I have a number of goals/objectives that fall under the software umbrella, but also life organization, efficiency, and management both personally and professionally.
- My goal is to find something that can help me cut down on the amount of thinking and planning needed for repeated actions.
The actions are not always the same so having wiggle room for other variables and input would be essential.
Some examples where I've seen this is with IFTT, Zapier, Apple Automator, macros and scripts for Microsoft programs such as Excel, Outlook, OneNote, etc.
Although one piece of software or suite of apps could be easier it might not necessarily fit the my goals; thus, I'm open to potential workflows among various apps that might reach my target.
Cross-platform compatibility is key: OSX (Yosemite), Windows 10, IOS, and Android. Cloud solutions and web applications would probably provide the most flexibility.
Free/open source is nice, but I'm not opposed to paying a license or subscription fee. I'll pay according to workflows criteria fulfillment. The more functionality, the more I'm willing to pay; Up to $200 for license (on multiple devices).
The purpose of the app(s) would be to function as a digital assistant that prompts the user (me) in various ways to perform complete actions to achieve goals or objectives.
Digital assistants such as IOS's Siri, Windows' Cortana, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Now; all have the baseline functionality I'm looking for.
My solution does not have to give/receive voice prompts, text input is acceptable.
Use case scenario/example and Context/Background: I plan about 110 events or gatherings each year with teenagers in 7th-12th grade.
Our gatherings run the gamut of meeting in our youth building (of which I'm operations manager and toilet plunger) to traveling in 15 passenger vans for overnight trips to a concert or beach.
Email correspondence, social media, print-promotions, medical forms, permission slips, registrations, cash, checks, budgets, hotels, transportation, food, safety, risk management, parents, leaders, training, schedules, itineraries, activities, database management, web site editing, digital media creator, IT and software management are just some of the responsibilities required of me.
Many of the events are weekly, monthly, and/or yearly recurring events with a few changes in detail here and there. But I find myself recreating similar emails; sometimes copy/paste editing of details, setting the same tasks for the same projects with similar reminders and to-do's.
I've been doing this for about 3.5 years now and I have a deep conviction that most of this planning, communication, event/trip management, promoting, and other arrangements should all be part of an organized workflow that has automated functions per user input.
I feel like when I'm planning the annual trip to the beach I should be able to figure out, individual student cost, family cost, overall event cost, all with associated notes, evaluations, contacts, communications without having to think to myself "now where did I put that graphic to include in the parent email?" or, "where is that digital promotion sized specifically for our web site, or FB page".
Ideally, I come in to the office, wake up my computer and there's a notification that says "Hi Jeff, last year around this time you were planning for the student beach trip, would you like to see tasks, resources, people, projects and dates associated with your trip?".
Me: Sure, I have 1 hour, why not?
App: Okay then, I'll print a physical report and also display a digital report of last years event, would you like that?
Me: why, yes; thank you!
App: Your welcome Jeff. I see you have the same trip on the calendar for this year, Is that correct? Here are some ways I might be of assistance: a) find and update last years dates with this years. b) open the event planning guide and auto-fill the information with the options you select. c) Schedule and send this years promotional communications. I can update the FB page, send an email, and text message the following groups and include a subscribe link for future communications. Would you like that?
Me: Yes. Thank you. Can you also update last years event webpage with current information and graphics?
App: Yes, Jeff, I can do that. Here are some graphics that I've found that fit the sites pixel and size requirements, which would you like?
I know this example might sound a little ridiculous and although I fully expect that to be a long shot, I'm wondering if you'd still be able to offer suggestions that allow an integrated workflow experience similar to the above example.
Here are some of the apps I'm currently using or have looked at:
Content Management System Elexio
Elexio Web Solution hosts our website and provides simple website administration and basic deployment tools) and integrates with Elexio Database, which I use for contact management.
Office 365 for business: (SharePoint seems a likely candidate but there appears to be a learning curve and I haven't quite grasped the keys necessary to unlock anything solid.
I have stumbled across a SharePoint template where the creator utilizes GTD system by David Allen. Seems pretty promising however after stumbling across this group I'm investing my time into crafting a good question for you guys.
OneNote and Outlook seem pretty powerful together however I can't determine if task dependencies are available.
I've tried Glip: (fully searchable, real-time group chat & video chat, task management, file sharing and more)
Why Glip seems limited:
Seems to work better for task management over recurring events and projects.
Difficulty getting tasks to show up in other calendars (iCal, Outlook)
File management and integration seems weak.
It hasn't worked so far because I struggle putting together a workflow/workspace that guides me through event creation and management.
Calendars can only be ingested via subscribe link thereby reducing the ability to make changes in both environments.
Lack of task dependencies. Has automation and workflow options but having a difficult time implementing.
Some limitations and road-blocks thus far with the above examples include not understanding/unfamiliarity with VBA, macros, and Automator but also anxiety for "getting it wrong" and having to start all over again.
I feel like I've researched and watched tutorials, browsed web forums, and tried way too many tools and apps always to find some area that doesn't perform the way I anticipated. From the outset the app or suite of apps seem like the perfect solution; but after investing, transferring data, copy/pasting, and learning I'm back to where I started.
Maybe I'm searching for the perfect solution that doesn't exist. If so, that's okay, I'm hoping for some feedback that goes beyond typical forums and I'm excited that Stack Exchange seems to care about that as well.