I am a big advocate of “doing the work”, tools and applications are secondary. Having the latest gadget or using the hottest application in Social Media are not as important as engaging in the conversation or sharing valuable content.
Unless that is, they improve performance, effectiveness or efficiency.
My priority is always effectiveness over efficiency. Some may see this as pure semantics, but it really matters. It can be efficient to have a tool that automatically sends Tweets all day long, but this is not necessarily effective, if it is not implemented in the right way for the right purpose.
After this comes focus, a tool that allows me to better focus on the work at hand will improve my performance in that task many times over. If I am not distracted by issues with the tool my output increases.
So what follows are the Tools and Applications that have served me well in 2011.
What I was going to put here was the device I use, my MacBook, but that wouldn’t have been wholly true. It’s the operating system that has made a difference not the hardware. Yes the hardware is really good looking, but good looks don’t get you everything in life! I’ve been a hardcore Windows user for years, seeing Macs as a toy for designers, if you wanted to do any “real” work you needed a PC. Aside from that, a comparative Windows based computer costs a lot less.
When I was convinced to give Mac’s a go I couldn’t believe what I had been missing, and not in terms of functionality. I must have made that price difference up in saved computer start up time alone. This is without the time saved through better work-flow, easier program installation, task switching and numerous other efficiencies that come with Mac OSX. Yes it takes some getting used to, but I kick myself for holding out so long and those wasted hours on locked up programs, slow to load software, virus avoidance tactics just to name a few.
The bonus is that if you really need Windows for testing or compatability issues, then you can run it on the Mac using a simple program called VMWare Fusion. This allows you to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same machine, you can even share files between them. Whenever I have to do some testing in Windows, I fire up the virtual operating system and I get a reminder of why I made the switch.
“Apple Fan Boy Alert!” I hear you cry, but no please bear with me. This device has allows me to work from virtually anywhere, it’s ultra-portable and instant on. In my work there is hardly a function I cannot perform using the iPad. It is the perfect note taking, presentation and reading tool.
Even if there are programs I cannot run on the iPad itself, if it is really urgent I can alwasy access my desktop with Citrix’s GoToMyPC.
In meetings tasks are set, notes centralised and follow-ups added to my calendar before the meeting is over. I have the world at my finger tips, should I require some data and I can share information without needing to print reams of A4. I can carry all my reference books with me and make use of downtime whilst waiting for appointments or commuting. With every update the operating system improves, adding even more functionality based around ease of use and improved work-flow.
Yes, there are alternates in the market place, as yet none have got close to the iPads usability.
I use Twitter a lot! For personal use and business. In all I have overall responsibility for around 14 Twitter accounts and 10 Facebook pages, along with assisting all the individuals that need to manage these individual accounts. Frankly this would not be possible without a tool like Hootsuite. For me it is the ultimate Social Media client application as it gives a company complete control. None of the employees need to have direct access to the platforms, access can be granted or rescinded centrally directly through Hootsuite.
Employees have their own Hootsuite accounts and can be invited to join and manage the social platforms pertaining to their area of responsibility. Usage can be tracked, tasks assigned and messages scheduled alongside all of the in-depth reporting and research that Hootsuite is able to provide.
As a bonus Hootsuite provide free mobile applications that work across multiple devices, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android, allowing total flexibility.
Google Reader is my central repository for everything pertaining to subjects that I need to monitor or have an interest in. I have written in the past about how I use Googel Reader so I won’t go into depth here. Suffice to say that I save hours scouring the web for information by having it all delivered to me as it is published. From Google Reader I can reshare or use that information, using a number of other tools listed below. Google Reader is one of the ways I manage to stay in touch with the fast moving online industry and hopefully stay one foot ahead of the competition.
Reeder for iPad
Where Google Reader is my repository the Reeder App is my reading application. Reeder presents all of the content in Google Reader to me is an easy to digest format, I can skim through hundreds of articles in a matter of minutes on my iPad. I will read and share pertinent ones, saving longer articles for later. Reeder integrates with many other useful applications like Instapaper, but I use the email functionality most, sending articles to BufferApp, Twitter or Evernote.
This would win my nomination for Social Media Tool of 2011. See my previous articles for an indepth view of how I use BufferApp, but the ease of use it offers and the ability to schedule Tweets means I can send updates at optimum times. I am no longer forced to think about timings or concerned about flooding other peoples time-lines. I do ensure I read everything I send to the BufferApp and that it will appeal to the people that follow me, in some way, so that it doesn’t become an automated stream of articles. In addition to interacting throughout the day, this puts my content curation into a time slot during my work day giving it focus and making it more effective.
Evernote is my note taking tool of choice, I am writing the draft version of this post in Evernote right now. It centralises my notes, bookmarks and article clippings. It’s accessible from anywhere and works across multiple devices, including the iPad and iPhone. Currently I have 1500 notes in Evernote, including audio and images, all of which are only a search away. Yes I do use a notebook and pen from time to time but these notes will then be photographed and uploaded to Evernote to be accessed from anywhere.
I use Instapaper as a “to read later” tool, rather than permannent storage. Again it is multi-platform, including mobile, and it allows me to carry around articles of interest that I didn’t have time to read when I first found them. It stores tha articles in The Cloud but they synchronise with your devise for offline reading, perfect for a time filler in between meetings or when waiting in a queue.
If it doesn’t fit anywhere else I can always rely on Dropbox, it’s like my second hard drive. Presentations, videos, PDF’s, spreadsheets, whatever it is you might need when you are not at your desk, storing it in Dropbox allows instant access when you’re out of the office. One cool feature is that you can “favourite” documents before you leave the office, this means you don’t need an Internet connection to access the files. I do this as force of habit now, ensuring that all the possible documents I might need in a meeting are available on my iPad.
I love books, read my book picks of 2011 to see a selection of what I have been reading this year. Amazon’s Kindle App has meant I never need to choose what books to take with me on a trip, now that I have every reference book I may need to hand anytime. Over the course of the year more and more books are being made available in Kindle format at the same time they are released in paper form and many back catalogue ones are catching up.
The only downside to the free Kindle App, is the amount of money it has cost me. Buying a book is no longer a decision, but an impulse; please can I ask for a “do you really need this right now?” prompt after I’ve hit the 1-click to buy button?
There are many more applications and tools I use from my 1935 Conway Stewart fountain pen to tChess pro for iPad, but the ones above have saved me time and made some of the more monotonous tasks a pleasure.
Feel free to add your picks below.