Technology should help us be more productive without debilitating our sanity. All too often, however, people get overwhelmed by the ever increasing amount of platforms and apps being thrown at them. Lost within multiple email accounts, stressed about the need for Facebook and Twitter posts, and scrambling to maintain a streamlined schedule, many people yearn for a staff of 30 people or a return to the simple days of the desk phone and the fax machine. Luckily, I have a super staff that has helped me with that, but many are not as lucky.
It doesn’t have to be so stressful. It doesn’t have to be stressful at all. You can take control of your digital life with a few simple Google Chrome applications and extensions. Here are 3 ways Google Chrome can help you take back your life:
1) Claim Your Digital Space
We’ve all been there. You go online to get work done and 20 minutes later find yourself reading a detailed psychological analysis of Justin Bieber. I stay on track with Momentum. This brilliant application allows you to replace new tab pages with a personal dashboard featuring an inspirational photo and a motivating quote. It shows you the weather (no excuse to Google that) and your daily to do list. Momentum reminds me why I’m online. It literally maintains my momentum.
Working online involves passwords. Lots of passwords. Everything from email to personal banking requires a code to enter. And yes, I forget my passwords just like everyone else. Some people keep an Excel document with all of their passwords or, even worse, use the same password for everything. This sacrifices security. I use 1Password to stay efficient as I move from email to Facebook to my bank account. Created by AgileBits, this ingenious app integrates directly with your web browser (it loves Google Chrome) and then automatically logs you into wherever you need to go. All of your different passwords are secured in one place, protected by the one password you need to remember (Yes, sometimes I forget that, too.)
Technology is constantly evolving, but human nature stays pretty steady. Smartphones and tablets may have edged out the landline, but Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is as important as ever. Since I spend so much time in my Gmail, I find the cloud-based Streak to be extremely helpful in conducting the timeless art of CRM. Streak runs right in gmail (and only gmail) and allows me to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support. I can create pipelines for all projects comprised of boxes that contain all relevant information for a given task.
2) Be Your Own Scheduling Ninja
Those among us who are fortunate enough to have that staff of 30 will usually have one person whose entire job is dedicated to scheduling. The rest of us who do our own scheduling must be especially strategic with the use of technology. I rely on Boomerang Calendar. This Google Chrome app allows me to schedule meetings with ease and efficiency. I simply click a few times in my calendar when I’m free to me, a message gets sent the person I want to meet with, he or she clicks which of those times work, and the meeting is added to both our calendars. It works with all emails, is great for coordinating a group event, and removes the truly horrifying possibility of double (or triple) booking.
Busy people don’t just need to schedule meetings. They need to schedule when to send emails and when to update Facebook and Twitter. With Boomerang for Gmail and Buffer I can do just that. Boomerang for Gmail lets me write a message at 2 a.m. and schedule it to be sent at a later time. I can track messages and schedule reminders, all inside my Gmail account.
The Google Chrome app Buffer lets me do the same thing with my updates on Facebook, Twitter, and any other platform where I maintain a presence. I can set my posts up at night and schedule them to post throughout the day, while I’m probably too busy in meetings to post them in real time. And even if I had the time, only through Buffer can cross platform posts happen instantaneously. Buffer also lets me quickly share whatever I’m reading on the web with my social media community.
3) Browse With Purpose
OK, there’s nothing wrong with exploring online content and finding new things. But you don’t want to end up jumping from link to link about the Biebs. I use Feedly to stay focused on the news that matters to me. This high-end “RSS Aggregator,” or what most of would call a newsreader, requires a Google Account to use and is the descendant of the beloved Google Reader. It allows me to browse all the new stories from all the sources I’ve selected. It’s like a customized newspaper waiting for me online, and while it doesn’t mean I’ll never get swallowed by the banality of the web, it does make it a lot less likely.
When I find an especially good article through Feedly, I utilize the Google Chrome apps Awesome Screenshot and Evernote Web Clipper to take notes and share it. Awesome is a screenshot app and then some. I can capture all or part of a web page, annotate and edit it (including blurring sensitive or confidential information), copy and paste it into my Gmail and send it to friends and colleagues.
With Evernote I no longer find myself copying the link from an interesting article and then emailing it to myself, or keeping notes on an article in a Word document. Evernote lets me bookmark the page, mark it up with notes, and share it with whoever I want. In the future, when I’m searching the web, my Evernote account automatically shows me what I’ve taken notes on in the past (hopefully it wasn’t Justin Bieber).
Technology can overwhelm you. Don’t let it. Take a deep breath and take some time to set up some or all of the above apps and extensions. From maintaining your online momentum to disciplining your online browsing (and all the scheduling that goes on in between), you’ll be in control and you’ll feel in control.