Your Productivity Data – Strategies for Managing Your Digital Life
One of my primary goals as a promoter of better living through technology is to help people use their various electronic devices without anxiety, struggle, or duplication of effort or data. I strongly believe in a system of record for information in which all records of a certain type are stored in the same place in a consistent way that supports easy retrieval on any device.
Once you make the leap from using a paper calendar, address book and datebook, your productivity data – which includes your email, calendar, address book and to-do lists – should synchronize across your electronic devices so you are up-to-date and never forced to enter an appointment or phone number more than once.
It’s easy to wind up with several accounts for your productivity data. For example, some of us might have a Comcast email address, an Apple ID, a Google or Gmail ID, another account for our cell phone carrier, etc.
We often don’t notice which accounts are used for what functions until we replace a computer or smartphone and discover that data appears to be missing or duplicated.
So what is the best way to approach productivity data?
Choose and use a complete productivity suite. There are a number of options that include email, contacts, calendars and task management. Most are free. If you have an email address that ends in @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @msn.com, @outlook.com, @icloud.com or one of many others, you may already have the building blocks in place for a complete productivity data strategy.
Which one of these is best for you depends, in part, on your existing and future preferences for computers, software, smartphones and tablets. For example, devices with Android operating systems are designed to tie in tightly to Google or Gmail accounts; Apple devices are happiest when they’re tied to Apple accounts; and Microsoft’s Outlook software is designed to synchronize with Microsoft accounts.
Productivity suites are typically cloud-based services, where your data is stored on the company’s computers and accessible to you securely over the Internet. This strategy means your data remains intact even if your device is unavailable. You always have the option of logging on to your account from any internet browser to send an email, check your calendar, etc.
There are additional benefits. For example, when you send an email, your contacts or address book should be connected to your email account so that you can choose a name from the list. When you receive an e-invitation, your email account should allow you to automatically place the event on your calendar.
One final note: separate your work from your personal productivity data. If you change employers, you are likely to lose your company email address and any contacts, calendar appointments and to-do lists. It is best to have a permanent, portable account that stays with you personally, separate from any employer.