7 Apps to Get Productive and Finish Your To-Do List

I was feeling very overwhelmed with my large TO-DO list this morning and started searching for some other alternatives for managing it. I have many different trainings on time management and keeping a to do list to accomplish your big goals. I believe in having a list that you look at frequently and work the list consistently. This has been one thing that has allowed me to grow my business quickly. I keep my list where I must look at it almost every few hours. My list has becoming as important to me as my wallet, credit cards and other items that I keep with me. I guard my list and have it near me while I accomplish the task needed.

Even though this has been working, I wanted to find a way to make my list more productive. Possibly breaking into sections, prioritizing and designating projects to outsourcing. I am finally going to be getting many things off my plate, and getting help so I can get to the next level.

With this overwhelming to do list growing larger, I finally broke down and did a search of what is out there to help me. Here are a few of the items. I thought one of them might help you also!

  • TeuxDeux.com – This one just looked the best, easiest, and loved the simplicity. I am seeking to simplify, not make another project out of a to-do list. The only challenge is that I have an android phone. So can’t take this one with me. This will be an experiment on this one
  • Cozi.com I have used Cozi for about a year now. This was my first option and love it for organizing my calendar, grocery list and have this on my phone. Many families will get a ton of use from this app. I just did not like the to-do list feature because it required me to log in to my calendar or grocery list and then get to the to-do list. I want a one button that I can view, or even a list in front of my face. So I recommend this for other organizing and that is why I a sharing on this list. Also if you follow flylady.net, just like me, then this works great!
  • Rememberthemilk.com This is my next option, and this one I will be trying out. If anyone has used this, would love your opinion and any tricks. Look promising!
  • Wunderlist.com – Can you say simplify? How can it get any easier than this. This is a task list and much more.
  • Nozbe.com – This is productivity. So many different options to make myself more productive. I am not going to test this one right now, since I am still using cozi, but this would be a good one for someone who wants everything in one spot. Great to start time management and task online and on the go.
  • toodledo.com or Due Today App- These seem to be the same thing, one is for iPhone and one for android. I did not do enough research, but wanted to share this, as it looks like a great option, and easy to put on your phone. Plus uses David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. Which is a great book. If you have read the book, and like the system, then this is the one for you
  • Turbo List from wunderhut.net this is just a list, make as many list as you want, and keep your list in one place. Truly easy and you have it with you. If you are just seeking a list. Check out this option.

Hope some of these can help. This is your chance to get productive!

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The Idiots Guide to Mobile Phone Apps – Helping You Understand the iPhone

App: computerese shorthand for application, attested by 1992.

Are you increasingly finding that people are talking about ‘apps’? What’s the fuss I hear you ask? I didn’t get it either. That was before I had an iPhone… The potential of the iPhone is endless, and that’s where mobile phone apps come in.

This idiots guide to mobile phone apps will teach you several things and it aims to do so in bite size chunks, but perhaps the most important thing to learn first is that the mobile phone world is fast moving so it’s important to get to grips with the technology.

It’s all the more important for companies to get on board. Although stats are hard to come by, it’s estimated that Apple holds about 22% of the market so connecting to customers via their iPhones is a sure fire way of selling them a product.

Take for example the latest gadget on the market, the Apple iPad. According to Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, the iPad already holds 22% of the eBook market with 5,000,000 eBooks being downloaded. Considering that it was only released in May, that’s pretty good going! See what I mean?

So, we’ve learnt why we need to understand mobile phone apps, now to learn what they do. An app is basically a programme that you can download to a phone. This includes android mobile apps (Android is Google’s own mobile phone software), or Blackberry apps. In 2009, over 1 billion apps were downloaded for iPhone, so as you can imagine, they’re an important and growing market. As a music lover, one of my favourites is Shazam. This app can tell you the name of a song you’re listening to in a bar, or on the radio or tv by running the app and holding it near the music. Fantastic. Other apps are more commercial and functional. Take the recently released NHS Bristol app which sends push notifications iPhone which are notifications to remind you of your appointment at the hospital. This app is going to cut costs for the NHS who currently lose about £180,000 a year on missed appointments. Many apps can be downloaded for free and some charge a small fee, some are really useful and some are just for fun.

Hopefully you’re beginning to understand what mobile phone apps are and may even consider using them yourself. For now, why not get acquainted with the two apps I mentioned?

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DevOps – Development and Operations

Solution Development and Delivery

In earlier days, solutions were associated with getting the technology right. The key was technology, the solution was technology and the business expected and paid for technology. Times have changed. Well, at least for those of us taking notice. Today technology is hardly ever a significant problem. Technically, we have a less complicated world. Over the years we have come to understand that technology is basically an arrangement of Processing, Memory, Networking and Storage. We have mastered utilization by using virtualization. We understand horizontal scaling is ‘better’ than vertical scaling and that we can deliver the PMNS more easily in converged and hyperconverged products that also contain the software solution. We have automated many of the key activities to enable reduction in time and costs.

