Real Simple: 6 Tech Tools to Make Your Life and Work Easier

June 3, 2019

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[peter cade]

We live in an overwhelming world. We constantly move at warp speed, multitasking on multiple devices, a state that’s often counterproductive to our goals.

This article is about tech tools, but really it’s about making ourselves more efficient and effective. Sometimes that means stepping away from the device.

Close your eyes for a few seconds and think about things in your position and organization that frustrate you, make you feel like you’re wasting time, or just take you to the Bad Place. Open your eyes when you’ve got it.

Now you’re about to have a lot of information presented to you. To make the tools actionable, focus on those bad things you just identified, and notice when a tool or solution might help with those. It’s unrealistic to think you’ll implement all these tech tools. Instead focus on the problems and finding the right tools for a solution.

LastPass

Let’s start with the basics: organization. We’re all trying to do too much with too little time, so whenever we can create a few extra minutes of time it’s a big bonus.

In this busy world, it’s easy to be forgetful. How often have you gotten the ultra-frustrating message that your username or password can’t be found? And then you waste time trying different options, searching your email and resetting your airline password only to have to reset it again in 24 hours when you forget what it was while trying to get your boarding pass the night before.

Enter LastPass.com, which will help you manage all your logins and passwords. It will autofill your logins and let you add new ones through a Google Chrome plug-in as you go.

Honorable Mentions: The apps Do! Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Evernote, which all let you remind yourself to perform important tasks — including by sending you smartphone notifications at certain times or locations.

Rev

Ever wish you could have a stenographer in every meeting? There are some tech tools that are the next best thing. My favorite is Rev.com. An actual human will transcribe your audio or video recording for $1 per minute. Not only is it one of the most affordable online transcription services (Scribie is also good, but a bit more expensive), but Rev.com is also the most accurate of all those I’ve used.

Honorable Mentions: Nuance’s Dragon software is a veteran in the dictation-tools industry. It has an app version and full software tools, but it’s not cheap, ranging from $150 to $300. Otter, on the other hand, is a new AI-driven dictation tool that has a free version and stellar reviews. It also lets you search transcripts, add notes and attach images.

Any project management software

If you want to make your life (and your teams’ lives) easier, then use project management software. There are about a million out there. Some favorites in the free camp are Trello and Asana. At my office we use Basecamp. SmartSheet is another affordable project-management software that people rave about. For the more intense project-management user, Teamwork has broken through as a leader in recent years. AirTable is the new (and popular) kid on the block.

Boomerang for Gmail

Ever wish you just knew if someone had read that email? You can. Boomerang for Gmail lets you turn on email tracking to see whether your email has been read, or if it’s still waiting to be acknowledged.

But my favorite feature of Boomerang is email scheduling. Want to send out reminder emails of an upcoming deadline? Schedule them now so you don’t forget to remind people. Working late but don’t want to set the expectation that it’s the norm? Schedule your emails to go out the next morning. Want to make employees feel special on their birthdays, but sometimes run out of time? Take an hour and schedule them all. It’s glorious.

Honorable Mentions: A number of other email systems and plug-ins that offer similar features for tracking and scheduling, including Outlook itself, Mailtrack and Streak.

Pexels

We’ve all seen bad stock photos. Whether you’re building a presentation, working on social media or trying to make a flyer, good images (that are also licensed for commercial use, so you don’t get in trouble) are hard to find. Pexels is a database that has some high-quality photos and graphics, and it feels a bit hipstery.

Honorable Mentions: Pixabay, FreePic and Twenty20. Other sites worth a mention are Photoability and DisabilityImages.com which feature high-quality stock images of people with disabilities, so we can practice what we preach about representation and inclusion.

Calm

To really make your life easier, try using tech to shift your perspective and reduce your stress. Study after scientific study shows that one of the best things you can do for your mind, health and productivity is meditate.

My favorite meditation tool is Calm, a phone app and website. It has guided meditations for just about every scenario in life, including a World Cup series to help you calm down after games, and the interface is attractive and easy to use.

Honorable Mentions: Headspace is another app I like. I find it much more business or professionally focused, which can be good when you’re just starting out in meditation. Plus, the guy has a British accent. Buddhify, meanwhile, prides itself on its “meditation done differently” for “meditation on-the-go.” It has sessions as short as four minutes and has sessions for walking, driving, taking the train and sitting at your desk, among others. No yoga mat required.

We all want to use technology to make our lives easier, but we have to take the time to set up the structure and tools first. Really want to make an impact? Log off Facebook for 30 minutes, turn off the TV, get to the office half an hour early or carve out time in another way. You’ll save yourself that time, energy and frustration.


Learn More

On March 19, Kate Snyder, APR, presented a webinar titled “10 Tech Tools to Make Your Life Easier.” The webinar is now available on-demand for free to PRSA members.
 

Kate Snyder, APR

Kate Snyder, APR, is principal strategist and founder of Piper & Gold Public Relations in Lansing, Mich. She serves on the Counselors Academy executive committee.

Comments

Dawn E. Buzynski, APR says:

Love Rev! Very fast and accurate transcriptions!

June 10, 2019

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