How can you do more with less?
Our world moves fast. There seems to be a never ending quest to keep up with everything happening online today. And that’s before factoring in all of the communication that happens in one day alone! So how can you get more done each day with less time and more going on than ever before? What are some of the tools that can help you to maximize yourÃ‚Â productivityÃ‚Â each day?
This was the question that I posed to some of my colleagues at BlueGlass. We have a vast array of personalities and thinkers, so not everyone can use the same tools to keep their lives in order. From these conversations, I have compiled a list of some of our favorite apps, programs and Chrome extensions that help us do our jobs better (or more efficiently) each day.
Email Organization and Tracking
One of the biggest challenges in the business world is keeping track of the hundreds of emails that fill an inbox each day. Whether you’re responding to the sender to ensure your message was understood, or reminding yourself to take another look at a task, email is an important part of the day. Boomerang is an extension that Ã‚Â many BlueGlassers use (and love). It is as easy as setting a reminder with a specific date and time to return the email to your inbox. If you plan to follow up with someone in 30 days, set your reminder for that day. It really is that simple — and incredibly effective.
Boomerang is also great if you want to send an email in the future. For example, if your Ã‚Â lead asked you to follow up with them in two months, you can schedule an email to send two months out. Do you have a weekly report to send when you are going to be out of town? Schedule it to be sent on the day and time of your choosing.
Cost: Free for the first 10 messages. $14.99 per month for Unlimited Message Credits
This user-friendly email management tool allows an individual to verify whether emails are being opened, and tracks the location of those opened emails in real-time. The Gmail extension also allows users to check the status of links clicked, schedule emails for specific dates and times, and save templates for frequently used emails.
Since a big part of everyone’s day involves email, it is important to make sure each effort is fully maximized. If we notice a pattern of emails not being opened, we are able to take a step back and fully assess which methods are — and are not — working. As a result, messages are tailored accordingly, and open and reply rates increase. This essential tool has allowed our team to make the most of email and concentrate on other aspects of work to be most productive.
Cost: 5 emails and 3 email templates per day are free; $30 a month will get you unlimited use of their service
Holli Pickford, our Business Development and Event Coordinator for BlueGlass UK, uses this tool to remind herself about tasks and important emails she needs to revisit. When she is in the middle of a task and can’t stop to read a new email, she takes a quick look. Rather than having it disappear into her ‘read’ emails, she just hits the snooze button and receives a notification to remind her about it at the time and day of her choice.It helps her do a better job and fulfill every deliverable, because no email or task slips through the cracks.
If you are looking for an app that provides maximum productivity and minimal distractions, look no further. ActiveInbox enables you to turn emails into tasks, organize emails and projects, review tasks at a later time, and that’s only the beginning. There are quite a few time-saving features. You are able to back up and sync preferences, set deadlines on email, and even review by that deadline. It is pretty amazing!
Cost: Free for basic or $25.95 a year for ActiveInbox Plus
Industry News and Information
This tool was recommended by a few members of our Outreach Team. Their favorite part of Flipboard is that it synchronizes their individual social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) with blogs, news sites, and general topics they are interested in. Everyday, it gives them “top news” they can scroll through quickly when busy at work. Not only does it help them learn the most popular headlines of the day, but they can also tweet any story they want with the simple click of a button.
It’s great because it helps the team share important stories via Twitter while crunched for time at work, and allows them to stay up-to-date with talking points for reporters and bloggers. It even serves as a valuable aid in ideation or brainstorming.
Pocket allows me to save articles and blog posts I’m interested in, and read them at a later date. Rather than just favoriting tweets I never read anyway, I just file the articles in my Pocket. I use the Chrome browser extension, so all I have to do is click on the icon in my toolbar to save it for reading later. If you have a large number of articles in your queue, no worries — the search feature is incredibly user-friendly and easy to use.
One of the best parts of Pocket is that all of the ads that filled up the original site are absent. There are fewer distractions, minimizing read time. There is also a mobile app, so you can queue up articles during the workday to read later that night or during your commute home (assuming, of course, that you are a passenger and not a driver).
Shannon Byrne, our Marketing Coordinator, uses Pinboard to keep track of stories that will help with research for blog posts, guests articles, or any content we produce. She also uses Pinboard for personal stuff like recipes, health and wellness stories, concert stuff (she is a self-proclaimed music junkie), etc. She tags stories with categories so she can easily revisit them later. It also serves as a great alternative to a search engine Ã¢â‚¬” you can search a topic and browse other user’s pins. Most importantly, she uses it for collaboration with fellow members of the Marketing Team, frequently browsing colleague’s pins for ideas and information.
Cost: $10.04 (one-time fee)
The quick click of a button can be an incredibly valuable tool when there is a lot to be done, and for our CMO Chris Winfield, this is a common occurrence. Email this page is an extension that is added directly to your toolbar. If you have a webpage you want to share, highlight it and click the mailbox icon. This will cause the portion of the article you are interested in to be emailed Ã‚Â through your default email client. It is simple, effective, and incredibly convenient.
Wunderlist is an amazing tool to manage everything on your plate. It is a really great to-do list that allows you to create separate lists, add notes, set priority and deadline dates, share with team members, and more. It syncs across all devices for free, and also has a desktop version. You can set recurring tasks so that nothing is ever missed or forgotten. Our Strategy Team finds this app great for on-the-fly action items.
