Sunday, January 31, 2016

Getting Organised! Free Apps.

I have a confession. Change scares me and sometimes this holds me back.

For example, my quaint 'piles of paper, post-it notes, overloaded daily diary and reliance on memory' system for time management was failing hard, but I thought learning a new way would just cause more stress. Eventually, I got sick of my friends ordering me to try this or that app and gave it a go. Now I'm like: what took me so long? 

I still have a lot going on, but these days it's less like 'juggling balls' and more like 'ducks in a row'. I'm not saying the row is always completely straight, but..'s far less stress. And that's what it's all about.

It's been trial and error. The acid test for me is whether I actually keep using something. There are apps (e.g. Kanbanchi) that seemed excellent, but for some reason, didn't stick. The ones below have proven useful and useable. 

Google Calendar

This one needs no introduction. I use it for:
  • Daily scheduling and blocking out times for work, study and appointments
  • Setting up reminders for things like birthdays, upcoming deadlines, flights and conferences
  • Setting up recurring events (say, hairdresser every six weeks). The phone app likes to be cute about this:
  • Plonking something loosely into a day that is planned for that day, but not necessarily at a particular time. For today I have 'remove New Years message from Sana site' sitting as an 'all day event'. That's a bit clunky. There is a 'task' function that works more practically for this sort of thing - you set up a task and either tick it off that day or move it to a new day, BUT, 'tasks' does not work on the Android app (so frustrating!!). So, if I'm using my phone, I can't see tasks. I do use tasks but only for work things, as I can see them when I'm on any PC.
Our Groceries Shopping List

Grocery shopping used to involve a lot of timewasting steps: checking cupboards, writing down a list, wandering the aisles in search of a memory jolt, calling Jason to see what he needed and then having a 'gahhh!' moment late at night because I forgot the catfood.

No more.

This is a phone app that has the brilliant feature of being shareable. Both of us can enter things onto the list, as we run out. And, if the list is looking emptyish, I can just call Jase and ask him to populate the it from wherever he is while I drive to the supermarket. It's brilliant.

It also has the ability to record brand names and other details (under the 'i') and you can program in barcodes, so that entering packaged items doesn't need to involve any fingerwork at all. You just scan the barcode with your phone.

The paid version of this is about NZ$9.50, but I'm considering it, as a token of appreciation. Is there such a thing as 'free app' guilt?


Trello can function as a basic list keeper, or a Kanban system. I use it for the latter purpose and it fills the gaps for things that Google Calendar doesn't do.

Trello has some pretty nifty features that I haven't explored yet, such as linking to Google Docs and enabling voting for group projects, but for now it's a great way to break life down into manageable areas (boards), and then further refine things down to the one task (card) I'm doing right now in a particular area, while also keeping a 'park' of ideas to pull from for the next task.

My dashboard looks like this. These are the boards.

So, I've got my personal things, and then also there is a group board for a conference I'm on the organising committee for.

Within a board, say the Fit to Blog board, I have my ideas bank ('to-do') and the one thing I am doing right now ('doing'). I'll move that to the 'done' board later. Kanban hinges on the simple rule that there is only ever one thing in the 'doing' column.

If I need to put a task aside, I can move it back to the 'to do' board and add comments to it so that I don't lose touch with where I was at. And then, if necessary, I can put a reminder in Google Calendar for when I need to reconnect with that task. The goal is to free up mental space by having everything in its place and nothing rattling around in my brain causing headaches. 

I could just delete tasks once 'done', but I find that keeping track of completed tasks weekly helps me to see how much I can realistically achieve within certain timeframes. This is particularly important to planning out my work schedule and job quoting.

And last, but not least, and not an app....

Plan Old Fashioned Journals

I still love my journals. The brown one is for scribbling down random ideas, brainstorming, poems, doodling.. just anything. Some of that ends up on Trello later. It's a kind of 'wild dreams, goals and imaginings' book. No reality necessary.

The black one is a day-by-day planner. I have two hours screen-free time in the evening, and just before that, I peruse Trello and my calendar for the next day and transfer the relevant stuff to the planner. After that, I have a quick reality check of the day just been, perhaps journal a few thoughts / feelings before bed. In the morning, before I get my day started or turn on my devices, I have another check-in using both books. I might need to shuffle things around to fit the reality of the moment. You know.. the cat needs to see a vet, you woke up with a sore back, it's snowing.. I dunno, just stuff you can't plan for.

I'll often have other informal things in the planner like 'skype Jeremy' or a note about what workout I plan to do that day, or dinner plans. During the day, I tend to offload random thoughts, feelings, reactions, how my energy level is, or what ITP symptoms I have that day. I like to track how things affect me.  I mean, just once or twice, I'm not scribbling my feels all day long. The journal is also good for things that absolutely must be done ASAP. So, if I note we are out of Ascorbic Acid, I'll record 'order more Ascorbic Acid' in my day planner, and get it done within a few hours. Every day there'll be a few little things like that which 'just came up' and needed to be dealt with. So I just write them down and cross them off once complete.

I hope some ideas here are helpful to you. It's impossible to overstate how much timesaving and stress relief has been achieved through using these apps.

What's your system? Any tips on great apps that I need in my life?


Bullet Journal (recommended by one of my friends. I haven't tried it yet)

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Highly recommend you give Brightpod a spin. Best of Basecamp + Trello -


I love to hear from you! Tell me what's in your brain, your heart or your dinner plate :D.