The Cloud paradigm came along and made life easier by helping us to become Service Brokers rather than server admins or network engineers. To the customer we are now Service Brokers; well, we should be. We should be experiencing shorter procurement cycles given that applications and services (the solutions) are delivered from a Service Catalog. Although this can be true in the Public Cloud deployment model and the Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model, when it comes to Private Cloud procurement we still seem to be stuck in the past and suffer unnecessary delays. Even as Public Cloud services are taken up by more and more businesses the activity of getting the servers, applications and services ‘up there’ still makes for hard going. All the work that is required to design and deliver a Public Cloud hosted environment is still steeped in old-fashioned working practices.

Despite all this change and learning, solution design and implementation is still a thorny job and produces mountains of documentation (some needed, some pointless), endless Gant charts and interminable meetings trying to get the solution in place and delivered. Why is this?

Application Development and Delivery

Application developers use to live in a world of their own. To some extent that is still true. Application development companies don’t usually have network engineers, technical architects and storage SMEs sitting in on the early morning scrums. Applications are developed in isolation and separate from the technical solutions that will need to be created to host, resource and support the application.

In most cases an application is developed for one of two reasons. To provide a solution for an external customer or to provide an application for the business with which it can make money. For instance, a company needs to pay salaries. To do that it needs an application that can pay the salaries, calculate tax and pension information and enter data into a database and then print a payslip all in accordance with the legal framework set out in the Revenue Services ‘rules of engagement’. An application development company will take on that challenge and through a series of iterations it will deliver an application that meets all of the customer and legislative requirements. For a business that wants to make money from an application the scenario is very similar to that for an external customer. The difference is financial in that the business has to justify the cost of having developers on staff creating the application. That cost is set against a forecast of income from the eventual deployment of the application as a service for the business.

In both of the examples there are constants that can make for hard going. In the same way that technical solutions are affected by people, process and politics, so application development is affected by an isolationist practice. Why is this?

Why Is This?

Across all IT from datacenter infrastructure to applications to cloud there is one problem that affects the smooth, joined-up running of a project and that is ‘silos of activity’.

The silo has long been the black mark of IT. We became so used to operating in silos that we didn’t question whether such an arrangement was productive and cost effective. In fact, even now, the majority of IT organizations operate using silos. Solutioning and development in isolation.

Solution design and application development saw the arrival of Lean and Agile as a really effective way to operate and yet, silos remained. Companies operated Agile but, kept the silo way of doing things. Strange when you think about it. Agile means flexible and able to change without trauma. Silo is a ‘pit’ with high sides that makes change very difficult. So, in essence, Agile and silo worked together and made change difficult. Still does.

Silo

Here is a real-world example of a silo-based traditional IT environment where an application is to be developed and deployed. The process may differ slightly in some companies and the job titles may not be the same but, this has been my experience working for several large IT corporations and it is recognisable as a fairly common procedure.

The Application Developer creates an application from a concept or from a request. A Technical Services (TS) Architect is asked to create a High Level Design (HLD) for the application infrastructure. The TS Architect passes the HLD to the Project Architect to review the design. The Project Architect passes the final HLD back to the TS Architect. The TS Architect explains the design to the application developer and covers off any items that are likely to compromise the application. This is usually done in isolation from other experts. The HLD is signed off buy someone or other and the Project Architect sets about carrying out a due-diligence activity prior to creating the Low Level Design (LLD or Build Doc) for the application infrastructure. The Project Architect has to visit various Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for Compute, Network, Storage and Disaster Recovery (DR) to find out what technologies and requirements will need to be in the LLD. Details around protocols, routing, security and firewall rules can be complex and can negatively affect the application if not carefully planned. To get this right a Business Impact Analysis expert needs to be consulted to make sure that security and compliance problems, if they exist, can be dealt with or mitigated. Most applications are deployed to virtual infrastructures which require the involvement of virtualization experts to aid provisioning and automation technologies. All in all, the Project Architect has to consult with many different silos of technology/experts. In the course of this activity the Architect has to constantly return to the application developer to check that what is being planned for the infrastructure is not going to ‘damage’ the application design and make the application ineffective when deployed. Finally, the Service Wrap needs to be put in place to support the application and to meet the non-functional requirements in the Service Level Agreements (SLAs). There could easily be twenty people involved in this process. I haven’t included test and development as this usually waits until the end of the main process along with User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Sometimes there is a separate team that handles this part, sometimes it’s carried out by Operations. Application design also includes the dependency tiers that provide the middleware and database layers. It could be that many more people will need to be involved when those services are included. What is true is that each SME is part of a silo. The project has to consult all these silos. Some are helpful, some are not and there are lots of reasons why No! can be the answer to all questions and suggested solutions.

All the silos and all the people involved make the whole project slow and costly. The analogy is the game of Snakes and Ladders.

DevOps

Although the above example is somewhat crude it is a fair assessment of what application development can be like end-to-end. Everyone in the industry knows that this is the ‘normal’ state of affairs and accept that it is less than perfect. DevOps has begun to appear on the scene as the answer to the traditional silo approach. DevOps attempts to remove the silos and replace them with a collaborative and inclusive activity that is the Project. Application Development and Solution Design benefit from DevOps principles.

