Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tools for the Organized (Or, want to be organized...)

It's not a secret that I am a pretty busy person; with art, writing, crafting and blogging I sometimes bite off more than I can chew. Anyone who knows me fairly well has often asked how I manage to do so much. Sometimes, I ask the same thing. If I wanted to sound impressive, this is probably where I would spew some advice about staying organized, and show you my tidy desk, immaculate room and de-cluttered living conditions. If I were honest, I would admit I fly by the seat of my pants more than I probably should.

Organization has never really come easy for me. I try boxes, I try files, I have tried sticky-notes and scraps of paper to remind me when and what to do. In the age of technology, you'd think most of this would get more streamlined and easier, but I probably complicate things more than I should. I have tried more to-do list apps than I care to admit, and most of them seemed to just get in the way. I have an iphone, but I haven't even deleted my "School Work" schedule and I graduated a week ago. 

The sad thing is, it hasn't been updated since December.

That all being said, there have been things that helped. If you're like me, some of these simple to use apps may be a game changer for you. Even if you don't keep every task, at least having them all laid out and ready to view can push you to get things done. In my world, seeing the mountain of tasks makes me more inclined to tackle it, and there are some fun ways to do this.

Tool 1: Habit RPG
This was my first attempt to get my life together. This to-do list is built like a video game, complete with coins, rewards, and fun little characters. As you complete tasks, you level up, and unlock different features. It is certainly one of the funnest little to-do lists I've seen, and many of my friends are great at keeping up with it.

I tried Habit RPG as a beta user, and for awhile it worked. The problem was the "consequences" for not getting stuff done soon became a deterrent. I was dying every few weeks, and I realized many of my goals were probably too unrealistic to survive. The rewards were also hard for me to follow through with. I didn't always wait to "buy" myself that soda or hour of Netflix. If I wanted to do it, I would probably do it, so I ended up abandoning this one in the end. Yet I think the premise was really useful, and it was free. I like free. 

Tool 2: Astrid To-Do List
So I used this app when I had my android phone. It was pretty good at bugging me to get things done and I felt pretty productive with it. The tasks were easy to organize, and it would remind me to work on stuff whenever I asked it to. Tasks were easy to add and delete, which is a big thing for me. I never want to spend a ton of time putting new things on a list or it becomes a deterrent. 

When I was using Astrid, one of the drawbacks was all my tasks were stuck on my phone at that time. Now they have some interfaces to add tasks on your computer and stuff, so that may work better, but I eventually moved on to Google calendar for better organization in the end.

Tool 3: Goodreads
Okay, so this doesn't organize everything, but it is great for my reading list. I can easily see everything I need to read, and it has pictures which makes it much easier to find the book when I get down the list. Lists on Goodreads are easy to organize, so I can jump around in my reading list if I need to. I can also see how carried away I get on reading ambitions. It's easier to throw a few books on my calendar, it's another thing to see them stacked up as a wall of book covers. 

Also, it has widgets for my blog. I like widgets. 

Tool 4: Google Calendar
Sometimes, the fallback is the best thing. Google Calendar has been my organization platform for awhile now, but I like having everything in one place. I have 3 separate calendars, and I can update and organize them separately. The best thing is, two of these are ones I share. When I have shows I am scheduled for, I can add them to my business calendar, and it updates automatically via widget on my website. When I re-organize my blogging schedule, it shows here. When I go to the Google Calendar home page, however, I can view everything at the same time. My personal appointments and my work appointments are all in the same place, so it's easy to glance at things and work on them in a timely manner. 

As much as I like Google Calendar, however, it was missing a little of the fun that made me like my other to-do lists. That's where Trello came in.

Tool 5: Trello
Trello is a free to use organization system that you can share as a business, or just as an independent user. What I like about it is the ability to sort and sift through various tasks so you don't feel "cluttered" by all the small things. You can add pictures, lists, and color organize your list. There is even a calendar view so you can look at tasks at a glance. I actually linked my Google Calendar with Trello via a website called Zapier, that automatically takes any new blogging events and puts them on my Trello to-do list. 

I like Trello because it gives me a place to organize all the things that DON'T have a specific "due date". Sometimes, stuff needs to get done, and I don't want the pressure of putting a time limit on it. For business I often have minor to-do lists I just want to be able to look up when I'm on the go. "Oh, I need to make 100 keychains to restock inventory. I should add that to the list..." Trello lets me have the flexibility to do that, plus, it's got an app so I can migrate from phone to the web. It'll also bug me on my phone, which I appreciate. 


Overall, I don't think there is one program that really does everything for me. I like the current combination I have of Trello and Google Calendar with Zapier doing the updates in between. While it's not perfect (if I archive a task on Trello, it doesn't remove it from Google Calendar, for example), I think you learn to pick what works best for you. For me, the big thing is ease of access: I need to be able to pick up my phone and check to see what I have planned for a certain month or day if someone asks. But I also like adding tasks manually on my computer rather than my phone, because typing on an phone takes foreeeever. I didn't need all the bells and whistles of rewards points, just the satisfaction of a task completed, and a schedule kept. And most of all, I wanted the flexibility to change my schedule when life happens.

Because life happens, believe me.

What about you guys? What tools do you use to organized? 

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