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New Tools for the New Year: Technology

New Tools for the New Year: Technology
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    There’s nothing like getting ready to start a new year and making sure that all of your ducks are in a row, especially when it comes to the technology tools that you are going to use. We are strong believers here at Lifehack of trying not to follow the “shiny new thing” and stick with tools that we can learn and trust over the long term. Most of the tools that I am recommending for the new year have been around for a while, but it just shows that they are tried and true, and if you haven’t made the switch or started using them in some fashion, then maybe the beginning of the new year is time to do it.

    Productivity apps you need

    There are several productivity apps that you should have ready to go for the coming year. We highly recommend picking a set of tools and sticking to them, but at the bare minimum you will need a way to track projects and create and edit documents (presentations and spreadsheets too), and keep track of notes and information.

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    For project and action managers, we can’t recommend Toodledo, Remember The Milk, OmniFocus, or Asana enough. OmniFocus is the only one that is Mac only (but probably the best on the Mac) while the other are web based and have access via your mobile device (iPhone and Android apps).

    For editing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations you don’t have to go much further than using Google Docs. Google’s awesome set of online tools coupled with about 8GB of free storage is definitely enough to get a lot of your work done, not to mention collaborate with others. If you are in the camp of wanting to create documents locally, then you may want to hunker down and buy a license for Microsoft Office (either for Windows or Mac or both). Yet, if you aren’t willing to pay the hefty fee for Office, then try out OpenOffice.org (for all platforms).

    For taking notes we recommend Evernote. Seriously, if you aren’t using this cross-platform tool for taking notes and storing snippets of information with its suite of apps, then you need to stop reading, get an account now, and start making your life easier by using it. If you are a plain-text-lover (like me and Mike), you can augment Evernote with the use of a ton of plain text apps like:

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    Oh, and start using Markdown.

    Paperless tools

    I told a co-worker who has been working in the insurance field for 20+ years that I was going paperless this year. He reluctantly reminded me that he has heard that one since the 80s. But, I am going to make a concerted effort to get as close as possible to paperless, but not without the proper tools.

    A good paper scanner is important to keep all of your paper out of cabinets and into a digital system. I have to recommend either the ScanSnap S1500 or on the less feature-rich and price side the portable ScanSnap S1300. Both are sheet-fed and duplex scanners that definitely are reliable and get the job done. You could also give a try to the newer Doxie or Doxie Go that offers non-duplex scanning but in a tiny, portable package. The prices for the Doxie is definitely nice starting at $149.99.

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    After you get a good scanner you will need a way to store all of your documents. Our preference is using an Evernote account (possibly updating to Evernote Premium) and using Evernote’s great OCR search, tagging, and sorting capabilities to keep everything organized. Also, if you aren’t comfortable with storing everything in the cloud you could role your own system or use tools such as Microsoft OneNote or DEVONthink for Mac.

    Store and backup

    Dropbox is another app that is so important and useful that if you don’t have it in your arsenal of tools then you need to drop everything and go get an account (kind of like Evernote above). Dropbox has been moved from “just an awesome app that I love to use” to an app that is essential for my work. I keep all my important files in Dropbox, share documents with co-workers, upload/offload pictures and video, share TextExpander snippets, use it for storage for apps like 1Password and others. It’s my portable, digital file system.

    Also, if you aren’t backing up your computer regularly then you are somewhat insane. It’s part of a knowledge worker’s responsibility to keep her data intact and there is no better way I have found this year than doing so with services like Carbonite, Mozy, or even something like SuperDuper! for Mac that makes a clone of your bootable drive so you don’t lose anything important.

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    Conclusion

    Using iron clad technology tools for the new year is the only way to ensure that you are ready to be and stay productive. While there may be new tools and technologies that come and go, we feel that the apps, services, and products recommended above are here for the long term. Learning to utilize a strong set of tools that are reliable will not only help you into 2012, but may last many years down the road.

    (Photo credit: Hand pushing a button via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on December 18, 2020

    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?

    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?
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    Technology has taken a vantage leap in providing solutions for man. Before now, technology used to appear complex and would require a great deal of expertise to handle solutions available. Today, we have technology applicable in the simplest human activities as smart products with intelligent algorithms powering them as they make error-free judgments and provide intelligent and analytic solutions.

    Does technology have all the answers?

    This article from Credit Suisse, tells us that technology does not have all the answers because it has been found to exhibit “similar biases,” as humans. No one can discredit the impact of technology, but it is not totally free of human input and this is the reason we experience these biases in many areas we have technology holding foot.

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    Creating technological solutions transparently

    This article suggests that the process of creating technological solutions be made transparent and subject to contribution from many people who would end up as users of the product – male, female, young, old, learned, unlearned and all other preferences as we have them. It also underscores the importance of having women on product development teams. This approach is not sure to eliminate all forms of bias, but it is a good way to start in order to appraise the full benefits of technology.

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    Technology as the connecting tool

    Technology so far has been a major connecting tool amongst us humans. It is used and appreciated by all regardless of race, language and sex. In order to keep it less subjective to these arguments about human biases. I believe we should gather opinions on products and solutions before making them available to the public. This could be done by gathering input from intended target users and receiving feedback across the stages of production.

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    “Recognizing the problem is a start…success will depend on inclusive technologies that meet this vast untapped market.” This cannot be more apt especially at a time when we look up to technology for solutions. We should not muzzle our progress with technology by battling algorithm bias. The first way to avoid this battle is by reading this article here.

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