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Maria Shriver

Apps I Live By: Skillcrush Founder Adda Birnir

When Adda Birnir was laid off from her job at a high-profile media company in 2009, she noticed that most of the people in the technology department were spared, which got her thinking about the value of their skillset. She began teaching herself basic tech skills, including how to code and build a website. But for Birnir, becoming “tech-literate” was not just about job security – she saw that teaching men and women outside the tech world how to creatively harness tech tools could help them advance their careers in any field. And so, in 2012, she launched Skillcrush, an online series of courses designed to help others – especially women – learn how to code, design a website, and build a digital portfolio.

Here, the 29 year-old backpacking enthusiast, shares the apps that help her check-off her to-do list, find places to eat, and wind down following a stressful day.

To Jot It Down: Notes

I live in Brooklyn and come to Manhattan for meetings several times a week, so I use my time on the subway time to do a lot of thinking – and writing all of it down in Notes! I write absolutely EVERYTHING in this app, from business ideas to video scripts to outlines of blog posts to general reminders for anything I am likely to forget. I take notes of companies advertising on the subway, and what I like about their ads, and observations of the people around me if they inspire ideas on how to improve our Skillcrush marketing efforts. This is truly the definition of a “can’t live without it” app.

To Get Stuff Done: Clear

Clear is a fancy to-do app that has the most delightful user experience. I find it so much fun to check things off on this app, I literally have found myself adding things I have already completed just so I can have the joy of checking them off! It brings a true sense of accomplishment to my day. I have a bad habit of keeping my to dos all over the place, think notes, emails, scraps of paper... but the gratification from using this app is helping me stay more centrally organized.

To Stay Informed: NYT Now

This app is the ultimate news in brief. It is well curated and beautifully organized. My good friend nailed it when she described how this app helps you “not be so basic at work.” I was like, I didn’t know you could use the word basic like that, but I like it! If you are on an elevator, you can quickly download the latest news into your brain, so that you know what’s happening in the Ukraine in addition to what’s happening to Kim Kardashian. And then you can easily click over to read more if you’re interested. It’s very useful and well done.

To Locate a Meal: Yelp

Yelp is my go-to tool for finding places to eat in NYC. And, as my team will tell you, I need to eat every few hours or... bad things happen. No matter where I am in the five boroughs, the app helps me answer important life questions like: “How far do I have to walk to the nearest Cosi for a caffeine jolt?”

To Wind Down: Breathe2Relax

When I am on the subway I find that I either need 10 apps to keep me occupied, or one to help me calm down! New York is overwhelming as it is, but add to that the stress of running your own business with 11 employees… well, thank God for Breathe2Relax. The app walks you through a deep breathing exercise set to some soothing music. Whenever I start to get a little panicky, I pop this bad boy open. My favorite thing about this app is that because deep breathing does really help, I have a positive association the app and even just turning it on makes me feel better!

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