Two months ago when my cell phone stopped working I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my two-year service contract was also coming to a close. I was free to pursue new options, and inspired by my business partner, I took a closer look at the iPhone. In the past, a cell phone has only had one purpose for me—phone calls! Little did I know that the iPhone would open a new world of efficiency, information, and enjoyment, not only in my business but in my personal life.
My business life revolves around structuring strategic alliances for clients. I work with many companies at the same time, gathering information, creating strategies, making contacts, and structuring and negotiating deals. It requires a great deal of discovery, tracking of ideas, creating graphic art, and scheduling communications with a network of exceptional associates. My personal life revolves around my wonderful daughters and wife.
Out of necessity over many years, I have patched together a wild array of tools. Some of them are high-tech, involving Outlook, Photoshop, and other programs. Others are very low-tech, including multiple legal pads adorned with sticky notes. I must admit that this technological chaos was integral to my identity, and for a sixty-year-old guy, changing identity isn’t always easy.
A new mobile efficiency
The iPhone’s Notes app has replaced my legal pads and sticky notes. I use it to gather my thoughts for each project. I’ve also discovered many other helpful solutions on the iTune’s App Store. For example, SmartTime is a wonderful task manager that lets me stay on top of everything I have to do—both business and personal—and even syncs with Outlook. In this day and age it is remarkable that so many productivity and resource tools are available for free or ninety-nine cents.
Creative support for work
One of the most delightful and challenging aspects of my work is that the ideas seem to appear anytime night or day. I have learned that I need to capture these ideas right away or I can forget them. In addition, I find that it’s best to explore the idea when it first comes up. That’s when I’m energized about it and can expand upon the impulse and tie it together with other aspects of a project.
Two simple applications have helped me capture and flesh out ideas. Wikiamo is an intuitive Safari-like viewer that displays Wikipedia articles in a format suitable for the iPhone’s smaller screen. And MindMaker is a “mindmapping” application that lets you create, view, modify, and rearrange conceptual maps and sketch out ideas and concepts.
It is truly amazing that something as practical as a phone also lets me to take a creative impulse, add relevant information, and then graphically tie the ideas together—all in the middle of the night. And then wake up in the morning, it’s all still there!
I mentioned graphic design as one of my functions. I am not an accomplished graphic artist, but I am constantly required to pull project ideas together into well-designed presentation. A huge challenge associated with this is matching a client’s brand and colors. One of the most amazing discoveries I’ve made is an app called Color Expert. I simply take a picture of my client’s materials and Color Expert lets me focus in on any color in the photo. It then specifies the data on the color and provides a range of hues that match the color, along with the required technical information, in different formats, that I need for creating graphics in Powerpoint presentations. My clients are totally amazed and have commented on my enhanced aesthetic skills.
More enjoyable travel
My wife and I recently returned to Iowa from visiting her mother in Northern Wisconsin. It was a blast to plot our seven hour drive with the iPhone’s GPS app. As we approached Madison, we had an unusual desire for an Ethiopian lunch (don’t ask me how it came up). Madison is a university town known for its many ethnic restaurants, but in my pre-iPhone era, trying to fulfill such a desire would be a waste of time. Not so with my iPhone 3G.
I opened Google and searched on “Ethiopian restaurants.” Within minutes, we found four restaurants. We clicked the phone numbers and called to see which one offered the best vegetarian selection and then got directions right to the door.
Finally, my work requires me to travel a lot. While I have not yet discovered an iPhone application that eliminates delayed flights, I can now pass the time playing a challenging solitaire game, or listening to my favorite music in the iTunes app, or exploring the wonderful YouTube universe. And when my wife or daughters surprise me with a call, I’m delighted to see their pictures displayed with the incoming call.