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6 Apps That Will Improve Productivity

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According to Apple, there are 350K iPhone Applications, with Android catching up fast at over 100K. With such an array of options, what are the BEST to make you more productive? In this post I will examine six I use on a daily basis.

So what makes a good application? I find it bridges mobile with notebook/desktop/cloud/offline, providing a seamless experience that allows you to easily find the information you’re looking for and/or store it for later use. Of course, it’s something used on regular basis and probably will be missed if removed.

 

1-    Instapaper: $4.99 (iPhone/Android)

One of the biggest challenges I face in my day-to-day routine is time management. There’s so much information coming at you, especially when it comes to news/information related to your industry. You don’t want to miss these messages, but it also can be difficult to read these right away. I find Instapaper to be an amazing solution because I can quickly bookmark articles/webpages and convert them to “text” format so I can read them later. While traveling or commuting, I can easily pull these articles at my convenience, instead of having 20 browsers open at the end of the day.

 

2-    Evernote: FREE  (iPhone, Android/Blackberry)

I often come up with my best ideas on the go. Before Evernote, I used to scribble down these ideas on a napkin, credit card receipt or in a notebook, or other places where they are easily lost. Evernote allows me to keep those ideas organized in a central location that I can access at a later time. What I like about this application is that I can take an idea I’ve started on my smartphone and continue working with it on my computer because they’re synched together.

3-    Dropbox: FREE (iPhone and Android)

Dropbox provides a central storage point and nice back-up system for files you’re working on. Plus it works well with large files. For example, your team might be working collaboratively on a project. Rather than wasting time and requesting the latest version (and waiting for that version), you can speed up the process by going directly into the file. Also, if your smartphone has limited memory or needs back up, you can easily move/copy files to Dropbox.

4-    Weekly Cal:  $1.99 (iPhone Only)

Your calendar is your lifeline and the good folks at Utilitap have improved the iPhone calendar by offering you a weekly view, as well as full calendar support (Google/Outlook). Most importantly, I find the drag and drop functionality to be useful for someone on the go. Let’s say that your client suddenly wants to change tomorrow’s meeting to the following day. Instead of opening the event and manually changing the time, you can now “drag and drop” to the new time.

5-    Tripit: FREE (iPhone /Android/Blackberry)

Trip-It is terrific because you can build itineraries without having to input information- it does the work for you. For example, let’s say you have a trip to Atlanta on Tuesday. You booked your flight/hotel/car rental on different days via different e-mail addresses. What’s amazing is you can e-mail each one of these to Trip-It and they will create a profile for the trip. So when you get to the airport, you know what flight to take, find your car rental when you land and drive to the right hotel, all without wasting time trying to find various e-mail confirmation numbers.

6-    Yelp: FREE (iPhone and Android)

While Google maps are great for finding a client’s office; if you’re on the go and need to find a coffee shop, restaurant or dry cleaners now and not familiar with the area, Yelp is a great resource. The service enhances Google Maps by pairing product reviews with location-based search. So not only can one find what restaurants are good nearby, you can filter by price, cuisine, or distance. Once a suitable venue is located, Yelp uses Google Maps to produce directions.

With new applications are being developed everyday, I’m sure this list will change quickly. What ones are helping your productivity?

New York’s Best Kept Secret for FREE WiFi

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It’s 5:00pm. You’ve completed an amazing presentation in Midtown Manhattan and are gearing up to head to Grand Central Station so you can catch your kid’s soccer game. You check your Blackberry to make sure everything is okay at the home office when low and behold you receive an e-mail from the client asking for supporting documentation for your proposal. You can’t send a response via text and you’re too far away from your office. What do you do? You need WiFi NOW!

Conventional wisdom says find a Starbucks or use a FREE WiFi app locator. Being a road warrior in Manhattan I find the WiFi dicey. As much as Starbucks is everywhere, it can be often crowded and difficult to concentrate (same goes for McDonald’s). You can try one of the dozens of hotels in Manhattan, but some offer free access and others don’t. Some of the parks offer free access (i.e. Bryant Park) but with winter temps around 30 degrees who wants to work outside? What’s the “on the go” executive to do?

What if I were to tell you there’s a viable solution with 32 locations in Manhattan? What if I also said that they are quiet and give you ample room to work? Best of all it’s FREE and you don’t even need to be a member. Would you be interested? The solution I’m talking about is the New York Public Library. Near Grand Central Station alone there are 3 locations, all with high-speed internet access. It’s a great place to duck in if you need a half hour to be productive.

