4 cool tools to help you manage your week better

While technology is supposed to make our lives easier, at times it can feel like it’s made our work lives far more complicated (hello, email overload). But there are plenty of techy tools that will truly help you manage your work life more smoothly.

1. Mailbox: Take more control over your email

“While we can’t get away from email,” say the makers of the app Mailbox, “we can change how we interact with it. We can put email in its place.” The app – available for OSX, iPhone, iPad, and Android – lets you postpone email messages to deal with later. If you receive an email that you want to reply to at some point but can’t answer immediately, you can swipe to the left and schedule a time for the email to pop back up in your inbox – keeping your focus on the messages that are important now, while ensuring you don’t forget about the others. This functionality means that you can easily delay that email from your mom until tonight or have a message from your boss that you receive late on Friday pop up at the top of your inbox Monday morning.

2. Boomerang: Even more control over how you use email

Ever wished that you could write an email but schedule it to send at some later time? Or wish for a  magical assistant to remind you when you’ve neglected to get back to someone or when you still haven’t heard back about a request you’ve sent? If so, you’ll love Boomerang, which is a Firefox/Chrome browser plugin for Gmail or Google Apps accounts. (There’s also a paid version for Outlook.)

Boomerang lets you schedule emails to send at a later date and time; schedule a time for an email to bump back up to the top of your inbox to remind you to follow up or take other action; and even set it to remind you when you send an email and don’t hear back.

3. Cut down on scheduling back-and-forth

If you spend too much time dealing with back and forth while trying to schedule meetings, consider using a self-scheduling program like Timestamp or Acuity. Both let you save time by having others book time with you from a web interface that syncs with your calendar, shows what time you do and don’t have available, and gets it all confirmed for you. Acuity also includes features like limiting the number of appointments booked in a single day and automatically emailing reminders ahead of time.

4. Easily make quick screencasts

Have you ever tried to explain something to someone in another offer and been frustrated that you couldn’t show them your computer screen? Enter Jing, an free tool for quickly making screencasts that you can then share with colleagues. You can record up to five minutes of all or part of your computer screen, and share the video when it’s complete. You can even add arrows or highlight parts of the screen. It’s super useful if you want to demonstrate how to use software or help troubleshoot a technical issue.

I’d love to hear recommendations for other tools you like too.

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase. 

{ 31 comments… read them below }

  1. CTO*

    I started using Boomerang recently and have been sharing it with my coworkers as well. It’s really helped me track a ton of different little tasks. I particularly use it for keeping track of responses to things I send out–if I don’t hear back from someone, I can schedule Boomerang to remind me of that down the road so I can follow up. It’s also handy for those scheduled emails, like event reminders or agendas, that I can write anytime and then schedule to send a few days before the event.

  2. OhNo*

    I’m a big fan of Jing. I learned how to use it as part of a class, and I’ve found it very helpful for explaining how to do things when words and screenshots alone won’t suffice. I’m actually planning to use it to create some training materials soon – we’ll see how that goes!

    1. hayling*

      Isn’t it great!?

      I work in software so I am often pointing out errors and things that need to be changed in our product or on our website. So much easier to do with a quick screenshot. I love that you can share them to the web too.

    2. GTA*

      I’ve used Jing to create screencasts as a mode of grading my students’ writing, and they love it because it’s like having a one-on-one conference, and it’s easy to see exactly what part of the essay I’m talking about. (Plus the enforced 5 minute recording limit keeps me from spending forever on grading!)

      It’s actually become more valuable this year since I started teaching a class in multimodal composition–how else would you comment on a photoessay, or a website?

      1. OhNo*

        I always seem to run into trouble with the 5 minute limit – which is actually great, because it means I’m forced to practice being succinct.

        1. Jessica (the celt)*

          I love Screencast-O-Matic for this reason. The free version has a 15-minute limit, which means that some of my work tutorials can include all of the steps to help my coworkers with future tasks.

  3. Cherry Scary*

    Mailbox was the best app I could have asked for. Just wish my work email worked with it (oh Outlook…)

    As for other tools: I use GTDNext’s web app to track tasks and projects. Keeps me organized!

    1. louise*

      Hadn’t heard of GTDNext but just went to check it out and signed up! It looks cool so far, I think I’ll like it better than the Word to-do list I currently use. Thanks for the heads up!

      1. Cherry Scary*

        I love having the different “areas” that you can categorize into. Makes it really easy for me to see how my time breaks down.

  4. Stephanie*

    I like Unroll.me for my personal email. It lets me group email digests, subscriptions, promotions all into one daily digest and lets me unsubscribe from things. My inbox is a lot less cluttered with it.

