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It could be argued that the most valuable asset we have is time. You can always make more money. You can always develop more relationships. You can also always discover and invest in more resources. One thing you can’t get more of is time.
It’s a depressing thing to realize, I know. If you are like most people, every year when the holiday season rolls around you are probably wondering “What? It seems like Christmas was just a couple of months ago!”
While we may not be able to construct more time, one thing we can do is manage our fleeting minutes more efficiently. In the technology-laden megabyte-filled world we live in distractions are abundant, making time management even more difficult. The good news is that we can harness that same technology to maximize what little time we do have.
Here are a few tools that might help you grab a few extra minutes each day.
How many different times do you enter usernames and passwords into programs each day? There’s your email, your Windows or Mac login, your Spotify password so you can get some cool work grooves going and on and on. Roboform is a password management tool that is available for both Android and iphone/ipad/ios and all of the major pc and mac browsers.
Roboform gives you single button access to your passwords, bookmarks, safenotes and more. What’s also nice about this tool is that your passwords are stored locally, not in the cloud.
(Here’s a free alternative)
2. Sunrise Calendar App
This is a nifty tool that allows you to integrate all of your other apps with schedules and appointments into one calendar. You can import Evernote reminders, Facebook birthdays, MS Exchange and iCloud appointments, Foursquare check-ins and more. The Sunrise/Evernote connection is especially nice because you can view and edit Evernote notes within the Sunrise calendar and it will sync back with your Evernote account.
Have an appointment with someone important? From the Sunrise calendar you can tap into their LinkedIn profile to get their info on the way to your meeting. It’s almost like having a virtual assistant at your fingertips. It’s also available across all platforms. Well, almost all. If you are still rocking that Palm Treo it might not work.
Good news for you Trello-heads out there: Sunrise and the big T work together seamlessly.
Which brings me to…
You probably either already love Trello and use it or you are not sure what it is. Assuming for a moment you are in the latter bunch, Trello is “a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.”
Trello is great for projects that involve collaboration with others. It is also perfect for solo usage. I use Trello as my “GTD” vehicle.
It’s difficult to describe Trello in just a few sentences but here’s the high concept: Trello uses a Kanban-style interface for multi-project and multi-list tasks. The Kanban model is based on a Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is regulated through the use of a card displaying a sequence of specifications and instructions, sent along the production line.
Trello embodies and simplifies that model, moving your tasks and its components through a to-do/doing/done landscape. It’s also very customizable, so you could probably make it fit for almost any project.
Trello has a lot of moving pieces. While this is its strength, it might also be its weakness, as those unfamiliar with the Kanban style may get overwhelmed or confused before figuring out its intricacies. I won’t go into the details of the system, as that could be a blog post in itself, but I will say this: if you spend about 30 minutes learning how Trello works, it will probably save you hours upon hours of time that you would normally spend organizing lists and delegating tasks.
Here is a good tutorial if you are new to the Trello model. They also have an extensive help section on their website.
4. Dragon Naturally Speaking
These guys have been around for a while so you are probably familiar with the name. Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice recognition software. So that long article or email or grocery list that has you on the procrastination train? Imagine you could just speak it and it magically shows up in written form.
What’s great about voice recognition software is that it can help you get some serious multi-tasking going. You can write your memoirs while shedding pounds on the treadmill, or dictate your last will and testament while fly fishing or snowboarding.
There are plenty of voice recognition programs out there, some of them free, but remember you get what you pay for. Dragon Naturally Speaking seems to still have cornered the market when it comes to quality and dependability in this space.
Oh, Buffer, how did we ever make it before you came along? (Sit down, Hootsuite.) Buffer is a wonderfully simple program that allows you to automate your social media messaging.
There are no hard and fast rules about your frequency when it comes to social media, but the gang over at Constant Contact put together a pretty good best practices chart for each platform:
Who has time to keep up with all of that? Well Buffer does. You can set up a schedule to post to your social media platforms and then just fill your queue with the posts you want to share.
As you can see from the above chart, Twitter seems to require the most activity. Here’s how I use Buffer specifically for my Twitterage. I have a few Google alerts set up for the keywords I like to tweet about. Each night (or every few nights) I check the articles and links that Google feeds to those alerts and I drop them into my Buffer queue. I throw in some original content and go to bed. Buffer does all the rest of the work for me.
I also have the app on my phone and the extension built into my Chrome browser so that whenever I come across something I want to share I just push the buffer button.
When doing this, it gives you the option to drop it into your queue, schedule it for a specific time or share it right then and there.
There are some pieces of content that work better for specific social media platforms, and with the Buffer app/extension you can specify which one you want to use for each message.
I mentioned Evernote earlier in conjunction with the Sunrise Calendar App. I didn’t list Evernote as a stand alone tool because I just assume we all know it and use it. (If not, check it out. It might just change your life.)
I was an early Evernote adopter. I started using the beta version back in 2008 before everyone had a smartphone. Now you can carry Evernote around with you anywhere you go. But what if you are like me and no matter how much technology advances you still love using a pencil or pen and a Moleskine notebook to jot down your latest idea?
Even after the phone apps for Evernote got going I would still find myself jotting notes and ideas down in my Moleskine and then taking a few minutes at the end of the day to transcribe those notes from the notebook to Evernote.
And that brings us to our final tool for time management:
6. Moleskine for Evernote
That’s right. The good folks at Moleskine actually make notebooks that integrate with Evernote.
Here’s how it works. Jenna Schnuer, writing for Entrepreneur reports:
The notebook pages feature special dotted lines (choice of ruled or grid) that, when photographed using the camera in the Evernote smartphone app, optimize the image and increase the quality of search on your handwritten notes. “Cleaner page captures mean it can be easier for us to do the handwriting recognition on the backend,” says a spokeswoman. Also, the notebooks come with “smart stickers” that, during the photo-to-Evernote process, automatically tell Evernote where it should file the notes. You can assign each of the six category stickers to a specific notebook. Each notebook comes with two or three months of premium Evernote membership, a $5 per month value.
That’s a nice combination that should make everyone happy.
So there you have it. I could list dozens of other apps and software tools to help you manage your time, but I feel like I’ve taken enough of it already. So get back to work!