Computers are an integral part of our lives now and life is almost impossible to conceive without digital information and data. There are different ways to communicate, there are different ways you organize your information and their different ways you manage your work using computers and the Internet. In fact your digital life are so many facets that after a while it becomes difficult to track everything you need to do. Your digital life has a complete parallel existence and your physical life more or less depends on your digital life (and vice versa, of course).
Wherever there are different activities and interests you need to organize them. Hence you also need to organize your digital life. On an average day you may be carrying out or processing the following digital activities:
- Check your e-mails and reply to them
- Interact on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook
- View videos on YouTube and other video hosting websites
- Use wordprocessing and database management tools
- Collaborate with your colleagues who might be sitting in different parts of the world
The entire idea of organizing your digital life is getting whatever you need through as few tools as possible. For instance all your communication needs must be met with a single application rather than having to go to individual online locations and manage your interactions. Similarly, you should be able to access your files from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection, and possibly through every digital device.
Listed below are a few tools and services you can use to organize your digital life:
Organizing e-mail and social networking
There is a rumour, and it might be true that people these days use social networking more than e-mail to keep in touch with each other. Whatever, if you want to stay in touch with your friends, colleagues, relatives, customers and clients you might be using e-mail and social networking with greater regularity than your telephone. There are many e-mail plug-ins that help you manage your social networking activities right from your inbox.
If you use Gmail as your primary e-mail service and you don’t want to leave it even when you want to check your Twitter interactions you can easily install TwitterGadget and get all your Twitter messages right inside your Gmail inbox. All you have to do is, go to the Settings (once you are logged in), go to Labs and enable “Add any gadget by URL”. This creates a “Gadgets” tab inside your Settings section. Click that and you can install TwitterGadget and get all Twitter updates inside Gmail by adding the following URL:
Using the same method you can also add Facebook to your Gmail account. Go to Gadgets again and at the following URL:
And if you don’t want to confine yourself to the Gmail interface you can also use a desktop client like Digsby that lets you organize various instant messaging services, e-mail accounts and social networking accounts using a single interface. Once you start using it you can pretty much access all your communication channels through it.
You can also use the free source Zimbra Desktop to manage multiple e-mails and access your documents from anywhere.
Rapportive, although not a social networking tool per se, is a Gmail add-on that lets you immediately view your contact’s social networking profiles and his or her latest updates inside your inbox so you can get a complete picture of his or her social networking presence.
Various web-based e-mail services like Gmail, MSN, AOL and Yahoo mail allow you to access multiple e-mail accounts from within one e-mail account. For example, in Gmail you can access multiple e-mail accounts from a single inbox. In Gmail you can manage multiple accounts by going to Settings and then clicking on “Accounts and Import”. You will need to enable the POP3 in the e-mail accounts you’re trying to add.
Organize your documents and collaboration
Perhaps one of the greatest things about working on the Internet is that you can collaborate with all those great people with whom it was extremely difficult to collaborate with in the olden days. You can have an excellent team of programmers, web developers, virtual assistants, writers, business consultants and whatever professionals you can think of, scattered throughout the world while sitting in front of your computer in your basement.
GoogleDocs practically changed the way people use collaboration, at least while writing or doing basic spreadsheet-based activities. If you have a Gmail account or a Google account you might already be using GoogleDocs even if you don’t collaborate with multiple individuals.
Zoho Is a great alternative to GoogleDocs. In fact there is online suite, aside from the office suite applications also provides cloud-based services like CRM, invoicing, project management and bookkeeping.
Using cloud-based storage services like DropBox and Amazon Cloud Drive you can store all your important documents, images, media files and other information in the cloud and access them from anywhere no matter what device you are using. For instance if you have a long list of your favorite music tracks you can simply upload it onto the cloud drive of your preference and then access them via Wi-Fi or 3G from anywhere. There are many cloud drive services available and most of them offer free introductory packages. DropBox offers you 2GB of free space and Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB. Read How to use the Amazon cloud drive.
Manage your tasks and schedules
What is digital life without the ability to manage your tasks and schedules? This is where online services like Remember The Milk and Tadalist are quite handy. But the scheduling app that has generated the most buzz is perhaps Google Calendar that you can access through your Google account. A good thing about Google Calendar is that you can share your schedule and calendar activities with your team and organize meetings and events using it.
Manage your online bookmarks and organize information
You must be accessing 100s of webpages everyday and hardly a couple of them are worth saving or a second visit. But keeping track of usable information can become cumbersome if there is no proper tool to do so. Although there are rumours that whoever owns Delicious is shutting it down you can still use the online bookmarking service to organise your links. It is a great way of saving links with just one click and assigning rememberable tags to them.
Since its existence remains shady you can also use Evernote, Instapaper or SpringPad to save your links. Another good service for saving your web links for later reading is ToRead: You can put a button on your browser (after submitting your e-mail, of course) and afterwards whenever you are on a particular URL that you would like to read later on, simply click the button and the entire text of the URL will be mailed to you.
You can also use browser features and plug-ins to organise your bookmarks and other information. Read How to backup and sync your profile data in Firefox 4.
Manage your social networking profiles
It’s a sea of information and interactions on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook and their inherent interfaces don’t provide you much information if you intend to manage business accounts and analyze your social networking activities. For example, it’s not possible to manage multiple accounts using native Facebook and Twitter interfaces. But you can easily achieve that using TweetDeck (runs on Adobe Air) and HootSuite (runs inside the browser). TweetDeck provides you a desktop interface (on Google Chrome it also comes as an add-on). You can manage multiple accounts from multiple social networking websites including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can create multiple columns for individual accounts. You can also create columns to keep track of trending topics, custom search terms and hash tags.
The free account with HootSuite lets you manage five accounts and after that you need to pay a monthly fee that allows you to manage unlimited social networking accounts. HootSuite also comes with analytics features to provide you more in-depth information on how people respond to your postings.
So these are some ways and tools you can use to organise your digital life. Got some favourite tools of your own? Please share them in the comments section.