If you are looking for a way to stay organized and on target start looking at your technology and use methods that work the way you work. Do not try to force yourself to organize your life in a way you do not like to work. Be realistic about the way you work and keep that in mind when selecting organizing tools.
If you are a technology nut like me, the pen and paper stuff just won’t do it.
Spoiler alert – there is a video summary of this article at the bottom of the page.
I like technology. Back in the day, I ran my law office on a Palm Pilot and used that to plan and organize notes for my first murder trial and dozens of client bankruptcy cases. I liked having dozens of cases and reference materials in my pocket at all times. Today, I make sure that all the programs I use can be used on my phone, laptop, and tablet. No matter what device I use I want to be able to do whatever I need to do. Recently I have put together a few programs and applications that have been helping me to be more organized, productive, and happy. I wrote this article to share my tips and tricks in case the information can be of help to someone else. I have no connection with any of the companies whose products I mention here.
Technology Tip – Use Your Phone as a Personal Organizer – It is terrific to know that you can use your phone as a personal organizer and keep your life in order. Click here to read more.
For me, it all starts with my Google calendar program. This is an excellent tool for people who have several areas of responsibility. I have a Google Calendar for my:
- online magazine
- consulting business
- timesheet needs
- research company
Each of these calendars is color-coded. This means that when I look at the calendar I can see what area of life needs attention, has an appointment, or a task due. When creating appointments, assigning tasks, or making plans, if I cannot find a place for it on the calendar, I cannot accept the matter. By making sure anything I plan to do or attend fits into my calendar I am less likely to overbook. I make sure to add all tasks and to-do items to the Google Calendar task list. Even if I do not have a date planned to accomplish an item, I add it to the to-do list so that I have a running total of all the things I want to do.
To help me with the calendar and keeping on target I took ideas from some popular planning and journal systems and created a sheet I use each day to keep track of:
- my major goal for the day
- three major tasks I want to accomplish each day
- three things I am thankful for each morning
- how things are going at mid-day
- how things went at the end of the day
- things I learned throughout the day
- three things I am thankful for at the end of the day
It is not enough to schedule things on a calendar and to keep a running to-do list. You must review the calendar and to-do list throughout the day. If you do not review the calendar and to-do list, you are less likely to complete each item you plan to complete and are more likely to be behind and unproductive. By completing a sheet like this each day, I am able to see what I need to do and I am reminded of my targets throughout the day. Because I complete one of these sheets each day and a similar one each week, I am able to see big picture long-range plans and I never miss seeing the forest for the trees. I concentrate on the trees and forest as I should each day.
Productivity Challenge Timer
Productivity Challenge timer is an app that works on Android devices and is available Apple app store. It is a timer that utilizes the Pomodoro Method. The Pomodoro method is a system that has you work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break and then go back to work for 25 minutes. After you have completed four 25-minute work periods, you are entitled to a 15-minute break. When using this method, the entire 25-minute work period is spent working on one task and one task only. By concentrating on one task at a time and only one task at a time, you are able to be productive and give a task your full attention. In many cases, this means that you can accomplish a task faster and more efficiently because there is nothing else competing for your attention. This app is different from other Pomodoro timers because it gives you ranks based on the amount of work you do, it can track the time spent on an infinite number of projects, and is a great productivity tool.
I like to knit. It relaxes me, interests me, and makes me feel good. During my work day, I often spend my 5-minute break periods knitting. It is a nice break between heavy work sessions to be able to do something I enjoy between work sessions. I often work at home. So, on some Pomodoro break periods, I have loaded the dishwasher, started a load of laundry, mopped a floor, or even walked in place to get steps on my Fitbit.
If you try the Pomodoro Method use your break periods to do things that make you feel happy, satisfied, or better able to work on the next work period.
OneNote is a note-taking program on steroids. OneNote notes and notebooks help you to organize words, photos, or audio content. I use OneNote to write all my blog posts, e-books, and other written materials. It is great to be able to work on my projects even when I am not connected to my computer. It has a work chat feature that enables me to communicate and share documents with colleagues as I see fit. OneNote can coordinate with many programs such as ITTT, Google Calendar, Asana, and others. It can hold Microsoft Office documents, PDF files, and others.
Scrivener is a program used for writing a variety of types of writing projects including novels, screenplays, academic papers, and research projects. It is an inexpensive word processing program. I have only been using it for a few weeks. It allows you to view projects as traditional word processing documents, index cards or an outline. The index card view works well for me. I like seeing the information in that quick format as I work on projects. Currently, I am using it to work on three books, a business plan, a 5-day confidence-building challenge, and planning for upcoming conferences and workshops.
Is a spreadsheet program. I run my entire business via an Excel workbook. The 50+ page workbook contains a page for my blog editorial calendars broken down one month per sheet, accounting, daily task and tally sheets, business plan, and all information for my business. It makes it easy for me to pull up a blog post topic, work on SEO matters, track the blog management work I do for others and keep track of my consulting work for clients. The spreadsheet is one of my own designs that I add sections to as needed. It is a great way of keeping track of what has happened and what I want to happen. The spreadsheet format works well for the way I think and do things.
Take time today to look at your technology and look for ways you can use it to help yourself work smarter instead of merely harder. Remember always that your technology should work for you and not the other way around!
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