The technologies that connect us with our colleagues and clients often seem more determined to cripple communication than promote it. Managing these tools and the fire hose of information they bring into our work lives swallows time better spent on more important parts of our business. Here are five apps that will help streamline your communication channels so you can stay connected with less effort.
Your device’s notification system is an undisciplined pest that bombards you with information at inopportune times. Do you really need to know someone “liked” your recipe on Facebook when you’re in the middle of a meeting? Pushover gives you more control over these alerts. You can customize your notifications so you’re alerted only to those events that matter to you — say, when you receive an email from a particular client — when they matter to you. You can even designate “quiet hours” when you silence the noise completely. Pushover costs $4.99 per platform (iOS, Android, desktop) and allows 7,500 free messages per month.
As critical as contacts are for your business, manually updating them is a time suck you can’t afford. Addappt puts the onus on your contacts themselves to keep their information updated, essentially giving you a self-maintaining virtual Rolodex. The system requires that your contacts also use the Addappt app — not a hard sell, as it’s free — and whenever they update their information in their address book, the changes will be automatically reflected in yours. Available for iOS and Android.
3. Boomerang for Gmail
It’s good practice to limit emailing to certain times of day, but those times may not be the best for your recipients. Boomerang adds a “send later” option to Gmail that lets you schedule delivery times for your messages as you compose them. You can also set follow-up reminders to make sure important correspondence doesn’t fall through the cracks. Best of all, Boomerang’s scheduling also allows you to archive messages until you need them so you can keep a tidier inbox. The app is currently only available for Android, though an iOS version is reportedly in the works. The personal plan runs $4.99 a month.
Wading through dozens of messages in a labyrinthine voice mail system is a unique kind of torture. YouMail offers an easier way. This visual voice mail app lets you view, play, and organize your phone messages in an email-style interface, and reply via voice call, email, or text. A paid plan ($5/month for YouMail Premium, $10/month for YouMail Business) brings advanced options such as voice-to-text transcription, customized greetings, and call blocking. YouMail is available for iOS and Android devices, as well as desktop PCs.
5. Blue Jeans
Video conferencing is one of the easiest ways for remote parties to meet face-to-face — except when each party is using a different system. The Blue Jeans service connects meeting participants across a range of conferencing platforms (Polycom, Cisco, Microsoft Lync, and more), and the Blue Jeans app lets you join from your iOS or Android device. You can host or join a meeting with up to 25 participants for free, share content, and arrange the layout of conference participants to your liking. You can even schedule meetings and send invitations from within the app.