Open Thread: Which Tools/Programs/Tricks Are Your Current Favorites?

In a semi-regular feature here on Corporette, we’ve talked about “Tools of the Trade” — ways to make a busy woman’s life easier, either in terms of scheduling programs, tricks to make things go faster or help you remember, and even the multitude of uses for a scarf/wrap. Do you have a newly discovered favorite trick, tool, program, or other — what need does it fill, and why do you love that particular program, tool, or trick?

(Pictured : Hammer Group, by Noel C. Hankamer.)

Comments

  1. Love this topic, can’t wait to see responses. One thing that I’m always looking for is how to keep a running to-do list. For a while, I was keeping it in a notebook that I carried around, but then I got tired of carrying it around and started keeping it in my phone, but then I realized how often I needed to update it when I was either talking on the phone or the phone was out of reach, and switched to a word document on the laptop, but of course, that has its drawbacks, too, since I’m not always within easy access of my computer.

    What I need is a system that can easily communicate between my laptop and phone (Android system apps), and can stay up on the computer pretty much all of the time. Any suggestions?

    • lawyerette :

      Google tasks? Alternatively I’m not sure if Outlook tasks will work with Android phones, but I love those because I flag emails and they become tasks and reminders pop up …

    • I use Outlook tasks, which sync to my Blackberry — if outlook works on your droid, should be the same. Took me while to get used to it, but now I really like it. One big downside (for me) is that you get automatic reminders (mine come with a bell that I haven’t shut off) on your computer and Blackberry every day with every project you didn’t finish by your preferred deadline. Can be really annoying when emergencies came up to pick up your phone after a long day and have to scroll through 10 different “overdue task” messages!

    • My absolute favorite to-do task list is Remember The Milk. I played around with at least 20 different applications/methods before I settled on this one. It is free to use, but if you get the Pro account (which doesn’t cost that much), it will also sync with Android/iPhone/Blackberry/Windows phones. There is amazing integration w/ Outlook and Google calenders/mail. It is fairly simple to use.

      I love it because it can sync between all my devices and it is easy to always keep it in front of me. My biggest issue with making lists or having a to-do app was the fact that I’d have to find the list/remember to open the app. Remember the Milk fixes all of that.

      • After these raving reviews of RTM, I finally gave it a try. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to integrate it with my Google calendar!!! Aaargh. I have gone to the help section several times and flat out don’t understand how to do it.

        • Interesting – for me – it integrates as a sidebar that sits next to both my gmail and google calender. All I had to do was enable it under the “services” section.

          Sorry you’re having all these issues!

    • somewherecold :

      I have a Google Tasks app for my Droid, and it’s pretty good. Does anyone know if you can share a Google Tasks list with another Gmail user? I would love to have a to-do list that I could share with my sig other for things around the house, etc., but I don’t know how to do it with Google (or if it’s possible).

      • My hubby and I have a Google Calendar that we share for this sort of thing. I’ve never been able to successfully integrate Google Tasks with a shared calendar interface. GCal is amazing–it allows you to set repeating events and notifications. When we complete a task we delete it out or mark it as done. It’s a huge time saver.

    • I like EverNote — I’m sure they have a droid app, but my boyfriend uses it for all of his to-do lists, and we use between us for groceries (syncs between Computer-iPhone-iPod touch)

    • I know you specifically asked for an actual app, but honestly the only thing that works for me is the trusty post-it note system. I have two post-its going at any one time, and both are stuck at the edge of my computer monitor at work. One has my work to-do list on it, and the other has my list of things to do at lunch/that evening. I write things on the non-work post-it as I remember them over the course of the day, and at the end of the day it gets stuck on my wallet and put in my purse so I can’t miss it. The following morning I update both before I start my work.

      I guess I am a bit of a Luddite but this is the only system that works for me and I love the actual act of crossing something off the list!

      • I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who does this. I’ve also become more organized since reverting to an old-fashioned paper calendar. I always forgot to annotate things on my blackberry and in outlook. Now with a month at a glance calendar I can easily see everything that’s coming up.

      • I love stickies – a free program I downloaded with an electronic post it on my computer. I still have my post its but I can look right at my desktop.

    • Ruthy Sue :

      I have been using Evernote. It syncs on my work computer, home computer and phone-so it’s always up to date. Plus, you can create checklists with checkboxes, but also save websites, pictures or pretty much anything else you can think of. It’s been a great help to keep my sanity in check!

