COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: High-tech tips for tackling time troubles

For Gary Kendra, a partner in the Detroit law firm of Jaffe Raitte Heuer & Weiss and founder and CEO of ProMarks, LLC, a Traverse City-based Internet software company, “six or seven hours of sleep is a good night.” It’s not unusual for Kendra to work at home until 2 or 3 a.m., after putting in a full day at the firm.

The key, says Kendra, is “shifting gears and prioritizing. Everything is someone’s problem, so to them it’s the most important thing in the world. You have to know what can wait and what can’t.”

Traverse City psychologist and management consultant, Dr. John Haskin agrees that setting priorities is central to good time management since, “It’s a given that we have way too much to do and not enough time.”

Easier said than done.

“Sometimes people don’t have a clear idea of their goals. When you know where you’re going, then you look at everything in relation to those goals,” he explained. “Or they tackle unimportant things first because they’re small and easy to do.”

The third time management challenge Haskin often sees is procrastination. “It’s difficult to do something about since there is an immediate reward–free time–and the punishment is delayed,” he said.

Haskin offers a few tips for managing time more productively:

* Don’t fall prey to the myth that “activity means productivity.” Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re focusing on the right things.

* Don’t schedule too tightly. Schedule no more than 80 percent of your time and save the remaining 20 percent for mistakes, crises, and new priorities.

* Keep a to-do list, and categorize items in an A-B-C fashion. Then take the Bs and move them to either the A or C list. Devote about 80 percent of your time to the As and 20 percent to the rest. Spend your time where it will produce results.

* Write down your goals for the coming five years, two years, one year, and six months. Do this quickly and spontaneously on one piece of paper. Post the list where you can refer to it, and repeat the exercise every six months.

“This will give you a sense of where you’re pointed. You can change course, but you won’t be going in circles,” he says.

As for technology, “It can create information overload, but it can help if you’re selective,” said Haskin.

Here is a sampling of the latest and greatest time-saving gadgets…

Palm organizers:

Hand-held, mini computers that function as super-organizers can be a great help. Newer models allow you to connect to the Internet and to access e-mail through your wireless phone and synchronize with your PC to up/download data. The newest model, the wireless Palm VII by 3Com (pictured), bypasses the wireless phone altogether. Just pull up the antenna and it connects to the Net. Palm organizers typically weigh less than one pound, run on batteries, and range from $200 to $500. Other companies have their own models. For more information on the Palm VII, check out www.palm.com.

Unified messaging:

What a concept–a free way to check e-mail, voicemail, and receive faxes all at once! Sign up with one of these services (yes they really are free, no catches), and receive a private fax and voicemail phone number (not all services provide the voice messaging option). When messages or faxes come in for you, they are converted to an attachment and sent to you in an e-mail. You can actually hear voicemail via an audio file.

The disadvantages? Since the services make money from advertisers, there are ad “stamps” on your faxes. And your private number will very likely have a different area code, but you can pay for a toll-free number.

Great for frequent travelers and home offices, but you can’t send faxes. Get details at:

www.jfax.com

www.efax.com

www.faxwave.com

Portable digital recorders:

Yes, dictation without the tiny, easy-to-lose tapes. Download your thoughts right to your PC, without typing. You can have several voice files in progress simultaneously, and move among them without having to repeatedly rewind and fast forward. In the $250-$600 range.

www.dictaphone.com

www.sony.com

Free-mail:

Do you use more than one e-mail account or service for home and work? Sign up for free Internet mail, and you can access your various accounts from anywhere.

www.yahoo.com (Yahoo! Mail)

www.hotmail.com

Voice recognition software:

Talk to your PC. Speak documents instead of writing or typing them. Give your computer commands verbally. Voice recognition technology has been around for a while, but it’s taken a leap in quality in the past couple of years. You no longer have to sound like a droid to have it understand you. Be sure to find out the optimum system requirements, and expect to spend some time training–yourself and the software–so it becomes accustomed to your speech. In the $50-$400 range.

www.ibm.com

www.dragonsystems.com

Office equipment:

“With network-ready, digital copiers you can print, copy, sort, collate, and staple without getting up from your desk,” according to John Rouzer, representative for Commercial Equipment Company (CEC) in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. “You can also store up to 18 MB of commonly produced documents right on the copier without using up memory on your PC, and there are less moving parts to maintain.”

Canon recently introduced a digital imaging machine that scans documents and burns them to a CD in Microsoft Windows format.

“It’s the only machine of its kind,” said Ken Falls, senior account representative with CEC. “It scans 40 pages per minute and stores about two file cabinets’ worth of paper on one CD. It’s our hottest product right now.” Cost? About $8,000.

Personal Information Managers (PIM) Systems:

There are many brands of software that manage your calendar, contacts, and tasks. If you’re using a palm organizer, make sure it will integrate with whatever PIM you use on your PC. Cost is usually under $100.

www.microsoft.com (Outlook Calendar)

www.daytimer.com

www.baselineconnect.com (Info Accelerator)

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