No need for Post-it notes to simplify your life

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Day 282/365 - Post-It Note Impression No. 7
photo by: Kevharb

Resolutions can be a great motivator to make changes to improve our daily life. If, however, like us, one of your goals is to get organized… well, that can make it a bit harder to stay on track. In the past, we might have written our “make life easier!” goal on a Post-It note or note card and put it someplace where we would see it — the bathroom mirror, refrigerator or bulletin board — only to later find it curled up and forgotten. Frankly, with the rainbow of Post-Its already covering the desk, do you really have room for another reminding you to ditch the Post-Its? With today’s technology there are so many great tools that can help make our day-to-day tasks easier to accomplish that there is (almost!) no excuse not to make some changes this new year.

One of the things we struggle with now that there are family and work responsibilities to balance is getting home-cooked meals on the table in a timely manner. As much as the plan on Sunday night is to eat at home every day next week, come Wednesday you inevitably open the fridge pondering, what do I have ingredients and time to make? Chinese takeout beckons and your exhausted brain steers you to pick up the phone and dial before you can pull out that “5 ingredients or less” cookbook.

If this sounds like a typical weeknight at your house, check out Kitchen Monki (www.kitchenmonki.com). Set up a free account to add and organize your own recipes, or search the Kitchen Monki database and add recipes to your collection. Use the “Your Queue” tool to map out a week or more of menus using the Meal Planner tool. You can even create shopping lists automatically and send them to your cell phone with Mobile Monki.

No more standing in the produce aisle trying to mentally plan your menu or throwing out that kale you thought for sure you’d get around to using but didn’t.

If that sounds a little too intense for your needs, there is another great free tool for managing your grocery list at www.grocerywiz.com. While the idea is that you use their online checklist to help you remember to check all your essentials before you leave for the store, we like the option to create a list of items you buy regularly. Then you can print that list and keep it on the fridge so you just have to highlight or mark the item you need. Never forget milk again!

In the category of tools you probably already have at your fingertips without realizing it, now you can use the camera on your smartphone to scan business cards and save the data directly into your contact list. No more sifting through a stack of cards every time you need to call your mechanic or endlessly typing the information into your Outlook. Available from SHAPE Services for Blackberry ($10) and iPhone/iPod/iPad (for about $2), it’s called simply “Business Card Reader.” Android and iPhone users can use Google Goggles (www.google.com/mobile/goggles) for the same business card scan functionality, as well as innumerable other amazing things.

You take pictures of objects and can then automatically search the Web for them (to compare online prices, for example), translate text into English, or even identify landmarks.

If you are swimming in a sea of paper every time you try to balance your checkbook, NeatReceipts may be the key to getting your personal finances in order.

It is a portable scanner and digital filing software package that identifies, extracts and organizes the data from receipts, business cards and documents you scan. Check it out at www.neatco.com.

In addition to being able to export the data to Quicken, QuickBooks, TurboTax and searchable PDF formats, you can also export to CSV (comma separated value) format, which gives you flexibility to have many other programs read and recognize your data. Another bonus — you may just qualify to be your accountant’s “client of the year” next tax season.

With so many great tools available for free, there’s no excuse not to get moving toward making life easier — well, other than procrastination. Do you know of a great free resource to help us tackle our daily life to-do list? Send us a note on Facebook (facebook.com/nerdsoncall) or e-mail us at [email protected]

Nerd Chicks Adventures is written and Heather Neal from Nerds on Call, a computer service company in Redding. They can be reached at [email protected]