There are so many gadgets and gismos out there that it's nearly impossible to know what's going to be worth investing your time and money in. You can spend hours figuring out a new tech platform, only to find that it doesn't quite do what you want. So what are the best tools for the job? And how do you find them? I thought I'd take a look.
Slack. Hootsuite. Pocket. Trello. Mailchimp. I have all these tools open in my browser just now, along with LinkedIn, email and my web editor (oh - and a radio station!). The proliferation of tools to help improve productivity and connectivity can be overwhelming. Rather than saving you time, you can either waste your day flitting in between platforms, or ignore them altogether and miss out on opportunities. On top of that, it's all too easy to be a magpie about these tools, always looking out for the next best thing. Knowing that I can have a tendency for procrastination, I've been reflecting on how I use these tools. And that's helped me come up with three tips that might help us all make the most of them.
1. Know what you're trying to achieve
The first step in finding the right tools for the job is to know what you want to achieve. You don't often set out on a journey without a clear destination in mind or try to build something without a clear idea of the desired outcome. The same should be true of your search for useful tools. Knowing what you're aiming for is an essential starting point. It will help you narrow down your search. And you'll have a set of criteria you can use to test out the functionality. You'll also be able to tell fairly easily if the tool is actually working.
2. Understand your preferences
We all have our preferred ways of working, so our tools should mirror those wants and needs. I'm all for a tech solution that will save me time, so long as it doesn't take too much time investment up front. But, when it comes to taking notes, or working things out, I'll always go for my notebook and pencil. To others, that would seem ridiculous, but the act of making marks on paper helps me to think. And I'm much more productive for it. I've tried dictation apps, e-notebooks, and tablets, but none are nearly as effective as my trusty jotter. Matching the tool to your own style is key to making it work.
3. Don't get too distracted by shiny things!
I'm a curious type of person - and I think this benefits the work that I do. I seek out new practices and test connections to come up with new ideas. But looking for the latest development isn't always the most practical approach. It may be that a tool you've been working with for ages is the best one for you. Or a platform that isn't quite the shiniest on the market might meet the needs of your business. I work with micro-businesses and start-ups where lo-tech can sometimes be better than hi-tech. That doesn't mean closing off from innovation. Far from it. But it is putting innovation to work for you.
I'm excited to be exploring new technologies at the moment through a new Digital Retox course I'm embarking on. I'm hoping that I'll find some new tools that will help me in my own day-to-day work, and that I can recommend to clients. But I'm going to keep my three tips in mind as I approach the new tools, and try to keep my feet on the ground!