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4 Apps That Automate Annoying Everyday Tasks

by Suzanne Kantra on October 25, 2021

Modern life comes with many hassles that eat up your precious time. There's sorting through the daily influx of junk mail, dealing with spam calls, and trying to find the cheapest parking spot when you're late for an appointment, to name a few.

Fortunately, I have apps to help me deal with all these inconveniences. I list the best ones that help you stop wasting your precious time.

PaperKarma screenshot showing picture of Bed, Bath & Beyond mailer and button under with the words Different mailer?

Remove your name from junk mail lists

Do catalogs, coupon books, mass-mailed fliers, credit card offers and more clog your mailbox? For those of us trying to be more organized, not to mention going paperless, it's a daily annoyance and that's where the PaperKarma app comes in.

Available for iOS, Android and Windows phones, this free app helps you eliminate the steady stream of junk mail that comes your way every day. Once you've loaded and registered the app, you can use the camera on your phone to take a picture of the offending piece of junk mail. A few taps later, the app will send a request to the junk mail sender to take you off their mailing list.

It may take a few weeks to see results, but it will be worth it to see a reduction in the amount of useless and wasteful solicitations in your mailbox. The one type of junk mail they can't stop is distributed based on zip code alone (i.e. local grocery store coupons or restaurant offers). These are usually addressed to "To Our Friends/Neighbors."

For junk mail addressed to you personally, take a picture of the offending junk mail and provide the app with your name and address. Once you confirm you really want to unsubscribe, it will send off a request promising to resend if it doesn't hear back in 13 days. You can receive a confirmation in as little as 60 seconds or a few months. You may also see the contact info for the mailing company if you want to reach out to them yourself.

The company doesn't share your information to third parties unless you explicitly choose to opt in. In fact, they even go so far as to state: "We will never share your information due to a creative interpretation of our privacy policy." If only all companies were so straight forward with our personal data.

Price: Free at PaperKarma

BestParking App screenshots. From the right: First screenshot shows picture of woman entering vehicle with box below to enter an address or use the current location. Below  you can set the day and time for arrival and departure. Below is a button to search for parking. The next screenshot shot filters : valet, self park, covered, uncovers, accessible spaces, attended, electric vehicle charging, exit and re-entry allowed, security on-site, time extension allowed. below is a button showing the number of nearby facilities. The third screenshot show a MPG Parking garage listing with covered and valet options, rates for 48 hous at $66 and button to book.

Reduce drive time with a parking space reservation

Whether you live in New York, Los Angeles or points in between, finding an available parking spot can eat up a good amount of your valuable time. Enter the BestParking app. This handy service will show you available garage and street parking either immediately around you or anywhere you search on their map, along with the cost for each one. The app lists locations in more than 100 U.S. cities.

You can filter your search by either garage or street parking, as well as features like accessible spaces, valet parking, on-site security, and electric vehicle charging, among others. 

Some garages allow you to pay for and reserve a space directly through the app (the parking icons with the blue price tag icons.) If that option is not available for the space you're interested in, you can still see a picture of the parking area, the opening and closing times for the garage, as well as how much it will cost you, based on how long you are going to stay.

Price: Free at BestParking

Hiya Call Protect screenshot showing Spam Protection, Block List, and Premium Caller ID active

Block spam calls and prevent them from going to voicemail

No one likes to see their privacy and time violated by a telemarketer calling your mobile phone. Fortunately, with a smartphone, you can outwit them. There are apps that identify incoming calls from telemarketers and even outright block the call.

If you have an Android phone, you get the best of both worlds with Call Control. This app automatically blocks calls and texts listed as spam calls in its database and it allows you to use wildcards to block any area code or area code plus exchange (e.g., 1-212-555-*). You can choose for the app to automatically hang up on the caller or send the call directly to voicemail.

Price: $29.99 per year on CallControl

For iPhone users, it's a little more complicated. No apps allow you to block incoming calls or texts, but that function is built directly into iOS 8 or higher. Go to the Contacts app and tap on the contact you want to block or find the number on the Recent Calls tab (clock icon) on your Phone app and tap the circled "i" icon to the right of the number. Both these methods will take you to the contact page for that caller. Scroll to the bottom and click on the Block This Caller. You can also go to Settings > Phone and turn on Silence Unknown Callers.

There is help in identifying incoming telemarketer calls, though. The Hiya app will check incoming calls against its database of top spammers and will notify you in the call screen if the caller is a known spammer.  If so, simply decline the call. You can also stop spammers from leaving voicemail by activating Call Screening. When a call comes in and you don't answer it, the call will be forwarded to Hiya to check to see if it's spam. If it is, Hiya will hang up on the call and there will be no voicemail. In addition, you can use wildcards to block area codes and area codes plus exchange. If you choose to do this, make sure you turn on whitelisting for the people who are in your Contacts app.

Price: $14.99 per year on Hiya

IFTTT app screenshot with the applet: Blink your Hue lights when your Amazon Alexa timer hits 0.

Automate everyday tasks

Little tasks like backing up your Instagram posts, tracking price drops on items at your favorite retailers and turning your ringer up when you leave the office can be easily automated with the If This Then That (IFTTT) app. IFTTT is something of a meta-app, connecting the apps and gadgets you use via mini-programs (called “recipes”).

The services that IFTTT works with are called “channels”, with each channel – such as Gmail, Spotify, Nest Thermostat, Amazon Alexa, Philips Hue or Fitbit – having its own set of “triggers” and “actions.” For example, triggers for Nest Thermostat include “away” or “home" and Philips Hue actions include "on" and "off." So a recipe could go something like: When your Nest is set to away, your lights will turn off.

Price: Free on IFTTT

Updated on 10/25/2021 with new apps and information

[Image credit: time saving concept via BigStockPhoto]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.


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