26 November 2007

Meet your new assistant, Sandy

Sandy [iwantsandy.com]

Update: Sadly, Sandy is no more. While she was one heck of an assistant, she decided to change careers and move on to new things. -- Asha

Every parent deserves an assistant. I mean, who, more than parents, needs a little help keeping the conflicting schedules straight? Or remembering minute details in the face of overwhelming interruption and distraction?

Parenthackers: allow me to introduce my new assistant, Sandy.

Full disclosure: My husband, Rael Dornfest, is the CEO of Values of n (the company behind Sandy), so I have been, shall we say, intimately involved in Sandy's development. Much of the inspiration for Sandy came directly from our experience as parents juggling multiple roles, schedules and priorities which is why I'm so excited to talk about her here.

Sandy's a virtual assistant. I email Sandy about anything I need to remember -- appointments, playdates, contact details, gym class times, whatever -- and she takes it down and then sends me a reminder when I need it. For example, I email Sandy with:

Remind me to clean up the poop on the lawn tomorrow at 9:30am

...and the next morning, I get a friendly nudge to do the dirtywork before my daughter gets home from school and reminds me about it herself, again.

Sandy also sends me a Daily Digest each morning -- not unlike the neatly-typed memo of the days' happenings a dream assistant leaves on the boss's desk.

Sandy works with electronic calendars (Outlook, iCal, etc.), and understands all sorts of technological goodness such as tagging and RSS. But the beauty of Sandy is that you don't need to learn anything new -- all you do is send her email and use a few natural keywords. Which makes her the perfect recipient for all those little details that never make it into your calendar, but that you don't want to forget.

I email Sandy all sorts of things, whether I need reminders about them or not. Titles of books I want to read ("Remember Eat, Pray, Love @to_read"), topics to write about ("Remind me to write Topless Undershirts review on Tue @parenthacks"), names I don't want to forget ("Remember Stephanie Zambira 503-521-6521 @babysitter") It's wonderful to have someone on the other end of my idea stream who can keep it all organized. Nepotism aside, Sandy's the first productivity tool simple and flexible enough to actually fit into my life (alongside my paper calendar, which I cling to despite my tech leanings). In fact, Sandy's a great adjunct to a paper calendar.

I've got more Sandy hacks in the works, but in the meantime, head on over to iwantsandy.com to find out more.

Your comments

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I've been using Sandy for a few weeks now and think it's a useful application.

If you can remember to email Sandy why do you need it in the first place?? Just set up reminders on your Google calendar, that will text your cell phone, or just add events to your outlook calendar.

Come on!!! Out of touch freakin people test my patience.

Harry, you're clearly not prone to distraction (or it wouldn't irk you so much to encounter those of us who are!). I send myself phone messages at work when I'm at home, and leave messages at home when I'm at work... I can't remember to do those when I'm in the right spot, and setting up an appointment won't necessarily trigger a response at the right time and location. And that's WITH a Palm Pilot always on me. Email isn't much different, though my email time at home is limited.

There are plenty of people who need this organizational 'filter', IMHO - not necessarily limited to those out of touch (though they're likely to benefit, as well)! Like those more of a 'flow rather than order' type, or us ENFP Myers Briggs types (easily distracted, by constitution, LOL!).

Now, come up with one I can phone in notes to, and I'm in. :)

hedra: You can phone in your notes to Sandy using Jott! (http://jott.com) Once you're signed up for a Sandy account, visit the Settings >> Jott page for (easy) directions.

Harry: It's much easier to fire off a quick email ("Remember to reschedule the dentist this afternoon") than to switch over to whatever calendar program and fill in all the blanks. Especially when I want to share a reminder -- I just Cc: the person I want to share with (like I do with any other mail) and Sandy takes care of the rest. No laborious "inviting," or wondering what calendaring system they use. Nice extra -- Sandy's reminders come with calendar attachments so if you or your friends ARE the calendar types, you just click the attachment and it will go right in.

Sandy gives me a place to dump all those stray thoughts without interrupting my workflow. hedra -- you hit the nail on the head with "flow vs. order" -- that's exactly why so many organizational tools and "systems" don't work for me, and Sandy does.

I've been using Sandy (and before that Stikkit) and I have to say they rule. Almost as much as bloxsom. :)

I'd be very interested in any hacks you post.

I've been using Sandy for a couple of months now - I got in during the Beta stage -- and let me tell you, I love it!

Great tip about Jott, as well -- this way, can email or call just about anything I need to Sandy - and she reminds me when I want!

It's a great tool, actually -- especially for those who may not have a PDA phone (I do, and so I can use the e-mail feature all the time, but the coordination with the phone is priceless!)

Anyway, I urge you to give it a try. The tags that you can use are really handy, too !

Thanks for posting about this one, Parent Hacks! (PS... Your husband is a genius!)

The thing I don't understand about Sandy is, why do I have to give it access to my email account? Shouldn't I just be able to email it directly? I don't love the idea of broadcasting my email password around.

Duane: You don't give Sandy access to your email account, and you do email Sandy directly. When you sign up, you're given a unique email address for Sandy. When you want to tell her something, you just email her (or Cc: her) at that address. She only "sees" what you send her, nothing more.

You know Asha, you're right. Sorry about that, I don't know where my brain is. Somehow I thought it was asking for permission to get at my existing email account. My bad.

I have had Sandy for less than 24 hours, and I am in love! Emailing is so much easier for me than using an online calendar. I have tried, and by the time I get to the calendar web page I have forgotten what I need to remind myself of.

I have been dancing around the idea of using Sandy for a while now. The flow vs. order idea really appeals to me because I have discalculia issues. I currently use a classic paper calendar on my fridge, and a Palm Pilot on the go. This requires laborious schedule entering into each device; right now I have a hockey schedule, three basketball schedules and a baseball winter conditioning schedule I need to enter (most of these are posted online on various team websites). Will Sandy help me cut down on the time I am spending doing this?

Andrea, so far, so good on the functions clearing things like that up, though I'm still cracking up over some of the JOTT-vs-my-accent-plus-mommy-brain translations. Like, I lost track in the middle of a sentence what I was trying to say (yeah, that happens to me), and stumbled on rather than re-recording (hint, RE-RECORD!)... I said 'transfer the list of guest ... ... people to binder.' (having forgotten what I was trying to convey and then pulling it out kinda-sorta) JOTT heard 'transfer the list of dead people to binder'. Dead people is still cracking me up.

I definitely have some tweaks/issues with Sandy, but then I tend to leap straight toward power-user and want to force things all over the place... working with it, working with it... though at the moment, I've got tons of duplication because Jott is ALSO sending me my notes. More tweaking to do...

I just started using sandy 24 hours ago. So far, so good. There are a few things I can't figure out yet like how to make something repeat. (eg. I put paying the rent in @monthly but that doesn't seem to schedule it to go every month), but overall good.

I look forward to certain things improving.

How do the people doing this make their money? Through advertising? I looked at the agreement and it was very specific about my giving them full, accurate information about myself - what's that for? To sell?

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