The Great Technology Battle of 2008

A week ago today, I was ready to declare war on my e-mail, address book, and basically my electronic existence. My life is built around technology. It has been part of my existence as long as I remember. It is my career. Yet, it was slowly drowning me. How could I turn this around I thought? Technology is supposed to help, not supposed to drown you. If anyone can figure out how to harness technology, it should be me. I had to do something.

The signs were clear: I had to do something…


  • My inbox was overflowing. I had over 40 labels in my Gmail account (many redundant), hundreds of e-mails a day, and many unread e-mail’s. Most of this was due to three e-mail accounts worth of e-mail being forwarded into my main Gmail account, years of laziness in figuring out how to organize it, and no time to do it. Most of what I didn’t read was just filtered into a folder, to be occasionally deleted without me even looking through them.
  • I had three address books (my Mac’s address book, my POS cell phone address book, and Gmail’s), none that synced with each other and none that were close to 100% up-to-date. My Gmail address book was in the worst shape due to the horrific feature of Gmail adding every person I have ever e-mailed into it. My Mac one wasn’t much better…it still had the phone number for my grandmother that was 2 or 3 numbers ago.
  • My bookmarks are scattered everywhere, between three web browsers (Safari, Firefox, and Camino), none of which were in sync.
  • My calendar situation was ironically in the “best” shape, as I had a central calendar I kept everything on. Only issue is access as it was hanging on the wall of my apartment, not very good if you need to check it from work or a friend’s place. Anything I wanted to write on the calendar would either be scribbled on the back of scrap paper (hoping I remember to take it out of my pocket before washing the pants) or worse, committed to a memory that does not remember such details well.
  • I had too many gadgets. Just a few years ago, I had 3 cell phones (2 from work), an iPod, and 2 computers. I had since narrowed it down to an iPod, a cell phone, and a computer. I knew I could do better though.


What did I have going for me? An immense knowledge of technology, the desire to figure out how to do it, and the will to do it.

Here is my progress:


  1. It was time I joined the smartphone junkies. Since there is really only one smartphone that plays nice with Macs and really only one smartphone that could do what I had planned, it was time to get an iPhone 3G.
  2. The iPhone immediately retired an aging POS flip phone and a 2G iPod Nano. Two devices become one. My entire digital personal life is now down to two devices: an iPhone and my Macbook. When I left the apartment, I knew I had to carry my iPhone and my wallet. That is it. The fog began to clear my mind.
  3. Finally I could schedule my life on-demand. The calendar on my iPhone? Always up-to-date. I enter every event into the iPhone, even when I should work out at the gym (Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 12 PM in the gym at work, reoccurring event). Plug in my iPhone into the Macbook twice a day (morning when I wake up and evening when I get home), all changes instantly synced with iCal. No more guessing, no more pieces of paper to lose.
  4. One address book to rule them all. I hated paper address books. They were typically bulky and who carries a pen/pencil around 24/7? So I kept three ones scattered online, on the POS flip phone, and on my Mac. Now it is all organized into one: the iPhone, synced with the Address Book application on my Mac. Two hours of organizing, adding, updating, and deleting later…and my address book is finally up-to-date for the first time in memory. I even added some birthdays in there.
  5. The inbox battle was delayed several days, but arrived Thursday night. By Friday morning, I went from 40 labels in Gmail to 5 (possibly going to four once I figure out how to deal with one of them). All filters were deleted. Everything went to the inbox. Any e-mail lists that I didn’t delete? I completely unsubscribed from them, roughly 25 of them to be exact. My sword was swift and deadly (and still swinging even today). When I was done with an e-mail? Delete it or archive it one of my 4 or 5 folders.
  6. My iPhone and Mac are now setup to use IMAP with Gmail. Both devices are now synced 100% together.
  7. My separate e-mail accounts became truly separate again. Instead of lumping my personal e-mail with my web site e-mail and my CSFBL e-mail, it is all separate now, ready for me to deal with each of them respectively when I can. All setup with IMAP of course, on my iPhone and Mac.
My progress is staggering. My personal digital life has changed drastically in the past week. E-Mail’s are now being answered promptly, I am no longer stressed trying to keep everything accurate/synced, and I even feel much smarter now I am organized. My digital life is now contained in an iPhone and my Macbook. That’s it. What an improvement.
What is there left to do?
  • Switch to using Safari on my Mac. It pains me to do it (been a loyal user of Firefox since Phoenix 0.1). But my iPhone syncs with only Safari. Might as well keep everything consistent and simple.
  • Time to clean up the bookmarks. Delete old ones, organize them, and bookmark only what I truly need.
  • Clean up my RSS feeds. I need to figure out how to best do this. Google Reader is great, but I have 300-400 feeds I keep track of in there, many are redundant. I need to clean house on those. Google Reader on the iPhone works alright, but I hope it either comes out with a native application soon or someone does a better iPhone RSS reader.
  • Keep the iPhone apps I truly need. Given the release of the app store a week ago, my iPhone is quite the mess at the moment, with icons everywhere. Need to clean it up and keep only what I need to use.
  • Better time management. I can be much more productive with my time. I really need to get going on reading Getting Things Done.
It is a start, but a drastic step forward. More later on this.