Help with scheduling, passwords, chat and self-discipline
Digital technologies were supposed to save us time and bring us closer. It turns out our smartphones have become more like Vegas slot machines, feeding into dopamine addictions. Social media vitriol has made us a more polarized society. And who hasn’t wasted time looking at memes?
Yet there are apps which actually save me time and decrease pain points in my life. Here’s a few I recommend for both churches and individuals. I use these every day.
Personal meeting schedulers like Calendly allow you share your availability with people trying to find a time to meet with you. Gone are the annoying back and forths of multiple emails or discussions about which day and time you’re free. Rather you can set windows of time you are free, and it automatically updates when you book a slot. Giving someone a quick link allows them to find an available time in your schedule that matches their own. It will send auto reminders about the time to meet, put it in both your calendars, email with all the details so you can show up, and the time and place online or in person. Whether a business meeting or coffee with a friend, this app alone has saved me tons of administrative time (my own time or the time of a paid assistant).
Another typical source of wasted time and stress online is remembering and manually entering all our passwords. If you forget one, resetting takes even more time, and there’s a limit to how many new passwords we can imagine that are also secure and meet required criteria. Typing in passwords has become a daily annoyance, and a password manager app like this one solves it. LastPass helps you log in to all your accounts in a secure, centralized way with one place that stores them all and automatically fills it out for you. Data can sync across multiple platforms from laptop to phone to tablet, and the auto-created passwords are far more secure and complex than typical ones we create ourselves. In a work setting a centralized LastPass account allows a team to get passwords after someone leaves the organization or has forgotten the login. Time saved and pain reduced.
Email allows us to send a letter to someone around the world in an instant. But our inboxes quickly become full of spam, irrelevant items and short back-and-forths that are not very efficient. Enter an instant communication tool such as Slack, WhatsApp or MS Teams. Essentially these are like text messages, chatting or your Instagram DMs, but allow you to include files, links and more as you talk to individuals or groups, private or public, around designated subject channels. Many email conversations, with their delays and the difficulty of sorting ever-ex panding inboxes, can easily be more effective as real-time chats. Simple "Yes. No. Got it. Thanks!" kinds of messages are more suited to chat than to clunky email. Setting up Slack channels for coworker conversations radically reduced the amount of messages in my email inbox, and I’ve seen that at churches and ministries too. I’ve also seen family groups adopt it to chat in real time, share photos and stories, work on family budgets, groceries, trip planning and more. Use Slack for your internal conversations, and you will also see an increase in personal connection and fun as people talk in the moment rather than with all the pauses between emails.
Do you find your online activity less fruitful than your best intentions for productivity because of distractions? Apps like Freedom allow you to put temporary blocks or time limits on apps or websites so you can get things done. It works on both laptops and phones, so if you tend to jump between the two, your commitment to focus will carry over. If you don’t want Instagram to distract your productivity during the workday, or if you want to be shut out at 8 p.m. so you don’t stay up all night, this app will help where self-discipline fails. (Be warned that under our tendency to blame social media is the reality we humans tend to find all manner of things to distract ourselves from what we say is most important.) This app can also be a great revealer of our character and may be the thing God uses to get your attention on deeper issues.
Joanna la Fleur is a podcaster, TV host and communications consultant in Toronto. Find more of these columns at FaithToday.ca/ThrivingInDigital. Photo of passwords from Shutterstock.com