Thanks, everyone. My name is Mike Gershbein. I was a librarian for 20 years and recently quit my job and formed a business dedicated to technology education called Very Smart People. I hosts a number of classes all about making your life more fun and productive, like my Change Your Life Online class, about keeping up your New Year’s Resolutions by using apps. But I decided to do something a little different than just focus on specific productivity apps. Instead I came up with something new, and hopefully interesting. It will be a little philosophical and New Agey and I hope you’re ok with that. Otherwise, you can walk away pleased that you just were able to enjoy 3 very practical presentations.
I told my wife that I had been invited to be on this panel and she just laughed. Because the sad truth is that I’m terribly disorganized. This is my desk. I’m supposed to work from this and you’re supposed to listen to this guy tell you how to be productive! But that got me thinking. How do I manage to get stuff done? I run a business, deal with household matters, have a child and a fairly busy life. How do I keep it straight? And more to the point of this group, how do I use technology to help me get stuff done?
While thinking through my presentation I came across a couple of ironies that point out the challenge of using technology to become productive. First of all it actually takes discipline to use learn and use these technologies. If we had the discipline to be organized in the first place then in many cases we wouldn’t need apps to keep us organized. I also find it ironic that technology is constantly making our lives more complicated yet we’re always looking to technology for solutions. We download apps to help keep us from getting distracted from our other apps and social networks. We spend time forcing ourselves to learn apps and that we’re going to stop using in a month. We’re always constantly upgrading, building workflow and looking for the newest and greatest apps and technology. It also seems like in many cases the best solution involves walking away from technology.
So I started to think about what it is that I’m looking for from my personal tech that will make it possible for me to get stuff done. Here’s what I came up with. One app to rule them all. There are two million apps in the Apple and Google app stores yet every day we hear about another one that is going to change our lives. Gamify productivity. I’ve gotten to an age where I don’t want to keep trying a bunch of apps that are similar to whatever I’m comfortable with. I don’t have the time or energy to move from app to app right now. If anything, I have app fatigue. I’m not going to go to some other social network. If you want to reach me then use Facebook or LinkedIn. Long-term relationship. Following on my previous point I’m willing to commit if they are. I don’t want to move to an app if they are going to disappear in a year. I had a client who told me about her son who had just developed a new texting app that was great - I just had to install it on the phones of everyone who wanted to use it. I can barely get my mother to text as it is right now. Keep it Simple and Stupid - I’m at the point where I’m willing to give up some advanced features if apps that I use are able to get all the basics done well. I want apps to be simple enough for me to learn easily and actually want to use. Evernote is an example of a simple app that became bloated. Know What I Want Before I Know It. I really need my technology to be smarter than I am. The truth is that I am never going to be organized enough to set up a bunch of tech to help me become more productive. It’s like starting a crash diet. I just need to live the right lifestyle to get stuff done and stay skinny. Don’t Let Me Screw Up. I’m old enough to remember how amazing it was when Word started autosaving. I really need my tech to make sure I go to a meeting, respond to emails, don’t lose anything. Keep Me Focused. Lately I’ve been really into the idea of mindfulness. Who’s familiar with this concept? The idea is that you focus on what you’re doing at any given time. When I work, I want to be working. When I’m with my family I’m paying attention to them. When I’m watching TV, I’m watching TV I need to be protected from my technology. You hear a lot about the four hour workday, which I believe is possible. But you need to turn off Twitter and other social networks. There’s a place for Twitter but you’re never going to be getting stuff done if you’re checking Twitter all day. Always Be There. I have multiple computers, phones, tablets, even a watch. I need access to my tech no matter which device I happen to be on. In short, I need my tech to be a combination secretary, parent, spouse, lifeguard and angel on my shoulder. How many people does this ring true to? I have found a solution that takes care of many of these needs and will only get better.
How many of you consider yourselves Apple People, in that you might have a couple of Apple devices and you know that you’re next device is going to be Apple as well? I’ve been an Apple person for over 20 years. I bought my first Mac when I entered graduate school in 1992. I have a strong bias towards Apple products. That being said, much of what I’m going to be talking about is also being done by other tech companies as well, and I’ll mention a few of these at the end. In particular, Google and Apple keep pushing each other in the area of online personal assistants and artificial intelligence and each company’s tech keeps getting better as a result. But one of the nice things about being fully integrated into the Apple ecosystem is that with any new Apple device you buy, you’re automatically on a new node in this ecosystem. One of the big challenges, besides price, is that so many libraries tend to be PC-based so you’re outside of that ecosystem when you get to work.
