You’ve shopped online for shoes, haven’t you? Downloaded songs for your MP3 player? Sent a text message to a friend saying you’ll be 10 minutes late to lunch? Sure you have. You’re a digital mom. You’re part of a new generation of parents who use technology to streamline everyday tasks and enjoy themselves. But did you know that with just a little more know-how and possibly another gadget (or an upgrade of one you already own) you could become a technical wizard? What’s the point of that, you ask? Well, just consider what you’ll be able to do: Access your schedule from your phone while on the go; post photos of your kids to a Facebook page from your digital camera without having to plug it in to your computer; even get yourself a “personal assistant.” Sure, some of these ideas may not be new to you, but the ones that follow might be. Either way, they can help you put more tech to work for you, which can save you time in the long run. (And isn’t more time what we all want?)
Sync stuff. Your schedule is jam-packed with family engagements, work and school commitments, extracurriculars, etc. You can stay up-to-date by syncing your calendar to your phone. Start by putting your calendar online, which is easy to do using your e-mail program’s scheduler. From there, you’ll find various ways to link your calendar to your smartphone (a phone with Internet and e-mail capabilities) and stay up-to-date. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can still take advantage of the organizational wonders of online scheduling.
Cozi.com is a fabulous family organization site with a notes journal and convenient shopping lists. You can sync it with a Microsoft Outlook account and also access it from your web-enabled phone. Mac users, try Mobile Me, a program that keeps all your information in an online server and automatically pushes your new e-mail, contacts, and calendar events through to your smartphone. (Note: Don’t let tech jargon get you down. Google the terms you’re unfamiliar with, and remember that tech exists to make your life easier — not to drive you crazy.)
Make time to socialize. Whatever you’ve heard about social networking sites, they can save you valuable time. You can get news quickly, ask for advice, make friends, and share photos and stories with all your family in one place. Whether or not you engage in chatting, contests, and other activities is up to you. You may already use Facebook (facebook.com) or CaféMom (cafemom.com), but there are a number of other great sites out there:
- Babble.com is a hip parenting community where you can find useful news, read product reviews, watch or upload videos, and more.
- Work It, Mom! (workitmom.com) offers a place for working mothers to get support and share experiences.
- LinkedIn (linkedin.com) lets you post your professional background and search for employment opportunities. It’s a great way to spread the word if you’ve got a small business. Also try Twitter (twitter.com) or Ning (ning.com).
Upgrade your gear. New personal gadgets hit the scene at breakneck speed, each cooler and more helpful than the last. If your budget allows, these items are worth considering.
- Netbooks — ultra-portable laptops — provide basic services like e-mail and word processing at a lower cost than a standard laptop. Some fit into your handbag. They start at around $250.
- Wireless SD cards are tiny memory cards for digital cameras that make it possible to upload photos directly from your camera to the Internet without plugging into a computer. Eye-Fi makes one that starts at $80.
- Audio-Technica’s headphones and ear buds designed specifically for women are for serious music lovers. They go for $60 and up. Memorex’s similar budget ear buds go for around $10.
At your service. Many companies outsource to maximize efficiency, and so can you. Hire your own virtual personal assistant (a real person!) at Get Friday (getfriday.com). He or she will take care of minor duties that don’t require a physical presence, such as paying bills or scheduling doctor appointments. Not only will you feel like a pampered Hollywood star, you’ll be able to focus on the stuff that really matters — like spending time with family or enjoying some needed downtime. Of course, a useful service such as this does come with a price (about $7 to $15 an hour), but it might make a great Mother’s Day gift. (Hint, hint, Dad!)
Stay informed. Technology changes fast, but you can keep up on the tools and gadgets that work for you by checking the web. Try CNET (cnet.com) or All Things Digital (allthingsd.com) for reviews. You can also funnel your favorite sites or blogs to an aggregator — just a fancy term for an application that collects everything onto one screen for easy reading. Try the one at iGoogle.