This Is How I Work (series)

This is my take on Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series. I was invited by Anthony Iannarino to follow up his post on the same subject. Hope you enjoy it.

Location: West Orange, New Jersey, US

Current computer: Macbook Air 13-inch (backup computer iMac)

Current mobile device(s): iPhone 5s, iPad mini

What Apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Like Anthony, Evernote has to be my number one app. I use Evernote for taking notes on calls; I forward critical emails and documents to it; I scan receipts and tax returns into it; I use it for medical records; I write blogposts in it; and I especially use it to store .pdfs of key documents I frequently mail out, because I can drag and drop them onto an email. Way easier than attaching files the old way.

Two things people don’t mention enough about Evernote: One is that you can add to Evernote by every input mode yet devised by man, including juice cans with string (well, maybe). Another is it’s a great text editor for plain text.

I am always on the lookout for a great ToDo manager. Anthony turned me on to Omnifocus  which is so far ahead of everything else out there that it’s not even close. Yet you don’t have to tap even a tenth of  its abilities to benefit greatly, and it’s not hard to use. It has the best user manual of any software ever, written by the amazing Kourosh Dini, called Creating Flow with Omnifocus. Still, it may be overkill for many people.

Related to the ToDo is the search for the perfect note-taker-on-the-fly. I’ve found it in Captio, a nifty little phone app. Click to open Captio; dictate whatever text you want; then click on “send.”  You can have the resulting text file automatically sent by default to your email, or to your ToDo list – mine goes to Omnifocus.  Bingo, the perfect app for “omigosh I’ve got to remember to…”

I use DropBox as well; it’s essentially my directory in the cloud, obviating the need for files kept on the hard drive. Among all the obvious uses, it serves as an auto-backup for photographs from the iPhone. Should you ever need it, DropBox has good backup recovery tools, or so I hear. I use 1Password as a password manager, to deal with the impossible task of having different passwords for everything.  This software just got massively better by offering a menu bar icon that logs you in with one click to any member site you visit.  Suddenly password security went from a pain to a delight.

On the social side, I use three twitter clients: Buffer is the main one, the original scheduling client, but also Echofon and HootSuite for particular issues.

And on the sales side, I am very excited about two tools that Ago Cluytens just showed me, Salesloft and Postwire. The first generates rifle-shot targeted leads. The second makes for great-looking and almost-instantly customizable sales and marketing collateral.  Stay tuned. 

What’s Your Workspace Like?

My office roams with me. I do a lot of calls from the car (usually parked). My MacBook Air has a new Thunderbolt display and sits on the end of an old dining room table. My iMac is at a traditional desk in the office. The iPad lives in the living room, where I use it to run Aereo on AppleTV (goodbye cable, haven’t missed you a bit – and I still get ABC and HBO on the Apple TV).  I like to move around. My best reading is done in the hot tub.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

I totally echo Anthony here. First, hire a virtual assistant: thanks Tracey DelCamp! Second, outsource the work for which you are not the primary value creator.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

The older I get the better I get at not being offended by things people say. But then again I’m starting from a low point.

What do you listen to while you work?

I use Internet radio, from Apple TV. For work music, I go for Ambient categories, meditation – massage therapy type music. For real listening, jazz.

What are you currently reading?

Give and Take, a Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant

Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony C. Greenwald

Double Down: Game Change 2012, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Ed Schein

What’s your sleep routine like?

11PM to about 5:30AM when the dog gets insistent.

Fill in the blank:

I’d love to see ___________ answer these same questions? He’s got more perspective than I do: David A. Brock (who I am hoping will write his own response and name someone else).

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

It’s a tossup between, “Nobody cares all that much about your Big Issue anyway so just get over it,” and, “There is a god – and you’re not it.”

Cool iPhone Goodies

Every once in a while I take time off from the World of Trust and write about a hobby, often Mac-related stuff.  Today’s one of those days.

I’ve got four cool things to share with you, all related to iPhones. As they say in the friendly skies, if the iPhone is not in your travel plans today, this may be a good opportunity to deplane.

Here are four items – and, since you can’t always tell about things just by reading about them, a few photos so you can see how it works.

  1. iPhone mount for tripod, for photos and video
  2. Olloclip camera attachment for wide-angle, fish-eye and micro-focus views
  3. MiLi Power Spring iPhone battery case
  4. Kibits iPhone app

So here we go.

First, a photo of the three hardware items: left to right, an iPhone tripod mount; the Olloclip camera attachment; and the MiLi battery case.

Tripod Camera Mount. If you still think the iPhone camera is a toy, it comes recommended by no less than professional photographer Annie Liebovitz.

When I started doing more video, I asked Chris Brogan, and he had some great recommendations. But I didn’t want to spring for another camera; why not try the iPhone, I figured. Someone must make tripod mounts for the iPhone.

Sure enough, they do; tons of them. In fact, I can’t even find the link for the one I bought – hey manufacturer, write in and let me give you credit. Meanwhile, the GLIF Tripod Mount and Stand looks so nifty online that I just bought it. About $20 is what you’re looking at. Way cheaper than buying a new camera!

