Four productivity apps I’m excited about

Update: In 2018 I’m still excited and using all of these!

Is it just me or are people getting better at making beautiful and useful software? Software companies have to stay competitive by offering an intuitive user experience (UX) and becoming better students at how people use their products. Meanwhile, organizers and communications directors are expected to be more efficient and in-the-know than ever. Here are four tools to sharpen your productivity and/or to make your social justice organization’s workflow a little easier.

LastPass 4.0 for Password Management

LastPassButton230x230You know that I’m a strong believer in security. Your nonprofit should only use unique, secure, difficult-to-guess passwords to secure any electronic accounts, which means you need a good system to keep track of dozens of passwords. LastPass has released their 4.0 version. Sure, there’s a sweet visual makeover, but also improvements to the browser plugins and their new “trusted people” feature which can create a way for you to share access to your account in unexpected situations. It’s still free, or a great bargain at $12 a year for individuals.

Basecamp 3.0 for Project Management

CuteBasecampFace300x300My work life has revolved around Basecamp for project management for years. It enables me to track even the smallest tasks well and keep all my files and communications for a project in one place. Email notes and tasks to your projects, or take a few minutes on your phone to catch up on progress. Basecamp, one of the early adventurers of online project management, continues to impress. Their newest version has re-organized the user interface and integrated Campfire (similar to Slack in functionality). They’ve released a beautifully simple new mobile app, but the integrations with other apps are not yet ready. I can’t wait till it’s fully ready to rock!

Cyfe for Custom Dashboards

Cyfe logo with logos of services they support via ZapierDashboarding is an approach to data management where you put the information you need into a simple visual interface so that you can “glance and go.” I spent time researching dashboards in 2015 and settled on Cyfe, which has the ability to pull in data from dozens of sources. My personal dashboard pulls key metrics from Google Analytics, Twitter, Klout, Freshbooks and MailChimp so that then I can decide where I need to look more closely each week. And get this: you can set up dashboards from any site with an open API (see below) or set up custom queries in SQL. Having a hard time paying attention to metrics (or news or data) from multiple sources? Get your eyes onto your highest priority data regularly with dashboarding software like Cyfe.

Zapier for Software Integrations

zapier-logoWhat makes so many of these types of software work well with each other is the world of open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). A product’s open API allows developers to write code so that other software products can interact with it. For example: MailChimp’s API is what allows MailChimp to interact with a CRM such as Salesforce (which in turn has its own API) to exchange information such as Name, Open/Click-thru data or “Do not email” data between the two systems. Zapier is one of the many emerging services that exists specifically to make your different software programs talk to each other. It has a dazzling number of options to automate connections between different software services you or your organization may use.

Also worth a look

  • Evernote for saving everything from notes on books I like, to how-tos, to recordings of my father-in-law talking about his experiences in World War II.
  • Privnote for sending secure one-time messages. It’s my preferred way to send sensitive information.
  • Boomerang, my personal assistant for my Gmail and Google apps accounts, for reminding me about messages that need further action.
  • Slack as the modern “online water cooler” so that I can chat with different teams across the Internet.

Try it, you might like it

Learning new tools takes time and can take effort. Just remember that almost everything you know how to do now is something you learned! Take your time, make sure you know why you’re adopting a new tool, and focus on improving just one thing at a time.

I look forward to hearing about your software adventures, and how you’re using productivity software to update your social justice organization’s approach to 21st century organizing.

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