Finding a good tool can be like going in search of the Holy Grail — arduous and daunting — a task of mythical proportions. Seeking out new tools at the end of the calendar year borders on lunacy. However, there are a few “timeless” tools that I seem to be unable to live without and return to when trying to “wrap up” the year and prepare for the new year.
Before I stumbled upon my sacred list, I first asked myself the questions that I outlined in my previous post, “How to Pick the Best Tools for Your Organization: A case study.”
Here’s a recap of the questions I ask:
- Whom is the tool for?
- How much are you willing to spend on it?
- Where can you find the tool?
- What do you want the tool to do? What’s the benefit?
- How will the tool(s) integrate with your other tools and into your life?
Now let me detail the tools that keep my life in order and help me “check myself, before I wreck myself!”
Let’s talk about my virtual notebook, which is the role Evernote plays in my life. I continuously gravitate towards the platform when in a pinch to collect information, take notes, and make both professional and personal observations. Furthermore, I can put hand-written notes, web articles, and pictures in my digital folders! It’s my note-taking nirvana!
Excel Spread Sheets/Numbers
As a Mac-using human who enjoys owning and using products from differing operating systems, I recognize that folks use different type of CSV tools; however, despite which one you like, you should use one! I can’t live without a place to plug in numbers, run formulas, and churn out basic charts and visualizations. There’s a plethora of knowledge on how to get the most out of Excel and programs like it.
I suffer from a rare and debilitating disease — chronic computer failure. The number of times that my computer has crashed is only overshadowed by the number of viruses that I’ve had. I’ve lost really important work-related documents, as well as precious pictures and memorable music. That stopped about two years ago when I started funneling funds towards a paid version of Dropbox. It’s well worth the price ($10/month), and at this point, I can’t imagine not having access to a cloud-based storage system.
Once again, my Apple core is showing, but I love Preview. I do a large majority of my simple picture editing there. I’ve finally learned how to wrangle it, and it was a pretty painless process. I can’t stress the importance of a good picture editor. Having that ability to provide quality images for projects is imperative in visual presentations and has value outside of the workplace, too. This year, I’m creating my own holiday cards because I’m that confident in the editor I use, more so than my actual editing skills.
Google Drive/Google Services
Google has quite a wide array of tools that exists within Google Drive. Some of the core functionalities that I use without fail include Google Calendar, Google Hangout (services), and Google Forms, Docs, and Presentations. It goes without saying that everyone needs a schedule manager and sharing service so that teams can work on documents and projects together in real time. The fact that Drive seamlessly integrates your word processing program, or spreadsheet system into the Drive is a nice touch and makes uploading items a doable task. Regardless of what you end up with, everyone needs to have a system that facilitates real-time collaboration and communication.
Asana is #everywhere. I stumbled upon it in early 2013 and have been hooked ever since. I just can’t begin to describe how unrefined my pen and paper to-do list feels after using Asana. The platform allows users to track their progress on projects, comment, tag people to tasks, create sub-tasks, and add attachments. I honestly think it’s some sort of enchantment or sorcery, it’s that good!
I want to stress that the work that you produce is usually a greater reflection of the tools that you use instead of an actual deficit in your skill set. I’m constantly looking for tools that teach me something new and help me add to my professional tool kit, but that I can still use in my personal life as well. I also encourage everyone to use tools that they can access on their smart phones and sit in that celestial body known as the “cloud.” Being able to get work done on the go is the most important part of wrapping up the year effectively and cheerfully!