Hey, we have not spoken in a while! Nice seeing you again! – Seriously, I have been trapped at a location with almost nil connectivity for the last two weeks, and it is driving me nuts. Sorry for the hiatus.
Today let’s talk about a little trick to keep you focused on your work, and still get your newsfix from the outside world. Yeah, there is stuff going on around you, y’know? All kind of news. Things that pop up in your feedreader. Things that you come across while doing your desk research ( = googling like crazy for the topic at hand) that might not be completely relevant now, but sure sound interesting. The thing is to avoid being sidetracked during cranking hours, but have stuff ready at hand when you have time to indulge. Four things have made a big difference for me.
- Google Gears
Gears allows web apps to function offline and sync the new state back to their “mothership” once you go online again. Gears works excellently with Google Reader. So before you hop into the cab, train, plane, go to Google Reader, put it in “offline” mode (once you installed Gears, it will ask you if you want to use Reader with it, and will then provide you with a little green button in the top row to toggle online/offline mode). Now you can read through all your news without the need for an internet connection. It does not load images, so your subscription to cuteoverload.com will be no fun. Sorry.
This is a nifty and free little web service. With an ultra simple interface (seems designed for iPhone access, but works with Blackberrys and your Laptop just as fine), Instapaper gives you the ability to make a “read later” list. To do that, Instapaper gives you a little bookmarklet (a bookmark for your browser of choice). Now, when you are on a website that sure is interesting, but you really need to get working on other stuff – just hit the Instapaper bookmarklet (I named mine, creatively, “read later”). Instapaper saves the link. Now close it, and do what needs to be done. Whenever, then, you have some time to spare, go to Instapaper, and voilá – your reading list is waiting for you. Unfortunately, no Google Gears support yet, that would make it even better.
Whenever I find an interesting but rather long article online – you know, the type of Paul Graham essay (great stuff!) – I want to save it for reading when I have the time, and might want to print it out. Easy as pie. Of course, you can simply print it, but using the free DoPDF-Tool, you can (who would have guessed!) easily create a PDF out of it (it installs as a printer) and save it on your harddrive as well. Advantage: You can collect stuff you want to get on paper, and then print it all in one go, so that your colleagues don’t find your pumpkin pie recipie amongst their travel expenses.
- Make yourself a folder called “INBOX” on your desktop. Now, the declutter-your-desktop-topic is one we can expand on later – for now let’s keep it simple: In the inbox, you can make a “to read” folder. Put those PDF’ed articles in there, and whenever you have a relaxed moment – travelling or in the hotel room – just open up that folder, and you have something interesting to go through
Now whenever you come across something on the web that you can’t attend to right now, there is a way to quickly save it, and you can get back to work. Then, when you have the time, things are at hand waiting for you. Try it out, and let me know how it works for you.
The little device that is praised and demonized so often: The CrackBlackberry. For most consultants, this device is a constant companion, at least during the work week. In worst cases, it is within reach 24/7, and you get all tingly when it has not rang or buzzed for your attention for half an hour… even at night. But that is your personal business, really.
Today I’ll give you some hints towards making the Blackberry do more stuff that you want (because it can already show you stuff that you are supposed to do – aka mails from your boss – and that is just an imbalance we cannot tolerate!).
First of all – a small disclaimer. I have a BB Curve, the 83something, and as I am telling you about my setup, all software mentioned has obviously not been tested for any other Blackberry device. So if you still cling to the old paperweight, or opted for a Pearl because it is “slimmer” (and because you did not know that typing on it would be a complete pain) – your mileage may vary.
- Google Maps Mobile – now it even detects where (roughly) you are, and you can get a route planned from there. Good when the nav of your rental car brakes down (like it did for me yesterday). Free.
- Gmail Mobile – awesome. Just tell it to fetch your private email (if it is not already on Gmail anyway), and woosh, you got your corporate AND your private mail on the Blackberry. Free.
- Opera Browser – OperaMini is a free browser for your Blackberry. Why, you ask? The Blackberry webbrowser is terribly rudimentary. It manages websites well that are designed for mobiles, but everything else is a pain. Opera handles those sites gracefully, as well, and also integrates with desktop Opera installs, should you run it on your PC as well. Free.
- The built in media player – I know, it is not an iPod. Neither has it the capabilities. But with the built in memory of the new Blackberrys and the media player, you can darn well put some music and some podcasts on it. Standard headphone jack on the device means you can plug in your own (probably higher quality) headphones and rock on! Free (already on your device, if it has the new software)
- Qype mobile: Especially good in Germany, but catching up in other countries as well. Qype is user generated yellow pages, with great articles on everything you might look for in a city – from Aspirin to Zoo.
- Google Reader: Good mobile version. Have a few minutes spare time? See what your favourite news feeds are doing! (And of course, find the newest entry on KillerConsultant.com waiting for you… what, you did not subscribe to the newsfeed yet? Shame! Klick the orange button on the upper right-NOW!)
- Twitter mobile: See what your friends are doing and update them on your next night shift.
- Dopplr mobile: Good stripped down version of dopplr – enter your next trip, see who of your friends is in the area. Might give you back some of your social life!
- Instapaper: Great little tool in combination with Opera. Instapaper lets you add things you want to read later in any browser with a little bookmarklet, and when you then go to the site, your reading list is waiting for you.
Now who would have thought that there is some real life quality enhancement hidden in your blackberry? Now go, try stuff out! I am looking forward to your comments – also tell me about great stuff that belongs on the list!Read More