By Emma Hickey
Gone are the days of organizing our work lives with rolodexes, appointment books and typewriters. Lucky for us, we’re living in the Digital Age and have access to numerous digital tools that make our work lives easier. From staying organized, to staying in communication, and everything in between, here are some of my favorite tools that help me stay on top of all the things I have to do each day:
In many ways, Google Calendar isn’t too different from a regular ol’ paper calendar. You use it to block off chunks of time and schedule meetings, and you use it to make sure you don’t miss any appointments, or double book yourself. But, being a Google tool, there are many things Gcal can do that a paper calendar just can’t. Gcal gives you some control over whether or not your colleagues have added meetings to their personal calendars by allowing you to invite them to the event through their email address. It also allows you to send out invitations to events and require your guests to RSVP, which I’ve found this useful when planning for company happy happy hours and parties. Gcal even allows you to pull up your colleagues’ calendars so that you can be sure they’re available when you want to schedule a meeting, or so you can just creep on their calendars to see where they are. It’s a handy tool to keep both yourself and your community organized and in sync with each other.
This is my favorite of all the tools I use during the work day. Google Tasks is similar to a check list, except it lives on your calendar and you’re able to drag list items from day to day. You create a task the same way you’d create an event, except instead of leaving “Event” selected, you switch it to “Task”.
Tasks appear on the selected day in your calendar as well as in a list on the right hand side of your calendar, where you can check them off.
I use Google Tasks as my To Do list. Every time I think of something I need to do, or my manager mentions something she wants me to look into, I add it to my tasks. I also find it helpful for record-keeping purposes, because tasks that I check off remain on the calendar day they were assigned to and they remain on the list. If I can’t remember what I got done last month, I just go back to my tasks from those dates. Everything is saved right on the date I completed it!
Trello and Asana are both project management tools that you can use for free as an individual or that your company can subscribe to. The Trello design is based off of bulletin boards and the cards you might stick on them.
You can slide cards from one list to the next, color codes items and create checklists within the cards. You can also collaborate on boards with friends or colleagues.
Asana allows you to create lists, as well a boards. With Asana, you can easily add many collaborators and easily assign tasks to them by tagging their email addresses.
In this image, I assigned each task to myself. You can also add followers to tasks so that other can check in on the project’s progress even if they’re not the assignee.
I prefer using Trello, but both tools will keep you organized. And both are free for individuals to use! Companies can purchase subscriptions.
Have you ever noticed a typo in an email just after hitting “Send”? Or forgot to attach a file after writing “See Attachment”? In both Gmail and Outlook, you have the option to set up an email send delay. With Gmail, an “undo” button will appear up to 30 seconds after you send an email. With Outlook, you can choose the time-frame in which you’re able to “unsend” emails. Both are easy to set up and will give you peace of mind knowing that there’s a built in way to catch your mistakes before your email actually sends.
Email Trackers and Email Scheduling Tools
And speaking of peace of mind, there are also many extensions you can download that allow you to see if and when your emails have been opened. I’ve used Boomerang, Bananatag and Streak in the past, and while they’ve all worked well, Streak is my favorite. When an email you sent has been opened, a green eyeball will appear next to it. Unopened emails have gray eyeballs next to them. Other programs send you an alert email when your email is opened, but that can clutter your inbox. Streak alerts in a way that’s not intrusive!
Boomerang, Bananatag and Streak also all allow you to scheduled emails to send later. If you need to send an email out to your company in two days but you want to cross it off your To Do List now, you can use this tool to schedule it. If you’re working late at night or on the weekend and you don’t want the person you’re emailing to feel pressured into responding to you outside of business hours, you can schedule the email to go out the next morning. Streak’s scheduling system look like this:
You’re able to choose the date and the exact time you want your email to send, giving you even more control over you schedule and when you work.
Another Google tool, the Google Drive feature allows you to create documents, spreadsheets sheets, and slide show presentations that are stored online and accessible from anywhere. They’re also collaborative, so you and a colleague can be in the same document, typing at the same time, and watch each other’s work appear in real time. You’re likely already using Google Drive, but if not, now is as good a time as any to dive in!