09 June 2009

7 Ways to Live Better Online

No matter how organized and put together I feel in my professional life, managing my personal life can be a real struggle. I'm talking about staying on top of finances, exercising, eating right, sleeping well, running errands, etc., etc. There’s always more to be done and it’s hard to reach 100% productivity when you just want to relax after work and on weekend.

There is plenty of advice out there about how to manage or share things like photos, videos, and hobby lists with friends and family and how to catalogue your life with a blog or vlog, but what about all of that normal day-to-day "stuff" that can easily fall off the radar and out of order? If you're one of those 76% of Americans with Internet access, here are seven ways you can live better online:

1) Groove to music with DropPlay – Self-acclaimed as the free online equivalent to iTunes, DropPlay lets you stream music from YouTube and share songs and playlists with your friends through Facebook. Although YouTube audio quality isn't always the best (particularly with regards to live performance recordings), Drop Play can help make recommendations based on other recent selections and you don't have to download a desktop client to use it. Even better, it's completely free!

For active musicians and fans, check out WorldSings, a new alternative to MySpace that invites artists to upload music, videos and concert lists, feature live events and compete for the "world's best song." Fans can follow their favorite artists and interact via chat, direct messages and wall posts.

2) Manage your finances with Mint.com – With the economy being so unsteady, experts say now is a great time to become intimate with your balance sheet and to manage personal finances as if you were a CPA managing a small business. Seriously? If you’re one of those people who need a copy of Finance for Dummies before you can get started, there no need to panic. Try something like Mint.com to manage your money. Mint.com makes it a lot easier to keep track of finances, spending, saving, investing and financial planning because it pulls your financial information from banks, credit cards, stock portfolios and retirement accounts so you can manage everything centrally (instead of having to log in to each institution separately). The budgeting tools help users set goals for saving and reducing debt.

Some financial institutions, like Bank of America, offer free online financial management tools for customers – all you need is a bank or credit card account. Another good online resource for general financial advice is Kiplinger.com. Check out their free financial tools and calculators, too.

3) Get in shape with LiveStrong.com – Whether you're a fan of Lance Armstrong or not, LiveStrong.com is a really easy-to-use website with health, nutrition and fitness tips. The site has a "Top Dares" section with advice for how to stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more and even drink more water. You can join the community, post your own blogs, upload photos and find, or make, new friends.

If you want to keep your fitness details private, check out FitnessJournal.org. Though you do have to pay to join, the website provides extensive journals for weekly workouts, strength training, nutrition, goals, and even a journal for keeping track of your shoes! This is probably too intense for the casual gym-goer, but for fitness pros, people training for that upcoming 5K charity walk, or someone who just needs an extra push to stick with a workout routine, FitnessJournal has everything you need.

4) Start or join a campaign for social change with The Point – Whether you're raising money to send someone to college or boycotting eBay, The Point lets any person start a campaign and rally support for ideas with the potential to initiate change. The Point taps into Facebook and encourages people with a cause to make something happen - no matter what. Passionate about cancer awareness, getting Starbucks to recycle or stopping Ticketmaster's monopoly on ticket sales? Consider joining an ongoing campaign or starting your own with The Point.

For additional places to donate time or money, check out Network for Good and Virgance. Network for Good has an extensive database of non-profit organizations and handles all of the tax information when you donate. Virgance is marketing Activism 2.0 by promoting projects that offer incentives and social recognition for environmentally-conscious businesses.

5) Get organized with Remember The Milk – I LOVE this app. If you're a big list maker like me, Remember The Milk can help you get rid of those post-it notes stuck everywhere by centralizing your "To Do" items online. It's also available for Google Calendar, Twitter, BlackBerry and Gmail Gadget, and sends task reminders via email, SMS and a variety of IM clients. You can also share, send and publish tasks to your co-workers and family. Such a great tool! If you're looking to compare different apps, check out Toodledo and Ta-da Lists.

Another organizational tool to try out is Evernote. Evernote is like combining your scrapbook with notes or research and tasks. The app essentially allows you to store anything you want - photos, screen grabs, text and audio files - in the cloud and to sync that with your computer and mobile phone. The search function can find virtually any text, even if hand-written, in the files you store, and you can view a time line to help navigate the various "notes" you take.

6) Stay in sync with Funambol – The amount of content you can keep on a mobile phone is increasing at an alarming rate. With contacts, calendars, multiple email inboxes, SMS/picture/video messages, tasks, notes, videos, pictures, custom apps and more, keeping your mobile phone in sync with your computer and online is really a non-trivial convenience to have. If you're not an iPhone user (or even if you are!), you can use a free service from Funambol called MobileWe, which is similar to the paid MobileMe service from Apple. It works on smartphones as well as feature phones, so if you change devices or mobile carriers, you can take your content with you. AOL also offers a free contact and calendar sync called AOL Sync. To use the service, you have to create an AOL account and push email is yet to come, but if you just want to back up your contacts and calendar, you can with AOL Sync.

For the more business savvy mobile fanatics, check out DubMeNow, also known as DUB, which lets you text or email contact info from any mobile phone directly to another mobile address book. Besides replacing the need for business cards, DUB integrates with a bunch of CRM systems, so you can manage customer contacts on your phone. You can even integrate with Google Maps to see where your contacts are and where you first met them.

7) Track your sleep with Yawnlog – Feeling tired? Yawnlog is exactly like the sleep journal I kept for my "Sleep and Dreams" class in college, but online and open to your friends. I'm sure most people underestimate the importance of sleep, but it's really the key to feeling happy when you're awake and for staying healthy (not to mention smart and productive). Keeping track of your sleep patterns and the average amount of time you sleep each night can help you make small changes in sleeping patterns that will make a big difference in how you feel, act and live. I kept a sleep journal for three months and have never felt better.

If you're really in need of a good night's sleep and you love gadgets, you might even check out the Sleeptracker watch, which doubles as an alarm clock by waking you up at the most opportune moment to help you get the most out of your sleep cycles and avoid drowsiness.

That's it! By now, I hope you’re on your way to living better online. But, just in case, here are some additional ways to live better online that didn't make the top 7 list:

-Keep your best recipes with We Gotta Eat
-Get book recommendations, start a book club and keep track of your reading list with Goodreads
-Discover fine wine with OpenBottles or Snooth, though who are we kidding? There are a ton of wine-related social networks out there!
-Manage your time with Toggl
-Get answers and advice fast with Aardvark

1 comment:

George said...

I really love all your ways to live better online..especially the balancing budget with mint.com guide ..Its really a great and easy way to keep tracking incomes and expenses with such software.