I love nothing better than the promise of a new piece of software that will help me achieve great things. The feeling of hope and optimism as it installs on my laptop or phone is palpable. Here are seven applications that have done just that in my life over the last few months.
Like most people, I spend at least an hour a day in my inbox. Loving your email software can make a big difference to daily happiness (not to mention productivity) levels.
Superhuman is an email client that connects to Gmail that I discovered through an interview on my podcast How I Work with ex President of Pinterest Tim Kendall. Tim spoke of its speed and cleverness, and after being a loyal Newton user, I needed something new after Newton’s demise (although it did recently relaunch).
The Gmail interface has always frustrated me – it’s so crowded and I feel like there are lots of things yelling at me for my attention. But not Superhuman. It has a beautiful, clean interface with no unnecessary bells and whistles.
Interface aside, Superhuman claims to be the fastest email experience ever made. I concur. Spending time in Superhuman feels zippy and light and makes me feel super-productive.
The other thing I love about Superhuman is that it speaks English. Using a natural language processor, I can simply hit Cmd-K and type in exactly what I need Superhuman to do. It can remind me if an email I send doesn’t receive a reply within 10 days. It can include map directions within an email. It can automatically BCC a person who has introduced me to someone via email.
The only downside is that it has a waiting list of tens of thousands of people. But trust me: it’s worth the wait.
Woven claims to be the intelligent calendar for busy professionals, so feeling like I fit the bill, I started using it a few months ago. It was built by the ex-CIO of Facebook Tim Campos and ex-Facebook and Google engineer Burc Arpat, so I assumed I would be in good hands. It syncs with Google Calendar, my previous calendar of choice (Office 365 is coming soon).
Woven is packed full of useful features that I haven’t found anywhere else, including Woven assistant – an AI powered meeting scheduler who you simply call on within any email and request that @Woven suggest some times for a meeting you are trying to organise.
Another feature I use frequently is the ability to create templates of commonly occurring events. I find this infinitely useful for podcast interviews that I am scheduling which contain details that are tedious to enter every time I scheduled a new interview. Woven makes this quick and easy, and now all I have to update is my guest’s name.
Have you ever found yourself in an internet black hole after being sent an article that a co-worker insisted you read, which then lead to a tonne of tabs being opened from clicking through to links contained within that story? Of course you have.
Pocket is an app that solves this problem. You can put it on your phone or use it as a plugin on your internet browser. Whenever you find yourself faced with an article you want to read (but at a really inopportune time), you can save it to your Pocket. Thanks to Pocket, I batch read all articles that catch my attention on a weekly basis without getting lost down any black holes.
Send from Gmail
As a writer and speaker on the topic of productivity, I perhaps not surprisingly try to avoid my inbox in the morning. But a problem that frequently arises is when I need to send someone an email to “complete” one of my morning tasks. For example, I might have finished writing an article and need to email it through to an editor. And I find that if I open up my inbox quickly to execute the task, I get sucked in to the web of emails that await me.
Send from Gmail is the perfect solution to this problem. It plugs into Chrome and when you click on it, a Gmail Compose window opens up and lets you send an email without having to physically venture into your inbox.
I often start my days with the best of intentions to stay away from digital distractions (email, social media, random internet browsing) and to spend my morning doing several hours of deep, focused work. But we all know best laid plans can go awry. Some days, I simply lack the willpower to stay away from these temptations.
Enter Freedom.to, software that locks you out of any website or application you desire. On days where I'm feeling a bit depleted in self-discipline, I will open up Freedom and ask it to lock me out of things that I know are distracting and tempting. I find Freedom infinitely helpful for keeping me focused.
As a podcast creator, I am also an avid podcast listener. While I do use Apple Podcasts occasionally, I discovered Overcast via Matt Mullenweg (co-Founder of WordPress and Automattic).
Aside from being a cleaner and simpler user-experience, Overcast has some nifty features such as shortening the silences in an episode and boosting the voices – two things that make for a far better listening experience.
I also quite fancy the smart resume feature, which comes in handy when you have to pause your listening halfway during an episode. Rather than kick off where you ended a few hours prior feeling somewhat lost, Overcast backtracks 15 seconds to quickly catch up on where you left off.
I am always on the lookout for great guests for How I Work, and often I’ll approach people cold. Finding contact details online can often be a challenge, but ContactOut solves that problem for me – at least when my potential guests have LinkedIn profiles.
ContactOut syncs with your LinkedIn account and lets you access anyone’s email address via their LinkedIn profile. I’ve used it many times to secure some great guests on the show. And of course, you’re far more likely to get a response from someone when you email them directly as opposed to DMing someone via Twitter.
Every single one of these applications has definitely made me more productive and happier in the way that I go about my day. I hope that at least one of them does the same for you.
Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy and the host of How I Work, a podcast about the habits and rituals of the world’s most successful innovators.