Pro Tools for Digital Life

Whether it's programming, cooking or carpentry, having the right tools makes a huge difference.

Same goes for communication.

Here's my toolbox. I use these all the time.

  • gmail. best web email ever.
  • the Getting Things Done system. A great methodology for staying on top of what you can, and ditching the rest. Thanks Jon!
  • google calendar.  i can see my wife's calendar when i need to.  one of our regular babysitters keeps her schedule on it and shares it with us.  we can see when she's free/busy, saving everybody time when scheduling.
  • bit.ly.  you give it a long URL and it shortens it.  a pro feature is that you can customize the shortened URL.  for example, the URL for my public Google calendar, which shows my free/busy time but not the details, is http://bit.ly/dsj_cal.  I give that out to anyone I'm scheduling a meeting with.
  • twitter. this is where i go when i want to "read the newspaper". Over the past 6 months I've found 400 people worth following. I think of it as "build your own newspaper". If someone is polluting my stream with stuff I'm not interested in, I just de-follow them. I make no attempt to "keep up" with all the tweets. This is just what I read when I have downtime to read interesting things.
  • news.me's daily email. they scrape my twitter feed to find very interesting things i ought to read. i look at this every day and there's usually one or two really good things in it.
  • buffer.  If you tweet regularly, you need buffer.  They space out your tweets so that you're not overwhelming people.  They also track stats on clicks and retweets.  Why is this useful?  Here's the problem.  Let's say you spend 20 minutes a day reading twitter and re-tweeting the things you find interesting.  So then you've made 5 tweets in the span of 20 minutes, which is probably annoying to some of your followers.  That's where buffer comes in.  Instead of tweeting directly, you Buffer them up using their nice Chrome plugin (if you are not using Chrome now, close this window immediately and install it), and Buffer tweets them out for you at scheduled times.  It might sound a bit OCD, but I think your followers will be happier not getting 5 tweets from you all at once.
  • followupthen.  Send emails to your future self.  In an hour, a day, a week, month, specific date, whatever.  This helps keep your inbox free of clutter that's there only to serve as a reminder.  Example: I email someone, asking them to do something for me.  But I know they're a little busy/forgetful.  So I also bcc 1week@followupthen.com, so that I'll get an email about it in a week.  In a week, when I get the email, if they haven't done anything yet, I can bug them again or otherwise deal with it.  In the interim, my inbox is blissfully clean, which is good since then I'm not devoting valuable brainspace or inbox space to the matter.  This harmonizes very well with the Getting Things Done methodology.
  • ohours.  If you're in a line of business where people "meet for coffee" all the time, you might find it more efficient to schedule a 20-minute videoconf chat instead.  ohours handles the logistics of scheduling and connecting.  If you want to chat with me, here's my ohours.
  • skillshare.  If you have a skill, you should be teaching it.  Today, I'm teaching Fun With Data 101.  If you don't have a skill... come on!  You have a skill!
  • about.me.  A nice place to send people who want to learn more about you.  I need a better picture there.  Someday when Tom and I are on the same coast, he'll take one.
Do you have tools you like?  Add 'em in the comments!

One final note about twitter, buffer and news.me.  I think buffer and news.me are, together, improving serious problems with twitter, from the outside.  Interestingly, they both attack temporal problems with twitter, buffer on the way in and news.me on the way out.  With buffer, I can compose my tweets when I want, and they'll send them out later, on an optimal schedule for my followers.  With news.me, I can read whenever I want, and they've taken the trouble of figuring out which tweets in my stream are most likely to interest me.

What do you think?


  1. David, paul lightfoot here. followupthen makes me feel like you aren't really using Allen's GTD methodology. If you need to be reminded of it in the future set a tickler in your list system. I use toodledo.com, which kicks ass.

    For scheduling meeting time and dates among busy people, doodle.com rocks. save a ton of time.

    if your work email traffic is bogging you down, get your company (or group) to adopt Salesforce.com Chatter. Email traffic drops and information gets shared and archived much more effectively.

  2. This is great - I'm too busy being disorganized to know about these tools! What I could use to clear out my inbox is actually an aggregator for groupon and all the knockoffs - know of one?

  3. No idea! I've never gotten into the group-coupon craze, or coupon crazes of any kind. The only things I seem to buy are Apple computers and apartments.