The Efficient Life

Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library

The Efficient Life

Image of android phoneIf you haven't figured it out by now, I'm an extraordinarily busy person. I'm constantly trying to balance the myriad components of my work day, the complexities of my home life, and all of my work with social groups. If I didn't create methods of dealing with all of these pieces, my life would completely fall apart. Being a techie kind of person, I use a lot of software and mobile phone apps to keep myself sorted. Here are a few of my own tips and tricks that you can use, too.


Use a Shared Work Environment

One of the biggest obstacles to getting things done is having your work in one place and not in another when you desperately need it. Cloud computing and shared networks help take care of that. Programs like Google Docs allow you to save documents in any format on the Google web space.  All you have to do is log into Google Docs from a web accessible computer and you're in. You can also share those documents with other people and create read/write settings for each participant.  Similarly, most large organizations have an internal network with shared hard drives. Saving a document on a shared drive means that you never have to be at your workstation to access an important file, as long as you're on a machine that can connect to the local network you're set.

One of the most fantastic pieces of software that I've used in this category is Microsoft OneNote.  OneNote is an automatically synchronizing, multi-user workspace. You can have copies of your OneNote documents open on computers all over the network, and people from anywhere can update in real time. It's like having a whiteboard in 10 places at once that everyone on your local network can use. It's a gem of a program. 

Even if you don't have access to a local network, you can still sync and share files using programs like Dropbox.  Dropbox creates a virtual network where anything you put in your "dropbox" is automatically synced to every other device in your dropbox network, computers, phones, whatever.  It's pretty amazing. There are also numerous smart phone apps that you can use to share things like to-do lists, grocery lists, notes, etc. 


Unify Disparate Systems

I learned a while back that having a paper planner wasn't going to work anymore, because the volume of activities completely outstripped the size of the paper I was working with at any given time. So I began migrating to online calendar systems, and started using different calendars for different functions. Work events go into my Outlook calendar, events with friends go into my Google calendar, events with social groups go into my Yahoo calendar, and then there's all the stuff I get invited to on Facebook. I share those calendars with the necessary parties who need to see them, my boss, my friends, my spiritual community, etc., and folks can send requests for my time through each of those calendar systems. The problem is that I now have four different calendars to look at. The solution I found to this was through my phone. Most smart phones have standard calendar apps, and the Android calendar app I use allows me to sync all of those calendars into one place and send me reminders based on my settings. The original calendars remain in their discrete environments (where they belong), but in your phone they are all one, and you can add events on the fly to any of those individual calendar systems from the phone and push them out to your other web-based calendar systems. 

 iPhone Calendar App
 Android Calendar App

Get Tips From The Pros

I've read a book or two on how to rein in the chaos in one's life. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits for Highly Effective People is still high on the list. Some of my friends turn to Getting Things Done.  Both of them have built small empires based on maximizing the efficiency in your life using planning tools and lists.  But it doesn't stop with the big concept books. What I keep turning to over and over again is LifeHacker. LifeHacker is a blog that teaches you the small tips and tricks that you can use to help make your life better one little binder clip at a time. Some of the best, most useful advice I've gotten on how to streamline my life has come from LifeHacker, and I check it every day to see what I can do next. 

I hope this little pocket of advice has come in handy.  If you've got some efficiency tips to share make sure to drop me a line and let me know.

-- Eric Riley