I used to think I was organized.
People would say to me things like, “You’re so organized.”
That was before I was juggling a full-time job, two blogs, freelance work, several social media accounts, two dogs, a husband with a chronic illness (and recent surgery for a fractured collarbone – no relation to the illness), laundry, dishes, lawn mowing, household repairs, budget maintenance (ha!), piles of paper, digital to-do lists, electronic calendars …
OK, OK, you get it.
You get it, because your list is as long as mine, if not longer. (And, trust me, that paragraph contains just a fraction of the balls I’m juggling these days.)
But pretending to be organized, and giving others the impression I’m organized, is not the same thing as actually being organized.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
What’s the purpose of “being organized,” anyway? For me, as I assume is the case for you, it’s so that I can have a bit of “margin” in my life.
Margin. Space between all the obligations, commitments, buzzers, alarms, demands, dog barks, appointments, meetings …
Margin allows us to spend more time with loved ones, relax once in a while, have a measure of control over our schedules.
So … it’s time to do something about it.
To get serious.
I’ve been researching productivity and timesaving tools this year. I’m really good at research. (If you call reading and half-hearted implementation good.)
So I’m going to start testing – in earnest – some of those tools, tips, tricks and time-honored habits.
For each one of the things I’ve downloaded already, I’m going to keep using it (more regularly, in a lot of cases) until I’m convinced it’s either a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. And I’ll share with you the results – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I’ll do the detective work for you.
I may download more tools, but not until I’m convinced that what I already have isn’t going to work well and get me (and you) farther down the road to margin.
If you’d like to join me on this journey, subscribe (see box at upper right if you’re on a computer and at the bottom of the page if you’re on a mobile device) and you’ll get to help me decide what works and what doesn’t. We’ll figure it out together. Subscribers not only get a notification every time I post here, they get content that I don’t always include on the blog. (Private tips via email.) That may be just a quick heads-up about something I’ve learned that week or a timely notification about something that’s coming up.
WHAT ALREADY WORKS
I already have a few tools I use, love, and love recommending. Here are three you should check out:
- For keeping track of practically everything: Evernote. It allows you to dump everything in and forget about it, because there are so many ways to find it later. (The beauty of Evernote is in its tagging system.) I keep all kinds of notes in it: articles saved from the internet, to-do lists, shopping lists, blog ideas, freelance tips … I even created my own calendar from scratch when I couldn’t find an acceptable calendar tool to integrate into other apps and sync across all my devices. Jury’s still out on my calendar, and we’ll explore that later, but here’s a screen shot of the rudimentary one I made a few weeks ago (I didn’t make links from any of the calendar items, but you can totally do that – make a link from a piece of text in Evernote to another item saved in Evernote, sort of like creating your own index). The free version is awesome, but the paid versions have features such as sharing. I created a shared notebook in my premium version with a shopping/to-do list that my husband can access (and edit) in his free account. Sweet! Free for Basic, plus three paid tiers – Plus, Premium and Business – that you can pay for monthly or annually.
- For tracking habits you want to establish (or break): the Way of Life app. It’s the best habit tracker I’ve tried, and it’s easy to keep it up to date. It’s customizable (you get three habits, or “journals,” in the free version and unlimited in the paid version). In the screen shot below, you can see that I didn’t do yoga or strength training on any of the seven days pictured; I shredded junk mail every day except Tuesday (Tuesday is in red for No, and the other days are green for Yes); I ran only one 🙁 of my intended five days that week (the two light gray days are when I didn’t intend to run, so they don’t count as No – they count as Skipped); and I flossed five out of seven days. My longest streak is in flossing, and on those streaks I get a sweet little celebratory sound and a dot in the middle of the day tracked. (A few weeks ago, I told my hygienist I had flossed more in the previous month than I ever had. She was impressed and wanted to know more about the app!) Free for three journals, $4.99 for unlimited.
- For drowning out distracting sounds: the White Noise app. I’m an extremely light sleeper. My dad once commented to my mom, “She could hear a mouse pee on a cotton ball.” Noise-canceling devices have been my friends since my first job out of college: at a daily newspaper at which I worked until 2 a.m., I never – and I mean never – got enough sleep during those newspaper years. (Did I mention I’m also a “morning person”?) With that first job, I bought a floor fan and kept it turned on the highest setting next to my bed. Eventually I bought a little fan to take with me when I travel. I had a good one until a couple of years ago, when it wore out and I got one that is the wimpiest excuse for white noise that I’ve ever (not) heard. So when Michael Hyatt gave me the idea for White Noise (he’s also where I got the idea for Way of Life, and he’s an Evernote fanatic), I jumped on it. I use White Noise when I travel, instead of having to pack a fan in my luggage, and also when I’m at home trying to concentrate and there’s some distraction (such as two barking dogs or Bruce eating crunchy food 🙂 ). White Noise is a lifesaver, my friends. Free, with upgrades that I don’t use or know much about.
Now it’s your turn. Please answer one or both of these questions:
1) Have you found a tool, tip, app or habit that makes your life better, even just a little bit? If so, please share it with the rest of us in the comments. We want to know! 2) Do you have a problem or dilemma that an app or a life hack – or maybe just a little info – could solve? Tell us what it is, and I’ll do the detective work to help you solve it.
NEXT UP: I have more tips for saving time, being more productive and having a better life (margin) – and one or two of them may surprise you.