Author Archives: Terri Coles
Having conquered the home, Amazon wants to get Alexa into the workplace. New features for the digital assistant represent progress on that front. With the holidays coming up, Amazon has gifted Alexa, its increasingly ubiquitous digital assistant, with a variety of new productivity features that further the company’s reach into the workplace. Amazon recently updated the design for its Alexa-enabled Echo devices. The new features are centered around scheduling and reminders. Alexa’s abilities here were previously limited to a handful of applications, putting the digital assistant at a disadvantage against Microsoft Cortana and Google Assistant in a way that hampered efforts to get it embraced in the office. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Cloud storage is often the backup storage, but what if that fails? Having a solid backup for your second option is a matter of convenience and security. You may wonder why you should have a plan for backing up your cloud storage — after all, your cloud storage often is our backup option for physical storage on computers, servers and physical hard disks. The options we used to use for file backup are often less convenient than cloud storage, which can make us overly reliant — and overly confident — in the security of the latter. “We all love the convince of cloud storage,” said Mike Vannelli, head producer of Envy Creative. “However, many people have a preconceived notion that storing your files on Dropbox or Google Drive is enough.” Spoiler alert: it isn’t. Cloud storage is at risk of failure and erasure, just as other types of storage are. For example, an Amazon cloud storage failure in February 2017 caused when Amazon Web Services had a breakdown in its U.S. east coast region lasted for hours and created problems for thousands of apps and services. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click … Read More
We’ve already looked at how IFTTT can be used to automate your life, so let’s look at another web application that has impressive powers of automation, these ones generally more suited to workplace functions — including email. I’m talking about Zapier. Zapier describes itself as a glue that holds more than 1,000 different web applications together. The service creates zaps, which are workflows that connect your apps and allow for the background automation of different tasks. Overall, Zapier also allows for more fine-tuning, really allowing you to automate things in the ways that work best for you, your professional needs, and your workflow. “Zapier is a really incredible app. It helps you easily connect up the apps you use without needing to write a single line of code,” said Siobhan O’Rorke, marketing manager at Zenkit. About a thousand apps are currently supported by Zapier, including popular ones like Gmail, MailChimp, and Outlook 365. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Automation is the new name of the game in personal organization, but one of the most powerful automation tools, If This Then That (IFTTT) has actually been around for years — and can automate everything from saving your Instagram photos to Dropbox to making sure your lights are already on when you walk through your front door. IFTTT works by identifying an action with one cloud-based service or smart device, then assigning a follow-up action to it. For example, “If you post to Twitter, then save each individual tweet to OneNote.” The interface is easy to use — it’s a website with bright icons for each device or service that you can connect via your personal IFTTT account. From the lighthearted to the lifesaving, IFTTT recipes can (nearly) do it all. IFTTT could always do a ton of useful things, like push emails you star in Gmail to Evernote or send you a daily weather report. But as smart assistants get more powerful, so does IFTTT. The spread of the Internet of Things and the quickly increasing ubiquity of digital and voice-activated assistants means a whole new level of personal automation is available. These deceptively simple “recipes” — many of … Read More
As file storage options become both less expensive and more varied, individuals and corporations have more power to customize their own storage system — and more chances to become confused and overwhelmed by their choices. “Once upon a time space and storage was costly and limited and required you to be very selective on where to put things and how to maintain a library and catalog of where to put things and how to maintain them,” Todd Pekats, vice president of Cloud and Services at PCM, Inc. Remember these? File management options have come a long way. Pekats once had riles living in multiple different places, on multiple different kinds of formats and devices: tap, floppy disks, SyQuest drives, etc. “Just keeping track of what you have and where it is being stored was a fulltime job.” This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Workflow automation is an increasingly important factor in productivity. A research report from Formstack released this year found that half of managers are spending the equivalent of one full workday each week on administrative tasks, many of which could be automated. And 44 per cent of managers reported that their workplace has invested significantly in workflow