Curating the Dashboard

All right, this is the last post exploring my productivity tools. If you’re still reading this, thanks. The project to organize and beat all my data into submission is still trudging along slowly, but I’m pretty sure I’ve covered all of the tools involved after today.

Oddly enough, my dashboard is the one tool that hasn’t spiraled out of control. What is a dashboard? It’s an all-in-one place to keep an eye on things important to you (not entirely unlike the dashboard of your car). As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, I use several tools on a daily or near-daily basis. A couple of them (not counting the dashboard) remain open at all times in their own tabs because I use them so often it’s just pointless to close them. The majority of the others have buttons on my Bookmark bar so I can open them quickly.

All of the tools, however, are represented on my dashboard. I use iGoogle to keep an eye on everything, going into a tool to do something only when I really need to. I have a tab to keep an eye on my calendar, my email (I often just respond to my email in iGoogle.), my to-do list, Google Reader, Google Bookmarks, and the weather. I have a tab that can effectively serve as a workspace. It contains Google Bookmarks and delicious (which I can search from iGoogle), GoogleDocs, and feeds from everywhere I post. I like to think of it as an input column of gadgets, the machine that changes the input, and an output column of gadgets. I suppose if I could add an image editor and a video editor to the machine column, I really would have quite the powerhouse. Other tabs let me follow my social networking sites, relax with a fun game or two, and keep up with personal-interest sites.

Despite having five tabs housing a total of twenty-four gadgets, it’s stayed pretty well managed. I’m in most of the tabs frequently enough that I can see when something goes wrong with a gadget and either fix it or replace it. (I just had to do that yesterday, actually.) I’m pretty ruthless when I realize a gadget is just sitting there collecting cyberdust. I work very hard to keep the majority of any tab visible without scrolling. Keeping iGoogle well maintained really has allowed me to keep working, to keep an eye on things, to keep me up to date, and to keep thinking about what’s important to me in my daily or near-daily life.

Keeping a dashboard that can connect to everything I use on a daily or near-daily basis has made it possible for me to manage what would otherwise seem to be an overwhelming number of tools, and I’m lost when it refuses to load.

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