There are close to 44,000 minutes in one month. Although that may sound like a lot, menial tasks and inefficient software can eat up those minutes, leaving you with less time to do many of the things that can help grow your company. Some of the day-to-day tasks you don't think about can be the biggest "time sinks" of them all. As a freelance journalist myself who is hit with dozens of story pitches a day (if not more), issues around my flooded inbox or busy calendar always seem to trip me up and leave me falling down a black hole of lost time. That's where these companies have stepped up to the plate to help make our daily grinds just a bit more bearable.

Solving Calendar Problems

If you aren't lucky enough to have an assistant, managing your appointments can really disrupt your day. Fantastical's second version shaves a lot of time off of making appointments by using natural language to create regular events (kind of like Siri, but it works). For example, you can type "call with client every Tuesday at 4pm" and the app will create an event across multiple devices that syncs.

I also recommend trying out X.ai's virtual assistant to schedule your meetings. This New York startup allows you to interact with a male or female artificial intelligence program to place appointments on your calendars. All you need to do, once you've gotten access (it's still rather exclusive), is copy Amy or Andrew Ingram on your emails. They aren't real people, but you wouldn't be able to tell it by their normal-looking, conversational email responses. These AI virtual assistants will search out date, time and location info in the conversations they are copied on, as well as talk to and set up the meeting with the person you want to meet.

Inefficient Conference Calls

Conference calls are frustrating and tiresome to put together. You have to get the conference line set up, email everyone, make sure the information's correct, and make sure everyone who needs to be on the call gets the information. This takes time and is fraught with inefficiencies. AnyMeeting, an online meeting software company, recently released Talk@. To set up a call, you email everybody you want on it and CC talk@anymeeting.com. The software automatically emails everybody a dial-in. If you create a calendar invite with that address invited, it also sends a reminder email before the call.

Hop Onto Your Most Important Emails

One of the reasons people face email overload is because it's become a lot like instant messaging. Short quips like "Hey, can you do this?" or "What do you think of this proposal?" mix in your inbox with your eighth Groupon email of the day, for instance. That's why Hop works; it turns email chains into "conversations" that you can focus on, filtering out things like LinkedIn updates and grouping contacts intelligently. You can also create groups of people you email regularly, so that their responses (even if they don't use hop) are grouped into one specific area. It's on both Android and iOS.

Calm Your Inbox Chaos

When Walt Mossberg says that you've rid him of over 22,000 emails in half an hour, you're onto something good. Mailstrom is an app that plugs into your Gmail and Outlook accounts and lets you intelligently archive, filter or outright delete emails. For example, you can choose to have notices that client invoices have been paid disappear after a day, automatically archive any email from LinkedIn, or delete incoming emails from a particular address by default. If you're experiencing a total inbox meltdown, you can also search for a particular email (if you use one inbox for work and play, this could be a sales email) and eliminate them all. Mailstrom also uses its own algorithm to assess what you think is important and highlights it for you. It has both a limited free version and increasingly more expensive versions if you have more than one account, or need to manage more than a certain amount of emails.

It's really easy to forget the little things that drag you down in a workday, usually because you're so tired from dealing with those things. However, apps like these can help you get rid of those nagging time-wasters and let you focus on getting things done.

Published on: Mar 27, 2015
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