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In part one of a two-part series, we explore several apps and security measures you should consider to simplify your day-to-day.
I started working on this article with the idea of discussing ways to improve your efficiency and security. However I quickly discovered that there is just too much info I’d like you to have to limit it to one issue. So, this is part one and part two will be arriving next month.
Remember the promise of the 20-hour work week? The idea was that all our “time-saving devices” would make us so efficient that we could accomplish in 20 hours what had previously taken 40. Because of that, we could all work merrily for four hours every day and then spend the rest of our time being waited on by the robots patrolling our homes.
How’d that work out for ya? I’ve got a Roomba, but other than that, I’m still waiting for my Mr. Roboto major domo.
Instead, what we got was the continuation of the 40-hour work week with the expectation of 80 hours of productivity. Along with that came the concept that because we are all always connected, we should never run late, forget a soccer practice, or open our fridge to find it as empty as Putin’s Suggestion Box.
For a sciety that was supposed to be livin’ la vida loca by this point, what I hear mostly from patients when we discuss time of treatment or other details is how busy everyone seems to be nowadays.
So, with that in mind, this month let’s look at some ways to be more efficient with our time and be more security conscious in the protection of our data.
I could probably do an entire column on Evernote alone. This app/cloud/website system allows you to catalogue and save practically anything and everything in your life. If you don’t want to lose it, Evernote is the answer to your prayers. It comes in several levels of service but I highly recommend the Premium edition.
This gives you 10GB of uploads per month, and lets you sync all your devices, share notes, having access offline, annotate PDFs, scan and digitize business cards, and a whole lot more. Once the app is installed on your computer, placing anything in Evernote is a simple matter of drag and drop.
Here is a real-world example of one of the things I use the app for. I have a notebook in the app called “Travel”. Whenever I have a trip, I create a note in the notebook with the name of the city. I drag and drop my air travel and hotel info into the note and it is now saved in the cloud and accessible on every one of my devices. While traveling, whenever I receive a receipt, I take a picture of it in Evernote and it is dropped into the note. This can also be done with voice notes or even photos of interest. They are all kept in one place. This allows me to have an electronic copy of all important trip data which I can then send to the accountant at tax time. I never lose a receipt or anything else critical to a trip. This makes being on the road about as stress free as being on the road can be.
Find an interesting article you’d like to read online but don’t have time now? The article can be clipped and saved directly into Evernote to be read at your leisure. I have several different notebooks devoted to pages and articles I want to keep for further reading or research.
In short, Evernote is an all-encompassing platform that will allow you to keep your life up to date in one neat tidy app. I use it darn near daily and depend on it greatly.
Next: Other useful apps to keep you organized
Remember The Milk
Ever feel overwhelmed because you just cannot remember everything? If that is a problem you encounter, then Remember The Milk is for you. RTM (like Evernote) works on all platforms (computer, tablet and phone) and allows you to create practically instant reminders and to-do lists with a minimum of effort. You can enter your task’s properties in one line, including due date, priority, repeat, tags and more.
I have multiple lists set up such as home, office, DPR, etc., and then I add tasks into each. This allows me to keep my lists manageable since there isn’t crossover with only having one list to hold all my tasks. The tasks on a list can also be broken down into subtasks if there are several smaller things to complete. For instance, if you are planning an anniversary dinner with your spouse, the list could contain the subtasks: “1. Pick up cleaning 2. Make reservation 3. Get flowers…” you get the idea. You can set alarms and due dates for each of these to ensure you don’t forget anything.
One of the features that I truly love, is called Smart Add. You just open the app, type or voice dictate your task including due date, priority, repeats, and more. For instance: on Wednesday, I might want a reminder to take out the trash on Monday morning. All I need to enter is “Take out trash Monday at seven.” This will create a task that will alert me at seven on Monday morning to take out the trash. I love not needing to have the calendar open to set oodles of reminders.
There are also lots of ways to be reminded. You can set RTM to remind you via the app, Gmail, direct message on Twitter and text message. That pretty much guarantees that if you need multiple reminders, you can create them. I personally use the app and Gmail reminders and that works great for me.
One other feature that bears mentioning is since all the apps are connected via the cloud, they all sync together. This means that completing and removing a task on your phone also removes it from your computer, your tablet, etc. all behind the scenes.
RTM is available in a free basic version, and a Pro version for $39.99 per year. Pro has definite advantages over basic and I find the cost of Pro well worth it.
Next: The benefits of VPNs
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
In the current security environment in which we find ourselves, keeping our data as secure as possible needs to be a high concern for everyone. No one can guarantee to make you “unhackable”, but if you make the bad guy’s job really difficult, chances are they will move on to an easier target.
One of the easiest ways to give someone access to your data is by open WiFi access points (WAPs). Now don’t get me wrong: I love getting a great Wifi connection when I’m out and about. In fact, one of my loves is the screaming connection I get at Kaufmann Stadium watching my beloved Kansas City Royals play. However, there are right ways and wrong ways to use open/unencrypted WiFi.
Here is what you probably don’t know: If you are using an open WAP, everything you do, every website you visit, every username and password you enter, can be seen, copied and used by crooks. There are many programs easily downloadable from the internet for free that allow anyone interested to do that. Are you scared? You should be.
And yet, there is a fairly simple solution to this and it is the use of a VPN. The VPN is created using any of a number of apps. A couple of quick definitions here. Per Douglas Crawford of BestVPN.com: “In the simplest terms, it creates a secure, encrypted connection, which can be thought of as a tunnel, between your computer and a server operated by the VPN service.” From webopidia.com, they say “A VPN secures the private network, using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.”
This means that using a VPN app makes your connection encrypted and unreadable over unencrypted WAPs.
You can also use a VPN app on your computer which allows you have a bit more security of your data even if you are using a wired connection. However, many laptops are now foregoing an Ethernet port and relying on WiFi only for connection. That means your computer is as susceptible as your phone or tablet.
There are many good VPN apps out there. The aforementioned BestVPN.com is a great resource for them.
Wrapping it up
Well that will do it for part one of this article. Next issue I’ll continue with more ways to improve your security and increase your efficiency while hopefully decreasing your stress in the process.