So let me talk about the ways that Apple lets me achieve these technology goals that I’ve outlined. The main areas that I’m going to outline are the following: iCloud, Siri, Proactive, Continuity and I’ll talk a bit about how the Apple Watch also enhances productivity. I tend to use a mix of stock Apple apps and other apps. The Apple apps are simpler but they often do enough to get the job done and Apple is good at stealing the best enhancements that other apps come out with. So when I use something like Maps, Google maps has some features that are really nice that are missing from Apple maps. But Apple Maps integrates so nicely with their other apps that most of the time I’m just happy to use them, unless I have a specific need (like a bike map). I’ll use a mix of Apple’s Messenger, Facebook Messenger and Hangouts depending on whom I’m trying to talk to. For 90% of my needs, the stock apps work really well and I know they’ll still be around in a year (hopefully in an improved version). I’ll mention other apps as well and I do have some non-Apple apps that I can bring up at the roundtable at the end.
In my classes I find that the meaning of iCloud is sometimes unclear because it involves things happening in the background - like backing up and syncing - with things that are visible, like photos. It’s also an imperfect product. Some things work great in iCloud but I have issues with other things as well (Photos on the web or any other web services). I have 2 tablets, 2 computers (laptop and desktop), 2 iPhones and a watch so any syncing is essential. Document syncing - I can walk away from my document, go to my kid’s wrestling meet and get inspiration and launch the document on my phone. Make the changes and they sync seamlessly (I also use Google Docs for this purpose). Back to My Mac even lets me access documents from a computer home when I’m at another location. Sync Safari open pages - I use a LOT of tabs. A lot of times when I’m working on something, I’ll leave the tabs open on Safari on one machine and then later in the day when I have time to read it I’ll access my open tabs on another device. Notes - Apple’s Notes app has become much better over the last year (barely used it before). Besides general note taking, when I find useful websites for a class I’m planning, I’ll send it right to that note. When I find recipes I’ll take a pic and save them to a recipes note. Sync across all devices. Passwords - in my security class I stress that using random, unique passwords takes care of 80% of your online security issues. I mostly use the built-in passwords ability on Safari. When I go to a new website it suggests a new random password and I accept it. I don’t know what most of my passwords are and they’re synced across all of my devices. I occasionally use 1Password
When I teach about Siri at my classes, people don’t always realize how much Siri does. They consider it to be dictation but she’s really a smart personal assistant. Add events and reminders - I cannot remember anything anymore. If it’s not on my calendar I’m not going to remember it. When I’m driving or walking the dog I’ll get ideas or I’ll remember that I need to do something. I say Hey Siri - remind me to call the doctor at 10:00 on Saturday and the reminder is created. Or Add blank to my calendar. I don’t even have to type. Siri is even doing contextual reminders now so if I’m looking at an email that I want to read later, I can ask her to “remind me about this at 9:00 tonight”. Siri can also do some trickier tasks when I ask her to: Find photos from Paris? How is coke stock doing? What’s the weather this week? How do I get home? Geolocation -Remind me to get face soap when I go to CVS Remind me to call the doctor when I get home Search - Starting place that now searches everything - very powerful. It will search for apps on your device. It will search through mail, calendar and messages. Will search the web. Will even do deep linking to apps (restaurants on Yelp). Can search photos by date and location. Even serves as calculator shortcut.
Proactive means that your iPhone is becoming aware of your location, the time of day and your habits. It’s very early in the game for Proactive but it’s only going to get better as your devices learn more about you. Like I said before, you can make reminders based on location - do this when I get home. The shortcuts that your iPhone will give you are also context aware - restaurants that are nearby, coffee shops in the morning, restaurants at night Another important thing is that Siri is learning your habits. If you listen to music in the morning, then Siri will suggest the music app in the morning. People who you communicate with a lot will go into suggested contacts.
