Upgrade Your Life is a techie how-to book absolutely stuffed with more solutions to organizing our modern lifestyle than one person actually has room to fit into our modern lifestyle.
The fun of the book for me was to register, consider and sift all of author Gina Trapani’s little hacks to find the ones that could potentially revolutionize my life. There was a lot of sifting, but it definitely worked.
Before going further, I should justify why I feel this book fits the criteria of the Women’s Unbound Reading Challenge.
(This blog post is SO late. I finished the challenge and wrote this months ago, but it sat lonely in my drafts file, only rediscovered yesterday. Hurray for broken stuff that helps me find unpublished posts! lol)
Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’ The definition according to Merriam-Webster: the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender.
This book transcends them all. It’s not about women’s issues, but placing this book in a woman’s hands is giving her the tools to solve many problems.
Women are underrepresented in the enormous field of technology and computer science that is changing the fundamental shape of society. I don’t think women can afford a hands-off “that’s the guys” territory approach to computers and how we use them in daily life. Now, don’t let me lead you the wrong way. This book will not teach how to hack into your local school and change your grades. But it will teach confidence. How? Because it will help you feel like you have a more active hand in your life. It will help you realize that you have good ideas and provide you ways to bring those ideas to fruition. And a little independence will go a long way.
Upgrade Your Life is written by a woman, about a topic and a field that is heavily male-oriented for the moment and provides the tools for any woman in any field to feel empowered to make her own choices and not just pay for the brake work because the mechanic says so, so to speak. I believe it’s an excellent candidate for this reading challenge.
So, back to the book…
I heard about it because I listen to Gina every week on a podcast called TWIG, This Week in Google. Never miss an episode, it’s one of the little highlights of my week. Along with tech guru Leo LaPorte and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, the three discuss all that is going on in the world of Google. The good, the bad and the ugly. They chew over tech news, what’s happening or about to happen,, cell phones, cell phones and more cell phones and eventually get to this extraordinarily interesting conversation about where we are as a society and where we’re headed. Not unlike a really cool sociology professor I had once.
Gina is the “Tip of the Week” contributor and I mention that not because it’s the biggest part she plays in the trio, but rather because of how indicative it is of who she is. Having founded Lifehacker “tips and downloads for getting things done” years ago – if you’ve never been there, click the link now, it’s a must read – she offers little keystrokes, shortcuts and an ocean of creative problem solving to make using Google products even easier.
Long time readers of my blog know by now that I’ve been a Google convert, using their web services for years now. The move from using Outlook to Gmail for email alone totally flipped my life on a head. I railed at what I did not understand, but once the epiphany came, I can’t get enough. Total fan-girl here.
My interest in technology spins off of my partial obsession with organization and how I can use it for my own better ends. When you’re the kind of girl who takes whole weekends as a teenager to move furniture and reorganize, you’re also the kind of girl that gets a kick out of the fact that Google is just so darn good at integrating their many amazing services and making your life handy dandy. See, it’s not just me anymore to keep track of. Now it’s my job and a husband’s home business and kids and swimming lessons and all of the social activity that comes from our growing family.
And I don’t just want to scrape by. If I had a motto in life or something that people remembered me for, it would be that I lived and loved well and with grace. Believe me, I don’t always meet that bar, but anything that can help me be less anxious, more settled and confident and bring enjoyment into my life… well, those things are always welcome. And so many of Gina’s little and not so little hacks have done that for me.
Not to mention that I find her an eternally positive person. Her enthusiasm for what she does and sincerity in offering it to us absolutely oozes out of everything. A successful woman known for her smile rather than her rants. That’s a woman living gracefully, living well.
As a sample, I’ll offer one of my favourite hacks, number 90:
I’ve been using Mozilla Firefox as my web browser for years and never knew that this was possible. (Though since the writing of this post, I’ve switched to using Google Chrome as my browser, but that’s another post and this is still a GREAT Tip.) Check it out…
You can create bookmark “groups.” Say you check the same four webpages every morning or as soon as you get home from work. Instead of painstakingly opening each one, you can with one click open them all at once. Brilliant!
Here’s how – open all the tabs you want to group together, go to Bookmarks, click Bookmark All Tabs. A window will pop up that allows you to name them as a set, do so and you are done! I used this hack to make three groups of pages that I use in conjunction quite alot. They’ve been so handy-dandy.
1. Social Butterfly: my Gmail, Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook
2. Photo Sharing: my Flickr, Picasa, Picnik, befunky
3. Recipe Search: Epi, BBC, Foodnetwork, Food Blog Search, All recipes, Big Oven
Other hacks taught me the importance of tagging my flickr photos, the magic button key command that is Alt+Enter, how very much I needed an To-Do organizer though I did not in the end using her main example (Simplenote rules!), how to freshen up our filing cupboard so I can find stuff, what a wonderful thing keeping my inbox clean is, how to search my gmail for anything under the sun, and how to get slightly lower priority email like goodreads and freecycle mail to skip my inbox and go to its own folder saving me a mountain of time.
Turns out that there was quite a bit that I was already doing well. Confidence booster to be sure! I save my bookmarks in Delicious and can access them anywhere, I use Gmail, as a family we share our Google calendars so no one is left in the dark, I’ve sorted and named and dated each individual one of our digital photos for years, and I’ve consolidated all my email accounts into gmail for so long that I forget that I’ve ever used anything else.
Wanna-be hacker that’s me!
p.s. Gina was named among Fast Company magazine Top Women in Tech for 2010. Go see what she and other women are doing online, in tech and games.
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