Let’s face it, winning the Internet isn’t fit for the weak-hearted. For
people warriors that work in a “plugged-in” field, we’re constantly overwhelmed by our inboxes, overstimulated with real-time distractions and looking for ways to be more efficient online.
In addition to all of the kick-ass productivity tools outlined in Georgia’s post earlier this month, I have compiled a list of shortcuts that make world wide web domination achievable. Skeptical? Read on.
1. Keep your threads thin
The first shortcut comes from John Graham-Cumming, who opened my eyes to leaner, meaner email threads. Curious? Here’s how.
Normally, clicking “reply” or “reply all” automatically pastes the entire email thread into your email like this:
However, by only selecting a small paragraph and then clicking “reply,” you can control the text that’s included in your response. Delicious!
The short of it: Say sayonara to endless email scrolling, and only respond to the parts that matter with a lesser-known Gmail trick.
2. Set up email reminders and scheduling
Folders and filters are an effective way to manage noisy, frequent and less urgent communications, but sometimes I send something to a folder and forget it exists. Enter Boomerang, a plugin for Firefox and Chrome. Boomerang has a lot of features, including scheduling, response tracking and recurring messaging.
The Boomerang feature I like the most is the ability to bring a message back into your inbox if it goes unanswered for an adjustable period of time. For example, sometimes I’ll send a busy client a request, and they might need a nudge later in the week to respond. Since I don’t want the thread lingering in my inbox, I’ll file it away and Boomerang it for later. It’s a simple task that makes a big difference, and it works wonders for those of us that like to keep our inbox actionable.
The short of it: Use Boomerang to stay on top of emails that need following up while keeping your inbox organized.
3. Read everything in one place
I’ve always relied on my trusty Google Reader to keep me updated on my favorite blogs, but did you know that you can also monitor feeds for LinkedIn Answers, Quora, Facebook Pages, Twitter and Pinterest? How cool is that? Props to Courtney for this Marketing Land post that stepped up my RSS game.
When it comes to RSS, I also use the handy “Next” bookmarklet to browse throughout the day. After installing it in your browser of choice, just click “next” while logged in to the Google account associated with your Google Reader, and you’ll be taken to the most recently published post from your subscriptions.
The short of it: Go beyond blog RSS subscriptions, and get updates for Q&A sites and social media channels.
4. Share efficiently
Buffer has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and for good reasons. Basically, it’s a tool that lets you fill up a queue with updates from around the web to post throughout the day at predetermined times. Buffer automagically pulls in the title of the post and a trackable link, and you can add any supporting text to your posts for Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Like many of the shortcuts on this list, it operates off Chrome and Firefox extensions, and it makes sharing super easy.
But wait, there’s more! While Buffer gives you the ability to schedule your updates for various times (down to the minute!), you’re probably picking time slots arbitrarily…or at least I was when I first started Buffer-ing. Thankfully, big B found its fellow, and it’s paired up with Tweriod to offer smarter sharing. Contrary to popular belief, Tweriod has nothing to do with Twilight-loving tweens becoming women. Instead, the tool analyzes your Twitter profile and its followers, giving you the best times to tweet based on their online activity. After the free analysis, you can schedule your tweets based on these time slots, tweeting more efficiently along the way.
The short of it: Use Buffer to collect links worth sharing, and schedule them smartly with Tweriod.
5. Save it for later
With so many amazing articles being passed around on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep up in real-time. I used to dump everything in my “read later” browser bookmark folder, but that’s not convenient for late night iPad reading and it’s difficult to browse through those bookmarks.
I recently discovered Pocket, and it’s the perfect solution for “read-later-itis.” After installing the (you guessed it) extension, you can quickly save posts to your “pocket” for later. I’m in love with Pocket’s design, and their mobile app is just as clean and user friendly. Visually, Pocket resembles Pinterest, but your queue is always private, and adding something to your collection only requires one click. The tag, search and archive functions makes this free tool top notch in my book.
The short of it: Found an article you need to read, but no time right now? Put it in your Pocket for later.
6. Figure out how much time you actually spend on stuff
In our industry, it’s easy to get caught up in hundreds of sites every day. As part of our mission to be efficient at Thunder and estimate hours more accurately, I’ve started using RescueTime to see where I spend most of my time when I’m on the clock. The results are EYE OPENING!
RescueTime runs in the background of your machine, and tells you the hours you were most productive, the types of sites you spent your time on, and the activities you worked on in a time frame. It’s way cooler than a boring timer, and you can easily “set it and forget it” when you first start working. Check it out!
The short of it: If you think you know where you spend your time online, RescueTime will change your mind.
7. Outsource the mundane
If there’s a trivial task that you’ve had on your to-do list for months, consider outsourcing it to your own personal assistant. What, you don’t have one of those? Poppycock.
Our founder Max recently introduced me to Fancy Hands, and it’s a service that provides on demand help for the low cost of $25 a month. Some tasks I’ve outsourced include booking travel arrangements, finding restaurants in new cities, and re-scheduling doctor’s appointments. Laugh you may, but try it out and see for yourself what a difference it makes.
The short of it: Don’t keep putting off your to-dos, let Fancy Hands do the dirty work instead.
Do you use any of these tools to keep your inbox lean or your productivity in check? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line in the comments below!