It kind of crept up on me...
When I left school, registration was a matter of queuing up at the Motor Registry with a pink slip and a cheque book. It seemed to be something you put aside an afternoon to organise, as it was always going to be tedious. And for some reason my rego always ran out in peak summer. So it was always hot too.
When I enrolled in university there were long queues and a trail of paper. More of the same. I went to the post office to get my HSC result - a rare moment when the postman would allow you to jump the queue. My results came by paper.
Standing in queues. There were a lot of those in the old world. My first share house involved queuing at the post office to pay utility bills and phone bills (all split with precision between housemates) - all of this prompted by something that came in the mail.
It's different now. I registered my car the other day after my mechanic gave me a pink slip that synchronised with the RTA, so that I could pay my registration using my mobile phone and a credit card.
If I could see that this was the future while lining up at the Manly Motor registry in the 1990's, I would also see a life of leisure as these time consuming rituals of administration would now be obsolete. It's not like that in 2018. Not like that at all. More about that later.
Going from a large organisation to a small one
I worked 20 years at Macquarie Bank. At the time I was there, the bank was known as being an early adopter of technology. And I think it was - but only in a way that suited a large organisation. Any change in the tools we used was subject to testing and roll out, assessed for compatibility with existing systems, and normally associated with some kind of training. Like any organisation (or government) has to do. Macquarie Bank could probably do this faster than related organisations, but it is still a protracted process.
When you work for a company, you begin to depend on the "back end" - the administration, the systems, the procedures. And seeing all this process makes you worry how hard it would be to do it on your own should you wish to try anything different. It's a trap.
I had my concern about this upended in a really cool way. Before I left the bank to setup my own business, I had an idea to setup an online business, and joined a group to work on the idea. This group brought an incredible energy and an amazing "can-do" approach to trying anything. One of the most important things I learned from this experience was just how many tools are available for someone getting organised and running their life or their business.
In fact - when you look at the rise of online businesses through this lens, it becomes clear just how much success is based on taking a process that may have been in the realm of the "back end" provided by working with a large organisation, and making it into a service that you can pay for by the month, put your branding on it, and choose to retain, or not, based on how well the service is working for you. Everything from websites, accounting, invoices, graphic design and a whole bunch of other functions can be solved by many willing companies.
The result of this is that you can end up paying for a dozen or so services, for a total cost of something close to a Foxtel subscription, and have all the services a large company may support you with, at your disposal. Further, you don't have to pay for expensive computers, or muck around with installation.
Leaving a job after 20 years
When I left Macquarie to setup my business in 2014, I was determined to take advantage of as much of the technology available to improve productivity, become better organised, and feel in control. I was sick of piles of paper, and feeling like I was just keeping up, as opposed to understanding what I was doing and having a bit of time to breath and stand back from it all and getting the chance to think.
I took the time to design the way I ran my business. From the ground up.
At the same time, my life was undergoing changes - setting up a new business was just a part of it. I was also recently divorced and had to organise getting the most from life for my 3 kids that I was co-parenting. It was the right time to make sure the way I was running things made sense.
By working on a new business, and a new life at about the same time I had the perfect opportunity to use my analytical brain to seek out whatever I could to enable me to focus on an uncluttered life, an experience for my clients that was delivered with integrity and value, and a way to control what I could in a way that enabled space for me to think and appreciate all that was in my world.
The work I put in was worth it.
I now have a kind of "back end" that makes everything else run a lot smoother. While I have not become some kind or organisational zealot, I do have things under control. It's liberating.
How I do it
While I have far from mastered the art of being organised, I feel I am winning. I don't have piles of paper in files gathering dust. However - I do have piles of files (my stuff) - sitting in the cloud somewhere. And still not organised. But it's different now.
One of the applications I use religiously, Evernote, allows me to save anything - by scanning, photographing, or emailing. However, instead of just ending up with a bunch of files on my computer that I have to name and organise, I can search the files for words. So, for example, I took a photo of my passport and saved it to Evernote. When I want to find it, i just search the word "passport", and my passport comes up. As well as my kids passports. This won't get you through customs, but if someone is asking me my passport number (perhaps for a tedious online application), I am not going to go digging through my filing cabinet. It's here.
Meanwhile, I have the Evernote application on my computer, on my phone, on my ipad. I can log into Evernote using any computer linked to the web. Anywhere. No problem losing my phone or my office burning down.
And it's like this for so many things now. My kids school reports, medical records, car registration, class lists, utility accounts, holiday bookings and plans. If it's something I think I'll need, I scan it, photograph it, keep it. Have you noticed that receipts fade over time? Mine don't. I even take photos of my kids artwork.
I also religiously keep a list of passwords on Evernote. If I set something up - the name of the application, my user name, and my password gets saved to Evernote. Straight away.
I also use all that Google has to offer. And there is a lot of it. I use a phone that uses the Google operating system (Android), and I have everything at my fingertips. This was quite a change from years of Apple - I won't go through the debate as to who is better, but Google works beautifully for me (and for my 13 year old son who is now my go to guy for IT issues).
Here's the thing....getting started is hard. Frankly, the providers of these services do not offer a good user guide to someone starting from scratch.
Setup a Google email account (gmail) account, and you are actually getting access to a bunch of amazing products - all free, all cloud based, all constantly improving. My kids are all setup so they can access their files, make presentations, write their assignments, and never have to worry about saving documents, USB sticks, and they can also collaborate with their friends easily.
How do you know what is the best way?
I don't think anyone knows. I do know that my pathway lead me to a bunch of bright youngsters who got me interested in how to take advantage of technology to get things done. Then I made a bunch of changes and I am seeing the benefit.
I run my business like this. And my life. Everything is a login away. From my phone, computer, tablet. If a device crashes, gets lost, or falls in a toilet (it's happened), everything is safe, and getting on with things without interruption is a login away.
The light bulb moment
I have worked as a financial analyst, keeping control of vast amounts of information and trying to make sense of it. I am also a Certified Financial Advisor who has spent countless hours looking at the way people interact with the system, and trying to understand this through building spreadsheets that replicate government legislation in order to get to the bottom of how an individual situation will be treated by "the system".
I am also a father of 3 children battling the administration that comes with that. And the administration of car registration, paying utilities, and making time for everything else. Then there is the task of making sure you are getting the right deal on everything (that's another story). It's hard work, and it should be easy for me.
For older Australians, there is this collision, and it works like this.
There is no stage in life where the interaction with the government agencies is as significant.
It is now more complicated than ever.
I want to help Australians at this stage in life do what I did - get some insight into the tools available to help you keep on top of things, have a go at using them, get more out of life than trying to "keep up". It's that simple.
In this section of the website I will outline some of the tools I use to make life easier. I hope it helps.