Earlier this year I published a post or two about technology and productivity tools. Here is an update based on some additional experience:
Shoeboxed.com is terrific. Shoeboxed.com is a subscription service that lets you snail-mail business cards, receipts or other documents using prepaid envelopes. Their system then scans these documents, reads the printed text, does error checking, and puts everything into a format that can be easily exported (for example into a contact manager, or invoicing application). I love this tool. It’s wonderful if you hate data entry and love automation as much as I do. It also syncs to several CRM systems, so you really save a lot of time and work.
Voice recorder is great, but…I never use mine anymore. I think the issue is that you have to take the time to go back and listen to your “voice notes” later on. More useful would be an application where you leave a voice message that gets converted to text and then emailed to you. The problem seems to be that all the voice recognition systems still get pretty mixed reviews. For example, try leaving yourself a message using Google Voice, and check the accuracy of the transcription. Sometimes it’s so inaccurate that it’s not useful. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good compromise and at least you can capture something.
David Allen’s email system is wonderful. I have found it incredibly helpful to keep my inbox empty, and quickly file emails so I can find them later. I have been using his idea of having 3 special email folders: @Action, @Maybe / Someday and @Waiting for. I find that having these folders, in addition to a basic system of other email folders related to clients, projects etc., makes it easy to keep my inbox empty most of the time. It just requires some discipline to go through these 3 folders, especially @Action, often. One of the biggest benefits–it greatly diminishes the feeling that something important may have gotten lost in your inbox.
Switching to Mac is very painful, but Mac system is great (mostly). Granted I have a fairly complex business life and so for me setting up email on Mac was especially hard. I invested about 20 hours of my time in getting my new MacBook Air up and fully working. And that was all after the Apple store had supposedly transferred all the files and set everything up for me. Part of the challenge is that Apple employees on the whole are not interested in really learning the complexities of transitioning from a PC environment. There’s a lot that they don’t know about the migration. Be prepared to contact all the companies that host your email accounts, as well as the companies that produce any non-Apple software you plan to use. The help you get from Apple will only go so far, and eventually you will be hit with the dreaded and irritating “Well, unfortunately we can’t control what Microsoft (or whomever) does with their products—you’ll have to contact them…” which is the universal answer from most Apple employees when they have hit the edge of their knowledge.
Having said all that, now that I’m onboard I really do love my MacBook Air, and I’ve had several positive experiences with Apple employees.
Blue Parrot hands-free headset is great. I use this to talk on my cell phone while I drive, and it’s a huge improvement from the speakerphone I used to use. Key benefits: noise canceling microphone makes me much more audible even when I’m in a loud environment, it’s comfortable to wear for a long period, and it has a very long (rechargeable) battery life. Downsides: the microphone doesn’t get rid of all the background noise, and the headset really does look clunky.
BatchBook is an easy, useful CRM. If you are looking for a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), I can now recommend BatchBook. Setup takes some time, but they offer 2 hours of one-on-one phone training for new users, and they are really helpful. Now that I am up and running, I love the simplicity of BatchBook and the integration with Shoeboxed. The integration means that when someone gives me their business card, I can stick it in a prepaid envelope, mail it, and about a week later their contact information magically appears in my CRM. I also love the integration with Linkedin, which lets you pull up someone’s LinkedIn profile from within their BatchBook contact page. This means whenever you look at the contact, you can see what they’re up to.
Bose headphones…nice. This is a newer addition to my technology collection. The extraordinary thing about Bose noise-cancelling headphones is that when you put them on, you feel like you just stepped into a cave. Lots of ambient noise just disappears (though not all of it). Mine are still pretty new so I can’t say too much. But I can’t wait to try them on a flight.