One of my goals for 2017 is to give voice to the things that matter to me. In that vein, I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to share some resources and information on productivity and organization tips.
Now, I don’t really care about productivity just for the sake of doing more work, but improved organization and productivity frees up time for the all of the things that matter to us (work is just but one option).
Today I will share some info about five apps that I use daily. I’m not providing thorough or exhaustive reviews. These are just recommendations for things that I find useful and suggest you check out. If you have questions or would like more information about anything, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to respond promptly.
I just wrote and deleted a lengthy introduction about drowning in a sea of emails. But really, this concept does not require any lead in. We all know the Sisyphean task of keeping one’s email inbox under control.
SaneBox is a fast and easy-to-use service that filters out unimportant emails so that important emails are able to rise to the top. SaneBox sends you a daily digest of all of the unimportant emails so you can quickly triage them at one time (i.e. delete, archive, send to your inbox, etc.). The user interface is simple and there is a huge amount of satisfaction that comes from being able to select the “Done Reviewing” button.
SaneBox is a paid service, but after using the free trial I was happy to sign up. With the $7 per month subscription, I’m able to connect SaneBox to my work and personal email accounts. It eliminates a lot of distraction throughout the day and also allows me to sign up for newsletters and give out my email left and right without fear of repercussions.
Sometimes I think I should change my title to “Professional Emailer”.
MixMax is a Chrome extension and plugs in beautifully with my Gmail. It has a slew of functions, but the ones I use most and made it worth subscribing to are:
- read receipts,
- snoozing and managing incoming emails, and
- robust calendaring and scheduling options.
For example, rather than sending multiple emails trying to set up a meeting, you can send one email with your available meeting times and the recipient can select the time that works for them. By accepting one of the meeting times, the meeting will automatically be added to both of your Google Calendars.
From what I can tell this is primarily for Gmail and Google Apps users. MixMax is probably best suited for people in sales and/or marketing, and while I absolutely do not fall into either of those categories, I find it incredibly useful. And, yes, I know the name is stupid.
Dashlane is a password management system that has seriously changed my life. It is easy to use and has so many great features for keeping your passwords secure and organized. It also stores payment information and secure notes. Having also used LastPass, I think Dashlane is much easier to use and worth the higher (but still reasonable) price tag.
One of my favorite features is their approach to emergency access. You can give full or partial access to someone else (e.g. a spouse, friend or family member) by designating them in advance. Your emergency contact can request access at any time and so long as you do not deny their request within a specified waiting period they will be given access to your passwords and information.
Dashlane saves me a ridiculous amount of time every day (because I have a terrible memory and probably log into 7-10 accounts on a daily basis). Also, I know that come tax time (which is the time of the year when I typically have to reset 80% of all of my online passwords), the effort I’ve put in up front will be well worth it.
I intend to write a series of blog posts that goes into more detail on how we can use different technologies and tools to help us get our aging parent’s affairs in order. Dashlane will definitely feature prominently in that series.
I don’t have much to say about Evernote that hasn’t already been said more elegantly by others. But it is an app that I can’t live without and therefore must be included in this list. In fact, I’m writing this blog post in Evernote right now!
I love testing out note taking apps (because I’m a huge nerd), but I never have found one that works as well as Evernote across all of my devices. Sure, there are things I wish they would improve —why no color coding of notebooks and notebook stacks???— but in terms of overall capability, it really can’t be beat.
Speaking of devices, I should mention that the piece of hardware that has transformed my work-life the most in recent years is the iPad Pro 9.7”. I take it almost everywhere (again, I’m a nerd, so please don’t waste your time or mine pointing that out in the comments).
The iPad Pro is the first iPad I’ve ever owned and it took the advent of the Apple Pencil and the ability to write directly onto the tablet to push me into iPad ownership. IMHO the 9.7” is the perfect size and now I can continue to handwrite notes (which I will NEVER give up) but have a lot more at my disposal in terms of organizing, formatting, and storage.
So, when people ask me which handwriting note taking app I like the best, I have to say Noteshelf hands down. I have tried out about 10 different apps and it continues to outshine the others with the most features that I need. Not every feature/function is totally intuitive, but almost everything is there.
A few of the features that stand out to me are:
- It syncs up to Evernote easily,
- has a lot of fun paper and notebook cover options,
- enables me to create different stacks of notebooks, and
- allows me to import and mark up PDFs.
Again, an exhaustive description of the app’s features is too much to go into here, but if you would consider yourself a “power user” and want a really robust platform for handwriting notes, Noteshelf is definitely worth purchasing.
If you want a simpler option, drop me a note in the comments and I can provide other suggestions. If there is enough interest, I may write a separate post comparing the pros and cons of all of the apps that I have tried.
You may notice that all of the apps I’ve suggested have some paid component. I am cheap about a number of things, but paying for good software isn’t one of those. I am in no way compensated by any of the companies that make these apps.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions on how to make this post more useful. Or if you have apps that you want to recommend, I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading and I hope this was a good use of your time!