This is not an article on cost estimating. No. This article is about being efficient, achieving more in less time and following your agenda.
If you have been making a living as a cost estimator, then you know: an estimator’s job is never boring. You are always in a contest with time: how to better use it. Every project we work on comes with a deadline we don’t control. Last minute changes make the life of a cost estimator, even more, fun.
Those who are exploring a career in cost estimating ask this common question: what makes a good estimator. I will tell you what I think it is: Excellent Time Management Skills! Yes, if you master how to manage your time very efficiently, the rest just falls into place.
Following, I will share with you the apps I use every day to enable me to accomplish more. Let’s be honest: the amount of information we have to handle day in and day out, prioritize, delegate, communicate, update, report, social presence, etc., it is overwhelming. Having the tools to help us navigate through a day’s load of to-do’s it is crucial. It makes all the difference. Attention to detail and meeting the deadlines need a laser-like focus on your part. Are you up to it?
Here are my favorite Apps:
After trying many apps for task management, workflows and to do lists, I settled on Trello. The best by far. The visual interface and flexibility are the features I like the most. This tool lets me organize everything going on in my life, work wise and personal. The way I use it is to create workflows, increase productivity and keep my personal goals in perspective.
To give you a better idea of how powerful and versatile this app is, browse through these examples and decide for yourself. The learning curve is very short, and the user discovers the many functionalities quite easy. The app has a free version you can use. If you want to get the most of it, the paid version comes with a low monthly fee, but it is all worth your money. Here is a YouTube video that will give you enough information to get you started with Trello.
Automate everything! Well, most of it anyway. This is a free app that lets you automate lots of tasks. I use it to automate tasks that I do every day, mostly within the social media. For instance, I created an app to automatically post a thank you tweet to all my new followers and add them to a spreadsheet in Google drive. A time saver!
This app uses “recipes” built on the “if this, then that” formula. If you are not using it, you are missing out. Read this article to understand how it works at a glance, or go to the app home page.
This app has the same functionality of the IFTTT app; the difference is that Zapier is more business focused and gives the user the ability to create multiple steps recipes. The app has a free version, but to be able to use the best functionality, the user has to pay. Here is a great article on comparison of automation tools, including the Microsoft Flow.
Both IFTTT and Zapier appeal to those who use various apps regularly. Using IFTTT or Zapier, the user can create recipes to make the various apps talk to each other. Here is an article that focuses on Zapier use for project management.
The point here is that any repetitive task we do takes time. If we can find a way to neatly organize an automatic flow, the time we end up saving could be significant.
If you are more of a “just a straight forward to do list” kind of person, there is an app for that too. Meet Workflowy. Create simple lists and “organize your brain” the way the creator of Workflowy markets it. I used it for a long time and found it very helpful. It has a free version with almost all the features as the paid version. I believe the only noticeable difference is that with the paid version you can share your lists with others. Same as with all of the above apps, this one can also be used on all mobile devices.
Another great list and task management app is Todoist. This app comes with a free version as well. The paid version does not offer a lot more, but if you want to collaborate with others, set reminders and add labels and filters to your projects, you will need to pay for it. Regardless, it is a great app. It also can be used within Zapier and IFTTT receipts. The learning curve is relatively short.
And, of course, with all that much on your plate, you will want to know where your time goes. Meet Toggl, the app that keeps you focused on the task at hand. Literally! The paid version has the Pomodoro feature included. If you are not familiar with the Pomodoro technique, read about it here.
I love this app. It comes in handy especially when I work on multiple projects, and I need to track my time spent on each of them. And the best part, it just shows me at the end of the day how much of my time went towards actual work. Another way I like to use it is to see how much time I need to complete a particular task. We tend to be over optimistic when we estimate the amount of time we need to do something. At least I am! A reality check is always helpful.
My last one on the list is a calendar consolidation app. Fantastical 2 is just that. It lets you consolidate all your calendars if you have more than one, which I do.
It is designed to work only on Apple mobile devices, unfortunately. I used the Microsoft Sunrise calendar until it was discontinued later this year. For all those who manage more than one calendar, this app lets you see them all in the same place. It is priceless.
There are many other apps out there which are very useful, like cloud storage, social media management, etc. The intention of this article was to share the few ones that I use and are not quite well known.
By Doina Dobre