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New Tools for the New Year: Technology

New Tools for the New Year: Technology

    There’s nothing like getting ready to start a new year and making sure that all of your ducks are in a row, especially when it comes to the technology tools that you are going to use. We are strong believers here at Lifehack of trying not to follow the “shiny new thing” and stick with tools that we can learn and trust over the long term. Most of the tools that I am recommending for the new year have been around for a while, but it just shows that they are tried and true, and if you haven’t made the switch or started using them in some fashion, then maybe the beginning of the new year is time to do it.

    Productivity apps you need

    There are several productivity apps that you should have ready to go for the coming year. We highly recommend picking a set of tools and sticking to them, but at the bare minimum you will need a way to track projects and create and edit documents (presentations and spreadsheets too), and keep track of notes and information.

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    For project and action managers, we can’t recommend Toodledo, Remember The Milk, OmniFocus, or Asana enough. OmniFocus is the only one that is Mac only (but probably the best on the Mac) while the other are web based and have access via your mobile device (iPhone and Android apps).

    For editing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations you don’t have to go much further than using Google Docs. Google’s awesome set of online tools coupled with about 8GB of free storage is definitely enough to get a lot of your work done, not to mention collaborate with others. If you are in the camp of wanting to create documents locally, then you may want to hunker down and buy a license for Microsoft Office (either for Windows or Mac or both). Yet, if you aren’t willing to pay the hefty fee for Office, then try out OpenOffice.org (for all platforms).

    For taking notes we recommend Evernote. Seriously, if you aren’t using this cross-platform tool for taking notes and storing snippets of information with its suite of apps, then you need to stop reading, get an account now, and start making your life easier by using it. If you are a plain-text-lover (like me and Mike), you can augment Evernote with the use of a ton of plain text apps like:

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    Oh, and start using Markdown.

    Paperless tools

    I told a co-worker who has been working in the insurance field for 20+ years that I was going paperless this year. He reluctantly reminded me that he has heard that one since the 80s. But, I am going to make a concerted effort to get as close as possible to paperless, but not without the proper tools.

    A good paper scanner is important to keep all of your paper out of cabinets and into a digital system. I have to recommend either the ScanSnap S1500 or on the less feature-rich and price side the portable ScanSnap S1300. Both are sheet-fed and duplex scanners that definitely are reliable and get the job done. You could also give a try to the newer Doxie or Doxie Go that offers non-duplex scanning but in a tiny, portable package. The prices for the Doxie is definitely nice starting at $149.99.

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    After you get a good scanner you will need a way to store all of your documents. Our preference is using an Evernote account (possibly updating to Evernote Premium) and using Evernote’s great OCR search, tagging, and sorting capabilities to keep everything organized. Also, if you aren’t comfortable with storing everything in the cloud you could role your own system or use tools such as Microsoft OneNote or DEVONthink for Mac.

    Store and backup

    Dropbox is another app that is so important and useful that if you don’t have it in your arsenal of tools then you need to drop everything and go get an account (kind of like Evernote above). Dropbox has been moved from “just an awesome app that I love to use” to an app that is essential for my work. I keep all my important files in Dropbox, share documents with co-workers, upload/offload pictures and video, share TextExpander snippets, use it for storage for apps like 1Password and others. It’s my portable, digital file system.

    Also, if you aren’t backing up your computer regularly then you are somewhat insane. It’s part of a knowledge worker’s responsibility to keep her data intact and there is no better way I have found this year than doing so with services like Carbonite, Mozy, or even something like SuperDuper! for Mac that makes a clone of your bootable drive so you don’t lose anything important.

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    Conclusion

    Using iron clad technology tools for the new year is the only way to ensure that you are ready to be and stay productive. While there may be new tools and technologies that come and go, we feel that the apps, services, and products recommended above are here for the long term. Learning to utilize a strong set of tools that are reliable will not only help you into 2012, but may last many years down the road.

    (Photo credit: Hand pushing a button via Shutterstock)

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

    Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

    Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

    In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

    1. ScheduleOnce

      ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

      ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

      ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

      Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

      Available on Web

      2. Calendly

        Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

        You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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        Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

        3. Assistant.to

          For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

          From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

          While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

          Available on Web

          4. Acuityscheduling

            Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

            It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

            Available on Web | iOS | Android

            5. Pick

              Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

              At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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              Available on Web

              6. X.ai

                For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

                This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

                Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

                Available on Web

                7. YouCanBook.me

                  is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                  They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                  Available on Web

                  8. Doodle

                    Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                    It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                    You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                    While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                    Available on Web | iOS | Android

                    9. WhenAvailable

                      WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                      Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                      Available on Web

                      10. Rally

                        Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                        Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                        Available on Web

                        11. NeedtoMeet

                          Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                          NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                          While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                          Available on Web

                          Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                          In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                          To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                          Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                          A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                          Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                          If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                          Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                          With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                          The Bottom Line

                          Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                          Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                          Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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