Getting the most from my technology

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I'm one of those people who gets comfortable with how something is and loathes to change it, even if I am vaguely aware that there is a better way to do things. It's not a trait I love in myself, so I'm trying to branch out a bit.

One of the arenas in which I know I could be doing things more efficiently if I stepped outside my comfort zone is my technological life. I have these tools--my laptop, my iPhone--that I know can be used to do far more than they do, but I am hesitant about how to maximize their value.

So, I'm trying to consciously make an effort to get more out of my technology. Right now, I'm focusing on addressing issues I know I have or things I know I wish I could do more easily, and looking for solutions.

Some examples:

I'm a long-time user of Google Reader. And I like it, but it doesn't do everything I wish it did. I don't love the way things are displayed in it, and I'm not able to save things for use later the way I'd like to. So, last night I downloaded Feedly. I definitely prefer Feedly's interface to GReader's, and the preview window, which allows me to view entries in their original on-blog format, without actually going to the blog, is great. There is also an easy way to save entries, and (I think) even categorize saved entries. Plus it worked in sync with Reader, so anything you do in one, you've done in both. It's going to take a bit to get used to it (I've used GReader for a long time), but I think I'll end up sticking with the upgrade.

Another thing I wanted to do starting in this new year was track my online time. I know I spend too much time online, but I don't really know how much it adds up to. So, I started with the simple Firefox add-on Time Tracker. All Time Tracker does is install a little clock at the bottom of your browser window that keeps track of how much time you're active in the browser--it times out if you don't do anything for 60 seconds. It doesn't keep track of where you're active, just that you're online. That's helpful, but I'd really prefer something that shows me where I'm spending all that time. So, I'm trying out Rescue Time. Rescue Time shows you how much time you're spending at a given website. Or, at least, that's what it is supposed to do. Thus far (and it's only Day 2), I haven't been able to figure out how to get it to show me specific sites, and not just browsers versus utilities versus finder. I think the problem is me and not the tool, though, so I'm going to keep messing with it.

For several weeks, I've been trying to make another Firefox add-on, CoComment, work for me. What it's supposed to do is keep track of the blogs where I leave comments, and notify me if more comments are left, so I can check for responses to what I said. However, only about 1/3 of the blogs I read seem to support it, which limits its utility. I'm also not particularly happy with the layout--I find it unwieldy and confusing. That said, I can't find anything better to do the same job, so I'm trying to work with it.

Another thing I use, and have for quite a bit, is StumbleUpon. I love StumbleUpon. It allows me to easily share the great blog posts I come across and see what my friends have recommended. I have no gripes at all about how it works, either--it's totally easy to use and I use it every day.

I've recently been downloading iPhone apps like a madwoman. I have no idea how many of them I'll use long term, but I have to admit I kinda like seeing the little buttons on my screen. I've downloaded the mobile version of Mint, which I have used online for a couple of years. For a more interactive spending tracking experience, though, I'm also going to try Money Engine. I have this theory that I am going to track every penny I spend in 2011--so we'll see how that goes. I have to say, the interface for Money Engine seems really user friendly to me, so hopefully that will encourage me to use it.

I also recently downloaded Period Tracker Lite, to keep track of my cycle. I've been using Monthly Info online, but it's more convenient to have something on my phone.

What else...? Hipstamatic, which everyone seems to be wild about, but I'm not finding much of a use for. Toodledoo, which I will theoretically learn to use rather than just making shopping or errand lists in Notes. And Gaia GPS Lite, which I plan to try out on the next occasion I am failed by Google maps. My favorite new find, though, is this little set of instructions, allowing me to sync my beloved Google Calendar with my iPhone calendar.

Finally, I recently started using FlickrImportr to move photos easily from Flickr to Facebook, which is nice, as it allows me to categorize and edit photos in Flickr and then move as few or many of them to Facebook for sharing as I'd like.

So help me out--what am I missing here? What should I be using to better my technological life? I'm not opposed to paying for things, if they're worth it, but bonus points for free. Leave suggestions in the comments!

4 Comments

I think I'm okay with Google Reader, but I may check out Feedly. I really want something that will let me manage feeds AND easily tag individual posts for later - instead of having google reader and delicious separate.

The commenting thing is an interesting quandary. Wordpress.com and Blogger blogs often have a "subscribe to comments" notification that I will often use if I want to see what people said in the comments after me. It would be nice to have a single app to track all my comments, but I don't know how it would interface with all the different platforms.

Dang girl you are ON that technology train!

I totally don't know when someone responds to a comment I made on their blog; that's why I always comment back on my commenter's blog. I also kind of hate when people comment back in their own post...it feels like "cheating" (artificially boosting the comment count) :D

What's your stumbleupon handle? I haven't used that in ages but I'd love to see what you're stumbling.

Some of the apps I use most are:

Living Strong: Calorie Tracker - To track calories. I was using their website before I got my iPhone.

Awesome Note - Probably similar to Toodledoo.

Mint - love this app.

Groupon & Living Social - Daily deals for your town.

Clinks Free - Wine/Beer Journal

inClass - for tracking my school homework, projects, etc.

Car Minder - Tracking gas mileage, repairs, etc for my car

Evernote - File sharing/storing

C25K - Trying to run a 5K. This does the couch to 5K program using your own ipod play list.

JotNot Pro - Scanner. I use it for school documents but works also for business cards, and other documents.

Yelp - Find/reviews local Restaurants and services

Others you probably already have but just in case - Pandora, Twitter, Facebook, Weather Channel, Youtube.

I use Xpenser to track my spending. It's the only tracking app that I use for anything and I like it pretty well.

http://xpenser.com/

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