Communication is important. As the world/technology/etc has asked me to work harder, and my aspirations have sent me traveling, lately I’ve found myself in need of better ways to keep in touch with the people I really love to hear from.
Over the past couple months I’ve become increasingly proud of the tools I have employed to keep in contact with friends and family, that now, live around the world. Some might already be aware of many of the tools I use, but if not, I hope you adopt them and put them to use keeping you in contact with the people you love to hear from. Feel free to share some of these ideas with your friends and family. And if you have some that I don’t, please share!!
Google: Though I’m not sure of some of the other Internet search engines (yahoo, MSN), Google is an amazing communication and organizational tool. After making an account, I recommend using any of these free features/tools:
iGoogle: Customize your homepage (see pictures below). Add quotes of the day from Einstein, Ben Franklin, etc. Add a world clock or weather reports for most cities in the world. If you use Google Calendar, you can add an application that lets you quickly add upcoming events and then easily view them. I keep an app from the Student Travel Association that lets me check upcoming flights with their student discounts. Many more Apps!
Even more helpful, I’ve been adding Blogs/RSS feeds from my friends and also from business professionals in my field. With iGoogle, I keep about 20 different Blogs on one page and can easily see whenever one of my Blogs is updated. This has been such a time saver and has allowed me to stay updated with friends/current events/industry news.
Google Notebook: Have you ever wanted to copy and paste information from the Internet to a Word document, but then been disappointed when the information becomes skewed and the formatting is all wrong? Take a look at Google Notebook. I use it for doing research. I can take information from many different locations on the Internet, quickly copy and paste, and have a ‘notebook’ complete with pictures and headings.
Gmail: Use Gmail to bring all your email accounts to one address: your gmail account. If you use Google Documents (another cool online application) or Google Calendar, you can have application boxes put on the left hand side of your inbox. This way you can quickly see new documents that have been edited by friends or coworkers, or see which events are coming up on your calendar.
Create a ‘Task list’ and quickly create new tasks from emails you’ve just received. You have a list of friends (normally on the left side, but I’ve moved mine to the right side) that you can use to instant message. Rather than using folders, Gmail uses Labels, allowing you to ‘label’ an email multiple times, depending on how relevant it is to multiple labels.
Skype: This really has been around for some time now, but it’s becoming increasingly useful. If you have a microphone, make international phone calls free to others using Skype. Make very inexpensive calls to regular phones or cell phones. If you have a camera attached to your computer, have a face-to-face chat with friends across the globe.
Social networks: Even though I belong to a plethora of social networks, my two favorites are Facebook.com and Couchsurfing.com. Of course Facebook is very common, but it’s common for a reason. In my opinion, what Facebook has done right, setting it apart from other social networks, is making photo and event sharing easy and fun. Get an invitation from a friend informing you of a party later that night, go to the party, and then tomorrow morning take a look at the photos others have posted and tag you in.
Couchsurfing.com (CS) is a social network for travelers, and people interested in traveling. Though I’ve only join recently, I’ve found few social networks to be as positive and as enthusiastic. Some use CS to find a place to stay for a couple of nights when they arrive in a new city. So far, I’ve only used CS to inquire about good neighborhoods to rent in and where to buy cheap furniture (I received about 15 quality responses, not bad).
Blogs: As you know, I keep a Blog (duh! You’re reading it). I’m not sure when I came around to the idea of Blogs being a good idea. I think I saw my life being pulled away from the people whose stories I loved to hear. But now, I think Blogs serve a very important purpose. Though I can’t be where they are, I still want to hear the trials and tribulations that my friends and family are going through. I want to hear them because maybe I can do something about it or know someone who can. Maybe I can help them when they’re in a rough situation. Or maybe I can learn from their successes and failures. I would encourage everyone to start a Blog. If not for you, do it for friends and family who want to hear how your life is going. Help them, help yourself, and inspire each other.
Anyways, I hope you guys can use or add to this list. As life pulls us apart, it’s also giving us tools to hold ourselves together. Use them!
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