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Cybernaut

Be more productive

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Anyone who’s ever seen my desk, or computer desktop, could easily deduce that I’m not the most organized guy in the world, whatever I might have claimed on my resume.

And while I’ve often hid behind the old expression that “a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind,” I’ve recently come to the realization that the slobs of the world are actually a pretty dysfunctional bunch and so jealous of the neat freaks out there we’ll accuse them of our own psychological issues.

The fact is that clutter costs time, creates stress, and makes it impossible to find what you need when you need it. And so it goes that the things that pile up on your floor or your desk soon pile up on your brain, cluttering your already overloaded mental calendar, and eventually killing your motivation. It’s hard for us slobs to get going because we never know where to start, and then we never feel like we’re getting anywhere because we’re too lazy to make checklists.

The truth is that if you’re not organized in today’s busy world, then chances are you’re either overwhelmed or unemployed. Without time management, there can be no free time.

The Internet has a way of complicating our lives, first by wasting our time on diversions like Facebook and YouTube, and secondly by spreading the content of our lives even thinner. How many of us have both online calendars and paper date books, or online and paper address books? Or more than one e-mail address? Or receive half their bills on the web and half through the mail? Or have so many accounts at so many websites, under so many user names and passwords that we’re no longer sure what’s out there, or what information goes with which account?

Having a computer doesn’t have to add to our piles, but can be used to streamline our lives.

LifeHacker (www.lifehacker.com), which is always a good resource for the time-challenged, recently put together a list of tips to help you organize your life. Some of the suggestions didn’t work as well — the Wesabe (www.wesabe.com) banking and online financial planning service didn’t really work with my online bank (no surprise there, as my current bank’s online services are the worst I’ve ever used), and some of the recommended services duplicate services that I’m currently using. However, there were a few good notions.

www.rememberthemilk.com — Remember the Milk’s free online service takes care of that checklist thing I was talking about, allowing you to make lists, remind yourself of what’s on it a few dozen different ways (including text messages on your cell phone), and to coordinate your list with online calendar services like Google Calendar or Twitter.

It’s not the best interface out there, but I can definitely see myself at least trying to use this.

http://iwantsandy.com — I Want Sandy is similar to Remember the Milk, with Sandy acting as your personal assistant, but it almost entirely revolves around e-mail. You can send e-mail reminders to yourself with dates and times, or just CC yourself while replying to someone else. Each task sent to Sandy generates a URL where you can get more information, and where you can store information like flight confirmation codes, important dates, and so on. I prefer to use a calendar and the ability to share, but this could be good for people who rely on e-mail for most of their planning and don’t have Microsoft Outlook.

www.amazon.com — It’s not available at Amazon Canada yet, but the U.S. site has an amazing Gift Organizer function where you can log everyone’s birthday, set reminders for yourself, search for people’s Amazon wish lists, and quickly order gifts from Amazon to arrive in time. Until they add the service to Canada my advice is to just use the reminder system and Amazon’s gift advice, and do the rest on your own.

http://jott.com — Save time text messaging by calling Jott’s toll-free number and saying what you want to say. Jott then transcribes your words into a text message that is sent back to you, and that you can forward to anyone else.

There are a few other things that you can do that LifeHacker missed. The first is to use Mozilla Firefox to remember all your user names and passwords — nobody has hacked this yet, and it’s your own fault if you use your birthday as your password.

Another is to get a Gmail account — I’ve started to use the Calendar option from home, which is downloaded by my iCal application at work. I can’t upload my iCal to my Google Calendar yet, or coordinate iCal between two computers without a .Mac account, but apparently it’s coming.

But while computers can help make your life easier, they can’t do anything for you if your life is already so complicated that you could spend more time organizing your life than living it. Check out this list of 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life by Zen Habits — http://zenhabits.net/2007/09/simple-living-manifesto-72-ideas-to-simplify-your-life.

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