Handoff - When I’m working on a document, it doesn’t matter which device I’m working on because I can start an email or document on the phone and then switch to my computer, or vice versa if I’m moving on the road. Airdrop makes it easy for me to share a single photo with my computer or another person. Phone calls and messaging - I don’t normally take my phone everywhere with me but I usually have some device - iPad, laptop, Apple Watch. When phone calls come in, I have access to calls from whichever device I happen to have in front of me.
One of the huge advantages about a smart watch, or any type of wearable tech, is that it’s always there. Some people complain about their limitations. They’re limited in what they can do but when loaded up with the right focused tech, they’re very useful. I ordered the Apple Watch on the day that it first came out despite being torn about picking up another gadget that will just distract me or gather dust. I used a Fitbit for about a week. As I was going through all this angst about mindfulness and simplifying my life, did I really want another device distracting me? But the truth is that Apple has actually done something masterful with the Apple Watch and that’s the fact that rather than simplify mirror everything that appears on your iPhone, it’s most useful when it acts as a filter. It gives you your iPhones greatest hits. For example, my phone vibrates every time I get new email. But when I use the watch alongside a program like Inbox for Gmail or Spark, only the most popular emails pop up on my wrist. (I can talk a bit more about these two email apps later). Or as I said before, I hardly use Twitter anymore. Because I don’t check it regularly it makes it more important that I’m notified when I’m named in a tweet. Twitter and Facebook notifications appear on my wrist as do messages. Weather alerts, text messages, calendar alerts. So my phone can gather up notifications all day long and I can pick it up and go through them when I have the time to dedicate to it. But I get the most important stuff on my wrist immediately. Complications There are a few very important things that I want to know at any given time (stocks, upcoming meetings, weather (also time and date)). When these things are found on the face of the watch they’re called “complications”. In my case, I glance at my watch and I see what my next appointment is, how the stock market is doing and the weather. If I need more details or to move forward in my schedule it’s easy to do so. Siri dictation I mentioned before that I need to record my thoughts and ideas quickly because I’ll forget them in about 10 seconds. The fact that I’ve got the Hey Siri functionality available from my wrist means that I can record reminders whenever they come to me. I can also send quick replies (or longer dictated ones) when people message me. Phone When the watch was delivered, the UPS guy asked me if I really thought that I’d use it to make phone calls and I said that I doubt it. It turns out that it’s incredibly convenient to have a phone on your wrist while your real phone is in the kitchen or your pocket or somewhere inaccessible. Constant Health Monitoring One of the things that I don’t like about Fitbits is that they’re one-trick ponies. You have to really be committed to strapping on this thing that only has one or two functionalities. The Apple Watch does so much and it does it in the background that it’s really just a part of your life.
I hope this doesn’t sound simply like an ad for Apple and as I said before I see the competition between Apple, Google, Microsoft and others in this area as only being a good thing. But what I love about being part of the Apple ecosystem has allowed me to be productive without having to work hard at being productive. Amazon Echo - 25% of portable speaker market share in 2015 EasilyDo - personal assistant that works with your email, calendar, contacts. Remove duplicate contacts, track product shipments, add bills to you calendar, tell you when you need to respond to certain emails. Google is doing amazing things in AI (recent victories in Go challenge).
Even had where my car was parked Plus I’ll get proactive updates on my phone about upcoming meetings, games
InBox for Gmail (also Spark - if we have time, I can talk about them more)
I find it amazing that we’ve reached a point where someone would expect that a person facing some sort of crisis would reach out to their device for help. Lazy, disorganized, unfocused people like me are living in great times as our technology continues to evolve, become smarter and connect with our environment (our cars, houses, bodies (medical))
Secrets of Highly Productive People
SECRETS OF HIGHLY
SECRETS OF USING TECHNOLOGY TO GET
STUFF DONE WHEN YOU’RE INCREDIBLY
LAZY, UNFOCUSED AND DISORGANIZED
TWO IRONIES THAT GET THEIR OWN
It takes discipline to use the
technology that is supposed to
make us disciplined.
We want more and more
technology to serve as a shield
WHAT DO I WANT FROM MY PERSONAL
TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE ME PRODUCTIVE?
One app to rule them all
Keep it simple AND stupid
Know what I want before I know it
Don’t let me screw up
Keep me focused
Always be there