Life these days is a blur of multi-tasking. Maintaining a healthy workload and giving quality time to my many projects (such as building a fellowship program and launching a publication) can equate to some complex juggling. Here’s a quick rundown of the tools that make my life easier. These tools revolve around two key themes: simple automation and transparency.

EDIT: Please note that all of these tools are free or have modified free versions. I do pay for the pro version of WriteThat.Name and am contemplating paying for an upgrade on Boomerang as well.

  • WriteThat.Name automatically scans my emails for signatures with contact info, then adds new contacts/updates existing contacts every day. If I don’t like what they’ve added, it is super simple to change, as I get a daily digest that notes any changes or additions.
  • Boomerang is a super amazing add on for Gmail. It allows you to put alerts on messages that you need to follow up on and schedule outgoing email. Here’s a use case scenario: Say you email a busy person with a tight deadline. You can set that email to “boomerang” back into the top of your inbox if you don’t hear from them in a set amount of time. I use both functions religiously to keep projects moving and to hold my colleagues to a healthy work schedule. (See this great post from Phillip AD Smith, especially the part about the signals you send when you work on the weekend. I use Boomerang to make sure my missives go out during regular business hours.)
  • Tungle removes 90% of the back and forth from scheduling a meeting. If someone wants to meet with me or set up a phone call, my availability is publicly posted at Tungle.me/erinpolgreen. This page syncs with my personal calendar so that it’s easy to see when I’m free. Interested parties can propose several meeting times, then I pick what works for me. Tungle also makes it much easier for me to set aside “no phone call” times so that I can work without distraction and dive deep into a project.
  • Instapaper makes it possible for me to quickly scan headlines in the morning, then save longer articles to read later, either on my phone, tablet, or Kindle. Instapaper is valuable to me for two reasons:
    • It helps me budget my time and minimize distractions. If someone sends me a link to something I “have to read,” I can quickly queue it up in Instapaper using a handy little bookmarklet.
    • Instapaper has a Kindle digest feature that is a godsend for weary eyes. The digest feature essentially allows me to keep up with the world without being tethered to a glowing screen.
  • WunderKit is my current project management tool of choice. It syncs across all of my devices and is built around to-do lists that are nested within larger project dashboards. It’s super easy to pop a deadline on something, or assign a task to a colleague.

Here are two hacks that I wish I had. If you have a fix for these problems, let me know. You’ll make my day 100X over.

  • I’d love to be able to shift my phone, a Droid, to airplane mode on a pre-determined schedule. Basically, I’m thinking of a Self Control for smart phones.
  • I really, really wish I had my own personal CRM. Think of the possibilities: This tool could add tags to Google contacts according to keywords from your emails, or update a contact’s information to note the date of your last exchange. As someone who deals with multiple intersecting networks, listservs, and other communities, it would be very, very nice to be able to quickly query my address book and get a list of, say, illustrated journalists who live on in Portland, OR so that I can tell them I’ll be in town and would love to drink some bourbon. The closest thing I’ve found is Rainmaker, which automatically updates Google contact info with links to all social networking profiles, among other things.
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