My Digital Toolbox

Every job/industry has a toolbox that is relevant to that profession.  In some professions, it’s quite literally a box of tools.  In most lives, it’s just a suite of tools that one uses nearly every day in order to get their job done well.

Within an industry, the toolboxes of each practitioner vary dramatically.  The skillset, experience, and focus of each person strongly influence which tools they lean on the most.  For example, the #1 tool in many accountants’ lives is likely a calculator.  However, others that have been in the game for awhile might rely more on mental math.

I work at a web design, marketing, and development firm, hence why my toolbox is of the digital variety.  So, that’s the broad toolbox I’m representing.  However, within the organization, my top priorities are marketing, business development, and client relations.  Furthermore, I was one of the company’s founders, meaning that I also spend a lot of time reading about entrepreneurship and helping run the actual business.  So, that greatly changes the tools I use from, say, the developers on our team.

Here are the top 5 tools I find myself most frequently using to help me do my job and run my life:

1. Gmail – It still baffles me that some people don’t use Gmail as their primary email client.  I use it for my business and personal accounts (synced to the same mailbox).

2. iPhone - I’ve been an iPhone user for a little over two years, now.  I hesitantly switched over from BlackBerry.  I was pretty intimidated by the touch keyboard and lack of email push capabilities.  However, I quickly learned that while it’s email wasn’t quite as good as BB’s, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I stopped checking my email every second and started doing some cooler things while mobile, whether it was using apps or just browsing on Safari.  Even with the bad AT&T service, I don’t anticipate switching anytime soon.  It helps me manage the business from the road when I’m traveling, catch up on reading no matter where I am, and to keep in good contact with friends.

3. 37signals Products – Our company relies heavily on 37Signals suite of collaboration tools. Campfire serves as our company chat room, which we all interact in throughout the day.  Basecamp is our project management system that allows our small team of 8 people launch more than 100 websites each year.  Highrise is a CRM tool that I use on the marketing side, helping me keep track of leads and prospects.  Without these tools, we wouldn’t be able to be nearly as productive and organized.

4. Evernote – I tend to use this tool more in my personal life than work, but it still comes in handy at the office, too.  Evernote is a kind of digital memory system.  You can insert any type of media – articles, videos, audio, images – and it’s all categorized and searchable.  I really just use it for articles.  I love reading different magazines, newspapers, and blogs, and when I come across a good article that I know I’ll want to reference in the future (whether for work or for fun), I’ll put it into my Evernote.  There are tons of good usecases for the program, from saving business cards to wine labels.  I recommend you check it out — also, it’s free!

5. Pandora/Grooveshark/Hypem/iTunes – As you can tell, this one is kind of a blanket item for music.  I can’t work, write, or think in silence.  I always need some sort of background noise, and my preference is music.  Switching between these four allow me to get different music for my mood and also just new selections.  I think everyone is familiar with Pandora and iTunes.  However, if you’re not familiar with Grooveshark or Hypem, I strongly recommend you check them out.  Grooveshark lets you stream any artist, song, or album for free.  Just type it in there and click play.  Hypem is an awesome aggregator and voting system of music blogs.  It posts songs from thousands of blogs and then lets listeners “favorite” them, allowing you to build your own playlist of favorites and also aggregating a list of the most popular songs on the site.  Grooveshark has helped me find many new artists and songs (especially remixes!).

Well, that’s my digital toolbox.  These tools help me get through everyday in a productive and sane manner.  What would you put in your toolbox, if you really had to think about it?