Feeling stressed? Not enough hours in the day? Life seems to be increasingly busy for most people, and working parents often feel under pressure from both work and home. Here entrepreneur and career coach, Kath Sloggett, who is a mother to two young children, shares four of her favourite apps for taking stress out of the everyday juggle.
Through pregnancy, the newborn panics, the wonder weeks, and beyond: apps have helped many of us in our parenting journey. But what about apps to help when juggling parenthood with working? Check out these four essential apps for busy people, hand-picked by working mother and expert career coach, Kath Sloggett of Runneth.
1. RescueTime (free)
Are you frantically busy, rushing to get everything done, and not sure where the day goes? It seems like most people feel like this these days!
Given that our workloads and ‘to do’ lists are not likely to get any simpler, how about carving out some extra productive time in your day?
RescueTime might be the answer. It is designed to help people discover how they waste time – be that the lost hour we (ok, I) accidentally spent browsing Instagram before bed, or the half an hour wasted after googling a new client’s business and falling into a Twitter trap of not-actually-relevant posts, or the 15 minutes spent reading an article a friend’s friend liked on Facebook. These minutes all add up and for some people (me included), they can add up to lost hours of productive time every day.
RescueTime doesn’t stop you spending your time how you would like, but it does make you more aware of time ticking. It works by sitting in the background of your computer and logging how you spend your time.
Once you are aware of when and where you are potentially wasting time, you can then decide if you would like RescueTime to either limit the amount of time you spend doing something (eg “limit me to 20 minutes of Instagram per day”) or you can set up an alert (eg “you have just spent 10 minutes on this website”). You can of course choose to ignore the alert if you wish.
Then decide how you will use your extra free time – perhaps by doing more work or getting more organising at home. Or maybe you’ll have time to read that book that you’ve been meaning to pick up for ages….
2. Amazon Fresh (free 30 day trial)
Ok, so you have probably already discovered the Amazon app. You may also have discovered the joys of next-day-delivery with Amazon Prime (and its associated free access to movies and TV shoes on Amazon Prime Video).
But have you tried Amazon Fresh?
Amazon Fresh offers same day – same day! – grocery deliveries in one hour slots from 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week. While it is still in roll out mode, it will soon cover 302 postcodes across London and the South East. With the membership, you get free delivery, including same day delivery, on grocery orders over £40.
Parents who use the service rave about one hour delivery timeslots which are so helpful for busy and working parents, the unlimited bottled waters per order, the range of independent stores you can order from (including Marylebone Butchers, Paxton & Whitfield cheeses and Paul A Young chocolates) as well as cost-saving everyday groceries from supermarkets like Morrisons. Definitely worth a try and worth keeping in mind if you are ever in a pickle. You can sign up and cancel your membership at any time.
Another shopping app worth mentioning with the same potentially life-saving same day delivery option is Argos – for forgotten birthday presents, short notice colleague gifts, emergency gadget replacements, office and school essentials, and more. Order via the app or website by 6pm for same day delivery by 10pm, for £3.95.
3. Boomerang for Gmail (free)
You are up early working at 6am, to get an important proposal emailed to your client before the kids wake up. Or you are working after the kids’ bedtime, which has suddenly become 11pm, and you have only just finished your board report. And while you could send those emails straight away, it would look more professional to send them during normal business hours.
With Boomerang, you can do just that. You can set the time you want the email to be sent and – hey presto – your board report will smoothly arrive with your manager at 8.30am the next morning. Making you look like you’re working when actually you are in the midst of a school run. And during a particularly busy phase at work, or if you just like to plan ahead, you can even set up pre-scheduled birthday emails to be sent to your nearest and dearest on their big day.
Boomerang has two other nifty features that are worthy of note. Firstly, you can set a future date/time when you want to respond to an email. So, if you want to deal with all non-urgent family-related emails on your day off or on a Wednesday evening, for example, then you can select those emails and they will pop into your inbox just as you need to see them. For the time being, Boomerang will move those emails out of your inbox, making it easier for you to see everything else needs your attention.
Secondly, you can set follow up reminders. These can be useful for everyone but particularly so for those who are job sharing, working part time or dealing with a lot of people or projects in their role. You can send your email to someone, asking for a response, but it can be easy to lose track of where things were up to do or whether someone did respond. With the Boomerang alert, you can select to be reminded if no one responds, or to be reminded anyway, so that nothing falls through the cracks.
If you don’t use Gmail, look for alternatives offered by your email provider. Outlook, for example, allows you to do something similar to Boomerang’s functionality.
4. IFTTT (free)
The final app on our list, and the mother of all apps, is IFTTT. If you try only one of these apps, make it this one. It stands for “if that, then this” and is basically a way of connecting any two (or more) things to each other.
The possible uses for IFTTT are really only limited by your imagination – you can connect to email, Dropbox, calendars, ‘to do’ lists, apps, social media and much more. Here are just a few of the ways that this free app might help you manage your work and home lives better.
- If you receive an email from a specific person (perhaps your boss, or that important client, or your child’s head teacher), automatically get sent a text to notify you. So you can hopefully put your phone in your pocket and forget about it until that crucial text arrives.
- If you routinely check the weather in the morning (or the night before), IFTTT can send you an automatic text with the weather forecast at the time you specify. You can also set it up so you are only notified if it is likely to rain that day, so you can have raincoats and umbrellas at the ready.
- If you set up an IFTTT number, you can leave a voice message at that number and IFTTT will email you a dictation of the message. So you can start the first draft of an email or blog post as you walk between meetings, or you can dictate a quick ‘to do’ list or meeting summary and email it to everyone involved while you are on the go.
- If you email a photo of your expense receipt to a specific email address, Dropbox will save the attachment in an expenses folder in Dropbox for you.
- You can label an email with a specific label to make it pop into your reminders – or send it automatically into your spouse’s reminders, which is a bit sneaky but very effective!
- And finally, the one which I’m sure every parent will appreciate: if you lose your phone in the house somewhere, send an email to yourself with #lostphone in the subject line. The wonderful IFTTT will then call your phone so it will ring and you will find it in your shoe, or the laundry basket, or one of a hundred other places a tot might hide it.
These apps may not have the magic answer for getting out-the-door smoothly in the mornings – although I do have some tips for that – and may not shortcut those bedtime battles. But hopefully they can make your day that little bit easier. And I think as busy parents, we all deserve that.
Have you tried any of these apps, or do you use any other apps that you would like to recommend? Please drop me a line and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
You are invited to join our friendly Working Mums’ Hub Facebook Group for working and would-like-to-be working mums, https://www.facebook.com/groups/workingmumshub/. We answer questions, share career and start up business tips, and post returnships and family-friendly jobs.
This article first featured in the October 2017 edition of the Bubele National Newsletter.
Author: Kath Sloggett. Sign up to receive monthly newsletters from Bubele via their website (www.bubeleapp.com) to read my articles and those of my fellow experts.