When you have tasks coming in from left, right and center, every minute counts. Using these productivity hacks, I’ve been able to conserve about two hours out of every work day. My advice? Try one, and then gradually implement the rest.
Dominate Your Email
An overloaded inbox can get overwhelming quickly. I use the features in Gmail to automate my email and keep lower priority items out of my main areas of focus. Labeling all of my unread emails for easy search and keeping them in neat, categorized folders makes it easy for me to grab an hour in the afternoon to review them instead of being interrupted constantly and having to decide if I should respond immediately or not.
Manage Your Workflow
My favorite tool is the If This Then That, also known as IFTTT app. IFTTT connects Google apps and others and allows them to talk to each other without your intervention. Basically, you create your own recipes so that if a particular trigger is present, an action is generated. One example of a recipe? “If I am endorsed on LinkedIn, publish a tweet on Twitter.” Best of all, IFTTT works with over 50 online channels, from Dropbox to the Weather Channel.
If you’re an Android user, apps like Tasker essentially allow your phone to read your mind by using contexts to trigger tasks or setting changes. A context could be something as simple as the day of the week, a headset being plugged in, having a certain battery percentage, or entering a certain location. Once a context takes place, it triggers an action like turning off auto-sync, loading Pandora, or sending a text message to a certain person.
On the Apple side of the house, there’s Workflow. It works by creating a series of directions called “actions” that tell other iOS apps to do specific things. For example, a Workflow action can show an event from your calendar, send a meeting confirmation and confirm directions to the location. Workflow links these actions together with the Content Graph, which means you can integrate apps like Maps with iTunes, or Calendar with Twitter.
Most professionals still accumulate a lot of paperwork that quickly gets lost, misplaced or recycled. Fortunately, there’s Evernote to automate your note-taking and document storage. Evernote not only allows you to save your ideas, snippets you hear and things you see throughout the day, but you can also scan the day’s papers directly to an Evernote virtual notebook. Get rid of those Chrome bookmarks and import all of your important web pages into Evernote as clipped notes. Two major advantages of Evernote: It works with every kind of mobile device and computer, and it allows you to encrypt confidential data from your boss.
Control Your Contact Information
As for all of those business cards you’ve collected, consider downloading an app like Circle Back that allows you to automatically input card data right into your online contact database so you don’t have to worry about losing or storing the physical cards. Circle Back helps manage that online address book, too. It has a duplicate merging feature and provides real-time updates when people in your network change jobs, titles and contact information. And I love that everything is stored in the cloud so you don’t have to rely on LinkedIn, which only includes a certain percentage of your contacts.
Empower Your Project Management
If you work on projects with a lot of people, you can use QuickBase to automate your project’s to-dos and your team’s collaboration on them. By streamlining data gathering, tracking tasks and communication, QuickBase reduces quite a few administrative headaches so you can focus on the most important project-related tasks and eliminate unnecessary staff meetings.
What tools are your best friends for automating office tasks?