The promise of technology is that it helps to improve the quality of our lives, making us more organized, connected, and efficient. But most days I feel like technology makes me less productive. From the daily avalanche of emails to our growing addiction to social media, it’s fair to say that much of our technology is changing my life (specifically my brain) for the worse.
Technology ethicist Tristan Harris describes the challenge beautifully saying “The ultimate freedom is a free mind, and we need technology that’s on our team to help us live, feel, think and act freely.
We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first. People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights.”
Our time is the most precious, non-renewable resource we have. Using it effectively should be the goal of anyone who wants to kick major ass in life and work.
I’m going to share with you four apps that have added tremendous value to my life and business — helping me save time and improve my productivity. For me, they have been game-changers.
(Important: I’m not getting paid in any way to promote these apps. I just really like them.)
The Problem: So many f*cking emails! Once your business gains any popularity in the press, robots will immediately be sent to find any and all emails it can find for your company. It will use those emails to sell you stuff and then sell your email address to other folks who also want to sell you stuff.
My business email has been sold as often as the Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte — resulting in tons and tons of spam — much of which doesn’t immediately get caught by my spam filter. It seems like everyday I learn that I’m subscribed to some new list I’ve never heard of. It clogs my inbox and wastes my time.
How it works: Unroll.me is friggin brilliant. It goes through all of your subscriptions and allows you to decide whether to unsubscribe, keep in inbox, or roll up. If you select unsubscribe it automatically removes you from the list immediately. If you select keep in inbox it will simply leave it alone. And if you choose roll up it will add that email to a daily digest of stuff you want to keep but don’t necessarily need to read every time.
How cool is that? You have to give it a try.
The Problem: On average, how many back-and-forth emails does it take to plan a meeting or lunch date with someone? If you’re like me, it usually takes at least 3-5 emails to pick a date and a time for meeting. In a busy week I easily have 30 meetings and dates.
Let’s do the math. If I planned each of those dates by email, I’d be writing upwards of 150 emails each week just to make those plans. Let’s say conservatively that writing each email takes me 2 minutes, that’s 5 hours. For real, 5 hours. Who’s got that kind of time?!
How it works: Appointlet syncs directly with my Gmail calendar (also works with Office 365) to show my availability to others in a simple booking interface. I can select the time on my calendar when I want to offer my time for free or for paid service. I get my very own url where I can direct people to book time with me and I don’t have to be involved at all.
Using this app well can literally be like having a personal assistant, saving you hours of time every week. #Gamechanger
The Problem: Every month we have to collect all of our paper and electronic receipts and reconcile them with our bank statements. This process is essential. It’s one of the hallmarks of a financially healthy business. But it’s a pain the ass!
Our Finance Manager at MFF will tell you I’m one of the worst at this. I lose paper receipts and forget about online purchases constantly, making this simple monthly process a nightmare for all involved.
How it works: Receipt Bank allows you to snap photos of paper receipts and upload directly on your phone. It also allows you upload digital receipts by forwarding them to a private email address for your company. With minimal effort everyone’s receipts can easily get uploaded and categorized in one place — making reconciliation super efficient. I highly recommend it!
The Problem: Collecting feedback from your customers and staff can be tricky. Most apps that allow you to create forms and surveys are pretty limited. They allow you only minimal control over the style and layout of the questions, and they offer pretty basic options for sorting, sharing, and organizing the responses once you get them.
The reason this is important is that the quality of your feedback is directly related to the quality of your form. If you can only ask the same generic questions to everyone, you’ll get uniform and generic answers. If the form is disorganized and confusing, you’ll get muddy answers. If we want good data, we need a quality capture tool.
How it works: Formstack is by far the best form tool I’ve used for this purpose. There are too many features to list, but one of the key ones is the ability to add logic to your surveys. Let’s say for example that you are based in NYC and sell both in-person and online products. The first question on your form can be, Do you live NYC? If they answer yes, then your line of questioning might want to narrow to only relate to your in-person products. Conversely, if they answer no you might want to focus only on questions related to your online products.
You get the idea. Form logic allows you to collect better data that is customized to each person completing the form. That’s a big deal.
There are countless more features. If you work with large numbers of customer and want great data, give Formstack a try.
What are your favorite apps?
I know that there are many more apps similar to the apps above, so what do you use?
Comment below to share your favorite productivity apps.