In this next interview, we asked people: What gadgets do you use on a regular basis and how do they help you work more effectively? (940) There was variety in the answers, but I thought it was interesting how many people feel a timer is one of their most important gadgets for getting more done.
1) Timer to keep me focused and learn how much time things really take.
2) Digital Voice Recorder to record all the inspirations I get while driving.
3) Notebooks and pens EVERYWHERE so if I get distracted from what I’m doing I can write down the distracting thoughts and get back to focusing.
4) DVR / TIVO – I never watch live TV and I record all the educational shows related to my work after work hours and I get to watch them realy quickly!
A timer is something most people don’t think about. I really like having a count down timer. That way if I have a task I’m putting off, I’ll commit to working on it for 15 minutes and then stopping if I don’t feel like continuing. The timer helps give me momentum to get started on a task. Often it is just the initial start that is holding me back.
My best productivity device that I carry with me is my iPhone, but I suppose any PDA would work. It’s great to have comprehensive information of all my contacts avaliable with me at any time. The best thing about it though, is that I have something productive to do at all times, so when I’m stuck in line or on the subway, I can choose to spend my time wisely. Although I do not subscribe to a wireless email plan, I do sync my email accounts whenever I come within range of a WiFi hotspot. I check and sort my emails through IMAP and then sync them back when possible. The notes feature is great for jotting down thoughts on the go. I sync my Calendar with my Google Calendar to keep me organized on the go. I also have a couple other applications such as iStudy which lets me memorize things on the go. The combination of these things lets me do most of my organizing in idle time, which is perfect for me.
Of course, not everything is work. When I want to relax I can listen to some music, watch a movie, read an e-book, or browse Wikipedia offline. All in all though, having a PDA or iPhone is a great way to harness lost minutes or hours each day from waiting in line or commuting and putting them towards something useful.
The ability to sort through email while waiting for someone can really save a lot of time. I’ve seen a lot of mobile email devices that don’t sync both ways. You can delete an email off of your laptop, but it stays on your phone. This is an important feature to look for when you are picking out a phone or PDA.
I rely on three key gadgets to get through each day:
• MacBook: My MacBook is my life. Every important document you can think of is on this computer, from business files, accounting records, pictures, music and anything else you can think of. I’ve been using this particular MacBook since December ’06 and I’ve been thinking of upgrading to a new MacBook Pro, but that may have to wait a little while.
How does it help me work more effectively? Simply put, it allows me to work. I’ve only ever worked on a Mac – and when I’m forced to sit at a PC, I just feel unnatural about the whole experience. So I guess I should just say that my MacBook helps me work. Period.
• iPod Touch: Never had an iPod before I bought this sweet little machine last November. Since I bought it, though, I dropped my Blackberry plan, simply because I can now access my email pretty easily through WiFi. So the iPod Touch helps me stay in touch – simply and easily.
• Cell phone: right now I’m carrying a small Sony Ericsson phone, which I like. My cell number is essentially my business line, so there’s no way I could move without my cell. The phone itself is a nice piece of equipment, it’s light and extremely comfortable.
I think it is interesting how two people have mentioned that the ability to carry their email with them–even without live over-the-cellphone network syncing is still a great benefit. I use a Blackberry, but the cost really ads up once you get all the necessary services turned on.
I like to evaluate technology before I invest in it. For example, if it is new software, I use an evaluation version and commit to integrating it into my life for a week and then make a decision at the end of that period. With hardware, I tend to take reviews from friends and family very seriously because I often don’t have the ability to test-drive new hardware.
The most challenging part about productivity and organization software is that you you have to not only commit to using it but it also has to fit into your personal organization system. The best thing that I have done this year is to separate my organization software from my email program. This forces me to live outside my email, and only use my email as a communication conduit instead of a task list, calendar, etc. all built into one. Most importantly, separating the two has given me the ability to do more, instead of scrolling up and down my email finding my next task to handle.
The idea of separating your organization software from your email is interesting. Most people are trying to get tighter integration between email, calendar and tasks. I can see the advantage the Sharran is talking about in getting you away from email.
I use the following…
- Treo Smartphone for e-mail and appointments. This helps me remember appointments and is a great contact solution with e-mail. This unit does NOT work well as a phone (3 out of 5 rating)
- Small digital timer for timing my 48 minute singletasking sessions. This little timer rules. I do ONE FOCUSED THING while this counts down.
- Standard Ipod for taking Audio books along in the car or when exercising. Ipod Audio books have enabled me to listen to over 50 books a year when I’m otherwize non-productive (driving etc)
- Ipod Touch for getting e-mail and entertainment when on the go. Wireless internet connection required. A fun addition to my technology collection. Great when you have to wait for long periods of time (jury duty etc)
I have an older iPod that is mounted in the trunk of our car in place of the CD changer. Every once in a while, I will take it out and load it up with audiobooks and podcasts. Since we spend a lot of time on the road this helps make sure we always have somethign educational to listen to while driving.
