Everyone wants to be as efficient as humanly possible, but sometimes we all need a little help. Conveniently, it's 2016! Technology has gotten to a point where it can make a tangible difference in the way you handle work tasks, home tasks, and life in general. Are you using your time as intelligently as possible? Maybe some new tech can help.
To Do Lists
There are a million ToDo apps and services out there. You may already be using one. However, how effective is that use? Can you only pull up the software on your computer? Is it just a list you look at? Find a better program! Todoist is one of the best task management tools I have ever used.
Mac, PC, Android, IOS, web ... your Todoist account will sync across every device you have. Working on someone elses device? You can log into the web version and never miss a beat. Do you have a report that needs to be presented every other Friday? Set a reminder to get it done by typing in plain English. A task called "Budget Report" can be set to send you a reminder "Every other Thursday at 11am". Repeating tasks are incredibly easy to set up, and reminders can be configured as emails, SMS messages, or todoist pop-ups (program has to be on, or must be running in the background on your phone). Tasks can be broken down into categories, and sub categories so everything stays organized and well laid out. Collaboration tools allow group project tasks to be completed and checked off by different individuals. Beautiful color-coded design allows for simple prioritization.
So, I sound like an advert at this point, but a proper task manager can really be a life saver. The largest benefit I personally get out of this app is the ability to allow myself to forget things. When a project goes on hold, chances are high that it'll get either forgotten entirely, weigh on you constantly until it happens, or put out of mind until it pops up like a bad horror movie villain taking you off guard/ unprepared. The ability to set a reminder for a month or three out allows you to put it out of your mind while being confident that you'll be reminded of your task at the perfect moment. The stress reduction is amazing!
Another large benefit to this specific task manager is it's partnership with IFTTT (next on the list to cover). Maybe you're working on a project with your team and you create a new task in Bob's sub-category. IFTTT can automatically shoot Bob a text letting him know it's there! Did you put a date on that task? A google calendar event can be automatically generated and your team can be invited via email with absolutely no effort from you. That sounds nice, right? Read on!
You get a TON of emails. How frustrating is it to have to go back an search for that spreadsheet you know somebody sent you at some point? I hate that.
Have you ever had your spouse ask why you've been working so much? "Wait," you think, "have I really been working more?"
Prefer to keep your phone on silent when you're in the office? Remembering to turn it down in the morning then back up when you leave can be an easy task to forget.
Enter IFTTT one of the coolest automation apps I've used. With an ever increasing list of 'channels' this program can make tools you already use talk to each other to exponentially increase their usefulness. Set a recipe to automatically put email attachments into Dropbox or GoogleDrive. Track the hours you spend in the office (or any place for that matter) by connecting your phone's GPS to a Google spreadsheet. Use GPS to determine when you're at work and Android users can automatically silent and un-silent their phones.
The list of possibilities with IFTTT is endless. Get a text message when your boss sends you an email. Push one button to let your team know where you're at. Smart bulbs turn on as soon as you walk into work. Got an Automatic? Receive a text message when you need an oil change. Or better yet, automatically generate an email to your husband when you need an oil change. The time saving possibilities with this service are phenomenal!
So, you've fallen in love with IFTTT. Wouldn't it be great if you could automate more tasks? You can!! Automator (for Mac) is an amazing program that's already on your Apple computer! You didn't know you had it, did you? This built in program can be a bit intimidating at first, but it's functionality makes the slight learning curve more than worth it! (Tutorials)
Have 200 files you need to rename? Spend 45 seconds setting up a workflow and your computer will do it all for you. Want to resize every one of the 500 photos you took at that conference in order to email them to the team? Another quick workflow and it'll be done by the time you're back from lunch. Have a more specific task that requires complex actions? You can record your manual processes and Automator will learn/ repeat them for you! Example: Every week you create a newsletter for your team, you convert it to PDF, then email it to the group. You can set up a monitored folder and create a workflow that will automatically convert that PDF. The second part of your workflow can be a recording of emailing your PDF out. Now, every time you make a new newsletter and press save, the rest of the process will be done for you!
All of these features are great, but I'm sure you're wondering what my favorite aspect of Automator is. Well, as we've established, it's all your tools working together that really make the biggest impact. IFTTT works wonderfully with Dropbox, and your Mac can have a plethora of Dropbox folders set as monitored folders. My computer is now in a perfected state every time I sit down at it.
Example: When I get home in the evenings I turn on some jazz, check my email, and read articles I put in a reading list that day. IFTTT uses my location and automatically creates a new .txt document in a Dropbox folder when I enter the geofence around my home after 4pm. Automator has a monitor on that folder. When the new .txt document pops up, a workflow opens my email on half the screen, opens Safari to my reading list on the other side of the screen, and turns on the perfect itunes playlist of clarinet music in the background. Now, every time I get home in the evenings everything is exactly the way I want it.
Don't have a Mac? Try Action(s)! I've heard some good things, and it's touted as the PC equivalent to Automator. However, as I'm an Apple girl, I can't really give a personal recommendation. If you try it out, let me know how it works!
It's true that technology often gets bad press. You see articles about how smart phones are killing productivity or how apps are distracting employees. However, like so many things, it's all in how you use it. Creating useful relationships between the tools you use may seem a bit daunting, but the long term benefits of automation can be astounding. Less wasted time, an elimination of "Oh shit! I forgot to...", and a more comfortable experience interacting with technology are all at your finger tips. Also, you doesn't want to feel like one of the Jetsons?!