    • Anonymous :

      I was searching the Internet for tips on this very subject earlier this month, and I found this site: http://www.timemanagementforlawyers.com/articlesdownloads/

      I implemented the “Tips for Using Outlook for your To Do Lists” and “Tips for Using Word To-Do Lists With Outlook Tasks” in the last couple of weeks and it has been working really well so far. Some of the tips on the website are outdated, but these articles worked with my Outlook (2003). Oh, and it works for lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

    • Okay, you’ve got a lot of options here, but I’m keen on teuxdeux.com

      It’s very basic and get the satisfaction of crossing things off. If I don’t get to something, it’s automatically carried over to the next day.

    • Cozi Calendar–there is an online program, and an app for iPhone and probably Droid. Anyone in your family can log on and add events and tasks. You can set up different task lists, and it has shopping lists. It will email you the weekly agenda on Sundays. Fabulous!

  2. I love WorkPause! I have ADHD and it’s so much easier to work in 2o minute bursts knowing that I get a short break every 20 minutes and a long break every hour. It’s made me a lot more efficient.

    • AnonInfinity :

      Is this similar to the Pomodoro technique? For anyone who is unfamiliar, it’s a system where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Every 2 hours, you take a 15 minute (or longer) break.

      Does anyone who has to do billable hours use one of these types of systems? Is taking this much time in breaks pretty standard? I like more frequent breaks to maintain my focus, but sometimes I am afraid that I don’t bill enough when considered with the amount of time I am in the office.

      • It is, but you can customize it to your needs. I need a 2 minute break from the computer every 20 minutes or I have a tension headache by 10:00, so I set mine to give me a 2 minute break every 20 minutes and a 5 minute break every third break.

        I have to bill some of my time (government lawyer charging back) so I don’t mind it, but it might be different if I had a billable requirement.

  3. Not sure if this quite fits the “programs” category, but my company recently purchased Nuance PDF converter. I literally can’t live without it. It has cut down SO much on tedious time spent on admin task because it makes it easier to keep everything in soft copy while still adding/deleting/editing/redacting in documents.

    • lawyerette :

      Is this the same/better than Adobe Acrobat Professional (other than it being way cheaper of course)? I have Adobe Pro at work and love having it, but have been balking at the Pro price for my home computer. I need to be able to highlight and make searchable comments on PDFs.

      • Anonymous :

        I like it better. It makes closings (if you’re closing on electronic signatures) so, SO much easier. I find it more intuitive than Acrobat Pro.

  4. boston atty :

    I just heard about crashplan dot com. About to implement it so I can backup everything in my home computers, especially my 12+ year 500GB photo collection!

  5. I love Evernote. It’s billed as the electronic trapperkeeper (for those of you who grew up back in the 80′s). I’m always finding interesting articles on-line or design ideas for my house or clothes that I like. You can copy the webpage or picture to Evernote. (I think you can scan to, but I haven’t used that feature.) You ‘tag’ it and it gets filed accordingly. For instance, I’m redoing my master bedroom and I’m always finding interesting design elements (i.e., lamps, curtains, sheets). I copy the web page, tag it as ‘master bedroom’ and it gets filed for use later. When I want to review all of the things I’ve found for my project, it’s all in one easy place.

    • I second the rec for Evernote. I like the ability to segregate into different groups… so I save work-related articles and ideas together, decorating ideas in another, and I’m in the process of transitioning all my recipes online too.

      • Anonymous :

        i love evernote! you can even install a little button on your internet browser so that every time you see an article, website, or picture you like you just click the button and it saves it!

  6. I love e-faxing. No need for a big fax machine and tons of paper and it’s cheap. I receive faxes in my email inbox as PDFs and can send faxes from my email too! I use metro fax and I now feel like I could never live without it.

    Also love google calendars.

    • skippy pea :

      This may be a dumb question, but how does efaxing work?

      I a, also very interested in knowing how electroniuc signatures work? Does it have to be in adobe pro? or do you really just scan a copy of your signature and upload it in windows?

      • No idea on signatures, although I have used them before…somehow.

        For e-faxing, basically whatever company you choose (check out http://www.faxcompare.com/) assigns you a phone number. You can choose your area code or a 1-800 number. When clients fax documents to that phone number, the company converts it to a PDF and sends it as an attachment to an email address that you designate. To send outgoing faxes, you just email the documents as an attachment to the fax number for the recipient with “@metrofax.com” (or whichever company you choose) at the end.

        Think about checking out some websites, they make it really easy to understand and use!

      • yeah, I use nextiva for a non-profit I run (part/time volunteer) and we love it. We use it several times a week. SO CHEAP. like $80/year.