My Macbook is the hub of everything; I run my business from the road on it and use wireless internet connections wherever I find them to stay connected and keep in touch. I love the Spaces functionality which lets me have several desktops open at once – so I run Windows and Mac concurrrently on different desktops as well as having a “blogging” desktop and a “client” desktop.
An HTC TyTnII cellphone is a great backup for the Macbook as I can access email and use Skype wirelessly on it. I use it frequently to allow me to take breaks from the laptop and go and explore the latest place we’re staying in (currently Thailand) but stay connected to my business at the same time.
Digital camera (Canon Powershot SD700) which I use to ‘scan’ important documents when I travel and store them on my hard drive.
The idea of using Skype wirelessly on a cell phone is interesting. Earlier today I was placing some Skype calls over my MacBook Pro using a Sprint EVDO card. It worked surprisingly well, but it looks like we are starting to see a carrier backlash as they try to control what applications you can run on your smart phone in order to protect their voice revenue.
Personally I find Skype to be a huge timesaver. I can search my contacts and click to call. Also since the new version will let you send your cell phone number as the caller ID that shows up, it significantly improves the experience–people don’t ignore your call because of the strange number.
I use my cell phone for organization more than I ever thought I would. I send myself SMS reminders via GoPingMe.com and Google Calendar. Ironically, usually the very act of setting up the reminder makes me remember the task without any help!
Also, if I get an idea, make an appointment, or am assigned a task that I can’t write down, I call my Jott account and speak the information, which is then transcribed to text and sent to my Gmail account, where it is filtered to a special label.
That sounds like a pretty nice setup. I haven’t used GoPingMe, but I will check into them.
Only a Treo 700p. It tells me my calendar wherever I go. And I can get email and IM, too.
I used to carry a large Franklin Planner around everywhere with me. It is nice to see how much smaller that functionality has become.
Gadgets are probably the bane of effectiveness!
Just kidding – it’s the user that’s the problem. I use Apple Macs and an iPaq PDA phone to do my day-to-day work, and an external hard drive to store extra stuff and just as a useful item to have when you’re out. This system allows me to get plenty done, wherever I am, though I have my Mac mini and home office set up just the way I like it with an ergonomic mouse and keyboard (you don’t know how great those are until you’re using them every day).
iPods are also great – I have to use my iPod nano at the studios, since the Pro Tools HD system sucks so much power from USB that it won’t run my external hard drive!
I think that searching for the right gadget can be the bane of effectiveness. Some people become so absorbed with finding the perfect gadget that they forget that it is supposed to save them time. :)
I use a cheap mp3 player, on which I have every lecture from my courses in the current semester of university. It means I don’t have to take notes, and I can revise while I’m walking to work, driving or doing housework. Plus, it isn’t nearly as boring as studying, and having something physical to do at the same time makes it easier for me to concentrate for long periods.
Being able to listen to a lecture again is very helpful. I was taking some college classes online and I found a plugin that would let me play the lectures faster or slower. When I understood the material, I would play it faster. If I was having trouble understanding I would slow it down. When reviewing I would speed it up again.
I am a big fan of my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. Nice high-res screen, great battery life, decent Mozilla based browser w/support for Web 2.0, not to mention open source so plenty of expandability. It is does a great job of filling a void until the next rev of the iPhone comes along.
It is nice to have at a meeting if ones needs to look up something on the web instead of having to do the same with a big, clunky laptop. Seems far less, well, rude. With this, my Levenger Pocket Briefcase and/or Field Notes notebook, I have a connected, pocket sized, total meeting solution.
Of course the trade off is, that a small device that gets you to the internet can help waste time as well. But we are seeing a shift. There is a lot of information that used to require paper, radio, or TV that now is more efficient to lookup on the internet. If I need to know the weather, I just type in weather and the name of my city. If I need to look up a phone number, I just do it on Google. A small device like you described could be very useful for those types of things.
The only real gadget I use is a travel alarm clock with a timer and alarm. I set it for a certain amount of time and then forget about it and what time it is, which allows me to focus that much more Psychic RAM on whatever I’m working on. It’s always visible slightly out of my primary field of view, but I hardly ever look at it, as there’s really no need to worry about the time.
I think this is a very effective way to work. It is easier to commit yourself to a particular task when you have a specific amount of time in mind.
Jott.com, in conjunction with my cell phone, lets me send reminders to myself via email and/or text message. It’s especially useful when I’m driving or running errands, and don’t want to fumble around for paper.
That sounds a lot safer than trying to type yourself a message on your phone keyboard. :)
I find too many gadgets can just get in the way and slow you down. However, if you can find something simple, that does something well, it can be a great boost. Two software gadgets I use are gmail.com and jott.com – gmail for managing all my email accounts and jott for text-to-email phone call notes to myself.
John Koontz from West Coast Shaving
This is a good point. It comes down to having a purpose for each gadget and understanding what you are trying to accomplish. I’v seen people so focused on trying to have a perfect gadget setup that they waste more time than they would have without using their gadget at all.