Monday, September 12, 2011

Five Online Productivity Tools: Work Smarter, Faster, Better

For an old gal, I love new tech tools. 

Regular readers know I was certainly not an early adopter of Twitter, but am now one enthusiastic Tweeter, hooked into a range of analytical tools, third party apps, and other ways to get the most marketing bang out of Twitter.

It’s much the same with online productivity tools – applications that automate and streamline the way one works. 

As a freelance/contract worker for over two-decades,  a trusty black planner and a yellow spiral notebook were once the tools of choice.  Well, in fact I still rely on those two tools, but there are a plethora of personal productivity applications right under our online noses! 

Thus, gathered here are my current favorites, in order of preference.  They are especially useful for B-to-B contract marketers.  Happy Clicking!

These guys rock.  First off, if you are looking for an easy way to manage your “to do” list, this is the place.   Essentially a to-do list manager, this app helps prioritize tasks to increase productivity, especially when working for many clients and projects.

They also rock because they are  “quick, easy and free” and when they say free they mean it.  They don’t just give you a few features for free, then entice you to pay when you need more robust features.  The complete feature set is free.  Whoopee, Wipee List!

Another reason why these guys rock is the writing on the website.  I love this line:  “Wipee List is Free, But That Doesn’t Mean it Sucks”.  The text is human, witty, and engagingly sarcastic. (sounds like my handsome hubby...)

One other reason they rock is the incredibly easy interface. You can tell the Wipee team did a ton of usability testing.  (I love usability testing! Why develop an interface and never bother to ask anybody how useful it is?  Who did their usability testing, I wonder?   What a dream job that must have been.) 

Running a close second to Wipee List is Nudge Mail.  I am a beta tester for Nudge Mail, and relied on this little tool quite heavily when managing a client web redesign project in 2010. 

Essentially, one uses Nudge Mail to send oneself emails, or other team members emails, at key dates or milestones.  Some might consider me a “nudge” so naturally this is one useful tool.

Using Nudge Mail is entirely done within email, which when you think about it, is the way you might do all of your other work. There is no need to go to a website, all the transactions happen within your email system.

It takes seconds to create a new email (or forward an existing one), set the “to”, subject, day/time and any message in the body of the email.  Hit send, and that little baby goes out on the day/time you selected. 

Upcoming team deadlines?  Set a nudgemail to remind yourself or others.  Managing a complicated event or project?  Nudge mail can be a tool to keep everybody moving in the same direction, at the same time.

Have you ever tried to coordinate a meeting with 8 or 9 people spread out in various time zones?  How can you keep track of availability or preferences? Heck, it is even tough to get 3 people together on a 10-minute conference call for a project update even if they are in the same time zone.

Doodle is free, and wonder of wonders – you don’t even have to register! Use it to schedule meetings, lunches, social events, conference calls or other appointments with multiple people, as many as needed. Simply set up a poll assessing best time for an event, send a link to all those participating in the call or meeting, and use a personalized URL to finalize the logistics and manage the event.

For a fee, Doodle links to calendars such as Outlook, Google and other apps.   

As a freelancer/contract professional, I’ve worked through various methods to track records of time per project/client for end-of-month-invoicing – from manual notebooks, to Spreadsheets, to Basecamp.

Zoho is an easy to use online service that allows several individuals to create, track, and manage invoicing and basic project management. I’ve only used it as a free trial - and it’s streamlined the process incredibly. Zoho helps manage a range of tasks including invoicing, expense tracking, quotes, and some project management.  Note this is one of those applications that only provides a specific set of free features, but pricing is reasonable for the full suite of functions.

Teamly is a good alternative to other, more robust project management applications like Basecamp from 37 Signals, which I helped implement at Markit Strategies, the virtual PR agency I’ve been associated with since 2005.

Teamly is especially useful for virtual teams.  I suggested Teamly for a volunteer organization and it worked nicely.

One of the biggest strengths is the priorities page which gives an at-a-glance view of priorities.
 It’s easy to add, manage and move priorities around—or look back or forward in time to see accomplished or upcoming tasks.

Whew!  So there they are!  If you try any of these five tools, share your experience.  If you know of any other great apps, post them here!

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