Saturday, March 17, 2012

App Review: Any.Do

Any.Do is one of the top task management apps available on Android. If you haven't followed the new app buzz over the past 6 or so months, you might have missed Any.Do. It's relatively new to the scene, and if you've been using an older task app, this review is for you.

Grade: A

Quick Pitch: Any.Do does just what you'd expect any task management app to do - it allows you to enter tasks and reminders, then check them off when you've completed them. It's the way Any.Do does it that makes it one of the best apps for the job. It runs on a simplistic, clean UI that is so eye-appealing you'll spend time on the app just to look at it. It comes complete with 4 different widgets so you can keep you to-do list in front of you with ease. And it syncs with your Google Tasks so that you can manage and view your tasks online. When it comes to sharing and organization Any.Do makes collaborating on tasks easy. Whether a contact uses Any.Do or not, you can share any task with them directly from the app. Perhaps the best part of this app is the task entry. When typing a task into the app it predicts common tasks with the accuracy of the best text-prediction keyboards - "Pick up..." becomes a list of Pick up drycleaning - prescription - milk - check - etc. If you are entering contact information such as "call Mark" the app automatically queues up a list of Marks from your address book, lets you pick one, and places a phone shortcut in the task so you can simply call from the app when you're ready to complete that task. Finally, one of the newest features to this app launches a pop-up box after each missed call and allows you to add that call to your tasks for later.

Full Story: If you've read my previous reviews, you can probably tell I'm smitten with this app - I use probably 95% of its capabilities on a regular basis. I feel that using a task management app like this is a great compliment to using one of the great note-taking apps I previously reviewed because it keeps your tasks closer to your fingertips. Any.Do is still a relatively new app, it's not without its bugs, but the team behind the app is great with updates and more functionality is always coming. Before using Any.Do, I wasn't a regular user of any task management app, but tested out such apps as Taskos and Astrid before deciding that Any.Do was the one to go with. For me, it was about the simple UI.


  • Simple UI, easy to use - I'll admit it, I'm a guy, I don't like needing a task list to remind me to do anything (as much as I need it). So being able to get in and out of the list in a hurry is essential.
  • Task Prediction - Any.Do can let you enter your tasks in half the time, simply because it knows all about common tasks.
  • Missed Call Reminders - Add missed calls to your list and never forget to call someone back again.
  • Widgets - If you're as bad as I can be at keeping your list in front of you, a widget will take care of that.
  • Syncing - While the app syncs with Google Tasks, I've had issues with that working from my tablet. The Any.Do team collected a bunch of feedback so I'm confident they'll find a fix, but in the meantime, my tablet only keeps tasks that I enter from my tablet.
  • Organization - It's getting better, but for the most part you enter a task, then go back and choose a priority (today, tomorrow, this week, or later), whether to put it into a folder (personal, work, etc), whom to share it with, when to remind you, etc. A recent app update allows you to jump directly to share or remind - which are by far the best two options - but I still wonder how it might look if you could fully customize your task before submitting it.
Overall, this is a fantastic app and worth your time to give it a try. You can download it from the market here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Cerebral Professional

I am posting a day late this week, because I spent yesterday landing a new job. I am really excited to be returning to the financial services industry. After spending a year outside of the industry I really learned how passionate I am about helping consumers and small businesses with their financial needs.

That said, I want to talk about a skill (theory?) I used for job hunting that has always been effective for both me and those I have advised with job searches. That skill is getting inside the head of who you need to be for the proposed job.

I feel that a lot of people who are looking for a promotion or new job display their understanding for that position as they understand it from their current position. That's wrong. It is said that you have to dress for the job you want, not the job you have - it's even more important to think like the job you want rather than the job you have.

To use an example that is familiar to most of us, let's look at a bank teller looking to transition her/his career to a personal banker position. The core skill set for a teller involves, money handling, customer service, detail orientation, and referrals. Those skills are all transferable to a personal banker position, but transferable is the key word. 

For example, let's use customer service. A teller provides customer service via a strong greeting, in-transaction conversation, and a strong closing. Their mentality needs to be around answering the customer's primary need and good communication. These are all very reactive actions. A banker, on the other hand, needs to be much more proactive. While addressing the customer's initial need/request the banker also needs use their service skills to deepen the relationship for the future. 

