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CC Sebastiaan Ter Burg
Business and Finance

Efficiency out of the ether

Kate Russell
We examine some cloud-based tools that apply a little order to the chaos of life online.

The internet provides ample daily opportunities for procrastination, yet it can also be good for productivity. Here are some great digital tools to help you get organised – and most of them are free.

A good administrative assistant is almost essential to the success of any company director. Luckily for those of us with a budget that can only support one salary, the internet is crammed full of time-saving resources that can pretty much fill the role of a personal assistant; one that is based in the cloud, and so is accessible at any time, from anywhere, and is prepared to work 24 hours a day and never ask for a pay cheque, let alone a pay rise.

List managers like Nozbe might not be able to bring you a cup of coffee, but they do provide a central organisational hub through which to share and monitor team tasks from your desktop, tablet or smartphone. One intelligent feature is the ability to add context to a task. For example, buying light bulbs could be linked to a GPS location such as your local hardware shop and the next time you find yourself in that area with a few minutes to spare, the app would ping you to remind you to pick some up.

NirvanaHQ is a similar tool from the Getting Things Done franchise. It adds the personal touch by letting you categorise tasks according to how much energy they’ll take to complete. This way you can dial up a list of things to do that suit a particular mood.

Your cloud PA

Despite all this it’s possible that you might still occasionally feel overwhelmed by administration, in which case I can highly recommend treating yourself to a little admin therapy – and perhaps even give yourself time to indulge in some retail therapy too.

Work Around Me is a great example of a smartphone app that uses location data to let you connect with casual workers looking for employment nearby. It’s a fairly new service, but the number of users is growing fast, especially with so many people out of work – so you could occasionally advertise without charge to find a freelance clerk willing to come by and help you with the paperwork.

Finally, email, which has to be one of the biggest drains on time for any business. The average corporate emailer deals with 105 messages a day and despite using spam filters, 19% of these will still be junk. A report last year claimed that spammers cost the global economy $20bn; and yet they only make around $200m for their efforts, which as well as being extremely annoying, is massively inefficient. Junk mail is a problem we just haven’t been able to fix on the web and will no doubt be a major cause of the eventual demise of old-fashioned email in favour of more dynamic communication streams like social media messaging.

In the meantime, tools to help you manage your emails, like Rapportive, will give you a more streamlined experience by collecting information about all of your contacts from the social web so you can see at a glance who is contacting you and what they might want, allowing you to prioritise replies. You can even use a plugin like Boomerang to send important but non-urgent emails back out into the ether to be re-delivered at a time when you can handle them. Out of sight, out of mind – if only everything in life were this simple.

Kate Russell is the author of Working The Cloud: The Ultimate Guide to Making the Internet Work For You and Your Business. Image credit: Sebastiaan Ter Burg

the internet is crammed full of time-saving resources that can pretty much fill the role of a personal assistant

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