3 Tools to Simplify Your Digital World
You're a small-business owner, or maybe a serial entrepreneur. And, I'm guessing, you don't have a lot of time on your hands because you wear too many hats and juggle too many tasks.
In order to be really successful, you have to be efficient. Your mind should be free of mundane tasks and dedicated to creativity, innovation, and execution.
The three areas in which I spend the vast majority of my day are communicating, reading and looking for information. If you're anything like me, you're over-connected and inundated with information. Streamlining the management of information is the key to efficiency.
Earlier, I wrote about how I streamline my inbox. Below are three tools I use to help manage the fire hose of digital information and not become overwhelmed.
1. Boomerang for scheduling emails.
If you are well-versed in email marketing, you know that there is an optimal time to send an email, depending on who is getting it. In order to ensure your email is actually read, you need to send it when the recipient is most likely to read it.
I'm doing a disservice to my team when I send an email late in the evening to have something taken care of the next day. I'm sending it to get it off of my mind and to-do list, but in doing so, I create a problem. First, if unread that evening, it's likely to be buried in emails the following morning, and possibly overlooked. Second, if it is read, I'm unnecessarily driving up my employee's anxiety level with an email from the boss at night.
The solution is to crank out the email, and then queue it up with Boomerang to send first thing in the morning. I no longer have to remember to send the email in the morning, have less concern that the email will be buried in the employee's inbox, and don't ruin anyone's evening with an email request from the boss.
2. Pocket to stay organized.
At least 95 percent of my news and daily information consumption is online. I live and breathe a digital life, and yet, I have a serious challenge keeping up with the overflow of content. Every morning and evening, I go through my queue of content in Flipboard, Feedly, and Zite. Each article fits into one of three levels of valuation for me.
I read the headline, and if it's written well, even though I don't have an interest in the piece, I'll have enough information to acknowledge in conversation that I am aware of the topic. It's like knowing your baseball team won last night, but having no clue who had the game-winning hit. If my interest is piqued, I scan or read the article for more details.
Third, and most valuable, is an article I need to commit to memory. Unfortunately, my brain has limited capacity, so like the days of clipping newspaper articles, I need to store the piece for future retrieval. For this, I use Pocket, which is part personal archive, part digital memory and extremely effective. My content is tagged with terms like "infosec," "leadership," or "media trends" and simple keyword searches allow me to refer back to my digital memory without having to recall specific details.
3. CloudMagic to find and retrieve information.
If you don't work for one of the five million organizations currently using Google Apps, then you're without the inbox search capabilities of Gmail. Too many people use their inboxes as catch-all storage repositories, only to find the search and retrieval process cumbersome, if not impossible. How frustrating is it knowing that you stored some digital notes about a client meeting, but you have no idea where. With CloudMagic, you have one interface to search through all of your personal data repositories like Gmail, Outlook, Evernote, Dropbox, Aol, and more.
The amount of information created will continue to grow exponentially. Without tools and technologies helping you cut through the digital noise, you will damage your ability to innovate and grow your business.
Don't let yourself to get bogged down. Organize and improve the structure of your digital communications with these three tools.
Tom Cochran is the deputy coordinator for platforms at the U.S. Department of State. In this role, he is responsible for the global infrastructure supporting U.S. embassy web sites and a network of 700 American Spaces for public diplomacy and engaging foreign audiences. His most recent previous positions have included chief technology officer at Atlantic Media and director of new media technologies at the White House.