5 Tech Tools for Digital Sanity
Every week I hear about folks discussing, testing, and promoting various tech tools that will, supposedly, improve our digital lives: whether wearable tech like Google Glass, tools like Topsy, or social networks, like ello or Peach. And let’s face it: we probably spend more time playing with these shiny objects than we benefit from in utilizing them.
I am not immune to Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS). While it may vary in usage, let’s simply define SOS as the distraction by the latest and “greatest” new tool, topic or process.
For me, it’s often technology.
I love new technology, I love playing with emerging tools, and I love figuring out how different tools might be used in digital campaigns. I also acknowledge that there are more advancements in technology and emerging tools than I could possibly keep up with, and I imagine you might feel similarly overwhelmed.
Here are 5 tech tools I’m thrilled to have “wasted” my time with, as each has paid off in spades.
Full disclosure: Several tools recommended below currently only work with Gmail, Google Inbox and/or Google Apps. Also, some links may include referral codes that provide me with account upgrades, however I am not paid for any of these recommendations.
(Freemium: Core functionality with limited snoozing per month; starts at $9/month for additional features)
MixMax is similar to the Boomerang App (formerly Boomerang for Gmail + Boomerang Calendar), and yet so much more. Although billed as a productivity suite for sales, I’d argue it’s a more like a productivity suite for Gmail.
In addition to the email scheduling and email reminder functionality found in Boomerang, MixMax also has polls, surveys, templates, giphy integration, email read counts/notifications, and cloud integration with Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive, among other things. It’s also simply a cleaner integration.
How I use MixMax
- Providing 1-click-response scheduling directly in emails with my contacts. MixMax helps ensure I don’t double-book and limits the back-and-forth of email scheduling, including group scheduling.
- Group polling, which can be helpful beyond simple scheduling, such as choosing a type of restaurant or gathering answers from small groups of colleagues.
- Snoozing important emails that I can’t immediately get to but I don’t want to lose track of or to crowd up my inbox, such as emails related to meetings that I schedule to resurface just before a meeting or something that deserves my unfettered attention… tomorrow.
4. GIFs. Sometimes pictures can say more than words and Giphy integration provides for the quick and simple inclusion from thousands of GIFs to express any feeling you’re having.
Cons: No tool is without fault, and there are some issues users may have with MixMax, too. First, the free plan has limited functionality and usage limits, with premium plans starting at $9/month and quickly escalating. MixMax is also currently only available for Gmail and Google Inbox, and only on desktops. No mobile app.
x.ai — pronounced (ĕks)-(dŏt)-(ā)-(ī) — is an artificial intelligence powered personal assistant that schedules meetings via email.
Going by Amy or Andrew, x.ai allows you to set perimeters around the meetings you schedule (length, type, location, availability, etc) and then it schedules with your recipient(s) on your behalf, once prompted by an email CC.
x.ai is certainly a shiny object. It’s far from perfect, as I’ve learned when meeting invitees have replied confused over a) why we were scheduling happy hour drinks at 2pm in the afternoon, b) wanting to use different locations or phone numbers than x.ai provided, or c) when your invitee curses the AI (thanks, Joe Moran).
To their credit, the makers of x.ai have fully stated the tech is in beta. In fact, you can only request access as a beta user at this point. Even still, I’ve found by limiting my usage to those meetings that are the simplest of scheduling has saved me many an hour from the hell of “what days work best for you” email replies.
How I use x.ai
- Scheduling of simple 30 minute phone calls, particularly when the recipient’s response may be delayed or my otherwise provided availability may quickly change.
- Scheduling requests while using mobile. While I most often use MixMax to provide availability via email with one-click scheduling, there currently isn’t a mobile app or integration with my phone’s email apps. In these times x.ai has been very helpful in passing off scheduling duties while maintaining a clean inbox.
Cons: Currently only works with Google Calendars. As outlined above, x.ai is currently beta and not a perfect scheduling solution.
(Freemium: 3 documents per month for free; starts at $13/month unlimited)
HelloSign is an easy to digital signature tool with a extensions for integration with Gmail, Google Drive, DropBox, Box, OneCloud, Slack, Evernote, Hubspot and more.
HelloSign turns the process of printing, signing, and scanning documents into a simple click & sign in your email, cloud drive, or via the mobile app.
How I use HelloSign
- Signing contracts and completing PDF documents while traveling. It’s that simple. I did just this with a recent contract received while I was flying home. While I could have waited until I was home to print and sign, or even send it to my home printer to await my arrival, it was easier still to click the “sign” button overlaying the attached document directly in my email, insert my signature and return it via email reply in just a couple minutes.
Cons: Only 3 documents a month are offered in the free plan. This may be enough for you, or may be enough to supplement offline signing, but for many a paid plan will be needed to utilize.
Rapportive is a Chrome browser extension that pulls important LinkedIn data and displays inline within emails.
Although not as accurate as before LinkedIn purchased in 2014, this tool still saves me countless hours of looking up email recipients across LinkedIn and other social networks by displaying key user data alongside your email in browser.
How I use Rapportive:
- One-click connect with colleagues via LinkedIn.
- Although not as accurate (as it relies on user shared information within LinkedIn profiles versus an independent channel search), Rapportive does often provide quick links to the recipient’s Twitter account, which is a channel I frequently use.
- To recall a recipient’s job title, work history and/or shared connections.
- To lookup titles, bios and shared connections of those cc’d on emails whom I may not know.
Cons: Usage only via Desktop and Chrome browser. Since LinkedIn’s buyout, Rapportive no longer searches for profiles across each social network and instead relies on user provided information within LinkedIn profiles, which may be outdated or incomplete.
(Freemium: free for personal use, under 100 authentications/month; Starts as low as $0.09/authentication for unlimited usage and/or business-class functionality)
Authy is a two-factor authentication service for usage with Facebook, Gmail, Dropbox, or any account that supports Google Authenticator.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is the need for a time-sensitive code to be used when signing in to a service, in addition to your username or email and passcode.
Simply put, 2FA is a must have for anyone working with private information, such as client data, or who simply wants to better protect their online accounts. Although 2FA requires your time each use to lookup additional codes, the amount of time it saves in dealing with account hacks and data loss is priceless.
How I use Authy
- Authy provides an easy to use mobile App for iOS and Android, and desktop access for Windows, Mac, and Linux via the Chrome browser.
- One of my most used apps for the Apple Watch is Authy, allowing me to quickly access site-specific codes in a couple clicks, without pulling out my phone… even while flying, as Authy utilizes data services versus text messages.
Note: Authy is only as safe as access to it is limited. Be sure to fully utilize mobile, wearable, and desktop security options to limit access to Authy.
Cons: Requires time to setup each website, to use each login, and requires access to the Authy app via mobile, wearable or desktop in order to access connected websites and services. If you were to have your phone and desktop stolen, it may prove difficult and require work to regain access to connected accounts. Thankfully, similar difficulties should also prevent those with your stolen items from accessing any accounts, provided your stolen items are secured.
“Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
I’m always looking to learn from others, too. Do you have a tech tool that’s saved your digital sanity? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @ChrisTuttle.