Thursday, April 24, 2014

small wins in getting organized digitally

I love being organized. I've even taught my kids that, as we pick up the house each night, we should triumphantly shout "We are creating ORDER!"

And so, of course, I love it when I find a tech tool that actually sticks with me to make my life more organized.

Here are four.

(Disclaimer: I'm not really reviewing any of these, just raving about them and giving you more details than you want about how I use them.)
1. Evernote
It really is like having a digital notebook. I use Evernote to ...

  • Bookmark websites
  • Collect my ideas or do brainstorming
  • Take notes on my phone at events, meetings, etc. Because I use Evernote as a place to store ideas, I actually reference these notes again in the future.
  • Keep running meeting minutes for regularly scheduled meetings I have with various clients. It's so helpful to have meeting minutes in one running document.
  • As a replacement for creating a new Word document every time I want to write something down digitally. I have so many Word documents that turned out not to be important enough to be a full-fledged document (research on a topic, proposals that never went anywhere, lists of items to do or things to remember regarding a specific project). Now I can start a note in Evernote and if I need to eventually copy/paste it into Word I can.
  • Access my files anywhere. Evernote has a desktop app that syncs with the online version so I can access with or without internet.
  • Have an automatic backup for my notes.

2. Plan to Eat 

I already talked about Plan to Eat extensively, here. To recap, I use Plan to Eat to ...

  • Keep all of my recipes. (After about 2 hours of entering in my paper-copy recipes, I've never had to do it again. All my other recipes come through the web.)
  • Not have to decide what's for dinner every night. I plan 4-7 days of dinners at a time, shop for those days, and just look up my menu when it's time to cook.
  • Make grocery lists. And by "make grocery lists" I mean sit back and watch the program automatically populate my grocery list based on my meal plan and sort the list by section in the grocery store. As long as I remember to bring my phone, I never forget my list.

Basically, meal planning is something that never stresses me out anymore.

3. Trello

Trello is a fun interface for to-do lists that has worked extremely well for the following ...

  • Ongoing to do lists. Whenever I think of something I have to get done soon, or get done eventually, I make a note in Trello. When I'm ready to think about getting something done, I open it up and choose from all the notes I've collected through the day or week. It's a great way to put nagging tasks to rest - if not by actually doing them, by at least writing them down.
  • Group planning and execution. Abe and I have shared boards in Trello for projects we are in on together (like home improvement). It's a great way to quickly pick a project, list out the dependencies, and start checking them off.

4. Pinterest

Okay, everyone knows Pinterest. But here's how I find it especially useful ...

  • Visual brainstorming. We've been doing some major redecorating lately (read: painting our walls) and it is incredibly helpful to search for specific color schemes or rooms and get hundreds of beautiful photos showing different designs and ideas. Pinterest has helped me understand and extend my taste.
  • Project-based. I don't go on Pinterest without a specific project in mind. I want to paint an accent wall in my bedroom. I need ground cover in my backyard. I want quiet time projects for Genghis during the afternoon. I need to make a poster advertising an Easter Egg hunt.

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