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Ride the Whirlwind: Making a New York Minute Last

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Before I came to New York, I was ad hoc at its finest. My disorganization was a chaotic river that I waded through every day, somehow coming out the other end dry only due to the comparatively placid pace of being a Londoner.

Enter New York. A city totally intolerant of my internal calendar and clock. Enter a corporate calendar, a personal calendar, a phone that combines them both into a stream of events that I have to understand, a stream of 140-character messages that are evenly split between public events, business discussions, industry discussions and fart jokes. Two cats. And somewhere between all of this a social life. It's frankly a bit frightening and equal parts exciting.

There are, however, methods to dealing with the myriad flows of appointments, ideas, stupidity and fun that will come out of the eighty-five conversations you're having at once.

Value Your Time
When it comes down to it, a lot of the services I spend money on and/or use are trying (at times in vain) to get back time I'd otherwise lose.

The most notable ones are those that are free - after taking around a year to convert my entire life into two Google Calendars, and finding working between them outside of Android 2.2 (which combines them into one calendar), I was recently introduced to Tungle.me. Not only does the service combine my work and personal calendars into one shareable source - http://www.tungle.me/edzitron - that allows people to see at a glance when you're free (both dangerous and useful) and helps to look at two very different calendars at once. Oh, and it syncs with LinkedIn, Google and Facebook, and has both a Blackberry app and a forthcoming Android app.

Failing that, there's also the nuclear option - get an assistant. I don't mean a full-blown executive assistant who sits at a desk playing minesweeper, I mean someone virtual who can answer your queries and, well, call people for you. After a few months of using ACStant I've found myself inextricably attached to the two men assigned to me. As of late they've battled with Verizon for me (getting me significant bill reductions), organized reservations, researched marriage statistics in New York, helped me find brunch recipes, and in general bought back time for about $90 a month. Which sounds extravagant until you receive an itemized list of everything they've done - and when you use them, you're effectively getting back 4-10 hours of your own life. Which is pretty cool.

Schedule Your Life
FreshDirect has become a staple of my life - food delivery that can be scheduled for next-day service. What surprised me was when I found myself requesting the services of Garment Valet a second time after using a group-buying coupon. Why? Because while local dry cleaning and laundry services would bring me back clothes mangled, shrugging like I'd asked them for the square-root of the word "elephant," Garment Valet actually called to discuss my clothes and let me know when to expect them. When they arrived, they were neatly tied with little GV stickers. In fact, their prices are about the same as my local, and they pick up my damn clothing, which is a godsend because I don't need to lug 35lbs of things down, or even think about it too much beyond "wash and fold goes here, special goes here."

Zocdoc is the ridiculously easy-to-use doctor-booking service that not only filters by health care plan and provider, but location and availability too. When I booked a 2:30pm appointment, the doctor called and demanded I change it because they "didn't have that open." Zocdoc called me a few hours later to apologize, saying that doctors simply weren't allowed to do that as part of their service contract, and gave me $10 at Amazon for the bother. You can even import your appointment to Google Calendar.

Keep The Chaos In One Place
I've evangelized the benefits of Evernote before - simply put, the best way to organize text, images and files. If you have to write things down, use that. However, I much prefer the web interface of Catch - and the tag system is similar to Evernote but with a cleaner interface in general. It depends how robust your notes are, really.

Tweetdeck is surprisingly good at keeping all of my Twitter traffic in one place. I'd also recommend, if you can, training yourself to add anything you find interesting and newsworthy to Google Reader - combined with a good iPad app like Newsrack can have you spending more time actually reading what you like to read than wasting those idle 35 minute periods at the beginning of your day.

Ultimately, you are fighting a battle with yourself - the seconds you don't waste today could save you an hour tomorrow. An hour that, potentially, you could have someone else deal with anyway. So use that time to sit back, relax, and consider the world around you - you don't know what you're missing.