October is quickly coming to an end, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, it’s usually one of my busiest months of the year. It’s when I most feel like I’m always rushing from one thing to the next and, unfortunately, this flurry of activity generally makes me feel like I’m losing the plot on my goals.
Fortunately, I’m not in this fight alone. As much as I sometimes rage against the infiltration of technology into every aspect of our lives, I appreciate how much tech has helped me become a more organized and productive person.
Real quick disclaimer: Ever since being introduced to Google products by my younger brother nearly a decade ago, I’ve pretty much sold my soul to the Big G. Google apps figure heavily into this list, so now that’s out of the way, let’s just get into it, shall we? Here are my favorite time management, organization, and productivity tools.
Where would I be without Docs, Google’s answer to Microsoft Word? As a writer–both personally and professionally–having a tool that lets me create and store all my scribblings in one place has been veritably life-changing. Whether I’m on my desktop computer, a Chromebook, or my (Google, natch) smartphone, my files sync effortlessly, so I’m always working with the most recent files, no matter what device I’m using. The best part? Everything I’m working on saves automagically, with archived versions going back the very first keystroke. So when that paragraph you really thought you hated ends up being the most brilliant thing you’ve ever written, not to worry—you can always find it again.
I don’t mind admitting I get a bit anxious thinking about what my life might have been without Google Calendar. This amazing tool helps keep my life ordered and compartmentalized, which simply works for me. I can view each of my color-coded calendars separately or layered together, either drilling down to one aspect of my life or one day or scaling out to look at the bigger picture. Plus, the integration with the other Google tools I use regularly (Keep and Tasks, more on these later) and the ability to sync with my Outlook calendar for work mean I (almost) never miss a thing.
As far as I’m concerned, Google Keep is the ultimate in list-making apps. I use it for everything from managing household shopping lists and travel packing lists to capturing blog post ideas and other thoughts floating around in my head. And, ahem, you can categorize all of your notes. Yas. Another free product from the fine folks at Google, Keep keeps all of the little details that I need to remember out of my brain so I can focus that energy on other, more important things.
Pay my dentist? Check. Confirm my travel arrangements? Check. Order shoes? Check. Check. How do I manage all those day-to-day one-off tasks that just need doin’? Why Google Tasks, of course! Complete with the ability to record task due dates plus a sub-task feature (oooh, task dependencies? Bliss!), Google Tasks is where I get my task check-off Jones satisfied.
Have you met Workflowy yet? Because if you haven’t, I’m about to blow your mind. Workflowy is the ultimate modular, be-whatever-you-need-it-to-be app to keep your life on lockdown. I’ve used it as a note-taker, a task-minder, and a project manager, but perhaps my favorite way to use it is as an plan implementation tool. Because Workflowy creates nested lists, I literally use it to document my personal goals and determine the best way for me to reach those goals, checking off the steps to those goals one at a time. It’s one of the best things, ever.
There are so many project management tools out there, but after trying several applications, I’ve settled on Trello. Although the paid enterprise version of the app is really great for teams, I’ve really enjoyed using it as an individual. Trello helps me organize my work in any way that makes the most sense to me and is an insanely visual way to make sense of the unruly components of any project. I’ve used it to manage blog posts as well as the details of a big move and let me tell you: Trello is EVERYTHING.
Do you follow Tracy Benjamin aka Shutterbean on Instagram yet? If not, you should. Not only are her feed and stories delightful and inspiring, she’s a big proponent of using a timer to get you through those tough tasks. Tracy advocates for setting an intention, setting your timer for 20 minutes, and then powering through whatever it is you’ve been putting off for forever. I’ve adopted this approach and it has transformed my life.
While there are still many days where I slip up and miss an appointment or forget to do something I should have, using each of these tools has helped me keep focus on what matters most. I’m not perfect at this whole life thing yet, and I suspect I’ll never be, but having help to manage my time and my life have been an absolute godsend, and that is a very good thing.