Last month I attended the WE Local conference in Bellevue, WA. WE Local (SWE Local 2019) is a Society of Women Engineers (SWE) program that brings together participants in all stages of their collegiate and professional journey. It was an event full of women balancing many things: their careers, families, social lives and participation in their local SWE chapters.
I attended a breakout session where I was introduced to several Apps to help manage the bombardment of information and scheduling. Over the last few weeks, I tried out a few of these Apps that seemed promising for engineering consulting. I focused on three categories of tools that I thought were particularly relevant: 1) Managing Email Clutter 2) Time Management and 3) Clarity in Communication.
In the first category, I wanted email clutter tools to categorize email by client efficiently and reduce the time impact of low priority emails. I tried two applications: Unroll.me and SaneBox. I found that they performed much of the same activities. SaneBox gives you the ability to customize and sort individual emails. It is simple to train incoming emails to client specific folders, but the same can be accomplished using filters in Outlook. I liked the visual nature of Unroll.me’s summary email, but there are only two choices. You can choose to either include emails in the daily roll–up or keep them in your inbox. I don’t know that either app is going to save me any time sorting my work emails by client and project. The tools that Outlook provides are already pretty efficient at sorting emails.
I was also looking for an easy way to increase the accuracy of my timesheet from the time management tools. I put two tools to the test: Toggle and Rescue Time. Both tools have browser add-ons making them easy to access. Rescue Time runs in the background, on your computer and phone, logging time you spend in each application. It then summarizes your daily efficiency based on the type of software programs used. This didn’t help me increase the accuracy of my timesheet. Toggle allowed me to start/stop a timer, define the task, and flag by project. At the end of the day, I could enter my time by project with more accuracy and less lost time. I wasn’t always accurate starting/stopping the timer, but I could manually modify my entries, and I still found that it provided a more accurate view of my time.
Finally, I looked to Hemingway Editor and Grammarly to bolster written client communication. Grammarly is a souped-up version of Microsoft’s spelling/grammar check with a nice graphical interface. I like it better than the standard spelling/grammar check because it learns from my writing and has both MS Office and browser plugins. Hemingway Editor flags hard to follow sentences, which seemed very promising. I hoped that it could make client communications more streamlined. Unfortunately, I found that many sentences were too complicated for the Hemingway Editor AI due to the technical nature of my communication. However, Hemingway is a great application to provide clarity if you are communicating something other than technical details. For example, I used it to review this blog post.