Most of us download applications to our computers, tablets, or to our smartphones in the hope that they will provide a means to perform some type of task or another that we deem necessary. Thanks to these apps, we get the benefit of Internet alerts, weather information, bus schedules, happy hours, GPS data at our fingertips — and taking notes, snapping photos, and uploading information about where we are and what we’re doing (whether or not anyone else cares) has never been easier.

Many of us have gotten so used to the convenience that these apps afford us that we feel naked leaving the house without our smartphones or portable computers.

However, some of the applications that we download (like Angry Birds) are intended solely for entertainment purposes. Whichever of the reasons you download applications, I want to share with you five applications that I believe will engage your mind and your spirit.

ifttt (aka If This Then That)

ifttt is a simple application that will alert you, via email, when an event is occurring (such as a scheduled appointment or road closures due to snow). The application itself is simple to use and can be associated with a number of commonly used Internet applications. Here are a few of the programs that the application can associate with a specific task:

  • Gmail
  • Facebook
  • Craigslist
  • Delicious
  • Evernote
  • Feed
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Talk
  • Twitter
  • Weather
  • WordPress
  • YouTube

The great thing about this application is that, in addition to using it with your computer, you can also program your cell phone to receive an automated message when a programmed action occurs. In my case, I was directed, via a phone message that included a PIN, on how to activate my account. During this process, I completed what is called a trigger. The purpose of this trigger was to notify me when my account was activated. While doing this, I was also able to set up additional triggers that would notify me through my Gmail account when an action was completed. One such trigger sends me an email notification when Chris Pirillo, head Gnomie here at LockerGnome, posts a new video. These are just a couple of the helpful triggers that ifttt can do, and while it may take a little trial and error, most of us will be able to get ifttt to do our bidding without a problem.

thinkery

Five Web Apps to Engage Your Mind and Spiritthinkery is an application that’s sort of like what I’d consider to be an Evernote that lets you focus on the important things in your life. The great thing about thinkery is that it instantly lets you take notes and access your store of information no matter where you are at work, at home, or at play. Just think about it: Even when you have a senior moment, if you place your thoughts in thinkery, you can always get access to them later. In addition, thinkery also allows you to store:

  • Videos
  • Hot links
  • Images
  • Favorite songs
  • Favorite articles

Any of these, or other items of your choosing, can be saved for viewing later at a more convenient time and location. Before using thinkery, I was always sending links from technology or news sites to my Gmail account, but later when I viewed the links, I couldn’t remember what interest the item held for me. However, by using the thinkery application, I find that I am better able to organize my thoughts and behavior, thus making it easier for me to keep track of important items and events in my life.

Aherk!

Aherk! is a goal-motivated software application that is currently in the process of being beta tested. During this testing process, one may experience some quirks or hiccups, but it basically works by having you set a goal for yourself. The goal is up to you, but once you set the goal, the application is designed to help you achieve it. Whether Aherk! helps or hinders your climb towards your designated goal probably depends on how you’re best motivated; for the most part, Aherk! is similar to some diet programs that target your failures rather than your successes.

Aherk! works through Facebook, so to function properly, Aherk! requires that you give the application permission to access your Facebook account. Then it uses this information in cross-referencing your data and your set goal with your friends on Facebook. If you fail to reach your goal (your friends on Facebook decide if you have been successful or not) in the specified time period, Aherk! will place a photograph of you (something embarrassing works best) on your Facebook account. Given that, this program may motivate some of you, but I would rather not have something negative made public. It’s up to you.

SimplyNoise

All of us experience those nights when, no matter what we try, we are unable to get a full, restful night’s sleep. The cause of our sleeplessness could be due to the inability to turn off our minds as we rehash the day’s events, think about something that could occur in the future, or agonize over a dreaded forthcoming event. At other times, we’re stuck trying to fall asleep in noisy environments that just aren’t conducive to relaxation — like motels adjacent to airports or train tracks, for example.

SimplyNoise is an application that we can download to help us mask our thoughts and/or the noise from the outside environment. Here are some of the features that SimplyNoise employs:

  • White noise.
  • An oscillation feature.
  • A timer that is built in to turn off the application after a specific time. (The free version limits sound to 60 minutes.)
  • Applications are also available for your Apple products via iTunes or for your Android devices via the Android Market [$.99]
  • The application for your computer system is free.

sleepyti.me

sleepyti.me will calculate what time you should try to fall asleep, depending on what time in the morning you want to get up. I can already hear people saying, “I know what time I should go to bed and what time I should get up! Why would I need an application for that?” But there’s more than one way to solve a problem, and timing your sleep accordingly is one such problem. As an example, if you wish to arise at 6:30 a.m., sleepti.me offers the following information:

  • It normally takes an average of 14 minutes for the average person to fall asleep.
  • Wanting to wake at the specified time, sleepyti.me suggests falling asleep at 9:30 p.m., 11:00 p.m., 12:30 a.m., or 2:00 a.m. These are the times that you should fall asleep, and not when you go to bed.
  • sleepyti.me uses the above times to calculate sleep cycles, which are approximately 90 minutes.

So why are the times important? According to the sleepyti.me website, if a sleep cycle is interrupted during the 90 minutes, you will wake up groggy and tired in the morning. I haven’t tried this formula, but it does seem to make sense.

Comments, as always, are welcome.