Tools to Hack your Workflow

This month’s Carnival of Journalism comes from my Missouri housemate Will Sullivan. He asks us to “hack his worfkflow” and share tips/tools/trends that help us maneuver through our day.

I love this question and I’m pumped on finding out what tools and tricks other folks use.

I’ll start with the newest tool that has changed my email experience


Email can cause more stress than it’s worth, and then I found Nudgemail. If you’re like me – you hate seeing unread emails in your inbox. You’ll open them and find out that this email requires action but you can’t tackle it until next Thursday. If you’re a list-maker like me – you have a choice 1. Leave it unread, starring at you everyday until next Thursday when you can tackle the problem or email it to Next Thursday at 6:30am that email will be re-sent to you. You can email virtually any date/time.,, etc, etc. I’m willing to admit that email acts as a bit of a to-do list for me. But I refuse to let that mean that email is in charge of my life or should constantly stress me out. Nudgemail gives me control over my inbox. If it’s a problem that I can’t tackle until Tuesday – then takes care of it for now and I can move on to a more urgent matter.

Apple Keyboard Shortcuts

I just got back from visiting my parents and teaching my mom about keyboard shortcuts. Perhaps mentioning keyboard shortcuts is a bit of a yawner for other Carnival of Journalism folk, but it goes without saying – this is a BIG time saver. I’m lucky that I learned to type young (thanks mom) and I’ve picked up the Apple keyboard shutcuts pretty quickly. I love finding new ones too. Do yourself a favor, find a useful one on that list and spend a week making it second nature. I’ve probably increased my productivity a bajillion fold not having to slow down to click from tab to tab, window to window, etc.

In August 2010 I did a post: “Five Tools to Increase Productivity” and it might help to list those here as well. I’ll give short explanations and if you want the full introduction to these tools, check out the link.

The Viddler Interview

I get contacted by students all the time. Journalism professors like to point to Spot.Us and they often assign projects that involved interviewing journalism entrepreneurs or new media models, etc. I try to make myself as available as possible. I also try not to get annoyed that I’m asked some of the same questions all the time. When people ask “where did the idea for Spot.Us” come from – I don’t want to be flippant and just write back in an email “from my head” nor do I want to spend 10 minutes writing out the real story (over and over again). Instead – I respond via Viddler, a YouTube competitor. If you check out my Viddler profile you’ll see I have almost 100 videos. All of them are titled “Answers for XX.” Typing out the answers without shortchanging the students would probably take a minimum of 20 minutes each. Using Viddler it’s closer to 5. The mental relief is also great. So create a second YouTube account or a Viddler account or some other video uploading competitor and use that second account as a way to talk with others who might be asking you long winded questions.

Text Expander

Do you write a lot of emails? Do many of them have the same elements or formats? Do you run an organization and sometimes you need to reach out to various people but you don’t want to mass email people (lame?). Do you write a lot of html and would love some shortcuts? Check out Text Expander. It creates files of text that are at your fingertips just create a short code like “news-orgmail” and when you type it – BAMN instantly the full text that you want to send to news orgs is pasted into your email. You can have as many short coded emails as you want.


This tool comes via Kara Andrade and Erik Sundelof. Jing is a screencast tool which is incredibly useful if you work with a remote team building and managing a website. If you’ve ever had a phone conversation with a web developer about a bug,  you’ll know that communication is hard. You’ll ask them to get on the computer so they can see what you see. But you are never 100% sure if what you are saying translates. All that goes away with Jing.


It is as cool as it sounds. The xPad is the ultimate notebook. Do you take notes on your computer? Do you use Microsoft Word to save those notes. If so – please stop reading this right now and slap yourself. Microsoft Word is a horrible way to take notes. It is clunky, big files, slow to open, slow to close and worse yet – doesn’t easily transfer online (people that cut and paste word documents into a  WYSWIG editor are a pet peeve.) For a long time I just had an internal system of using TextEdit (Rich Text Documents). It worked okay. I’d keep one blank document open at all times (note taking) and save important ones. Luckily Joy Mayer, a fellows Missouri Reynolds Fellow told me about xPad.


This little plugin helps you know who you are talking to. If you are like me and you get an email from somebody new one of the first things you do is Google them to get the details. Rapportive does that for you. Right there in your inbox they’ll search for related social media accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Forget searching to find out who this person is – it’s already in front of you. Related but not as practical: Gist.

Grease Monkey

Grease Monkey is the script that fathered all scripts. First: If you don’t use Firefox, stop reading this and slap yourself.

If you do use Firefox, are you using it to its full potential? Maybe not. Download Grease Monkey and then search through the seemingly endless add-ons. The important thing here is not to get lost in the sea of possibilities. Instead think about a problem you already have in your browsing experience.

3 thoughts on “Tools to Hack your Workflow”

  1. How do you come across these tools in the first place? Plainly word of mouth? Or do you google problems you’re having? I’d like to get a jump on tools to optimize my work flow but often end up downloading plug ins that don’t help my progress.

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