automation tools within the past two years. Managers are spending significant amounts of time, up to half of the average workday, on administrative tasks. In many cases, these tasks could be automated. “Few business owners really grasp the concepts of what automation in technology can do,” said Martin Webb, a founder of Tudodesk. “When they start a business or look to grow it, they instantly assume the problem they need to solve is by hiring help.” There are times when automating repetitive or administrative tasks can free up time and mental space, allowing for focus on more important matters. Automate Your Email This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Trying to get to inbox zero? Switching from conventional Gmail to Inbox can help you get there, thanks to features like bundling, snooze, and templates. Inbox by Gmail first appeared in 2014, when the vamped-up web-based email client was still invite only. But there are still people who haven’t switched over, and may not even be fully aware that they can. Those people are missing out. Inbox by Gmail takes what you already enjoy about Gmail — message sorting, filters, great archive search — and makes it even more useful. Its ethos and functionalities will feel familiar to fans of the Getting Things Done productivity approach, as Inbox works to make every email actionable, even if that action is merely to archive a message. This helps you clear things out of your inbox and focus in specifically on what you need to do with your email, when you need to do it. “It’s not an exaggeration to say Inbox literally transformed the way I use email,” said Vinay Pai, the founder of Unfake.us. “I used to be pretty dedicated to desktop-based clients like Thunderbird, Outlook, and Eudora but Inbox made me decide to switch my whole email workflow around it.” It might … Read More
Voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home are suddenly everywhere — but can they really up your productivity? We have advice on choosing one, and tips on using it to make life easier. It looks like 2018 is set to be the year that voice assistant devices become truly mainstream. The Amazon Echo Dot was the best selling item on Amazon.com, across all categories, during the 2017 holiday season. And in early 2018, Google announced that a Google Home device had been sold every second since October 19. Both devices and their respective software — Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant — were everywhere during CES earlier in January, indicating that current sales figures are just the start of the sector’s potential. But what can a voice assistant do for you in the home or office, other than play playlists or podcasts? And can it really make you more productive, in a world where we’ve already got smart phones, smart watches, and tablets at our disposal? Here’s a look at what the devices can do, with tips from users, and how to decide which system is best for you. Choosing the Right Assistant for You First of all, how do … Read More
By now you know what Trello can do for you when it comes to organization and project management, and you’ve learned the basics of setting up Trello for your own personal needs. You’ve also read an overview of Trello for teams, including how the application can facilitate better communication and collaboration. You can use Trello well, even effectively, with just that information. But to really become a Trello power user you’ll want to step up your game with keyboard shortcuts, application tie-ins, and automation. Here are the tips and tricks you need to know to upgrade Trello from convenient to life changing. Learn the Keyboard Shortcuts There are a variety of keyboard shortcuts that can be used within Trello to save you time and clicks. “Trello’s system can have a learning curve for new users,” says Brad M. Shaw, president/CEO of Dallas Web Design Inc. Learning keyboard shortcuts changed this for him, and therefore changed his relationship with the app. “Doing simple things like using the space bar to assign the card to yourself, pressing D to open the due date menu and L to add a label saves valuable time,” Shaw says. Here are some of the most valuable … Read More
Trello can be a powerful project management tool for your teams, if you use it effectively and implement it properly As we discussed in “How to Get Started With Trello,” the project management application functions well as a tool for personal planning. But one of the main advantages of Trello for organization is that it has several features designed to make teamwork convenient, collaborative, and easily tracked. Everything that an individual user can do in Trello can also be done on boards that have multiple members because they are part of a designated team: create lists and cards; move around or archive inactive lists or cards; link files, photos, and websites; set due dates and assign tasks via a checklist; and add comments to cards. A team also allows its users to view all associated boards and their members in one place. Team members can be designated as admins, or as regular members; with a business-class Trello account, team admins have admin control over any board in a team whether or not they’ve been invited to a particular board by its admins. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.