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Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_markhayes'>markhayes / 123RF Stock Photo</a>I have noticed several clients and friends have challenges maintaining their devices and technologies.  Some of the biggest productivity challenges are large email files, remembering passwords, finding electronic documents, managing photos, and syncing information.   Sometimes we get so used to working within our unfit technologies, we forget to look for ways to improve them.  A few years ago, I had a laptop that took 5-10 minutes to boot up and load the main screen.  I was so used to the length of time it took to get started every morning, I would plan on starting up my computer and then moving onto a task I could complete while my PC was booting.  This work around was okay most of the time, but was very inconvenient.  The machine also froze frequently through-out the day.    When I finally upgraded my laptop, I was amazed at how much more I could accomplish.  What work arounds have you developed in order to make up for your inefficient technologies?  What could you take the time to organize or improve to make your technology work better or faster for you?  The following tips are a few examples of common technology challenges, and how you can manage them to improve your increase your productivity.

1.  Switch POP email accounts to IMAP This weekend,  I noticed my friend had over 11,000 unread emails in her inbox!  I have noticed several of my clients, friends and family operate with email boxes overflowing with messages.   One of the easiest ways to diminish emails is to make sure you eliminate POP email accounts.  Post Office Protocol or POP email accounts load on a specific device,   POP3 is the current version of this particular style of email protocol. Since POP3 creates local copies of emails and deletes the originals from the server, the emails are tied to that specific machine, and cannot be accessed via any webmail or any separate client on other computers. In most cases, if you have a POP email account set up on your phone, tablet or laptop, you are having to process the same message on several different devices.  Depending on your email client setup depends on how this really works, but in short, messages are pushed to all of your devices and you process messages on each and every device – or whichever device pulls them from the server first.   If your email provider has the ability to setup accounts as POP or IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) accounts, it is a more efficient choice to use IMAP.

IMAP keeps your email box synced with the server. Regardless of the device you are currently using, if you delete an email in the inbox, it deletes it across all of your devices.  The other great feature of IMAP is you can create folders to organize your emails, and they will sync to all your devices.  How much time will it take to change an existing email over to IMAP?  If your email provider offers both protocols, switching the settings will take less than 5 minutes per device.  If your email provider only offers POP as a choice, consider switching providers.  It is a short-term hassle to switch email addresses.  However, it will save you time and increase your efficiency in the future.  Click here to read about more tips on email organization.

2.  Unsubscribe Unsubscribe to the retail email blasts you no longer need!  Unsubscribe to the newsletters and blogs you no longer read!  Unsubscribe to social media email notifications!  It only takes a few seconds to unsubscribe to email blasts and newsletters, but they can really cause your email box to blow up, your brain to overload, and your time to be wasted.

3. Use a Password Manager –  Are you constantly searching for passwords to sites you use regularly?  Are you using a file, piece of paper or a notes app to store your passwords?  Are you still using the same password for everything?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is time for you to start using a password manager.  A Password Manager like Lastpass, Dashlane, or Keeper will work across all platforms and devices.  So, if you use a PC at work and a Mac at home, you only have to login to your password manager and it remembers your password for you.  These applications will also generate secure passwords for new sites and store them for you.   These apps will also save you time by giving you the ability to share passwords with your family.  The time it takes to setup a password manager on your devices will save you hours of frustration of trying to guess the last password you used.

4.  Remove photos from your phone regularly Taking and storing photos in a smartphone causes technology hassles for a large number of people. Managing photos on your phone reminds me of searching through negatives in the past.  It takes way too long to find the cute photo of your family when you are searching through 3000+ tiny photos.  When you store a large amount of photos on your phone, they can keep you from upgrading your apps and software.  When your software on your smartphone is behind 2-3 updates, it will affect the performance of your phone and your apps.

5. Use Folders and Tags for your electronic information- Tagging photos, documents and emails is another organization tool you can use to increase your efficiency.  Tagging a photo or a document takes only a second, but it can save you so much time when you need to retrieve it.  Setup your tags into categories you know you would use in a search  on your desktop or laptop.  If you are using the folders for the first time, a good place to start is to look at how you organize your paper files.  The labels and headers on paper files make good electronic file names too.  Taking time to organize your email and electronic documents is an investment in your future productivity.  

6.  Sync Your Calendar, Contacts, Tasks & Notes Taking the time to setup your devices to sync to one another can be frustrating, but the rewards of setting it up successfully can be huge!  There are numerous step by step videos and articles with screen shots to work you through syncing your information across devices and technologies.  I have found many of my clients are afraid they will lose information by trying to sync across platforms or devices. So, they are not willing to try.   In order to get over this fear, learn how to do a good back-up of your data.  Once you have the backup in place, you can try to sync without fear.  Just be sure you are following a tutorial for the specific versions of software you are using.

If you read these tips, and you spend three or few minutes implementing them over the next few days, you will see real improvement in the performance of your devices.   You can even schedule to work on one a week over the next few weeks.  When you start working through the steps to manage your information, devices and technology, you are empowering yourself to improve your productivity.

By:  Sara Genrich, Professional Organizer & Productivity Consultant, EBCC

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