With Labor Day behind us, it’s now officially the start of the New Year IMHO. And in honor of my grandpa who was a coalminer and then became head of the Steelworkers Union in Ontario, Canada, I’m sharing my favorite tools — for the collective good. These are my most favorite productivity tools. Try them out and tell me what you think of them!
IFTT stands for If This, Then That. I discovered this tool while working with the first cohort of Microsoft Ventures as their Go-to-Market advisor. I was working with one of the teams, Neura, and they mentioned IFTT as if everyone knew about it. I’d never heard of them. So I looked them up. Fabulous.
IFTT is basically a web service that scours the web for you so you don’t have to. It works by creating “recipes” of If This/Then That pairings (and there are hundreds of pre-made recipes to get you started easily). I can use it to track items on eBay (if I were an eBay gal). I do use it to track weather — it’s always warm and sunny here in California but I like to know when there are extremes. Like over 90 degrees. Or rain is predicted. An even more rare occurrence. So I have IFTT set up so that when weather.com predicts the temp will be over 90 degrees or it will rain, I get a text message on my phone the day before. Nifty.
It was also fabulous for helping us find a new place to rent on craigslist this past summer. As soon as something was posted within my search parameters, I got an instant email. If you have ever lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, you know how valuable a fast jump on a new craigslist place can be!
I’ve been using this for about a year and I just love it. This is also a web service and I use it through my email. Every day at 6 pm, I get an email from IDoneThis, asking me to take 30 seconds to track my “dones” – what I got done today.
You can tag them for reference (I used tags like #clients for client work, #work for all the non-billable work required to run a business, #personal to track how much “me time” I am really doing, #housework for the other business I do, #book to track time and tasks for the book I’m writing, etc.). You can choose any tags that make sense to you.
I usually do this late at night before bed as a way to review my day. I’m often surprised by how many things I actually did get accomplished on those days when I feel like nothing got done. It also has a little section at the bottom with a “day in review” – sometimes it’s from seven days ago, sometimes it’s from six months ago. I always get a kick out of these as it’s surprising how much things have changed when you see your completed to do list from three or six months ago.
And every once in a while, something pops up and I realize how long since I’ve called that person, or a lagging to do item that I hadn’t closed.
Don’t need that boarding pass until the day before you fly? Send it to FollowUpNow and it will pop back into your inbox the day before you fly. Want to make sure you follow up next week with that client you just sent an email to? Send it to FollowUpThen and next wednesday, it will pop back in your InBox, ready for you.
You simply sign up for an account, load up all the pre-set email alias (Monday@followupthen.com, 5 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.) and then you just bcc: one of those addresses and it will automatically bring that email back exactly when you need it. It’s magical!
One of my favorite features is I get a list of all my upcoming FollowUpThen items in my InBox at 6 am each morning. So it’s become my Hot List of things I really need to keep my eye on. No more lost email and forgotten follow ups. This service keeps me sane.
And yes, I saved the best for last. Charlie is your new FREE, automated virtual assistant. Charlie is synced with my calendar so every morning at 6 am, I get a briefing on every person I’ll be meeting with that day. Their company info and website, their tweetstream, their LinkedIn profiles, and major news about them.
Then before each meeting, I get an individual report sent to my email an hour before so I can quickly, all in one place, brush up on the person’s profile and their company info. Charlie isn’t perfect and sometimes mixes people up with the same name but it’s easy to figure out what’s relevant and what’s not.
More than once, Charlie has found news I didn’t know about and I was able to look intelligent and prepared in our meeting. 😉 Gotta love any technology that helps you be smarter with very little work.
Try some of these out and let me know what you think. And if you have other tools that you love, let me know. We can all get smarter together!