  5. JMegan*

    I’m a big fan of Evernote for capturing all kinds of notes, ideas, web pages, to-do lists, reminders, etc. It’s cloud-based, so you can access it from any device, even if you don’t have the app installed. But if you do install the app, my favourite thing is the Quick Reminder widget – you can set any reminder for any day and time, and you’ll get a notification for it. So if you suddenly remember that you have to call the dentist just as you’re sitting down in a movie theatre, you set yourself a reminder and it pops up again at a more convenient time.

    1. littlemoose*

      I don’t use Evernote a lot for work, but I use it personally for all kinds of stuff. My favorite feature is the Evernote Clipper browser extension. You install it on your browser and then you can clip webpages to Evernote in various formats – simplified article, entire article, etc. It’s the digital equivalent of tearing out a magazine page and saving it. I use it for recipes and cleaning tips, and (brownnoser alert) I clip AAM articles (and occasionally others) that I save in a notebook called Work Advice. That way I can save a particularly interesting or applicable article/blog post and look at it in its entirety from my phone, iPad or laptop. I know I sound like a commercial, but I just love that feature!

  6. hayling*

    I had used Boomerang a long time ago but forgot about it. I actually just installed it on my work computer a few days ago! Super helpful. I have been scheduling a bunch of calls with customers and I set a reminder email to go out the morning of the meeting.

  7. Sascha*

    Does anyone use anything for personal project management? I would like a program to help me keep track of all the projects I work on – but I don’t need a big,bulky PM system. Most of what I have found are for tracking big projects with budgets and multiple teams, etc. I really just need something that’s a step up from using an Excel spreadsheet. I want to capture the details of the project, timelines, contacts, and have the ability to make notes easily when I do something on that project. Thanks for your suggestions!

    1. No Namer*

      Try todoist.com. I recently started using it and it is great. It also now works with IFTTT which is awesome and it works on phone, computer, etc.

    2. Midge*

      I use the project features in Asana all the time at work, but I bet it would be great for personal projects as well.

  8. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Google is currently in the by-invitation-only stage of something they’re calling Inbox. It’s available as an app for iOS and Android as well as a web version for laptop/desktop use. It includes a lot of the features mentioned in the Fast Track article and by commenters here:

    * You can “snooze” emails – they vanish from your inbox temporarily and reappear, at the top of the stack, at whatever time you said – which is useful for things like “I want to watch this video when I get home” or “I need to get in touch with Elsa if that package doesn’t arrive by Tuesday”
    * Some emails are bundled together in categories like “Social” (default includes things like Facebook and Twitter) or “Travel” (emails from airlines, etc.) – plus you can make your own bundles
    * Previews of things like photos, videos, etc. appear without opening the email, so you can see at a glance what it’s about

    It’s still invite-only, but I managed to get an invite and I’m liking it! Unfortunately, I can only use it in my personal life because my workplace uses this clunky, ugly, email-for-schools software that doesn’t play well with other programs.

  9. ProductiveDyslexic*

    I love WorkFlowy. It’s a nested to do list. I use it for everything, both work and personal, and have it on my phone and laptop.

    I also like KanbanFlow for visualizing workflow.

  10. QK*

    When I saw the blurb here (before the jump to Fast Track), I was like, “oh have a got a tool to suggest, Boomerang is the greatest!”. Glad to see it made the list. :)

    I’ll have to check out Jing; it may help solve some current challenges at work.

  11. voluptuousfire*

    I definitely recommend Boomerang. I use it to send out thank you emails to interviewers. I don’t always remember to do it so I set it so that the emails are sent the day after the interview. It helps so much.

  12. Jillociraptor*

    Jing is a lifesaver. It’s also great for taking screenshots without having to print screen and then crop for just the relevant stuff.

    1. Monika*

      For screenshots I’m using GreenShot. What I like best is the portablility, you don’t need to install it. In quite a few companies you aren’t allowed to install stuff on your work computer. The downside is, it’s Windows only.

  13. Ruthan*

    Does everyone else know about Trello already? I love it for tracking tasks that go through multiple phases — especially because I can make a column for “things I’m actually working on RIGHT NOW” and thus separate out the parts of my to do list that I actually mean to be doing from the ones that are on hold.

  14. Vicki*

    For Mac and iPad users who like to take notes, I recommend Circus Ponies Notebook, an electronic notebook with the appearance of paper. :-)

    It has check boxes, action items, date stamps, outlining, page rearrangement, automatic indexing, find & replace, diagramming tools, “stickies”, voice annotation, PDF annotation,… pretty much everything you could possibly wish for in a notebook and probably a few things you never thought of. I use it for everything.


    1. Vicki*

      Also an excellent Support team that never begins a conversation with the words “I understand that you’re having trouble using…”

  15. Julia*

    I love the Rapportive Gmail plugin. It lets you know if any social media accounts are connected to the email address you type in, so you can ensure that you are emailing the correct person. Or, if you’re emailing a hiring manager or possible client you can see their social accounts and get to know them a little better before reaching out. I rely on it so much I sometimes forget it doesn’t just come automatically with Gmail.

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