When I say “New Tools” in this context, what I really mean is “Tools That Have Totally Existed For a Very Long Time That I’m Finally Putting to Use and Making My Life Easier With.”
Yes, I’m a professional writer and business writing coach. Yes, I make part of my living teaching writers and other kinds of solopreneurs how to be effective and organized.
No, I didn’t adopt either of these no-brainers until May 2nd of this year. And they’re already making my life much, much easier. If you’re not using them, try both for a week. You’ll be glad you did.
My Professional Writing Dillemma
My email inbox is often a freaking mess. I answer about half of my emails one the same day I get them, then archive that bad boy since the response will bring the conversation back into the queue. That works fine, but there’s another species of email that’s a thorn right in the side of my back.
You get them, too. Emails you’re not responding to right away, but need to keep in the front of your mind. For me, these fall into two broad categories:
1. Emails containing a meeting date and time I don’t want to forget.
2. Emails I can’t respond to until a certain date, or until something specific happens.
Each of the two tools I put into place this year fixes one of those two emails. Without them, both cluttered up the bottom of my inbox and stressed me out. Worse, there were usually enough of them down there that the emails didn’t grab my attention…and grabbing my attention was the main reason I kept them in my inbox in the first place.
Seriously. It was a problem. Middle-class, first-world problem.
But still a problem.
Solution #1: Siri
If you don’t know what this has to do with Siri, you don’t love science fiction.
Did you know you can pick up your iPhone 4s or newer and say “Siri, remind me to XXX on YYY” and she’ll set an alarm that shoots you a message on YYY telling you to do XXX?
Yes, you did.
So instead of leaving that email to fester in my inbox until I get new information during a meeting on the 10th, I archive that son of a bitch and say sweetly to Siri “Siri, remind me to email that dude on the 11th.”
And she does.
I’ve heard Skyvi does the same sort of thing for Android phones, and the awesomely-named Cortana might do it for Windows phones. I have no experience with them, but the functionality is easy and awesome.
Solution #2: Google Calendar
I didn’t promise either of these tools was innovative or new. I’m just saying I love that I’ve started using them.
It’s possible I’m the last person in the world to start immediately putting any appointment I make via email into my Google calendar so I can find it on my phone or computer any damn time I need to.
I don’t care. It’s freaking’ great. Especially with the new “Pencil it In” feature that sometimes automates it for me. Open a new tab. Write in the details. Send invites to everybody involved to make me look on top of things. Tell Google to send me an alert 48 and 24 hours ahead of time to remind me.
Bam! Instant flakiness remover. Like dandruff shampoo for my worklife.
How about y’all? What tools that have been floating around in your workspace for years have you only recently put into place and immediately kicked yourself square in the giblets for not using far earlier? I’d love to hear about them.