Friday, January 09, 2015

Getting Organized, A Popular Resolution, and How Tech Should Play a Part

Whether you believe in making New Year's resolutions or not, the new year lends itself to starting with a clean slate, to trying new things, and setting out to accomplish more.  From saving money or spending less, to getting more done or fitting more into the time you have, technology should play a part in the process.  Listed below are examples of ways technology can increase organization to feel more successful throughout the year.

Saving Money
One of the greatest ways to save money is to get the most out of every dollar.  Tracking expenses throughout the year is one way to be sure to get credit for items like:
  • Out of pocket healthcare costs
  • Non-reimbursed expenses related to a job
  • Donations
  • Vehicle license fees
  • Claimable home upgrades and more

Placing every receipt into a box to sort out at tax time can work, but utilizing a spreadsheet program will make processing taxes easier and more efficient.  If you use a spreadsheet, be sure to record the cost, where the expense was made, the date, payment method, and reason for purchase.  Recording the payment method, like a check number or specific credit card, is especially helpful if receipt is lost or never received.  In this case a copy can be quickly made by accessing the account online and knowing which account to access saves time.

Spending Less Money
Rather than trying to force a restrictive budget on yourself, which can fail like a fad diet, how about doing more with what you already have?  Try recycling old tech for new purposes so spending less does not feel as restrictive.  Here are some quick and easy ideas for recycling old tech:

  • Retired computers and laptops can be recycled as machines for younger children.  Whether for games or learning applications, most of these programs require less performance than normal adult usage like database, email, and work productivity software.  Many games are cloud-based so an Internet connection and a decent network card are about all that is required.  This might save you from needing to purchase other gaming and learning systems for a few years.
  • Old or no longer supported smart phones can be reused as music players or guest devices.  Instead of purchasing additional equipment, recycle older phones as mp3 players, or in place of a tablet for guests.  Even if not every feature works on the phone it may be usable for a recycled purpose.  For instance, most smart phones have two network cards, one for wifi, and one for cellular connections.  A smart phone with a broken cellular network card will not be able to make or receive phone calls, but it can play music stored on the phone, or stream music from Internet based providers like Pandora and Spotify.  Connect the old phone to stereo or all-in-one speakers to listen to music without running down the battery on your everyday smart phone.
  • Smart televisions are great because they come with apps like tablets and smart phones preloaded on them, but they can be expensive.  These apps let you access Netflix, Hulu, and many other streaming services.  However, if you do not have a smart television an otherwise unused laptop can be connected to a regular television using either a USB or HDMI cable if the television has this type of connector.  This allows the laptop to be used to access a streaming website and then displays through the television.  To do this, open a website on the laptop, connect the laptop to the television, set the input on the television to the laptop and start the streaming on the laptop.

Getting More Done
Everyone can get overwhelmed by all the things they need and want to do.  One way to get more done is to keep better track of what is and needs to be done.  Create a spreadsheet to track things you want to do weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.  Or create a spreadsheet based on the type of item like cleaning, maintenance projects, or landscaping.  As each item is done, mark off your progress.  Keeping an organized list saves time since time is not wasted wondering what needs to be done.  Each year the lists can be quickly modified and reprinted to encourage continual progress.  

Fitting More into Existing Time
Another piece of getting more done is fitting more into existing time.  One way to fit more into existing time is to have ideas in lists that can easily be accessed.  When items are in organized lists and a chunk of time becomes available, it is easier to fit something into that time.  For example, creating a list of creative projects, maintenance items, or house projects for easy access helps ensure a project can be quickly chosen when it is convenient.  One of the worst feelings about having free time is the pressure of trying to remember all the things you normally wish you could do, but normally do not have time for.  With lists, these items can be acted upon when the time presents itself.

NOTE:  Try to add projects of all sizes to each lists as different amounts of time will present themselves.  A large project like painting a master closet or washing all the windows may be overwhelming for a one hour window, while cleaning the refrigerator or reorganizing a pantry might not.  Whatever is on each list, the bigger the variety of projects the better the lists will serve you.

Technology is great for assisting in saving money, being re-purposed to meet different technology needs, and making better use of precious time.  Creating lists to track expenses, future projects, and repetitive items can save time and money.  Reuse lists year after year to save even more time.  However you plan to spend the next year, implementing a few organizational techniques can make a big difference.

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