These are subtle differences, but the step of using customer service skills to build a relationship rather than a more "one-and-done" mentality is important. If you are the teller, applying for promotion, it's important to understand how you would approach customer service differently to be successful at that next level.

That's just one example, but it is true of almost every job change out there. Just like the clothes, you have to think like the new job.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

App Review: totenotes

Here's a very new app that many people probably haven't heard about yet. I have only been using it this week, but it's already shown me that it will get more than just a quick trial for review.

Grade A

Quick Pitch: totenotes is an app that launches after each call you complete and offers a chance for you to make voice notes regarding the call. It transcribes your note, attaches the mp3, and sends the whole shebang over to your preferred email (which you've smartly filtered for the expected message). totenotes goes a step further than some other "after-call" apps and allows you to set both All hours and Business (8-6) hours for the app to activate AND to set a timeframe for the pop up to disappear without you having to press anything.

Full Story: I expected to rate this app about a B-. I don't like apps that ask me to take an extra step after every call. It's just another obtrusive step with which I'd rather not deal. When I do need to make a note following a business call, I'm OK with heading over to my preferred note-taking app and doing it myself. totenotes however, is as automated and as unobtrusive as I've seen for this type of app. The additional benefit of being able to set business hours (even though I only get to choose totenotes' 8-6) is another great feature. If you use your phone for business use this is a fantastic app to try. If you are like me and taking notes is something you need to do more of, this is perfect.

Bonus idea -- If you want all of your notes in one place you could use your note-app's email account rather than your regular email.


  • Automated and Unobtrusive - this app does what you need it to, then gets the heck out of the way.
  • Customization - there are a number of preference settings to help this app work for you.
  • Contact Recognition - I organize my Google contacts into groups like a boss, and I'd be totally OK giving totenotes permissions to see which contacts I'd leave notes for and which I won't.
  • Notification Bar - I know this is really Android's problem, but I do have a threshold for the number of apps that I allow to occupy my notification bar all the time.
I only tested the free version of this app, but if you're looking for power-user options you can upgrade for $3.99 to be able to leave longer notes and add a CC email address. 

You can download the free version of the app here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Plug for Personal Branding

I write a lot about professional relationships here on Like-em. I feel they're critical to the success of our careers. It's cliche to say "it's who you know," but there is and always will be a ton of truth to that statement. I know plenty of talented, brilliant people who have gotten nearly every job they've ever had based on who they knew and not being a blind candidate for a position that they are well-qualified for.

Given that, I feel that many of us miss the boat on opportunities to really brand ourselves professionally. We go through our professional lives, working hard and being brutally modest about the results. There's nothing wrong with modesty - until it restrains us from well-deserved growth.

A huge opportunity that we have in today's world is digital social networking. It doesn't really matter which digital platform you spend your time on, - Google +, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc - there are people to be met everywhere. An interesting thing about how we use those social platforms however, is something we need to keep off the back burner.

I'll use Facebook as an example. It's a wonderful platform for a lot of reasons. At the heart of the platform are a number of core features that allow us to easily remain connected to friends and family that we otherwise might lose track of from time to time in our busy lives. I can personally say that I have grown a number of relationships with extended family and friends from past cities, jobs, and schools because of Facebook. The ability to share the simplest of events with a large group of people encourages deeper relationships. 

In the past, I've compared Facebook to a Friday night out (you can choose if it's for food or drink) where you connect with someone you haven't seen for a while. You share a few things about what's happening at work, your family, your kids (we tend to be redundant when we're catching up don't we?), and any other various personal interest topics. This is a great component to a relationship, sharing these things builds trust and familiarity.

It's also missing something. You know that project at work that you think is headed the wrong direction - the one you can rant about at a moment's notice? Chances are you didn't mention that in your status update tonight. Remember that industry-related article that really got your mind spinning about how changes are on the horizon for your customers? You left that bottled up inside too. And those questions that are burning a hole in your head about how to overcome a new challenge in your industry? You didn't have one meaningful conversation with someone who understood the topic as well as you do.