      • Our copy machine does this… maybe for more expensive, though. I guess we have to pay for the phone line. But I also love receiving faxes as pdfs into my email. (Our admins route them to the correct attorney, as they did when they were printed.)

    • Yea I firmly believe traditional faxing will be obsolete before too long. Efaxing or scan to pdf for emailing is the way to go.

  7. I use Google Alerts to follow companies. I put in a phrase or name and get an email whenever something new is posted on the net.

  8. i love boomerang for gmail. it allows me to sit down and write responses to emails late at night or whatever else convenient time and schedule the emails to get sent tomorrow, later in the week, etc.

    there are many times when i know there’s some insane number of emails that i need to send – whether its thank yous or networking follow up – but i don’t have time to write them during the day so late at night is the best bet. but i don’t want these people to see that i’m up at 2 am writing emails. so, i draft them and schedule them to be sent the next morning. i also use this feature to send reminders so that my email is one of the first that the person receives when s/he gets into the office.

    boomerang allows you to set when the emails are sent – can be vague like “tomorrow afternoon” to very specific like “Friday, Mar. 18 2:45 pm”. you also have the option of having mail that’s sent to you “reappear” in your gmail at a set time so you can remember to respond to it.

    it’s a great add-on to gmail!

    • Where do you get boomerang? I would love to use that so my client don’t think I am actually responding to their midnight non-emergency email.

      I looked in the Chrome Web Store and could not find it.

    • Anon in the Midwest :

      This is a great idea! Anyone know if Outlook has a similar feature?

      • lawyerette :

        Most definitely. Look at the full dialog box for “options” when you start a new message. There a “do not deliver before” option. You put date and time. HOWEVER, Outlook must be open and you must be connected to the internet when you schedule the message to send for it to work.

  9. Not a “tool” exactly, but I am a heavy Word keyboard shortcut user and finally took the time to create my own Word shortcut for the highlight feature — it was the only commonly used formatting tool that I had to use a mouse for. Boring, but makes my life easier!

    • I’ve done the same for the section and paragraph symbols.

      • Me too! Other interns at my job were going insane with this – literally copying the symbol from the internet to get it into their docs – until i showed them how to do this. On a mac, § is automatically option + 6, and ¶ is option key + 7.

        I also added a keyboard shortcut for insert footnote when I was writing my note :)

      • me too! however my section shortcut is alt-s, which is also the outlook keyboard shortcut to send the email you’re typing in. so I have to be extra careful.

        Also, in the new Word (Word 2010) you can set your paste default to “paste unformatted text.” which I did, and which was the best decision I ever made.

        • Lol! I did the exact same thing. I can’t say how many times I’ve thoughtless meant to insert a section symbol into an email, only to send it prematurely! Argh!

        • For this very reason, and after a few mistaken sends (fortunately always intraoffice, but still!), I now fully compose every email before entering an address in the “to” field. Adding the address is always the last thing I do before sending.

    • Anonymous :

      You can also change the “auto-correct” (spell check) in word to have it change anything you want to anything else you want. Made my note taking through law school so much faster! I usually put a “\” in front of things because it’s never a key I really use, so I don’t have to worry about accidents. So \s is the section symbol; \sc is ‘supreme court’, etc.

  10. Lifehacker is one of my favorite blogs because it always has neat tips and tricks. I like Dropbox for file backup, Leechblock for productivity, and AdBlockPlus for ad-free surfing.

    I budget and take notes in OneNote, although I hear Evernote is just as good.

    Here’s an article on HelloFax- I haven’t used it yet but I might give it a try. I hate dealing with fax machines
    http://www.slate.com/id/2287346/

    • I was going to suggest Dropbox. I would bet most people have discovered it by now, but it is a fantastic little free program that just makes so much sense.

  11. I have a no-tech tool I love: a paper calendar!
    It’s a “Busy Moms” calendar, with days if the month listed vertically with 5 blank columns (the first one’s labeled “Mom”). There are just 2 of us in the household, so we use 1 column for things like so-&-so coming to visit or a far-away friend’s big event. Next column is where I log workouts & nutrition for the day. The last column varies by month. I love that it puts everything where I can –& do–see it. Only drawback is that I no longer record certain measurements bc I didn’t want them on display.

  12. I was spending too much time each day checking blogs and news feeds, and a friend suggested sending them all to Google Reader. With Google Reader, you set up subscriptions to news, blogs, etc, and I’ve filed the subscriptions into relevant folders. I can quickly scan headlines in a folder and see what has updated without getting sidelined into a long web-surfing session. I even have a folder of ‘fun’ subscriptions that I let myself check only during lunch.

