Life is busy for all of us. Even as I navigate the maze of self-employment, time is a precious commodity, and it’s more important than ever for me to keep up with the world of technology. IT is a fast-paced field, and stagnation for any period of time quickly erodes skills and potential. As such, I tend to spend a lot of time making sure that I stay as current as I can in as broad a way as possible. Here are five apps and services I use to accomplish this goal.

1: Twitter

For me, this one is a no-brainer. Twitter (Figure A) gives me the best of both worlds: I get to hear announcements and commentary from businesses with their typical marketing spin, but I also get to hear news from some of the commentators and blogger friends I’ve chosen to follow. I get both sides of the story and can always dig for more if I like.

As you know, there are approximately 6.2 billion ways to use Twitter. Most often, I use the Web client, but I also make heavy use of the Twitter client for my iPhone.

I know a lot of people think that Twitter is just a toy, but I’ve found ways to make it an invaluable resource for me, from keeping up with the news to aiding in due diligence efforts as I look at new solutions.

Figure A

Twitter is my favorite “keeping up” app.

2: Pulse News

When I’m on the go, my iPhone goes where I go. I’ve also recently acquired an Android device but haven’t become as comfortable with it yet. On my iPhone, I’ve come to rely on the Pulse News app to keep me current. You can see the Pulse News app in Figure B. I haven’t explored all of its capabilities, such as Google Reader integration, but I like being able to add new news sources and scroll up and down to see different news sources and left to right to see new stories in each source. It’s intuitive, fast, and complete.

Figure B

Pulse news aggregates a lot of good sites into one.

3: Outlook/email

This one and the next one might be boring, but it’s true. I rely heavily on email to stay current. I still subscribe to listservs, and I review the new postings each day. I’ve subscribed to Office 365 as my mail email service provider, so I make heavy use of Outlook on both my PC and my Mac as well as on OWA to read my mail.

4: A browser

Again, a Web browser is sort of an ancient way to consume news in this newfangled era of social media. Kids these days use their ifones to twit about this and that (yes, that was supposed to be a joke). However, when I’m seeking something out, there’s no better way to do so than using a Web browser. Anyone who’s done any kind of research on the Web knows and loves browsers!

5: Mixtab

I go back and forth between Windows and Mac OS X just about equally these days. I don’t necessarily prefer one over the other. But when I’m on one side or the other, different apps rule the day. On Mac OS X, I’ve recently discovered a free application called Mixtab (Figure C). It’s a lot like Pulse New on my iPhone, but bigger! In this case, Mixtab works by adding tabs/thumbnails (news sources) to your screen. You then choose a tab or thumbnail to see the new news items for that source. Mixtab does make a iPad version of their app as well. I haven’t looked at it yet, but will at some point in the future.

Figure C

Mixtab is a fantastic news aggregator for Mac OS X.

What about you?

What apps or services do you use to keep yourself current on all things tech?