Last month I shared the applications I use to help succeed with the “Getting Things Done” system. In this post I am going share other applications I use on a regular basis to increase my efficiency. As I said last week, these are just the tools I have actually found to work – tools I have incorporated into a system that actually has improved my efficiency. There are many tools out there that I am sure work in theory (Everynote comes to mind) that I haven’t been able to make work in practice. Please feel free to share your successes in the comments below.
Transportation: Uber, Lyft, Flywheel, Tripit
I’m still amazed that everyone isn’t using Uber (or at least everyone who lives in an Uber-allowed city that owns a smartphone). It’s 25% cheaper than taxis and a heck of a lot more convenient. If that wasn’t enough, the cars and nicer and the drivers are more pleasant. Taxis are going the way of the dodo.
When UberX isn’t available I will use Lyft. Lyft is as good a product as Uber, but generally, in my unscientific estimations, their time to pick-up is significantly slower. One advantage of Lyft is they can pick you up at the Seattle airport. UberX can’t do that for some reason.
Rarely I will use Flywheel. Flywheel is a taxi-company’s answer to Uber. It works the same way (almost) but with slightly higher charges – including a $1 flat charge MORE than if you picked up the phone! The $1 Charge goes to the provider of the app obviously and no account was made of the ‘savings’ from avoiding the dispatch costs. Sometimes I will actually pay the $1 because the dispatch experience is so terrible (I’ve seen a 4 minute pick-up time on Flywheel. Then I called the dispatch and was told it would be 30 minutes. I assume they were giving the fare to a friend).
The other travel app I have become increasingly reliant on is Tripit. Tripit automatically picks up all travel emails for you and both puts them into the app in a nice summary format, and adds them to your calendar. With one click you can share trips with friends. And if it misses the trip for some reason (it happens sometimes) you just forward the confirmation email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it fixes the itinerary. Fantastic product. There is a paid version but I use the free one and have never looked back.
LinkedIn is getting better and better as a mini-CRM tool. It’s definitely not all the way there, but they are allowing start-ups to link into their APIs and that has created some real innovation in the space. Even with a lot of looking I haven’t found the mini-CRM I think I want (I’ve sketched it out. Maybe I will get it built myself someday). In the meantime, here are the applications I use on a daily basis:
This is a simple chrome extension for Gmail. It pulls in LinkedIn and Facebook information (including pictures) into your gmail account so you can see it at a glance when you are reading or writing messages. A simple, ‘nice to have’.
EasilyDo is an iPhone app that bills itself as a complete CRM tool. It’s not that, but it does have some really nice intuitive features. Here is what I use it for:
- It scans your email every day and gives you lists of people that are not in your address book. You can add them with about 3-clicks
- In that same email scan it will find people who ARE in your address book and find new information to add (phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses). It’s a really smart feature that works. Again: Click three times and the info is added to your existing contact
- It also goes through your address book on an ad hoc basis and finds duplicate accounts. With a few clicks you can merge those accounts into single accounts. A godsend.
- The above three options require a fair amount of clicking to do at scale. They also have a paid version that does all three automatically. It’s likely worth paying for, but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet
- Other smaller features include:
- You can set automatic SMS to go out under specific conditions. I have it SMS my wife if I leave the office after 5pm, letting her know I’ve left (and am ‘likely’ coming home)
- It feed in local events you can check out or delete with an easy swipe. I’m not a sports fan, but I like that it feeds me the local sports schedule so I know to avoid traffic on specific days/times
- It feeds in any events you get on facebook and allows you to add them to your calendar
- It has its own ‘newsfeed’. It shows only the stuff that it thinks you will find most interesting from facebook. It’s like a ‘best of’ to cover friends getting married, giving birth, getting new jobs, etc.
- It also has a daily facebook picture highlights. It just pulls the top pictures from your facebook graph you can look through very quickly and then swipe away
- It pulls in your tracking codes for any deliveries. It pulls in travel itineries. It pulls in OpenTable reservations.