    It’s also been good because I read lots of work-specific blogs and some of the stuffier types thought it was unprofessional to be “surfing the internet” at work, regardless of content (speechless, just….speechless). Now those blog feeds just show up as headlines on a Google background, instead of a blog background, so nobody is the wiser. Plus, I get news right away when it breaks, which is nice when talking with clients.

    • Second GoogleReader. My procrastination time spent reading (non work)blogs is much reduced — no OCD-like compulsive checking to see if someone, anyone has posted something new… :)

    • I love googlereader, too!

      I followed it up with leechblock, so now I am allowed to look at the reader for only 10 minutes out of every 2-hour period.

  13. We had a budget thread a while back, and someone posted this spreadsheet: https://spreadsheets0.google.com/ccc?key=pNpFkHfbQlhtTtBOtAiWtfg&hl=en#gid=0

    I haven’t used it yet, but plan to!

  14. Not a new tool, exactly, but I’ve found that sorting my email inbox by subject instead of date makes it much easier to keep track of various communications, enabling me to easily read through an entire conversation so that I can respond to the most recent one.

    • Just a note that there is a built in feature in Outlook 2010 that groups emails together as conversations automatically (including your replies). So you could have the best of both world – groups & dates. It’s pretty primitive (I think the grouping is just by subject) when compared to what gmail does, but still an improvement.

  15. For power networking – I’m a fan of the iPhone app ScanBizCards. I hate time involved adding new contacts to my address book after an event. With the app, you take a photo of a business card with your phone, hit the scan button and it automatically populates the fields of a new address book contact. The free version I have (ScanBizCardsLite) allows you to scan and add 2 cards to your contacts per week. Love the efficiency and tossing b-cards immediately.

  16. finance tools? :

    Somewhat on topic–I just cancelled my escrow account on my mortgage. I couldn’t handle the fact that my mortgage company can’t seem to add and divide and didn’t like the idea of my bank carrying a minimum escrow balance for the life of the loan. For those who don’t escrow, do you have any tips for managing the money? I wish I could set up folders in my savings account online, but my bank doesn’t have that option.

    • I’d suggest setting up a separate account at the same bank with your other accounts. Then set up an automatic transfer to have the monthly amount to be escrowed transferred to that account. We pay estimated taxes and this is what I do to escrow our taxes. Then when we have to make a payment, I just transfer the amount from the tax account into our checking account.

  17. I have to do monthly activity reports for my boss. So what I do is create a document in MS Word, write up everything for the first month in that document and then send him a PDF of that document.

    However, since I still have the WORD document, the next month, all I have to do is update the subjects, and create new subjects, and then send him another PDF.

    He thinks I am writing a whole new document when all I am doing is updating the old document.

    It is a great thing to send him the list in PDF, because he cannot modify it.

  18. I love, love, LOVE Dropbox! It is a free program for your computer, smartphone, ipad, etc that automatically syncs all of the files or documents you have put in your dropbox folder. So, if I’ve been working on a doc at home, I can automatically access the most recent version from any of my other computers/devices, as well as any other device I log into my account from. It has saved my bacon a number of times when I didn’t remember my flash drive or just needed to quickly look something up while I was on the go. SO handy.

    • awesome dropbox story:
      i was going to a bar association dinner and had planned to stay overnight at a friend’s apartment because i knew the dinner would go late and people would be going out afterwards. i packed a small overnight bag and had transferred stuff from my big purse (id, credit cards, cash) into a small clutch to bring to the dinner. i put my bag in the car and drove to my friend’s apartment. when i got to my friend’s apartment, i realize that i had left my clutch at home. i thought i had put it in my overnight bag, but had not. all i had on me was my iphone and the keys to my car and apartment. i figured it wouldn’t be too big of a deal because the dinner had already been paid for. but when the dinner was over, a bunch of friends and i decided to go to a bar afterwards. BIG PROBLEM: no ID. the bouncer refused to let me in even though i told him i was over 21 and everyone was vouching for me. then i remembered that i keep a pdf copy of my driver’s license and passport on dropbox. using my phone, i accessed dropbox, opened the pdfs and showed them to the bouncer. HE LET ME IN! dropbox saves the day!

  19. Leechblock. Single best thing I ever did for my billable hours.

  20. 2nd the Leechblock rec – it’s a Firefox add-on that allows you to block access to specific sites for set periods of time. I also like Gmail Labs – I have the multiple inbox lab installed with filters set up, so my email automatically is sorted into the relevant inbox and my messages stay organized.

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.