My path to productivity

The apps that help me get stuff done — and stay sane.

A few months ago, Justin McElroy — co-host/co-brother of the incredible podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me — tweeted, “Ugh @FancyHands is the most ludicrously useful thing in the world.”

I figured out what Fancy Hands was and in an instant my life changed, a little. We’re not talking I’ll-tell-my-grandkids-about-this changed, but still. It was big.

You see, Fancy Hands is a personal assistant application. Their motto is, “Do what you love, we’ll do the rest.” You pay a monthly fee to have access to a set number of requests, and then you tell them what you need done, and an assistant somewhere in the world (most are U.S.-based) will make it happen. You enter your requests through their website or through the iPhone or Android app.

It’s that simple.

You’re thinking, “but I don’t need an assistant.” Of course you do. In the past two months, Fancy Hands assistants have spent 166 minutes on the phone on my behalf. Almost 2.8 hours.

My Fancy Hands stats, available in their great dashboard

They’ve placed 85 calls, calling my doctor, finding me products at the store, haggling with online merchants to send me my items faster, making sure sites will ship to Canada, making me reservations.

Not to mention the internet research: finding me gift ideas for friends, researching case studies for my work, researching management techniques to make me a better boss (well, they did what they could…), researched and priced honeymoon ideas, and so many more things.

I can’t begin to calculate what this has saved me, not just in time, or money, but stress. I’m a worrier. I stress about things like phone calls and to-do items. Fancy Hands takes that away.

Because I’m not just a worrier, I also have a horrible, horrible memory. So my life is a hilarious combination of being convinced I’ve forgotten something absolutely crucial, at all times. Fancy Hands has given me a piece of my life back, or perhaps one I never really had.

My upcoming to-do list

I also use the incredible TeuxDeux, a cloud-based to-do list app. It’s stupid simple, and it syncs between my iPhone and its website. Which means whenever I remember a task I need to do, or one of my coworkers or my fiancée asks me to do something — which I probably would have just forgotten about before — I put it in TeuxDeux, and it will stay as a to-do item, rolling over to the next day, until I complete it.

It also lets you add in recurring items easily, so I can never forget about filling in my timesheets, because it’s always there.

So now, every day, I check my TeuxDeux list and I immediately see which of the items Fancy Hands could do for me. Once Fancy Hands is on it, I either check it off my list, or edit the item to reflect that I’m waiting for a response from them.

One day I’ll likely “upgrade” to a dedicated virtual assistant, like my good friend Chris, but for now Fancy Hands does the trick.

I’ve also given my fiancée access to my TeuxDeux account (likely violating some TOS somewhere…) so she can put things on my to-list for me, so I don’t forget. Explaining to my employees that they can simply ask me to add something to TeuxDeux has also been very helpful. No hard feelings — everyone understands the best way to get the work done.

And that’s been a huge part of all of this journey, really: understanding how I think and behave and being okay with it. I worry too much, and that’s okay. I forget things, and that’s okay. I have systems in place to make things easier, and to help me focus on my real life, and my real work, and my friends and family.

Instead of just worrying.