Enter a new perspective on digital social networking. It can be more than just a diversion for your weeknights on the couch. There are any number of like-minded professionals around the globe tackling the same goals and challenges as you are. They aren't millionaire business moguls, high-priced consultants, or well-meaning best friends. Actually, they're just like you, hard-working professionals making an average salary and trying to do the best they can. And there's a way that you can find them - because digital social platforms have made the world a whole lot smaller.

When you use a digital social platform as a way to promote your personal brand - one as a professional with an understanding of your industry, working to gain more knowledge, and willing to network to do it - you'll find these people coming out of the World Wide Web's woodwork (that's wwww for those keeping score at home).

Now I can promote any digital platform - some are better than others at creating an open environment for this - but ultimately any one can work. Here are few tips that I've found helpful for helping me to be a better professional and to help build a reputation (personal brand) for being a person who is focused on growth within my profession.

  1. Read and Share - Everyone tells you to read more. It's true, by reading industry/job related content you can improve yourself in a number of ways - not the least of which is deepening your understanding of what you do. By sharing what you read to a social network you are letting others know what you are reading (so they can see how smart you are getting) and allow them to engage in a conversation with you about the topic at hand (allowing you to battle-test your new knowledge).
  2. Create some content, share that too - Reading is for growth, writing is for proof. You don't have to be a regular blogger, but by posting your personal ideas and observations to your social account you can really show what's important to you and where your mind is at. This can generate awesome conversations as well allowing you to really get to the bottom of a topic of interest.
  3. Seek and connect with like-minded individuals - Our society still feels a little funny about connecting with our peers around the globe. We seem to be more comfortable being a silent follower of some "expert," but by connecting with people just like yourself, you will find some of the best conversations.
Additional Encouragements:
  1. Open up a little bit - Building relationships is about getting to know people a little bit. If you just swing by a platform to post a professional tidbit and move on you're not doing much beyond personal marketing. Move past your narrow, professional interests once in a while and share content related to your personal interests and hobbies. You don't have to share pictures of your kids, just a good article about your favorite restaurant or sports team.
  2. Add value to conversations - This isn't all about you. In fact there are going to be a lot of people involved and win-win is one of the best relationship tactics I know. Share some of the good content you see from others and make comments that add value. Joining a conversation takes some of the weight off of your creative juices too.
Bonus plug for a platform

Over the past seven months, I have really enjoyed the growing community over at Google +. The platform still has plenty of growing to do, but it's one of the most engaging communities I have ever been a part of. You can't really compare it to Facebook, because you'll find a whole other group of people to connect with at Google +. 

I've dedicated a lot of time and energy to building my own network there since it's launch, but it is and will continue to be worth the work. I know that most of you reading this are from that network and I thank you. For those of you who either aren't using it or are minimally using it and want to find ways to make it more impactful, feel free to connect with me there and I can try to point you in the direction of some interesting and engaging professionals.

A big reason that I've made Google + a core component of my personal branding efforts is that the design of the platform highly encourages both connections with like-minded individuals (rather than existing friends) and quality engagement. These are things that can happen on other platforms, but are the foundation of the Google + design.

Friday, March 2, 2012

App Review: CallTrack

Today I take a look at one of my favorite productivity apps, CallTrack.

Grade: A-

Quick Pitch: CallTrack is a simple application that does exactly what you may have already guessed. It tracks all of the phone calls that you make. The real beauty of this app is that it doesn't require you to go to the app after initial setup. Instead, it posts all of your phone calls to a Google calendar. The app is incredibly simple, giving you options for which calendar you want to share it to and which combination of incoming, outgoing, and missed calls you would like to track. Oh, and it's free!

Full Story: For anyone who uses their phone for business this is a fantastic app. The ability to go back to your calendar to check out your phone activity is priceless. I created a separate Google calendar for my calls (this way I can toggle it off when looking for personal events) and I frequently go back it to check volume, verify when I last called a client, or to make notes. The only thing this app is missing is a way to specify contact groups or some other method to sort out personal and business phone activity.


  • Simple - Once you complete initial setup, all you have left to do is review your history. There's no on-going maintenance.
  • Dependable - I've used many simple, unheralded Android apps and have survived my share of bugs. CallTrack always works.
  • Organization - Keeping personal and business calls separate would make for a better experience
You can download the app from the market here.