I often say that tools don’t make you productive, YOU make you productive. Take a small example, has there been an author of the stature of people like Tolstoy and Dickens in the times of desktop and cloud-based wordprocessors? Just imagine, they could manage 1000s of handwritten papers using pens and quills they repeatedly had to dip into the ink pot.
Recently I came across this piece of text that beautifully summarizes the absence of a parity between quality of tools and productivity:
Back in the 60s and 70s the computers were as strong as today’s smart phones. They sent manned missions to the moon with the same processing power, and we are hitting pigs with birds.
No, really I’m not bashing tools and technology, I’m just saying that using multiple tools doesn’t make you productive. You become productive when you really want to be productive and it’s only then these tools are useful to you.
With that bit out of my way now I will talk about some digital tools that are helping me organize my information in a better way and become more productive in the process. You might already be aware of these tools but I am sharing them here just to talk about how I am using them.
I have been using Evernote off and on for the past four years I think but it’s only now for the past 6-8 months I have been really using it. By really using I mean if all of a sudden they start charging me a reasonable fee (something that I can afford) I will gladly pay.
As you know you can save your notes and all sort of information in Evernote. You can create different notebooks and within those notebooks you can create different notes. So I have created different notebooks for
- Keeping client-related information: All the information my clients send me I keep them in these notes. This includes company information, all the vital details that I must keep in mind while preparing their content and associated bits of information like e-mail ids, reference URLs and all the research information I gather while working on their project.
- Collecting blogging ideas: Whenever I come across a blogging idea I add it to a note I have specifically created for this task.
- Preserving clips from the web: There is lots of information that you cannot capture in text files – it is a mix of images and text. I can simply clip the information from the webpages and save it as a note in Evernote.
- Maintaining a diary: This is something that I have been planning to start for a very long time. Back in college days I used to have a diary but somewhere I lost touch with the habit. I have again picked it up. I have created a diary notebook. Now all I have to do is create a new note, give it a heading (I don’t have too) and start entering my day’s briefings. Since all the notes are automatically sorted by date I don’t have to worry about the sequence.
- Domestic “things to remember”: For instance, just in the morning my father phoned and said that they haven’t received their electricity bill for the past two months. I asked his consumer ID, went to the power company’s website and took the printout of the latest bill. So that I don’t have to ask for the consumer ID again I have saved it to a notebook I have specifically created for such trivia.
- Writing my next book: Along with notebooks you can also create stacks in Evernote. So I have created a “Book Writing” stack and within that stack I have created notebooks like “Chapters”, “Characters” and “Random Notes”.
Aside from an ability to arrange and preserve information in such a manner that it can be quickly retrieved, I can access all my information across my devices such as my computer, my laptop and my Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Ever since I started using Dropbox I’m saving all my client files in that folder. If you don’t know what it is, it is a cloud-based drive hosting service with a desktop interface. So once you have signed up, you can download an application that creates a separate folder for the cloud-based drive and whenever you save something in it it is automatically synchronised. Aside from the fact that your important files are safe from hard disk crashes, you can access your files from anywhere provided you have an Internet connection. When you sign up, you get 2 GB of free space but you can get more free space by getting your friends and colleagues to sign up via your referral URL.
It was formerly known as “Read It Later” and frankly I never used the service then. I don’t know what was lacking but when they recently launched it as “Pocket” I started using it. In fact I know why I didn’t use it back then – I didn’t have a tablet.
My main utility for the tool is that all the articles and blog posts that I want to read but cannot read at that time because I’m working, I can just click the “Pocket It” bookmark on my browser and they are automatically saved under my account. Then at night, when I’m in my bed, I can log on to my account through my Galaxy Tab and access all the blog posts and articles I have saved in there. And the best thing is, the sidebars, the header and the footer are stripped away and you get to read just the content.
All my content writing work these days happens on Google Docs. Even for clients who prefer to receive their work in MS Word files I prepare the documents first in Google Docs and then download them as Word files.
Most people who use Google Docs prefer the service for its collaboration features – multiple authors can work on a single document while maintaining multiple versions. I started using it simply because it keeps saving the work simultaneously as you type. You don’t ever have to worry about saving your file. I have been using Google Docs for the past two years now and I have never lost a single document since then.
Of course there is an added advantage that I’m now no longer tied down to a single computer. Wherever I am, I just need to log on and start writing. I have also gotten used to writing with bare minimum features. Again, I can also access my documents using my tablet.
It is a service I have just started using a couple of months ago when I switched over to an hourly rate. I have known about the service for many years but never used it. Now it has become an integral part of my work. I not only track my clients’ work I also track my own time while working on my own website and other marketing activities. If you don’t know what is FreshBooks it’s an online time tracking and invoicing service.
It is a task management tool. I first started using it on my Android phone and later on also started using it via the Google Chrome browser. It is the best task management tool I have come across so far. Before that I was using Remember the Milk but it is not as good as Astrid. It has everything you need to manage and track your work-related as well as personal tasks. Of course it has a great interface too.
Although there are many tools and services that I use almost every day, they are not a part of my “real” work. The tools listed above actually help me be more productive and manage my work well.
Are there some digital tools that are your favorite? Please share them in the comments section but just keep in mind they need to be some things that really help you be more professionally efficient.