Argh! Help! Which one shall I choose? That’s the conundrum we face so often these days. There is simply so much technology around it’s really challenging to know where to start if we’re looking for a tool to help us with something.
It doesn’t just go for software. Think about how many cars you have to choose between. Or how many brands of eggs there are on the supermarket shelves, if you’re lucky enough to live in the developed world. We are spoilt for choice.
I love technology and I like to do my diligence. I like to find the tools to help me work more effectively, and I’m on a continual drive to streamline my workflow because, like you, I am short of time. There are only so many hours in a day – it gets rounded up to 24 for arguments sake. Now, for most of the week, I’m on someone-else’s clock – working.
By the time I take into account the other activities that are required in a day, such as eating, ablutions and sleeping, I find myself short of time to do everything-else. Oftentimes, that’s the stuff I would rather be doing. Oh, and we don’t even have children yet either!
Here’s just some of the things contending for the remaining hours, in no particular order:
- reading and responding to emails
- developing a voice and engagement across various social media channels
- mindfulness meditation
- reading and consuming content to expand my knowledge
- helping my wife think through her business challenges
- creating my own voice and proposition
- note-bashing for the choir I sing with
- cooking, cleaning, laundry and shopping*
* I’m not sure I can get away with taking any credit for much of this, as my wife somehow manages to fit most of that in around her own hectic schedule.
Now the saying goes, “work expands to fit the time available.” I find that to be really true. Being very busy, I seem to get more done. On reflection though, I realise a lot of that comes down to planning and goal setting. Well kinda’. I mean, we have goals and we more-or-less plan how we’re going to achieve them. But it’s a bit hit and miss.
Either way, I wanted to share with you some resources that I find really helpful in getting things done. There are SO many to choose from that I decided perhaps it would be best to start with five and if you like, I could do a couple more posts in the weeks ahead perhaps with more focus on specific topics.
So here goes:
1 – Evernote
Since 8th January 2013, Evernote has been a go-to staple in my kitbag. You see, I like to write things down. I like making notes. Writing things down helps me commit things to memory. Do you really think I re-read everything that I capture in Evernote? Absolutely not! Do you think I make full use of all the features that are built in? No. However, I use it It’s totally awesome.
At work, we (now) use Microsoft OneNote, which I see as a competitor to Evernote. I don’t like it anywhere near as much. Having said that, I can’t compare Evernote’s collaborative (sharing) features, because I don’t use them. However, for a library of organized notes, arranged in notebooks on specific topics, I find it easy to use and navigate. It’s a doddle to find things with the search feature, which is super-fast and accurate.
I love Evernote. If you haven’t experienced it, try Evernote yourself.
2 – LastPass
There are several (point of the article!) options when it comes to keeping your online login credentials ‘secure’. Why ‘secure’ and not secure? Well, things go wrong. Of course, by “putting all your (online identity) eggs in one basket,” you do run a risk of leaving yourself exposed. However, I believe that usually comes down to human error at the end of the day in one way or another.
Either you choose the wrong security option and they get compromised, you select a weak password somewhere along the line, or you leave a device logged in somewhere where you shouldn’t or lose a device. Now LastPass isn’t without it’s critics of course. However, during the most recent security breach issue in June 2015, after reading around the subject, I felt comfortable my choice had been well-made.
I wouldn’t be without LastPass Premium. Sure you can use LastPass for free, but if you want your information to be accessible on your devices, you can’t complain at the low annual fee, (£12 per annum in the UK) for a Premium license. Nowadays I have in excess of 300 sets of login credentials in my ‘Vault’. And I ensure I use LastPass to good effect, with it creating all the passwords.
Imagine for a moment how many different sites out there you use the same login credentials for! STOP DOING THAT – it’s really dangerous.
3 – Wunderlist
I’m someone who likes writing lists. I write lists when I’m going on holiday on a trip. I write lists to keep tabs on all the tasks that I need to do for work. I have lists to keep tabs on personal admin things and projects or goals I’m working towards.
When it comes to a ‘go to’ list tool I had a look around and, surprise surprise, there are lots of tools available here too. My favourite though is Wunderlist.
I can’t quite remember who drew my attention to it in the first place. But here’s the thing. It’s such a nice and intuitive user interface and it works on all my devices. It’s synced to the Cloud and updates are available everywhere within seconds. I love it. You can nest lists inside folders. You can set due dates, alarms and flag messages. Starred messages get their own list.
What’s also neat is that if you click on ‘Today’ or ‘Week’ you see all tasks from across your various lists that meet those time based filters. So it’s easy to see at a glance what you need to be working on today or this week for instance.
The tool also has collaboration tools though I’ve yet to use those in anger. I like it a lot. I found Reminders from Apple just didn’t cut it. This app rocks, in my opinion.
4 – Airmail 2
Now, I’m sorry to say this Apple, but Mail app sucks. I have a lot of different email accounts for various reasons. They are hosted with Microsoft, Google, my web host, the web hosts my clients use, etc.
Short version, Mail app just doesn’t cut it. It’s slow. It doesn’t seem to get much in the way of product feature updates. It’s not always syncing properly and frequently I found myself force-quitting it, (CTRL+ALT+DEL for Windows users,) just to be able to get out of the endless slow cycle of synchronisation with the various servers.
Then along came Mailbox. That’s a brilliant app that revolutionises the way you treat your email. At the core of the app is the objective that you want to get to an empty inbox. If you do, you’re rewarded with a nice image as a backdrop to the inbox.
Thing is, Mailbox a) only works with Gmail and iCloud accounts today and b) it’s only in beta and does keep crashing on OSX.
So, onwards. I looked at tons of reviews online and reading them carefully, came to the conclusion I was going to have to part with some cash to get the right tool for the job. What a good decision that was!
You see, Airmail 2 is BRILLIANT. I now have 12 different email accounts configured, including my gmail account. The software is lightening fast. It has a super-effective undo feature, which I’ve yet to find as reliable in other apps. It offers me three particular features I use a lot and love. 1) Click one icon to see only unread messages. 2) Click one icon to see all messages from a particular sender. 3) Save account settings to the Cloud so you can quickly and easily configure accounts across different computers.
It was the best £7.99 I spent on an app since spending £5.99 on the National Rail app for iOS.
5 – Skype
Last but not least today. Where would I be without Skype? I mean, with friends and family dotted around the planet and clients in all corners of the World, it’s important to be able to stay in touch.
With screensharing capabilities built in to Skype, it’s now really easy to show people what you’re talking about or looking at in a way that costs less than services such as GoToMeeting, Webex, JoinMe, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, all those services are awesome. I just think Skype has managed to stay with the pack and offers quite a compelling proposition. Skype, now part of Microsoft, has received tons of investment over the years and still offers competitively priced calls.
I think it’s one of the unsung heros of the toolbox and deserves its own mention.
So there you have it. That’s 5 productivity tools that I personally endorse and use wholeheartedly. There are literally dozens more combinations or tools I could talk about. So if you like this topic and want me to share my personal views and reviews, do please leave a comment below.
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Thanks for stopping by and see you for more tomorrow friends!
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