What needs to be done to remove silos:

  • Change the working culture
  • Remove the walls between teams (and you remove the silos)

Keys:

  • Communication, Collaboration, Integration and Information Sharing

Easy to say and hard to do.

Most SMEs like to keep their information to themselves. Not true of all but, of many. It’s part of the traditional culture that has developed over many years. Working practices have made change difficult. Management of change is one of the most challenging tasks any company can embark on. Resistance will be resilient as it is important that people give up something to gain something. Making it clear what the gains are is imperative. People will change their attitudes and behaviours but, you have to give them really good reasons to do so. I’ve found that running multi-discipline workshops for the SMEs has proven an effective method of encouraging information-sharing and the breaking down of those ‘pit-walls’.

Explaining to the teams what DevOps is and what it is supposed to achieve is the first part of the educational process. The second is what needs to be done.

State specific, measurable objectives:

  • Implement an organization structure that is ‘flat’. If we espouse horizontal scaling, why not horizontal organizations?
  • Each App-Dev or Solution-Dev is a project and the team is end-to-end across the disciplines
  • Implement ongoing informational exchange and reviews
  • Make sure that everyone signs up to DevOps and understands the paradigm

What is DevOps

Just like the Cloud paradigm it is simply another way of doing something. Like Cloud it has different definitions depending on to whom you are speaking at the time.

Wikipedia states: Because DevOps is a cultural shift and collaboration between development and operations, there is no single DevOps tool, rather a set or “toolchain” consisting of multiple tools. Generally, DevOps tools fit into one or more categories, which is reflective of the software development and delivery process.

I don’t think that this is all DevOps is. The inference is that DevOps is concerned only with application development and operations. I do not believe that. I believe that DevOps is a paradigm and that like other IT ‘standards’ and paradigms it is relevant to all IT and not just applications. By removing the partitions between each practice in the chain and having all the key players involved from day one, as part of an inclusive and collaborative team, the cycle of application development and solution design becomes a continuous process that doesn’t have to divert to consult each required expert. No-one needs to throw a document over the wall to the next crew. Each document is written within the collaboration process and this has to make the document more relevant and powerful. Imagine that the project team is always in the same room from concept to deployment and each expert is always available to comment on and add to each step of that project. How much better than the traditional method where it can take days to get an answer to a simple question, or to even find the right person to ask.

The mantra is: Develop, Test, Deploy, Monitor, Feedback and so on. This sounds application-orientated. In fact, it can apply to the development of any IT solution. Like ITIL, TOGAF and the Seven Layer Reference Model it can be applied to any and all IT activities from development right through to support services. DevOps puts us all on the same page from the start to the finish.

Don’t allow your company to implement DevOps in isolation and only as a framework for application development. To do that would be to create another silo. Use it for every project and as the default culture for all your teams whether or not they are developers, engineers, architects or operations. And, finally, don’t complicate it. DevOps doesn’t need deep and profound definitions or long and tedious conversations about what it is and how to implement it. Just do it.

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Tips for Women – How to Be Safe at Parties

Attending a party can be productive. For example, it’s a great way to relieve stress. If you’re a little stressed-out because of the week’s work, you can attend a party on Friday night and party your stress away. However, things can change from good to bad in just a few seconds if you’re not careful. You have to know that there are a lot of people preying on women in these parties.

This is not to say that you have to stop attending parties altogether, but you need to learn how to stay safe at parties. Here are some tips for women like you on how to be safe at parties:

· Choose a party wisely.

It’s best to avoid attending a party with people that you don’t really know. In addition, make sure to do a thorough scan of what’s happening as soon as you arrive. If you can see that the party is on its way of getting out of hand, get out of there.

· Be careful with talking to random people.

Sure, the idea of a party is to socialize. You just need to be careful and to be vigilant when talking to random people. If he’s already drunk, then it’s best to stay away. However, a lot of predators and criminal like to stay sober so they can be in control so be careful.

· Adopt a buddy system.

Go to a party with a friend and adopt a buddy system. Don’t leave each other’s side. At the very least, make sure that you know where each other is. If someone tries to take you against your will, your buddy will immediately notice. In addition, shouting for help works as well.

· Get your own drinks.

Get your own drinks and avoid accepting random drinks from friends or strangers. You wouldn’t know if they spiked them or not until it’s too late so it’s best to avoid that potentially dangerous situation.

· Have a self-defense gadget in your bag or pocket.

You can quickly get out of any sticky situation with the help of a self-defense gadget like a pepper spray or stun gun. If shouting for help is not an option, spray your attacker’s eyes with pepper spray and quickly get out of that party.

· Know self-defense moves.

There are a lot of effective self-defense moves that you can easily learn. Have a few of these moves in your arsenal and you can help defend yourself.

Make sure to follow these tips and you can be safe at parties. Remember, common sense helps a lot as well!

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