon of choice when facing the planet’s saltiest waters and Singapore’s unreal humidity levels. I like to leave the product working overnight, but depending on the intensity of conditioning that you’re after, you can choose to leave it on anywhere from 20 minutes to 15 hours.
Sport + Travel
· Google My Maps
Part of my pre-travel research includes creating a custom travel map with Google My Maps. Once on unfamiliar terrain, I can then pull up my map on my phone with the Google Maps app, which neatly layers my custom location marks over the standard Google map, and cruise around like Columbus couldn’t even imagine in his wildest navigation dreams.
I like to add different categories to my maps, like “sights” and “food & drink,” and to use the many available icons and colors to differentiate between the location marks within those categories. For example, within “food & drink,” I will mark pubs with a beer emoji while cocktail bars get a martini glass stamp.
Furthermore, I also like to keep a map of my favorite spots and other places that I wish to visit in my current hometown Singapore. It’s quite handy for when I’m out of dinner ideas, or I find myself hangry in some unknown part of town. And, the best of all, is that I can share a link to this map with visiting friends and family.
Further browsing: The Girl With The Blueprint is a city guide that I created for my 6th spin-off, Be an Entrepreneur
· MUJI travel bottles
MUJI’s range of travel bottles is extensive. They have everything from the standard containers and cream pots to foam pump bottles and handy silicone tubes–all leak proof and 100ml in size or smaller. Except for travel, I also like using these bottles at home. For example, I’ll decant a toner or essence into a spray bottle so that I can directly spritz the product on my face instead of having to use a cotton pad to apply it.
· Nixplay Seed 10 inch – digital photo frame 🛒
With the help of Photo Mechanic 5 (☝🏻), I’ve been going through Mr.G’s and my photo albums, selecting and adding hundreds of images–precious memories from travels and life that would otherwise be stored in rarely opened folders–for the Nixplay frame to display daily. This 10-inch screen is, very likely, my favorite item in the house.
· Sun Bum SPF 50 Original Sunscreen Lotion + SPF 50 Clear Zinc Oxide (or Banana Boat EveryDay Faces SPF50 + Banana Boat EveryDay Body SPF 50) – sunscreen
These are the only sunscreens that I’ve found to be effective for watersports. A single application protects my skin for as long as three to four hours, and furthermore, none of these creams are nasty to apply nor do they sting my eyes when I get into the water. Do note that not all Banana Boats are charged under the same tap. I’ve scorched the skin of my face thinking that, but no, you need to get the “EveryDay line” that I link to above.
· Philip Kingsley Swimcap – hair care product
Not an actual swim cap but a hair cream that acts like one. I put it in before going for a surf or kiteboard session to protect my locks from the elements. It’s like sun and salt-screen for my tresses. And when I make sure to use the Rejuvenating Oil (☝🏻) as well, my hair looks undamaged after a beach holiday.
· Electrolyte capsules (Electrolyte Replacement Capsules by PURE Sports Nutrition), protein powder (Prime Whey Isolate by LushProtein) and magnesium 500mg.
To make sure I don’t dehydrate my body, I take electrolyte capsules before and after any surf, kite or snowboard session. And to speed up the recovery of my muscles, I’ll also have protein and magnesium after.
Mr. G’s friend, Georg, introduced both of us to the benefits of using magnesium after prolonged exercise.
Tell me what you think. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let me know: Do we have a mutual favorite? Care to share a different way of using any of these resources? And if you could recommend one app, book, course, website, etc. in any of these categories, what would it be?
Look for the books that shape my (professional) life Read 100 Books Related to My Projects.