Sometimes it feels like we are living in an age of lists: maybe it is the shortening attention span of modern humans or maybe it is just that lists have an innate value as collections of items that have an immediacy built right in (lists are meant to be checked off, after all). Whatever the reason, I consume them a lot on LinkedIn and numerous business publications…and now I’m making one too. This is my list of five things that make my (work)life better:
- Mobile Day: A few years ago, a friend of mine at the agency where I was working, told me about this app and I’ve been happily, eagerly encouraging people to use it ever since. It is a powerful tool wrapped in a simple concept: for many of us, our cell phone is our work phone and we spend upwards of 50% of our days on conference calls. A minor annoyance, pre-Mobile Day, was finding the dial in number for all of those calls and then ensuring that we didn’t make any typos while dialing. The beauty of Mobile Day is that, once it is installed on your cell phone, it synchs with whatever calendars you want it to and collects all of the conference details embedded within the invites. With one touch, I can dial in to a call and not have to worry that I’ll get the numbers wrong. I don’t have to scramble around looking for the invite. It just does it. It will also connect you to online meetings and store your own dial in info if you want to setup or start a call of your own. I swear this app saves at least two hours of time each week for me (maybe that’s a bit dramatic – but the point is I love it!).
- Smartsheet: As a project manager, I am fairly expert at using Microsoft Project and I’ve never liked it as a tool. It is super counterintuitive and clunky and it doesn’t do a number of basic things you’d expect it to. Not only that, but it doesn’t really work on Macs. Enter Smartsheet. This cloud-based management tool is one of my favorite discoveries of the past year. I love it so much, that I’ve rolled it out at Valtech as our project management tool of record. We use it for creating project plans, status reports, risk logs, managing resources, tracking financials, estimating scope, and a lot more. I love that it is cloud based, which means it works on all devices, that it allows for sharing (to registered users) and publishing (for non-registered users, like clients), exporting in different formats (excel, PDF, PNG, MPP), powerful conditional formatting, webforms, inline discussions, reminders, alerts, permissioned users, workgroups and a ton more. It is intuitive and powerful. It has a few kinks that still need to be worked out (like merging cells – a big frustration of mine), but it is on its way to becoming the best project management tool out there. It also has a very good app for your phone so you can keep track of projects on the go. If you are annoyed with MS Project or want a tool that works in the cloud, this is the one. Trust me.
- HBR: There is a lot of hot air in the world of business journalism, but the Harvard Business Review really has it figured out. This is one subscription that I can say has definitely been worth it. From in-depth articles about adapting a business strategy to a global context, to short profiles (and even lists) of key thinkers, I find something sharable and useful pretty much every day. I subscribe to the print publication, but I mostly read it online. I like getting the paper copy so I can have it sitting on my desk to encourage me to dive in at moments when I am in need of inspiration, or when I happen to have a bit of (gasp) spare time. Don’t believe me? Read this article.
- Crain’s Morning Ten: Crain’s is the old-school NY business publication of record. I remember getting it delivered as far back as the beginning of my career in media back when I was a video game producer. It was oversized then and filled with short articles and profiles about the latest goings on in the business word – who was buying who, who was doing poorly, whose new strategy was blowing everyone away. Now, I read it online and subscribe to a few of their daily emails. My favorite is the morning ten, which includes a list of the top ten most interesting/important things of the day. Today, for instance, the coverage ranged from news that Crumbs will have a new owner, to Macy’s racial suit, to Condé Nast selling Fairchild to more details about Uber’s decision to hire David Ploufe. It’s a fast, helpful read.
- My Headphones: I couldn’t survive without a good pair of headphones. I’ve tried in-ear and over ear and have found that for my particular ears, a comfy set of Harmon Kardon’s are the best bet. They sound great, fold neatly into a carrying case, have a detachable cord, and the built in microphone works extremely well with all of my (mac) gadgets. Combined with Mobile Day, these bad boys make my life a lot better. I look a little silly wearing them, but I look silly anyway 😉
- Builtwith: I only found out about this utility a few weeks ago, which makes me a little behind the curve I think, but I’m finding it extremely helpful. You simply enter in a URL and it tells you what the technology stack is that supports the specific website. Handy when you want to know what a potential client has in place!
- Pangea Sweet Orange and Fennel Lip Balm: Okay, I know this might seem odd, but working in an air-conditioned office can result in very dry lips. I’ve tried them all – Kiehls, Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, Malin + Goetz – but this stuff is by far the best. It works, it smells good, and it lasts forever. Buy it now.
- Postmates: NY is a city powered on getting whatever you want, whenever you want it, wherever you are. For a long time, bike couriers have been a big part of this ecosystem. Recently, Postmates launched in NY – which is a bit like UBER for bike messengers. You simply type in what you want (a cable from the apple store, a shirt in a specific size from a store, whatever!), and a bike messenger accepts your job quoting you a price. All of your details are stored, so you simply explain what you want in the app and schedule it. Depending on how complex the item is, or how far away, it comes right to your door. This is great when you are having an insanely busy day and need that silly thing that is stopping you from getting your work done. Simply genius.
Those are my eight favorite things recently that make my work life a bit better. Check them out and let me know what tools, sites, gadgets, etc you are in love with lately.