In my last article I bragged about how efficient I had become and how my productivity had increased using fewer hours in the week. I’m sure much of that fell on deaf ears. So in part two of the series on being more productive, I figured I would give some concrete tools I use to stay organized. I do caution you, however, this is a workflow that works for me. You will definitely need to fine tune yours to make it as efficient as possible.
Google Calendar. I used to use Outlook for all of my scheduling and it was a good system, but the lack of integration with other services had me yearning for a better system. I have committed to exclusively using Google Calendar for all of my scheduling. I previously mentioned how I color coded all of my appointments based on the specific area or task (teaching, research, email, travel, etc.). As an academic, this has been useful for year-end reviews where we are expected to document our time spent in various areas of our job. Another area of the calendar I like is the full integration with scheduling within other Google apps. When I create a Live YouTube broadcast of the “Tom and John Show,” the event is automatically added to my calendar. When I accept a meeting from someone else, it is automatically added to my calendar. Google Calendar also integrates with third-party apps like Calendly (www.calendly.com). Where in the past I would use a Doodle Poll to schedule meetings, I now use this free web-based app. Calendly allows me to designate times I’m available throughout the day. The beauty is that Calendly integrates with my Google Calendar and eliminates any timeslots with conflicts.
Gmail. As part of the shift for better organization and integration, I migrated all of my email to Gmail. This wasn’t an easy process from a technical side, but I managed to figure it out. Now my psu.edu account is forwarded to Gmail where I can take advantage of the organizational scheme and integration of Google’s apps but I am still able to reply as if I was sending the message from my Penn State email. This was particularly important for me because I wear many hats. I have my consulting email, photography email and several others that I want to send from specific accounts. Now all of these are set up through Gmail. For organization, I create filters that automatically label each email so when I’m done with them I can archive them into specific folders that are neatly organized.
Social Media. This is an area I continue to struggle with, but one that I am getting better at managing. One tool I found to be useful is Hootsuite. Although the basic free version of Hootsuite didn’t meet my needs, I found that the Pro Version ($9.99/month) was just what I needed. With this desktop and mobile app, I am able to manage all of my social media accounts from Twitter to Instagram to Facebook to YouTube. A primary function of the app is to schedule outgoing posts in an efficient manner. I can now dedicate 30-60 minute blocks of time to write a series of posts or tweets and have them automatically scheduled to be released at specific or even random times. This means I don’t have to open each app individually throughout the day to stay active. Below are brief description of other apps I use to stay organized.
Tripit. Tripit organizes all of my travel plans into one trip. It builds an itinerary around my trips and maintains confirmation numbers for my airlines, hotels and rental cars. The app even scans my Gmail and builds the itinerary automatically.
National/Marriott/American/Starbucks. I’m loyal to these brands when possible and I use their mobile apps a lot. I can easily book or change a reservation, check-in online prior to leaving and skip the long line by ordering coffee on my way to the nearest Starbucks. I bet these combined save me at least an hour each week and likely even more when I’m traveling.
Financial Apps. While security is going to have to constantly be met for online banking and mobile apps, I am still a fan of them. I use mobile check deposit to cash checks from the comfort of my own couch. I use Google Wallet and Apple Pay to pay for items without pulling out my credit cards.
Storage and File Access. I use apps like Google Drive, Dropbox and Box to store and access all of my files in the cloud. I can easily make changes to files while on the road knowing that when I get back to the office the changes will be updated. GCI