I am an obsessive automator. We all only have one life to live and it should not be spent doing repetitive nonsense. Here are a few of my favorite ‘hacks’ and services that make my life better.
Clean up your email Inbox
1. SaneBox gets crap out of your inbox automagically. As soon as you install it, all of your unimportant emails will be moved into a separate SaneLater folder that you can look at once a day. Only your important emails will sit in your inbox. It has several features around email automation, but another favorite is automating follow-up. If you’re sending a pitch that you might need to follow up on you can bcc firstname.lastname@example.org and it will remind you in 2 weeks if you do not get a reply. Fantastic. Sign up for it here.
Mailbox app helps you quickly deal with the remaining important emails from your iPhone. My remaining inbox is a task list that I try to get through each day. Mailbox is a great email app and the best feature is the later function that let’s you remove an email that you can’t deal with right now and put it back in your inbox at future date. Download it for iOS here. I’m currently testing Dispatch as an alternative email client that looks pretty good.
Add to Asana or Evernote from Email. Both of these services offer a way to forward an email to create a new task or note. If an email is reference material for later, send it to Evernote. If it is essentially a longer task, forward to Asana so you can prioritize or delegate it accordingly. Learn how to do this on Asana here and Evernote here. They each have cool functionality around parsing the subject line as well that can be handy for automatically sorting notes/tasks so it’s worth learning all the features.
Using these three services I can get to “inbox zero” really fast. Unimportant emails go to SaneBox for once daily review. For the remainder, if they need a quick answer, just answer it. If they are a task or reference material, forward to Evernote or Asana. And if you don’t have enough information to act right now, use Mailbox to send back to your self in the future.
Capture Ideas and Tasks Quickly
A big part of automating nonsense is getting tasks or reference material out of your brain quickly and into a system other than your short-term memory. I use Asana (for tasks) and Evernote (for reference). Both of these have powerful mobile apps that offer the full functionality of the platform. But I need to add 15, 30, 100 things a day and waiting for these apps to load can be annoying. So I have two very fast apps on my home screen whose sole function is to add items to both services.
Jotana is an iOS app specifically built to quickly add tasks to Asana. It is fast and simple, use it. Find Jotana in the iOS app store here.
Captio is a very fast note taking app. Its only feature is that it will email a copy of the note on save. I the email to my Evernote email (see above) and use it exclusively to add reference ideas to Evernote. Learn about Captio here.
I write the same text all the time. The latest pitch for SolarList, troubleshooting tips for StoreMapper, the dial in code for our conference line, etc. Stop writing repetitive text and get
TextExpander where you can save text snippets that will expand to full blocks of text, links and even images. The best trick with TextExpander is the save selection to snippet. As you write something you will realize you are typing it for the tenth time. Finish writing it, highlight it and save it as a snippet. There is a short learning curve but amazing once you get used to it. TextExpander is available for desktop and mobile here. I would recommend starting with the desktop version and then adding mobile once you get a nice library of useful snippets.
Never deal with a conference line pin code again.
Tempo is the best calendar app for iOS. Among its awesome features is automating the process of dialing in to a conference line. It will intelligently pull out the number and pin code from a calendar event and has a clever hack that will input both for you with two taps. Try it and be delighted here (iOS).
Use Twilio + Dropbox to setup your own conference line that does not require a pin code. This tutorial is easy enough to follow and when you finish you have a line you can dial in to with no pin code. I try to move most of my calls to this format so I don’t even have to save or remember the number I am supposed to dial even for 1-to-1 calls. You can set this up yourself with this very fast guide. Or apparently there is a service that does the same thing called HipDial.
Zapier and IFTTT are two software platforms specifically designed to automate tasks across apps. I’ll write a more detailed tutorial on this later but jus explore it. IFTTT has the friendliest interface to figure out how the automation works while Zapier has better connected apps particularly for business stuff.
Hope you found this helpful. Spend some time setting all this up, but don’t forget to put that extra time you saved to good use.