- It gives you the weather and expected travel time from your home to work (if it’s that time of day) or work to home (at the end of the day)
- It has other features too, but I haven’t fully explored the app beyond those listed above
This is another simple application. It connects to your LinkedIn account. Then it scourers the web looking for news stories on anyone you are connected to on LinkedIn. It is fun to read about news generated from my friends and acquaintances (and another reason I don’t accept strangers or “Twitter friends” into my LinkedIn network).
I love this application. When you sign-up (it’s free) it scans your inbox for automated emails. It shows you every mailing list you are on. Then you just scan the list and choose one of three options for each:
- Stay Subscribed
The first two options alone are fantastic. It’s the easiest way to mass-unsubscribe to all those things you keep meaning to. The third option is added brilliance. There are lots of mailing lists I don’t want clogging my inbox, but I’m not ready to fully unsubscribe. Roll-up is the answer. I get a roll-up email daily (you can choose the frequency). The roll-up email has screenshots of all the mailing lists I have ‘rolled-up’. Instead of getting a dozen emails a day, I get one with 12 emails inside it. If I am interested in that particular ‘inside email’, I can click through and read the entire thing.
That daily roll-up email also tells you if Roll-up has found any new mailing lists you have subscribed to (or more likely have recently sent you something that it did not pick up before). Every week or so I go on and do a mass subscribe/unsiubscribe/roll-up of anything it’s found that week.
Even though I have an iPhone and Apple Maps is the default application when I click on an address in my calendar, I use Google Maps almost exclusively. I find it’s significantly more accurate. The only exception is Waze (An Israeli company that has been purchased by Google). Waze crowdsources traffic patterns to give you real-time suggestions to change your route to avoid traffic. It’s great in theory, and my friends in LA love it, but it has issues in Seattle (I think due to not enough people crowdsourcing for it). It will often send you on a 1-block detour that I’m pretty sure saves no time at all. One time in really bad traffic (on a roadtrip to a comedy concert) it started sending us back and forth on the same road. I think it’s best use in a city like Seattle is coming home from a long weekend when you are trying to figure outwhich highway to take, or whether you should hop off the highway to take the back roads.
If you haven’t read my Twitter Follow/Followback policy I suggest you do so now (It’s the most popular thing I’ve ever written according to my analytics).
Okay. You are back. Here are applications I use to manage my twitter account.
There are lots of Twitter applications that help you spread your tweets out over time. Buffer is my preference mainly because it’s so easy. I pay for their premium membership which lets me ‘buffer’ up to 199 tweets. It also lets me link a half-dozen or so social media accounts, so I use it for Facebook and LinkedIn as well.
Here is how it works:
You create a posting timeline for each of your social media accounts. I post 3-times per day on Twitter, once a day on Facebook and LinkedIn. I’ve changed that frequency over time. It’s largely based on how much interesting content I find on an average day I want to share. Turns out that’s a little more than 3/day on Twitter, which has let me build up a ‘buffer’ of almost 200 tweets. (I’ve hit the 199 cap twice). On Facebook I restrict it to once a day mainly because I think that’s the most my friends really want to hear from me regarding interesting web content.
Anytime I find something interesting I link to it in a tweet on BufferApp.com (desktop) or on my iPhone app (phone). Sometimes I can do it within an application (Like Feedly – see below). If I think the tweet is not ‘topical’ (i.e., it’s not particularly relevant right now – say I found data on the lineage of Ghengis Khan) then I put it at the end of my queue. If it has something to do with recent news (or say it’s Halloween-related near the end of October) then I put it in the front of the queue. Buffer makes it easy to do both.
I tend to do my reading in clumps. BufferApp allows me to spread out that content over time in my twitter feed rather that throwing it all at my readers at the sametime.
BufferApp has a free option, but it limits you to about a dozen tweets in your feed. I pay them $10 a month or so to get a feed of 199 tweets.
ManageFlitter and TribeBoost
I’ve spoken at length about ManageFlitter and Tribeboost in my Twitter post (but you’ve already read that, right?). When I began follow/unfollowing folks in my space I started with ManageFlitter. When I got to scale (~3000 followers) I started working with Tribeboost. At about 10,000 followers, Tribeboost capped out at following 600 people per day. At that point I ramped back up Manageflitter as a supliment. I now follow 600/day with Tribeboost (completely automatic, ~$100/month) and 300/day with Manageflitter (I have to create the lists for them to follow – I do that with their “Power” Tool) (~$60/month). Unfortunately there is no way to automate the unfollowing with ManageFlitter if I continue to use Tribeboost (the systems don’t talk to each other so Manageflitter would end up unfollowing people immediately after they are followed by Triabeboost).
