My indispensables

There are a few things that, honestly, if I didn't have to help me out day-to-day, I would completely fall apart. Sounds drastic, but the amount of things to be done, managed, scheduled and announced each day is crazy. Things

Things is mind-blowingly clever - it's my to do list and task management. It's made for the mac so runs seamlessly and of course looks beautiful. You have all of your tasks and projects lined up in the Next list, then each day you can manually filter them through into the Today list, or if you have set a due date or recurring task, it will automatically appear. All tasks are categorised into projects or areas of your business. You can even tag each task to have even more control.

The scheduling of tasks is great. Say you submit a weekly timesheet, have it pop up in your to do list on the day so you don't forget. Do a thorough computer backup once a month? Be reminded. You can select that it reminds you on the day it's due or however many days beforehand. Got your tax return due? Have it remind you two weeks prior so it's done well before due date.

There is also an Inbox, which I love. It's where you throw all your ideas in so you don't forget any, then later you can filter them into where they should be. For example, at the end of a rehearsal I have so many things in my head - music to be copied, extra players needed, absentees and so on. I fire all these into my Inbox, then later that day I will tag these with "conductor", put a due date if necessary and file it away.

How do I efficiently list all these things I need to remember at the rehearsal? Well, Things has an iPhone version. By the time I get home from the rehearsal, all these tasks are sitting on my desktop waiting for action. Likewise, if I'm at home I can list all the jobs I need to do out, and while I'm out, I'll be checking all the tasks off and of course when I arrive home again it's all checked off there too.

When you complete a task it doesn't just disappear either - it goes in to your logbook, so if you ever need to check back for anything, it is there waiting.

These guys have won many Apple and product design awards, it's brilliant. It is rather expensive if you want both versions, Things Mac is NZ$79 and Things iPhone is NZ$13.99 - but worth every cent.

iCal and iCal Duration

Okay, yes yes, iCal is a nice calendar and every Mac has it. But there are a few nice ways to use it and to "pimp it out" for some serious usage.

I work for myself and I like to keep track of all the time I spend on what. Not just each project, but what areas of my work eg: how many hours of conducting I did last month, or how many hours of composing I have scheduled next week. Of course you could do this manually and count up all the hours, but having the ability at a few clicks is very handy.

To ensure it is set up right, I make sure the title of each event is the same eg: "Kristin orchestra rehearsal" or the title of the piece I am writing - each time it is entered. Then in the "notes" field of each task I enter what area of work it is eg: "teacher", "composer".

Then you use the Search feature and put in "composer" or "Kristin orchestra rehearsal", or whatever, and you are given all of those entries. This is where a neat little tool comes in.

iCal Duration is a great piece of Apple Script that is so simple. Once you have done the previous step, select all of the entries you wish to and click the iCal Duration button. In seconds you will have the total hours and minutes of your selection.

This is so handy, and say I was orchestrating a job, I'll just work, work, work and keep good track of the time in iCal, then when it comes to invoicing I just put the job name in to Search and there is the total. Brilliant. Of course, iCal syncs seamlessly to iPhone also.

TweekDeck

There is so much to keep on top of these days and it really can be time consuming, far too time consuming, but there are some great tools which allow you to do a lot in very little time and effort.

For Twitter, I was a diehard addict of Tweetie, and I still think they have the most gorgeous iPhone app, but recently I just needed a few more features. I debated between HootSuite and TweetDeck for some time and settled on the latter. HootSuite does have scheduled tweets and inbuilt stats, but has an appalling iPhone app which straight away puts them at the bottom of my pile.

TweetDeck lets you manage twitter, facebook, myspace and linkedin in the one place. You can send updates to all, some or just one place. You can do everything you'd ever need to do on Twitter, your friend feed comes through from facebook and you can "like" or comment, and for myspace and linkedin you have the status updates. You can have columns for almost anything from latest friends so you don't forget any of those follow backs, to keyword searches to keep on top on trends and the area(s) you are working in.

TweetDeck can't feed your blog RSS into tweets or doesn't have the inbuilt stats like HootSuite, but for me who has used twitterfeed (feeds blog to tweets) and bit.ly (shortening and stats) for quite some time, I was quite happy to be able to keep using these services.

TweetDeck also syncs between your iPhone version and desktop version, so all your columns and settings are always up to date. TweetDeck saves me hours of time each day as in a few seconds I can do what I need to do without the hassle.

What are your indispensables?

What are the sites and software that help make your life easier every day? Let me know.