Tricked Out Tech for Business
You’ve tried everything: You’ve downloaded dozens of applications promising to make you and your employees more productive, read multiple tomes on the topic, and have tried many websites promising to increase your productivity. Most likely, only a few have worked and truly saved you time, effort, and frustration. In most cases, you’ve probably left the sites, deleted the applications, and tossed the books away.
Clearly, there isn’t a silver bullet to make you more productive. However, the following sites and apps have proven to be integral to the way many people have enhanced their business acumen, and they should do the same for you, as well.
CardMunch by LinkedIn (iPhone app, www.cardmunch.com)
If you spend any amount of time networking or speaking to other people, you’ve undoubtedly amassed a stack of business cards that are sitting on your desk due to the arduous nature of having to create email contacts by entering all of the information on each card. CardMunch solves this issue. Simply point your iPhone camera at the business card, take a picture with the CardMunch app, and in a few seconds all information on the card will be transposed automatically and will be tied to that person’s LinkedIn information, allowing you to view your shared contacts as well as make an invitation to connect. The best part? All contact information can be downloaded into your address book, ensuring full synchronization with your main address book in Outlook or Gmail.
Evernote (app and website, www.evernote.com)
You’ve probably heard of Evernote before—it’s the cloud-based solution to store virtually every piece of information in your life. In Evernote, making notes (which could be a task, a blog idea, a picture, an email, or similar) from your PC, Mac, mobile device, or browser is perhaps the one ubiquitous way to keep track of everything you need to do or act upon. Now, you can share an Evernote note via email, so others can help you manage your tasks, too.
FollowUpThen.com (website and email integration, www.followupthen.com)
The key to productivity is to only handle each task only once. FollowUpThen, a free website that requires no account, creates and schedules follow up emails. Emailing email@example.com, for example, will send an email reminder to you in 10 minutes. That’s it. No complicated apps, no complicated setup. Monthly reminders of to-do tasks can be scheduled in a format as simple as firstname.lastname@example.org for the first of the month, or a multitude of other time and date formats. Other people can also be included in the emails, and they can then set reminders for you, too. Since you can share an Evernote note via email, and you can send that email to yourself in the future via FollowUpThen, you have a very powerful tool for managing periodic tasks.
Springpad (app and website, www.springpadit.com)
Springpad allows you to easily and quickly save anything you need to remember. Need to scan a product barcode to save for later? Look up a book your friend told you to read? Springpad will be able to store the information for you. Springpad also augments that data with real-time material from the internet, such as price drops and special deals; if the product you scanned the barcode for is on sale at Amazon, you’ll be notified in the app directly and via email. For example, if you’re looking for a specific new laser printer, you can enter it into Springpad, have it tie together product and sales information from your local Staples and Amazon and other sites, and know where the cheapest one is. Springpad is more item-based while Evernote is more task-oriented. There’s no better way to profitably manage these items for yourself, automatically.
MyFax.com (website and email integration, www.myfax.com)
Faxing is so 1980s. Bring your business into the 21st century with an electronic fax solution. MyFax.com allows you to get a new fax number or port your existing one for free, and get PDFs of every inbound fax sent to your inbox. Couple PDF faxes with the many free PDF-to-text applications out there such as Boxoft, PDF Ripper, and PDFtoWord, and you have a real productivity enhancer. Send emails and email attachments as faxes to those people that need them, via email, and cut unnecessary minutes out of your day.
RoadNinja (iPhone app, www.roadninja.mobi)
If you do a lot of traveling to unfamiliar cities and have no idea where to find restaurants or other important places, RoadNinja is for you. Using your current location and needs, RoadNinja will show you places of interest such as food, gas, lodging, banks, ATMs, and pharmacies at the upcoming interstate exits. While both this app and Google Places present the same data, this one is targeted towards where you are going and what’s ahead rather than simply what is around you. A must-have for the road warrior.
Since each of the above products makes you think through your to-do task once, and only once, you are forced to detail and plan the task the first time; subsequent iterations just need to have their instructions followed. Since you are very specific in the definition of the task (as you should be for every task), you (or your team members) just need to execute. The best benefit? When you hand off your tasks to an assistant (real or virtual), they’re ready to go, and you can make very efficient use of their time and your money. It’s a veritable win/win for everyone involved, and will greatly boost your productivity.
Douglas R. Grabowski, Jr. is president and chief executive officer of Ubiquitour, a strategic managed services provider, with offices in NYC, Connecticut, and Florida, that develops and delivers services to improve the way businesses use technology to achieve strategic, operational, and financial goals. He can be reached at email@example.com.