My solution is not ideal. I manually go in about once a week and unfollow the people I have followed with ManageFlitter that have not followed back. It means giving those folks well over a week to follow-back (I generally like to give a week), and clicking about 2000 times a week. Painful, but I’ll do it with two screens open, so I’m multitasking and clicking doesn’t take much brainpower. Given the delays it means I end up following a LOT of people who aren’t following me back – even after a week. I can get away with it because my follower count is high enough now, but this method wasn’t really feasible until I got to about 10-15K followers and had a lot of businesses following me (which I don’t automatically follow-back) which gave me ‘room’ in my account.
I’m not sure this tool is good to use, but I haven’t stopped yet. Basically you give them a a list of hashtags. They automatically favorite tweets for me with those hashtags. It gives me a booked-mark list of a lot of interesting content. It has the added benefit that some people will follow you after you favorite their tweet (a little less than 10%). This is why I only pro-actively follow ~900/day. Since you are capped at 1000/day, the extra 100 gives me room to follow-back any real people who follow me due to the book-marking.
Because I follow-back I follow a lot of people (18K as of this writing). Since I tend to follow people who are in the marketing and data analytics space, my tweet stream is surprisingly good. But sometimes I want to read a subset of the stream – say people I know in real life, or mass media agencies, etc. For that I create lists. Echofon is what I use to read the streams from these different lists (it amazes me that this is not built into the base Twitter ap!). I’m sure there are better solutions for this and that Echofon could do a lot more for me if I let it, but thisis what I do right now and it seems to work.
I’m sure this app does a lot too. I use it for one thing. Every day it sends me an email with a list of everyone who has followed or unfollowed me. It gives me some basic metrics on how I’m doing. I can take the two lists and subtract one from the other to see what my net gain is. I can look at my gross gain and see if whatever recent technique I used worked (or whether that tweet I made that went mini-viral had any impact). And I can scan the ‘unfollows’ to see if there were any real people on there to get an idea if I offended anyone (It’s almost always spammers and companies that unfollow me). Handy I guess but hardly necessary.
I use Socialoomph to schedule posts about my blog. Whenever I write something new (like this post), I hop onto my Socialoomph account. I schedule a tweet saying something like, “New Marketing is Easy Post: Applications I Use”. I schedule it for the day after the blog post is scheduled to go live. Then I start scheduling more. Out of my 20K+ Twitter followers on average one of my tweets is seen by about 2000 people. So I Tweet about the same post many times – once a day in fact. I schedule the tweets to go out every 25 hours (so a slightly different time each day). Each tweet is unique. I work my way through the post on one screen and SocialOomph on the other screen. When I read something in the post I think might be interesting to some people, I write a tweet about it. I repeat through the entire article. When I get to the end of the article, I’m done. Sometimes that takes 3 tweets (and 3 days) sometimes it takes 60 (and two months).
I’m often asked how I find the content I tweet about (or talk about to my friends, “How do you know that!?!?” is a common refrain…). Here is how I do it:
Reddit is awesome. Lots of people from around the world crowdsourcing the coolest stuff. I read it almost exclusively on my iPhone with the AlienBlue app. I paid for the premium version ($2 one-time charge) but I am not sure what it gets me. I’m happy to give them the $2. It’s worth it.
If you don’t use Reddit, your first experience can be terrible. You start with their default ‘subReddits’. Some are fine, but they likely aren’t the things you are most interested in. The other issue is the subReddits often get dumbed-down vs the specialized ones with more engaged readership. Sometimes a SubReddit will move from non-default to default and you can actually see the decline in quality (DataIsBeautiful is an example. I shared a LOT of content from that subReddit before it was default, and very little afterwards).
