Office productivity tools are great for office productivity, but they’re also great for personal productivity. We asked WIRED staffers for their favorite off-label uses of various work apps.
Some people have fairy-tale dreams about getting married, but let’s be clear: Planning the Big Day is a job like any other. You know what I dreamt of? Efficiency—and multiple-select dropdown menus.
Enter Airtable. It let me tabulate my budget; track my to-do list, guests, and vendors; and map out rehearsal and wedding day timelines, plus plan the honeymoon. Oh, the organizational ultrapower of color-coding and checkboxes, list and calendar views, itemized receipts and contracts, and restaurant recommendations all in one place.
Sure you could use Google Sheets, but the Inception-level of layers that you can fall into are unlike anything I’ve known before. Airtable empowered me to delegate (read: relinquish control) to my now-husband, bridesmaids, and day-of coordinator.
Take the first tab, Guests: There’s your Name, Address, and Email fields, but I also had 27 more fields to filter into views for things like whose guest (bride’s, groom’s), invitation (wedding, wedding maybes, bridal shower, bachelorette), dietary restrictions, song requests, table assignment (seating chart v1, v2, v3, and v4), and thank you cards (engagement, bridal shower, or wedding? written? sent?).
Bonus: When you also use Slack to communicate with the bridal party (#bridesmaid-dresses, #hair-makeup, #where-what-when, private channel #time-to-vent-about-the-bride), it’s great to have Airtable links to pin in each channel.
Overkill? Maybe. But the day’s minor disasters (misplaced venue payment, cake delivered to the wrong address) were no match for my app. Even then, everything ran ahead of schedule. I’ll take a workflow management tool over a glass slipper any day. —Kimberly Chua, Managing Digital Producer
You have to be organized to call in, store, test, and send back all the gear that the Gadget Lab tests for multiple concurrent stories. But those tasks pale in contrast to the administrative tasks and manual labor that it takes to keep two toddlers, two adults, and a dog healthy, fed, and dressed (or not, as needed) every day.
One day after work, my husband expressed his displeasure with the mess in the kitchen, and I began to wonder if he failed to fully grasp how unfairly the household chores were distributed. So I used the same system that I use to organize my gear. I created a Trello board, with daily, weekly, and monthly chores.
Trello uses a simple task management system called Kanban, which allows you to drag and drop task cards from a to-do pile, to an in-progress pile, to a done pile. Unlike Airtable, which allows you to plug in a huge amount of data that you can sort ad infinitum, Trello boards are deliberately simple. Most importantly, they also let you keep track of what everyone is doing at any given time.
I started with daily tasks, like walking the dog and picking up toys after the kids were in bed. I made labels for chores that required sub-chores, the way that cooking also included meal planning, grocery shopping, and washing dishes. I attached spreadsheets to the cards, like a packing list for weekly swim lessons, and added notes, like contact information for our babysitters. Finally, I pinned tiny pictures of our faces on the chores that we were each responsible for.
However, I can’t recommend passive-aggressive software use as a method of resolving marital disputes. When I invited him to join the board, my husband signed in, looked at how many of the cards had my tiny face on them as compared to his, and sighed. If he weren’t such a gentle person, we might have devolved into a household card-making Trello war—I guess “Do Taxes” does require a few sub-chores—but he refused to look at the board again. I got him to cook dinner once or twice a week the old-fashioned way—by talking, instead. —Adrienne So, Senior Writer
My boyfriend and I use Google Calendar to schedule monthly fights. These aren’t your prim relationship check-ins. I’m talking devastatingly honest, no-feelings-spared blowups.