I have a confession: I’m a slight technophobe. I love the feeling of being unplugged. I’m an artist with pencil and paper, beach sand and blank walls. I lived slightly ‘off the grid’ for many years. I was a confirmed filofax fan (ok, I still am).
And then, I got a blackberry, partly for business and partly because I was sick and tired of being isolated (“Get me back on the grid!” I yelled). I wanted to reach my sister, friends and the world at large with the click of a button. It was the first step to the family’s downward – or upward, depending upon whose opinion you get – spiral into a plugged-in future.
I’ve discovered so many excellent apps and programs since then. The lovely thing is that there are THOUSANDS of them, so there are sure to be a few that suit you, the individual. And instead of just going along with your usual system of jotting down notes on bits of paper, or mailing your invoices in, or trying to remember when that job was due, you can be sure there will be the perfect app to help you work better, quicker and more efficiently.
Often, you’ll find you already have many of the apps you need on your mobile phone or computer. Have a look at your email program. Whether you’ve got a free one like Gmail, or one you subscribe to such as BT, or Microsoft’s Office Suite with Outlook, chances are you aren’t using it fully. Try setting up folders for different types of emails, so that when you are looking for something it’s right there. Use the calendar, so that you are reminded of important events and due dates. It’s well worth the time you spend setting it up. Use your mobile phone camera as a tool, and not just for taking snapshots of the cat sleeping while you work and facebooking “Look at the cool spiral we made on the beach!”
Depending on whether you’re an Apple junkie or a Windows fan, there are apps (or ‘applications’) worth researching. Many are free, and some are so awesome you wouldn’t mind paying for them.
Evernote is one I’m currently in love with. It’s free, and installed on my blackberry, iPad and laptop. With Evernote, if you’re waiting in line at the bank and you’re suddenly struck with inspiration, you can type your thoughts into the program. Or, take a picture that reminds you of something. Or, write a to-do list. Or, remember a website link. Later, when you have a moment’s peace with your computer, simply log on to Evernote there and there are all your ‘notes to self’ amazingly in one place! It’s like writing it down, only you don’t have to borrow a pen, scribble on the back of the petrol receipt, shove it in your pocket and then lose the whole thing in the laundry. (Oh, those laundered lists!!!)
There are time management apps for freelancers, whether you want to use the Pomodoro technique or another one. You can get apps for tracking your spending; drawing and sketching; and making and receiving payments. Writing apps like Notebook and Noteshelf are nice if you’re an iPad user, and Flipboard will keep you connected with all your social media in a fun and eye-catching way.
Microsoft Office is expensive, but also fabulous. There are great free tutorials on YouTube which will explain how to use any of the related programs, which will help you design brochures and business cards or write documents. I’m currently using Excel to set up a spreadsheet to keep track of when my writing jobs are due and when they will be published, so I can submit articles and send invoices in a timely manner. Excel will even keep track of my earnings for me.
Invest some time in looking into these apps and more. Think about what is right for you, and really use them to the fullest. Embrace your inner geek, and amaze your teenagers! You’ll be glad you did.