This is the first in a series of 4 blog posts about the tech tools I’m using to help me be more productive.  

Over the years through trial and error I’ve figured out a bunch of things that work to keep me informed, efficient and productive.  Believe me, I’ve failed many times and I’m probably still failing and iterating, but there’s some tried and true things that I know I can rely on to help me accomplish what I need to do. 

So I thought why not share some tips with you, get your feedback and hear what works for you.

To begin, here’s what you need to know about me. 

  • I’m tech-focused, which means I like and rely on technology tools to create systems for myself.
  • I gorge on information and ideas.  I love to read and learn about topics I care about.
  • I curate and share info according to what I think specific people (or all people) might like to see.
  • I need to access my tools and information on all of my devices–my work computer, my home computer, my iPad and my iPhone.
  • I work best when I have deadlines and structure my time because I love to goof off by playing computer games, doing crossword puzzles and watching web series.

Hardware Agnostic Access

I use two laptops, a PC at work and a Mac at home.  I also use my iPhone and an iPad.  So I need consistency across devices and the ability to access files and apps no matter what I’m using.

Chrome: My browser of choice is Google Chrome which will maintain my bookmarks, history and apps no matter where I sign in using my Google account.  Chrome also has a really good app store that gives me access to all kinds of tools and shortcuts.  I mostly only use free apps.  

One of the most useful apps I have on Chrome is the redesign of my browser home page using a series of “tiles” that I created for quick access to sites I use a lot (Gmail, Facebook, You Tube, my blog, Thesaurus).  Here’s a screenshot of one that I use at home.  It’s a Google extension called Taplika New Tab.

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Dropbox: To access files across devices I use Dropbox, a cloud file storage application.  By putting my files in Dropbox I can access them anywhere—home, work, and on the go.  Dropbox apps on my iPad and iPhone give me access to documents there, in addition to the integration with the Finder on my Mac and the File Explorer on my work PC. 

For writers using Scrivener, Dropbox comes in handy as a backup for your files and as a method of portability.  Since Scrivener is a desktop program (as opposed to a cloud-based program) it lives only on one computer.  But it allows you to sync your files (each scene in a chapter is a separate file) to Dropbox. The sync’d files are in Rich Text Format (rtf) so they can be easily opened in any text editing program, including MS Word.  And if you make changes to these files, the next time you use Scrivener, any changes to the Dropbox files will be sync’d back.  Until the folks at Scrivener come up with a web-based product, Dropbox is a great way to keep writing whenever you’re on another computer.

Three other neat tricks I do with Dropbox. 

  1. Automatic photo uploads from my iPhone into a folder.  It helps to find photos quickly and reduce the number of photos you keep on your phone. 
  2. FileThis, an app that automatically takes new bank statements, credit cards bills and Amazon orders and files them into Dropbox (a great way to go paperless!).
  3. Book Drop, an app that creates a folder in Dropbox so that when you buy an e-book from a non-Amazon site and download the file, just placing it in the Book Drop folder automatically sends it to your Kindle.  It’s magic.

In tomorrow’s post (Part II), I’ll tell you how I’ve tamed the email beast without “getting to inbox zero.”  And in the following days I’ll be letting you know first how I manage to swim in the sea of internet content without drowning and finally how I organize my notes and content to manage projects and keep information accessible in a virtual notebook.

Please, please, please let me know if these strategies seem helpful, are crazy, would never work for you or could save your life.  Also, if you have other/better ideas, let me (and everyone) know.