Lenses. One limitation of the iPhone is the single lens.  Well, there are tons of solutions for that too, some of them wild. But the Olloclip has a clever three-in-one solution: one toy, for about $70.  For that, you get a wide-angle lens, a fish-eye lens, and a super-micro-close-up lens.

The website has some great examples of photography, but to pique your interest, check out this close-up of the tripod mount’s screw-on mechanism from the first photo: that is some clarity.

Battery Case. If you’re in the habit of using a lot of the iPhone’s capabilities, you know how fast you can drain the battery. One elegant solution is a hard-case that includes a supplemental battery built-in. There are better-known solutions, but I just bought the MiLi Power Spring – it’s the smallest, lightest solution I’ve seen. For a bit over 50 bucks, I now keep it ready at hand for those long days.

Collaborative Software. What if you had the ability to share a bunch of files, software and so forth with a select group of people? Fine, there are lots of solutions, ranging from intranets to EverNote and DropBox.

But a nifty little program called Kibits lets you do so instantly, on the fly, for as many groups as you want, with about as much complexity as texting.

Creating groups on the fly, they call it. Now, I’m looking for groups to test it with.

Note: I have no financial relationship with any of these firms; only the MiLi people knew I might be writing about them.

 

 

Killer Apps 2.1 – Voice to Text on Your Computer

I wrote on my last post about how Siri on the iPhone was just the tip of the iceberg for speech-to-text software. Fine and good, but what about voice-2-text on your computer?

If you have a Mac running Lion OS X 10.7 Lion, you can see the future now. If you don’t, check this out anyway, you’ll see it soon enough.

Dragon Comes to the Utilities World

Dragon is the full-blown software product line of Nuance communications, pretty much the industry leader in voice to text. It’s powerful stuff, somewhat expensive, and getting better all the time.

But now there’s a new kid on the block: a utility version of Dragon, called Dragon Express.  Simplified, to be sure, but available instantly at a keystroke. Click – start talking.

But it’s easier to show than to talk about.  Check out the short video I did below.

Dragon Express Demo

As I said before, voice to text represents a quantum leap in the efficiency of communications, the likes of which we haven’t seen in some time.  It’s just getting started, and will be exciting to watch develop.

Killer Apps 2.0: Siri is Just the Teaser

Last summer I wrote about how speech-to-text software may be a killer app. At the time, I mentioned the rumor about what was to become Siri, the “talk to me” assistant in Apple’s then-upcoming iOS5. I also talked about Dragon Naturally Speaking, a PC-based system.

That was then: this is now. Apple itself is actually understating Siri’s capabilities – and Nuance, maker of Dragon Dictation, has made another huge advance for the you-and-me users out there. In this post, I’ll just deal with Siri: look for the Dragon post shortly.

[Note: I could spin this as being about trust, but that’d be a stretch. Sometimes I just get excited about other stuff – like cool work tools. Hope you like it too.]

Siri: Much More than Meets the Ear

You’ve seen the ads for Siri, seen friends demo it, maybe tried it yourself. And it’s impressive. You can tell Siri “Google the planet Pluto,” or “Remind me to pick up toothpaste next time I’m at the drugstore.” (I use this feature quite a bit).

But the truth is much more powerful. Those are parlor tricks, anthropomorphic gimmicks to introduce a new technology to the masses. You, Trust Matters readers, can handle The Truth. So let me tell it to you.

Forget the virtual assistant. Note instead that speech-recognition capability is now built in to the operating system. That means it’s available to you in almost every window, in almost every app on the iPhone.

What Siri Really Means ­– Now

Let me be clear about what that means. Once inside the data-entry part of an app, you can now speak, and your voice will be converted to text.

For example:

Email: speak your emails – they will convert to text

Messaging: speak your text messages – they will convert to text

Evernote: hit your Evernote app button and just start talking

Twitter: speak your tweets, stop finger-pecking them

Facebook: don’t tap your message, just say it

Google+: don’t type it, just speak it

Search: speak your Google or Bing searches – they will convert to text

Maps: speak your destinations – you get the idea.

You can now speak, instead of type, into almost any text-enterable field in any app. That means Notes, Salesforce, Quora, YouTube, NYTimes, Amazon – you name it.

  • Hate having to type on that little screen? That excuse is no longer valid.
  • Wish you had a dictation service? You do now.
  • Still taking notes by hand until you get home to enter them? Puh-leeze.

The 30,000 Foot View

This technology is not perfect; but it’s even better than the old Dragon app for the iPhone that I wrote about just six months ago, and it’s bound to get better.

As with all technologies, it will be more useful for some things than for others. I find it especially useful in dictating text messages, taking long notes of phone calls or meetings, and dictating thoughts about future articles or blog-posts.

Remember the core value proposition of voice-to-text: We can talk 5x as fast as we can write; and we can read 3x faster than we can listen. That’s a 15x systemic advantage for communications efficiency. When was the last time we saw a technology that improved communications efficiency by 1500%?

Siri is to voice-to-text as a camel’s nose in the tent is to the camel. This will be one very, very big ride.

Next post: voice to text on your Mac or PC desktop as a one-stroke utility – it’s here now.

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