Amidst all the recent laments that we are too tethered to our technology, I have a confession to make: I would pretty much fall apart without it.
I have a toddler. I have a start-up. The combination of those two is pretty much the biggest time and energy suck you can fathom.
The minimal expectation is that I continue to function like a normal human being who responds to emails, makes it to meetings on time(ish), can carry on a conversation with an adult, etc. The reality, though, is that I need to manage the mundane stuff while also carrying out some superhuman things (Negotiating deals! Raising capital! Getting my kid into pre-school in New York City!).
Over the past year or so, I've stumbled on a half dozen tools and apps that have been absolute game-changers and have made it possible to juggle the ten thousand balls I have in the air.
Rapportive: This is a Gmail plug-in that shows you some basic details (company, job title... and a photo!) of anyone you're emailing with, as well as links to their profiles on various social networks.
Superpowers: Too numerous to list. Just install it.
Evercontact: Ever spent time copying and pasting from an email signature into your contacts? This tool scrapes your email daily and automatically adds phone numbers and addresses from email signature blocks into your address book. They can also look back at up to five years of email.
Superpowers: Your caller ID is going to know who everyone is; if they have an email signature, their number will be in your phone.
Cirrus Insight: This one requires Salesforce, but I've said before that everyone should be using a CRM because you can slice and dice your contacts in ways that Address Book and even Excel spreadsheets can't handle. And not just for business stuff: I use it for holiday cards. Cirrus links your Gmail with your Salesforce account, so you can create and modify contacts from within Gmail -- as well as save correspondence chains.
Superpowers: If you're already using Salesforce, this will save you a TON of time... And if you aren't, Cirrus makes getting it up and running a lot easier.
AText: Also known as a text expander, AText lets you set an abbreviation that instantly inserts a word, sentence, or paragraph(s) anywhere you're typing. I type "wso" and "weeSpring helps new and expecting parents collect advice from their friends about what they need for their baby" appears. "ewso" gives the extended, two-paragraph version.
Superpower: This will change your life; it is like an epiphany. We use it for custom email signatures, quick responses to requests, lists of recent press, and anything else we need to write repeatedly.
Newsle: Google News Alerts meets your LinkedIn. You'll get an email whenever someone you know has been mentioned in the press, which is a huge help for professional relationships, but also really nice for friends. I was able to send my old roommate a note about her promotion, which was announced in a trade journal.
Superpower: You're going to seem a lot more attentive and in-the-loop than you actually have time to be.
Boomerang: So let's face it... we are all buried under an avalanche of emails, there's a decent chance that your Very Important Email is going to slip through the cracks for the person on the receiving end. Boomerang -- another Gmail add-on -- will "boomerang" a sent message back to you if it hasn't gotten a response after a couple days (you set the exact time).
Superpower: Boomerang also lets you set a timer on an email, so you can bang out a ton of messages at 11:00 p.m. -- but have them delivered when the recipient is most likely to be in front of his or her computer.
Every time I use any one of these tools, I wonder how I possible survived without it. (Have recommendations to add? Email me!)