I may have a great deal of artistic dreamer in me, but at the end of the day being organized is what keeps me productive. I cannot focus without systematic organization of some sort…but I will admit that too much kills the creativity so there is a balance. Organization allows me to execute ideas and projects that would otherwise remain simply ideas. I used to live by post-it notes, my spiral bound planner, and a dry-erase wall calendar. But, these days my organization has gone digital. I thought I’d take a minute to share some of my favorite apps and a bit of my workflow for getting and staying organized.
A few months ago I went looking for a more robust task-management system. The twittersphere offered up several suggestions. I tried Action Method for a bit but it didn’t stick for me…I think it was the lack of a desktop app…not really sure. I also tried out Things and it stuck. I’ve been using it for several months now and love it. The desktop app is a one time $49.99 and the iPhone app $10 I think. A small price in my opinion for getting and staying organized. The only feature I’m still waiting for: over the air syncing…right now it only syncs on a wireless network.
Things is my to-do list. You can set up areas of responsibility as well as projects within those areas. I really love, however, that I can add a to-do item that doesn’t fall into any of those categories…it just kind of floats. I can also schedule due-dates for items and even set them to repeat. For me, part of being able to create and dream is emptying my mind of distractions or things I’m trying to remember. When something comes to mind I put it into Things and then I can forget it. Since reading Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality
I’ve been more disciplined at making sure the to-dos I put in are action steps…breaking projects down if necessary. At the start of the day I take a minute to rearrange the items in my list for that day in order of priority. Sometimes the list gets cleared. Other days, things get rescheduled because something else important arrises. I’m learning to be okay with that. :)
This is a huge aggregation tool for me. I use it to collect ideas, articles, blog posts, conference notes, business cards, etc. If I find something I think I may want to remember I clip it into Evernote and file it in a variety of notebooks I have set up. I love the search capabilities and the fact that I can access it from my desktop or my iPhone. The things I put into Evernote are meant to last…they’re things I want to keep for future use and reference.
Simplenote & Notational Velocity
I started using this app duo after Scott McClellan wrote about it on the Collide Blog. It’s been great for capturing quick, random thoughts, important information, or just keeping details about a project within quick reach. Also, if I’m in a meeting or conversation and don’t have a paper journal with me, or just want electronic notes instead of handwritten, it’s great for that on the phone or desktop. For me, what goes into Simplenote isn’t meant to be permanent. I sort through it once a week (I have this scheduled in Things) and either let ideas/thoughts sit there and marinate a bit longer, delete them, or turn them into action steps in Things. Simplenote is more original thoughts & ideas whereas Evernote is often inspiration I’ve collected. Both of these are free apps. Simplenote is the iPhone version & Notational Velocity the desktop app but they sync over the air.
If something has to happen at a specific time, it goes in iCal. It is my appointment/places to be system. I don’t often put meetings and such into Things…I like to keep those separate from my task list…just how my brain works I guess. But I also don’t like to clutter my calendar with too many “to-do” items. There are two things I have in iCal so that I can get an alarm on my phone for them everyday – one is an Idea Capture and the other a Photo Capture. Just two things I attempt to use to make myself stop and take time to create for the sake of creation…not for a project or product.
Yes, there are still times when I go analog. There is something about the physical act of writing that I like when it comes to recording long term goals/dreams/big ideas. There are also times when I’m in a meeting or conversation with someone and prefer handwritten notes to typed. Eventually though, everything in my paper journal ends up in one of the digital apps. Sometimes I file the notes/thoughts/ideas into Evernote for long-term keeping. Sometimes they go into an ongoing note I keep in Simplenote called “Blog Ideas” to marinate a big longer. There are others that become action steps in Things. I go through this paper journal about once every other week and filter things into Evernote, Simplenote, or Things. Sometimes, there are things that end up staying in the journal itself to marinate a bit longer.
So, there you have it, my favorites. Do you use any of these tools? What are others you use?