Business

Nine ways to organise your life in your lunchtime

Colleen Wong and child Image copyright Colleen Wong
Image caption Busy tech entrepreneur and mum Colleen Wong likes any apps that can save her time

With two children under the age of four and a tech start-up to run, Colleen Wong has her hands full.

She is happy to use any technology that can help her manage her hectic lifestyle, including family activity planning app Hoop and food-sharing service Olio.

"I will embrace any tech that offers practical benefits and can save me time," says Ms Wong.

A finalist in the Women Who Tech European Start-up Challenge, she runs her child tracker firm, TechSixtyFour, from her home in Teddington, Middlesex.

She is typical of a new breed of hi-tech mums and dads around the world using lunchtime "life hacks" to juggle work and family commitments.

So what useful apps that could help you take back control of your life?

Sort out your washing

Fed up of washing and ironing? Try a laundry app such as FlyCleaners in New York, or Laundrapp, available in UK cities such as London, Glasgow and Harrogate.

The FlyCleaners app is free to use and offers an overnight service for when you need clean clothes fast.

Just pick a slot and hand your washing over to a FlyCleaners representative as little as 20 minutes later.

Washing and pressing one shirt in Chelsea, Manhattan costs $2.99 (£2.34), and deliveries are free when you spend more than $30 (£23).

With Laundrapp, booking the 48-hour service is also free, while prices depend on your location and the load.

Getting five shirts washed and pressed in south London, for example, costs £11.

Set your kids' chores

Organising who does what around the house can be a chore in itself, but with US firm FamilyTech's apps Mothershp and Choremonster, you can set jobs for each member of the family from your office.

Image copyright FamilyTech
Image caption The Choremonster app enables parents to give rewards to kids who help around the home

FamilyTech co-founder Chris Bergman says: "With Mothershp, parents set chores and rewards. Their child then logs into Choremonster, where they can earn rewards such as 'screen time', and unlock monsters, for completing those chores."

Both apps are free to use and are available worldwide in eight languages.

Plan evening meals

Wherever you live, you can use your lunch hour to plan evening meals using a home cooking app such as BigOven.

Features on the free app, which is available around the world, include a grocery list organiser and more than 350,000 recipes.

If you want access to money-saving tips and nutrition tools, you can also sign up for the "Pro" version costing $19.99 a year or $1.99 a month.

Buy local produce

Once you've planned your meal, you could order the ingredients from independent retailers using a locally focused app such as Epicery. It launched a one-hour delivery service in Paris last year.

Deliveries cost from €2.90 (£2.46) up to €6.90 (£5.89) if you order produce from three or more of its 250 members, which include local butchers, fishmongers and off-licences.

Image copyright Epicery
Image caption French local food delivery app Epicery plans to expand throughout Europe

"Our aim is to expand into several other French and European cities soon," says Elsa Hermal at Epicery.

Freecycle unwanted food

Then if you have food left over, why not "freecycle" it, rather than throw it away, using a UK-based app like Olio? It enables families and local business owners to redistribute food and other household items that would otherwise go to waste.

The free app is a hit with Ms Wong, 40.

"Food waste drives me mad, so I love Olio," she says.

Choose your next holiday destination

Free 360-degree virtual reality (VR) tours are the new way to plan your next holiday from your desk.

All you need is your smartphone and the website of a VR specialist such as Ascape VR or YouVisit and you can escape into another world on your lunch break (with or without a VR headset).

Image copyright Ascape
Image caption Travel site Ascape specialises in 360-degree videos of holiday destinations

Valeriy Kondruk, chief executive of Ascape VR, says: "Working in an office, you spend 90% of your time reading and writing.

"Taking a virtual trip is a great way to switch off and really get personal with a destination."

Get odd jobs done

With online marketplace TaskRabbit you can tackle all those odd jobs you never seem to have enough time to do, from clearing the loft to fixing that leaky tap. Simply choose a "tasker" based on experience, reputation and hourly rate.

Once the job is done, pay securely via the app, which is currently available in 23 cities across the US, as well as in London.

Elsewhere, ServisHero is one of the most popular apps for Singapore residents in need of a handyman.

Its users describe what needs doing, wait for the quotes to roll in, and then pick a "hero" to do the job.

Plan family fun

You can find fun family activities in minutes with free apps such as the UK's Hoop and Yuggler in the US.

Hoop users can set filters to find nearby events that suit their children, and can share those they find interesting with their friends.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption You can plan family activities using apps like Hoop and Yuggler

"I use Hoop to do last-minute planning on where to take the kids," Ms Wong says.

Yuggler, which is only currently available on iOS devices, offers similar features in US cities including San Francisco and Philadelphia. It is planning to expand into 22 more cities soon.

See a doctor

Apps such as DocTap and iCliniq offer a way for busy professionals to get medical advice without taking time off.

ICliniq users can set up a video consultation with one of its 2,000 or so doctors in countries including the US, India and Germany.

And with London-based DocTap, you can pay £24 for 15-minute face-to-face GP appointments at clinics and pharmacies around the UK capital.

DocTap user Jamie Ritchie says: "It was pretty much impossible to fit an appointment with my local doctor around work.

"With DocTap, I got an appointment at lunchtime, and was back in the office within half an hour."

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