Thursday, October 29, 2009
Control freak seeks absolution.
I still don’t like surprises. My organizational skills are envied by most, not understood by many, and probably seem ridiculous to some. When managing a Briefing Center in Chicago, I was simultaneously planning, executing and closing out over twenty customized customer meetings (some were 2 days long) in a given quarter. That workload was no match for my super organizational powers. Program record? Heh. It was nothing! My world was in control and I loved it. Then, I had a child.
Imagine my surprise when all the planning and organization in the world couldn’t control this little person who had his own agenda and made it very clear he wasn’t interested in what anyone else wanted! Funny thing though, being a parent makes you even more resourceful and (gulp) adaptable. This was a good thing. Like most things that are good for you, I fought it at first. I honestly remember saying at one point, “Oh God, what have I done?” Gradually as we learned more about each other, I was able to go with things a little more (however I will never be described as “go-with-the-flow”).
In an ironic twist, I found I needed to be even more organized to keep up with unpredictable life. It was this paradigm shift that elevated the importance of technology to a whole new level. I had less time to plan and organize and had to adapt on-the-go. How would I ever manage? Luckily for me the internet was born long before my son was and I have the world at my fingertips. Aside from the basics of online bill pay and email to keep in touch with everyone from my family to the doctor’s office, there are some very practical ways to do more with less - time, money, you name it! Here is a quick-hit list of my favorites:
Price shopping. I have a confession to make here. I don’t actually own an iPhone, yet. When I hear about new Apps like Red Laser that scans the barcode of a product and goes to the web to tell you who has it for less, I am one step closer to signing up. I think the $1.99 app would very quickly pay for itself.
Online shopping. I hate when I find something I like in store and it’s not available in the size or color I need. There are usually no store employees within a 5 mile radius and I don’t have time to track them down or if I find one wait for them to locate my item at another nearby store. Most stores now offer free shipping for online purchases. If they don’t, check out coupon sites like CouponCabin or RetailMeNot for free shipping or other discount promo codes. To make it easy: take a picture of the product tag with your phone, or take down the name, item#, etc. on your iPod touch or iPhone in notes or as a recorded voice memo (requires iPhone OS 3.1 for iPhone/iPod touch), or, keep a pen/small notebook or pad in your purse for this purpose. Go home, go online, order and have it delivered to you free of charge. Be sure to also use any coupon offer codes you receive in the mail, most apply to online purchases too.
Calendars. Use iCal, Outlook, or the free Google Calendar... it doesn’t matter the application, just do it, and sync with your smartphone or iPod to take your calendar on the go with you. Never again will you double-book your dentist appointment over a meeting or other obligation. Be on time and plan ahead for upcoming events. Furthermore, send your spouse or significant other meeting invitations for occasions outside of the normal family schedule, like when you’ll be home late from work because of a dinner meeting. Don’t let them “decline” the invitation either! No more, “I didn’t know that, I can’t make that work...”
Movie rentals. We tried Netflix for a while and the low monthly price seemed justifiable at first, but we quickly realized there weren’t that many new movies we really wanted to see every month. I then purchased an Apple TV and was so thrilled with the quick delivery and ease of use. However, at $4.99 per HD rental (my husband refuses to watch anything in lower resolution... HD snob) our rentals added up quickly. I still love the Apple TV concept and think it has it’s place. But, let’s be honest every little bit counts these days. My friend Christian turned me on to RedBox for one dollar, 24-hour DVD rental that you reserve online or at one of many locations (gas stations, supermarkets, pharmacies). Who can beat an evening of entertainment for $1? If you sign up for text messages, you get a free Monday rental every week. Smart marketing on their part, Tuesday is DVD release day so when you return you’re likely to pick up another rental!
How has technology helped you save time and do more with less? Share your tips!