Locations/Hours of Operations


Please note while it’s never a problem securing work space, many locations close at 6pm.

What’s best about the New York Public Library is that you don’t need a membership to gain access, don’t have to fight others for a table or even purchase a cup of coffee.

It can be your office away from the office.

Written by Derek Reese

March 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

15 random observations from the road

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From time to time I’m going to take a break from my social media findings and have a little fun with this blog. This is one of those times. Traveling around the world over 3 1/2 months, I observed a great deal. Here’s are 15 observations:

1- The British are obsessed with making a proper cup of tea.

2- Norwegian Women tend to congregate in large groups

3- Iceland + Eurovision = Love!

4- Sweden has no TV’s in their Bars, nor Grey Goose

5- Icelandic young adults are down with big band music

6- Early Do-Wop and Rock& Roll from the 1950’s are played everywhere in Europe

7- As well 80’s pop music

8- Latvians love mullets

9- Russians enjoy Smoking

10- Russians hate to accept large ruble denominations.

11- Chinese people love t-shirts with random english words.

12- Mongolian nomadic tribes have modern accessaries such as satellite dishes, cars and cell phones.

13- Russians don’t believe in queues

14- Chinese men are involved parents.

15- Germans are everywhere!

Written by Derek Reese

September 23, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , , ,

Why the Great Firewall is Nothing More than a Tiny Flame

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I think it’s appropriate I write this post in China where the following sites are currently banned under what’s called the “Great Firewall.”

  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • BBC America

There are hundreds of additional sites banned (see greatfirewallofchina.org). You would think the lack of access would be detrimental to my ability to communicate with the outside world. However this is not the case.

A great number of innovative minds have developed alternatives that are one step ahead. For example there’s a solution called Pimpmyip.org, which allows you to utilize an external IP address from another country to access the internet. Another alternative is to create your own VPN (Virtual Private Network) for your computer (Bootleg copies are abundant). There are also numerous other alternatives in development.

This leads me to the question: If there are so many ways to circumvent the system, does the government really want censorship? I believe they do, but they also realize digital is the future and need to create a balance that allows their population to navigate while the government feels in control. One could compare it to the subway system in Beijing. At every stop one needs to put their bag through an X-Ray machine. However, I noticed the attendant who is supposed to be monitoring what’s passing through frequently isn’t paying attention and if there’s a large crowd the police just wave everyone through.

While I’ve enjoyed my stay in China, I find the “Great Firewall” to be a nuisance and quite arbitrary in the sites I can and can’t visit. I wonder how the rest of China feels….

Written by Derek Reese

September 20, 2010 at 2:07 am

The First Rule of Social Media

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I’ve been pondering over the last few weeks as to why Facebook is the king of social media. With 400 MM+ members and 50% of membership active everyday, it’s a massive force. So why has Facebook succeeded where others failed? I reason it’s because THE SITE WORKS! Not only is Facebook the place where my friends are, has an open API that allows me to bring together other social networks (WordPress, Foursquare, Trip-It), but I’ve been impressed on how consistently the site performs. Not a groundbreaking analogy but very plausible.

Here’s why:

Being on the road, I’ve used many forms of social media, including Trip-It, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Twitter, Hootsuite to create a cross-network campaign to alert business connections and my friends about my travels. Facebook is the only site that has consistently worked.

Foursquare

I like the concept of location based networks, plus the badges are fun to earn. However, I’ve had numerous challenges checking into locations that weren’t in big cities or via WiFi. In fact, I’d estimate that I’ve only been able to check-in about 50% of the time, the other 50% I’ve either experienced error messages, site throttling or the inability to pinpoint my location.

Twitter

Twitter has become an important media tool to amplify a message to a larger group (such as this blog post). The site works well with other networks. For example, if I’m at a major venue or city, I can bring my Foursquare feed (on a case-by-case basis) out to a larger network on Twitter. However, I’ve been seeing Twitter over-capacity frequently.

Trip-It

Trip-It is an easy to use traveler application that works very well with both Facebook and LinkedIn. I can easily alert my connections of my whereabouts in Europe. While the service has been very helpful, I’ve found there’s no way to tether city-to-city. Currently, my status shows I’ve traveled over 100K miles, when most likely I’ve traveled 7 or 8 thousand.

In my opinion, each one of these sites is going through the usual growing pains that come with massive growth. As they mature, I hope these issues will be resolved.