How Does Technology Affect You?
Those who know me know that I'm an early adopter of technology. I love new gadgets and new software. I think it has something to do with wanting to get more done in less time. (Plus, I'm really just a big kid who still loves toys.) I'm always on the lookout for the latest productivity-boosting gadget, software, Web site, blog or other "thing" that will make me more productive and, hopefully, let me have some fun while doing it.
Last month I wrote about blogging (my blog is at www.qualitycurmudgeon.com). I blog because blogs are a great way to share information quickly. I read blogs because they're a great way to gather information quickly. As I mentioned last month, there are a number of blogs I visit daily as part of my quest to be more productive, including www.lifehacker.com and www.43folders.com.
I also visit a number of Web sites each day to keep up-to-date with what's going on in the world, increase my productivity and have some fun. These include news sites, www.qualitydigest.com (of course) and www.websudoku.com (all work and no play…).
In addition to my laptop (a sweet new Apple MacBook Pro that runs both Mac OS X "Tiger" and Windows XP), I also have a Web-enabled cell phone (so I can check my e-mail while away from my computer), a PDA to keep track of all of my important events (though, I have to admit, I don't use this as much as I should) and an iPod (in addition to playing music, video and games, it syncs with my calendar, address book and photos--I have to show off the pictures of my seven-month-old twins). Unfortunately, I also have a gaggle of other gadgets that didn't work out so well gathering dust in desk drawers. (Here's a cool site for gadget lovers looking for cool stuff cheap: www.woot.com. Woot sells one item at a time until it sells out. Check the site at 10 p.m. Pacific time for each day's new item.)
I also love to try out new software, but I work primarily with the dynamic duo of Microsoft Word and Excel. I also use Apple's iCal calendar and Mail e-mail applications. For database work, I find FileMaker Pro to be unparalleled for power and simplicity. I can't imagine working without Adobe Acrobat; it's a lifesaver. Unfortunately, I've learned the hard way the dangers of loading too much software onto my computer, especially downloaded software. Not only do you run the risk of getting nasty viruses and spyware, but loading too many of those cool applications tends to slow down the computer.
Here's a difficult admission for the Quality Curmudgeon: I think that one of the most amazing things about the computer revolution is how well software works. When you consider that many programs contain millions of lines of code, it's astounding that millions (sometimes billions) of users use software that works pretty much flawlessly. Of course, there's always room for improvement.
But enough about me. I'd like to know what productivity-enhancing tools you're using. What gadgets, software, blogs, Web sites or other products are you using to make your job easier and, hopefully, improve the quality of your work (and, of course, your company's products and/or services)?
Each issue of Quality Digest is chock- full of advertisements from companies (God bless 'em) that promise to make the quality professional's job easier. Which of these products are you using, and, more important, do they work? I'd like to get a discussion going on my blog about user experiences with quality-related hardware and software. What works? What stinks? What do you wish these products did better? How are you using the hardware and/or software in your daily routine?
Also, what hacks (improvements) have you made to these products to make them work better or adapt to your working style? For example, I tweaked my e-mail program (with the help of some advice from a poster to the Lifehacker blog) so that it will nag me if I attempt to send an e-mail that is supposed to have an attachment but doesn't.
A lot of quality software is restrictive in terms of adaptability by the user, but I'm sure there have been some hacks made by users that would benefit others.
I'd also like to know what's holding you back. How is your productivity hindered by outdated hardware or software? What do you wish your company would do differently that would save you time and your employer money? Is your company's technology hindering the quality of its products and/or services? Are you a technophobe or a technophile? What about your boss, co-workers, spouse? How do they deal with your phobia or obsession? Do you think too much time and money are thrown at technology when good old-fashioned alternatives exist?
Now's your chance to be the Quality Curmudgeon. Post your thoughts on what gadgets, software, hardware, etc. you use and what you wish your company was doing differently at www.qualitycurmudgeon.com.
Scott M. Paton is Quality Digest's editor at large