This is another task management application that is very simple. You can set your task with a specific due date or as a recurring task with tags, time estimates, and more. I like this application because it helps keep my day organized. Each morning, I write a to-do list of items I need to accomplish. This extension sits on the same screen as my email, so I am able to sift through recent email and create my to-do list. I can also check items off as soon as I send something or receive an email that helps me accomplish my tasks. This tool is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play store, so everything you need to accomplish is right at your fingertips.
Cost: Free for everything I use it for; there’s an option to upgrade to a PRO account for $25 a year (but I really don’t think it is necessary)
This full GTD (Getting Things Done) system works as a an app for the desktop, the iPad, and the iPhone, and was highly recommended by our Strategy Team. Its feature set is quite extensive, and the app handles workflow from start to finish. This isn’t used by our team quite as regularly, but when there are big projects, it helps to prioritize action items and make sure all information is available throughout the process.
Cost: Ipad – $9.99, iPhone – $4.99, Midnight Inbox Classic – Free, Midnight Inbox version 2.0 – $19.99
The interface is user-friendly and clutter free. Alex Coffey, our Intern, loves this app to track everything she has going on across all of our departments — which is A LOT! She uses it to track tasks and increase overall productivity while eliminating the stress of forgetting what needs to be done next. Astrid makes it easy to ask for help, delegate and share lists requiring feedback.
Amy Do, one of our Account Managers who always uses both a notebook and an excel spreadsheet for her to-do list, thinks Any.Do is a life saver Ã¢â‚¬” and not just because it looks a lot like her name! Any.Do is available as both a Chrome extension and an iOS app; it syncs your to-do list with reminders to keep on task. The best feature is being able to turn your emails into tasks with an Any.Do “What’s Next” task button. The email is even saved in the to-do list so you don’t have to search for it. Amazing!
Notes and Organization
I live and breath Evernote. It is actually how I compiled this blog post before uploading it into WordPress. Think of it as your Five StarÃ‚Â® binder (yes, I was a child of the 80′s) that keeps everything together. Inside, you have your notebooks for all of your different subjects (or in this case, clients). The notebooks are all sorted according to your preference, making them easy to reference later. You can sort by date created, date updated, source, size of note, etc. It also works with pretty much every computer, phone, and mobile device on the market.
If you are looking for a certain note that you can’t seem to find, don’t worry — everything is searchable by keyword, as well as by tag. It is a cinch to stay organized, capture meeting notes, set up action items, store important screenshots and information, and share important notes with the team. Need I say more?
Speaking of Evernote, what do you do once you have made the notebook for a specific client? You can use Powerbot to send it to your peers. The app can attach the notebook to your email, archive to Evernote once sent, or save an email thread directly to Evernote once it has been read.
If there is one extension that BlueGlassers use over any other, it’s Rapportive. This app shows your contacts’ social media presence right inside your inbox, along with their picture and location. This is a great way to learn a little more about the interests of your contacts or clients through what they post on their social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, etc). This insight helps you get to know your client on another level and allows you to build a stronger relationship by creating conversations.
With clients and contacts all over the world, it’s also a nice reminder of their time zones and where they are and what may be going on in their neck of the woods. While I know a lot of this information off the top of my head, it’s a good reminder and really helps with personalizing emails and other communications. The more personal I can be with contacts, the better the relationships I can build with them.
Next Meeting LabÃ‚Â
This app is a favorite of Suzanne Reyes, a member of our Client Services team. It is located on the sidebar in Google Calendar, and allows the user to see upcoming meetings without actually clicking on the events within the calendar. Since Suzanne schedules all client calls, all team members’ calendars are listed on the calendar to advise her as to when our team is available. This creates quite a cluster, so the Next Meeting Lab offers a quick glance as to what is up next.Ã‚Â
To access this helpful tool, go to Google Calendar —> Settings —> Labs —> Next Meeting (Located towards the bottom of the Lab’s list). There are many other great tools on the Labs page as well if you are looking to spruce up your calendar.
This extension is quickly downloaded to the Chrome toolbar, and allows our team to see time zones all around the world. When planning events in other cities or trying to set up a call with another country, this tool is a lifesaver. We can set it to list the time zones we refer to the most (Pacific, Central, Eastern, Greenwich Mean Time for London, etc). This app is great because we have clients and employees located all over the world. This makes it easy to see when calls can be scheduled that will work with both our team and the client’s team.
This is another tool that does not go a day without use within our company. When you are trying to explain something to someone through email, I find it most helpful when you can actually see what is being discussed so no items are lost in translation. Awesome Screenshot helps you better communicate the whole picture of what’s happening through visual evidence. And it is pretty awesome for things like blog posts. ;)
Our entire Content Team uses this extension.Ã‚Â When conducting research, it filters out Google noise they don’t want to see (for example Wikipedia or eHow). If a member of the team comes across sites they know they will never use or want to see, they block them as well. This extension helps the team find more accurate information from the right sources much more quickly.
This blocks access to selected websites during selected times of the day. So it forces users to focus on a single task at a time without too much distraction. No procrastinating around here!
What are your favorite apps and extensions? Please share them in the comments below!