Use Tech to Beat the Clock

8 ways to create work-life balance with gadgets, applications and online tools

Create an Internet calendar and share it: Using an online service such as Google Calendar, you can keep everyone in your life informed about your schedule, and about his or hers as well. “I share a Yahoo calendar with our childcare provider,” says Heather Cabot, editor at Yahoo! Web Life in New York. “I can update her schedule with notes about kids’ activities, play dates, vacations, etc. This is an easy way to keep track of her hours and for us both to plan ahead.” If you have teens, Cabot says, “have them add their own activities and commitments to the family calendar.”

Pay your bills online: Do away with the envelope stuffing and stamp licking once and for all and sign up for your bank’s online services. This will allow you to check balances (from your desktop, laptop or PDA), transfer funds and pay bills much faster than the traditional way. “We did a recent study that found that nearly 70 percent of people use online bill-pay, up from 4 percent in 1995,” says Cabot. “Of those people currently using the service, 45 percent said they couldn’t live without it.”

Use digital tools for dinner: Avoid dinnertime stress by subscribing to a recipe planner newsletter or blog. NoTakeOut.com, for example, is a free daily e-mail that lists all the ingredients you need and a game plan for fast, easy meals. Other sites that list helpful ideas for quick meals include MomsWhoThink.com, FoodNetwork.com and KitchenDaily.com.

Do your grocery shopping online: Technology can also help you find your way out the weekly grocery-shopping grind. “I’m a big fan of the Fresh Direct iPhone app,” says Cabot. While not every grocery chain has a mobile phone app, many do have sites where you can shop and order items for delivery. There are also sites that cater to specific customer groups, such as Diapers.com for new parents. “As a mother of twins, I wish I had used this service,” Cabot says. “It would have saved me a lot of trips to the market!”

As you integrate some or all of these technology tools into your own life, Whaley says the first step should be to establish clear boundaries for their use. You shouldn’t be texting clients while driving down the highway, for example, or checking email when you should be spending one-on-one time with your family. “Without boundaries, technology can quickly become intrusive,” says Whaley. “Use it for productivity, and then set it aside when life calls.”

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