Here are some of the subReddits I subscribe to that I will sometimes pull content from for my Twitter feed:
For my own personal enjoyment I read:
/MarvelStudios (updates on what Disney is doing with the Marvel properties)
/TheWalkingDead (commentary after each episode)
It took me a long time to get an RSS reader. It’s changed the way I consume content. Feedly is amazing as a desktop application, and even better as an iPhone app. I subscribe to blogs and then swipe through their headlines inside the app. When I see something interesting I click through to read it. If I think it’s worth sharing I can even send it to buffer without leaving Feedly. It is likely my most-used app on my phone (maybe more than email and twitter)
Here are some blogs I subscribe to (only listing the ones that get updated regularly. Others like Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis are subscribed to as well, but they rarely have new content):
Datablog (The Guardian)
Information is Beautiful
The New Yorker
Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen)
Dilber Blog (Scott Adams)
Slate Star Codex (a new favorite!)
I also follow about a dozen SEO blogs. Most of the content they share is junk, but I keep it in one folder on my Feedly and scan it from time to time. If anything really important comes up in the SEO space it will be surfaced here and I’d rather not miss it.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. I don’t listen to music when I run, instead I take in podcast content. I run about 6-7 hours a week. That’s enough for me to stay updated on this list:
This American Life
Tim Ferris Podcast
Startup (New. I’m liking it. By one of the reporters from TAL and Planet Money)
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (Excellent. But LONG. 3h+ podcasts the come out once every quarter or so)
I go back and forth on how “into” self-tracking I am. For a while I went in deep. Then I lost a lot of data and got discouraged. I will get back into it in the new year I think. Without going into too much details, here is what I have used
The best way to track things during the day (or at the end of the day, or the start of the day). Simple and easy to use. And very customizable. I created tracking questions like, “How well did you eat today ranking from 1-5”, and “What dreams do you remember from last night” and “What did you eat since your last report”
I use the Force (from before it was recalled). It’s my watch and step counter. It’s a slight motivation to walk a littlemore than I otherwise would if I wasn’t tracking.
iPhone app I used to take a picture of my wife every day as she got more pregnant. Then I lost all the data. I now have a better way to back it all up (i.e., I pay Apple $2/month). Will try again taking a daily picture of my baby girl when she arrives.
It plugs into your car and tracks everywhere you go – and how good your driving is. It also helps you find your car when you can’t remember where you parked…
I don’t care about the games, but it’s an easy way to keep track of the restaurants I have eaten at if I want to find them again. It also has some nice food recommendations. More actionable than Yelp when you are already at the restaurant and are trying to figure out what to order.
I use TomTom for running. It’s not great, but it tracks heart rate better than other things out there (from the wrist). And the GPS is pretty good. Biggest issue I have with it is it sometimes takes a few minutes to find a satellite. Which wouldn’t be too bad, but you can’t even start the timer part until it’s found a safelight. I don’t have the patience to wait, so I start running and then have to estimate how long it took to find a satellite if I want to run a specific length of time (as I often do)
I’m not sure where these fit in, so I am including them all at the end
Courier delivery on demand. Love these guys. I pay about $3 for them to deliver Chipotle to my office for lunch. I’ve also used them to buy me a pair of jeans from Banana Republic, and pick up a 2L bottle of Coke from the convenience store for my wife at 2am. It’s like a TaskRabbit that actually works. (Bonus App: Chipotle app lets me pre-order my lunch for pick-up)
Took me a while to get on the password protection train, but it was well worth it. I have double authentication on my Gmail and financial accounts. For everything else I use Dashlane. I need to remember my (very complicated) Dashlane password. Then Dashlane manages everything else for me. When I create a new account I click a button and Dashlane creates a ridiculous password (Something like: Fgj33^53ndq@#4T). It is built into my phone and browser, so when I go back to a site, Dashlane automatically populates the password for me. So simple. I pay about $20 a year I think. Bought three years in advance.
Kayak and Zillow
These are my go-tos for finding travel options and real estate respectively. Both have done a very good job and (at least for now) stand head and shoulders over the other options in the space.
That’s it for now. As I add new Apps I will come back to this post to update the list. Are there apps you like a lot that aren’t here? Please comment below – and describe HOW you use them. The how is as valuable as the what I’ve found with these products.