5 Apps and Extensions to Stay Organized and Productive


I first considered titling this post “Why I Need A To-Do List To Remind Me To Take A Shower”, but not only is it a bit of a mouthful, I can only begin to imagine the bizarre Google search results that would spur. If we’re being totally honest, though, some days I’ve got so much on my plate that I would forget to take a shower if a reminder weren’t glaring back at me from my illuminated phone screen.

I’m not shy about declaring my love of lists; listing itself is something that is so ingrained in my daily routine that I’m constantly creating to-do lists or checklists to keep myself on track. Sure I may have ornately doodled bulleted reminders to myself in the margins of every scrap of paper I get my hands on, but hey, if it works for you…

Today I’m sharing how I plan my day using lists, and the apps I utilize to make sure that I stay on task and productive. The one thing I’ve discovered in my journey to make the most of my time is that there’s no single, magically great system that works for everyone. It’s different for everyone! It’s the same reason I get so discouraged with paper planners – the setup and organization don’t necessarily fit my needs. These are just some ideas based on how I stay organized; it may not work for you, but hopefully you get some ideas that you can modify to better fit your needs!

Any.do

  • Daily to-do lists
  • Short-term tasks
  • Everyday activities

Part of why I liked the now-paid TeuxDeux so much was that I could have access to an easily editable daily to-do list. Any.do stepped up to the plate and took over that role in a pretty seamless transition (though it did take me a few days of forgetting to turn off the sound when I completed task; a very cute high-pitched voice yells congratulatory things at you, which tends to freak people out when you’re in public. And make me jump). I don’t use the Upcoming/Someday feature much, as I prefer to give tasks some sort of time frame (I find the next app, Wunderlist, better for those sorts of things), but Any.do is my go-to for making a daily to-do list. Shower? Check. Write paper? Check. Stop for cupcakes? Super check.

Wunderlist

  • Project organization
  • Breaking down large projects into smaller tasks
  • Long-term task overview

Wunderlist tends to be more project friendly, or so I’ve found. If I can split a goal or project into multiple parts or need to visualize all of my tasks over a given period of time, the hefty checkboxes and extreme categorization of Wunderlist does the trick. Take a new school term, for instance. Under a heading called “class” (or one separate category for each class, if I’m feeling real wild) I’ll make a list of all of the projects and assignments I have for that term – from papers to lesson plans, exams, even weekly homework assignments. I plug in the due dates if I have them, mainly just to have all of the information there for easy access, but it’s mainly to keep a list of what’s due so I don’t forget anything.

Multiple step projects also benefit from Wunderlist; “decorate the office” doesn’t really have a concrete deadline to make it to my Google Calendar, but definitely isn’t of high enough importance to make it to my to-do list for the next two days. Into Wunderlist you go, decorating dreams!

Google Calendar

  • Long-term planning
  • Visualizing due dates
  • Syncing schedules
  • Remembering where you need to be, and at what time

Sometimes, seeing dates and events on a calendar happens to be the most useful. Just typing in “April 22nd” on a project checklist doesn’t help me squat. Cue Google Calendar. I can visually see upcoming due dates, which really puts my whole month into perspective for me. Coupled with color coding (a calendar for class-related events, including lecture times and meetings; one for my personal calendar, etc.) and Google Calendar is my best friend for planning anything and everything. I don’t put vague tasks on there, like “workout” and issue a concrete time (7-8:00 am – that sounds much too inflexible, and besides, that’s what my Any.do is for!), but long-term events and deadlines are there so I have a constant reminder at the beginning of the week or month.

Evernote

  • Specialized lists (shopping, blog post planning, etc.)
  • Bookmarking information
  • Digital note-keeping

I would be remiss to not mention Evernote when I talk about how I organize the things I reference and use every day. Back when I had first heard about it, I didn’t understand what all of the hubbub was about. Okay, so you can save notes – big deal. My mother actually started preaching the joys of Evernote to me on a fairly regular basis at about this time, so I gave Evernote another chance.

Evernote works wonders for any kind of information you want to hold on to (think Pinterest for non-pictures). I’ve used it to create a digital notebook for the important phone numbers and utility information in our new township; I’ve got a running list of blog post ideas for dry spells; our weekly meal plan is in there; and I’ve even got my shopping list, with pictures and links to all of the closet essentials I’ve been meaning to buy (categorized by type, of course). Evernote: 1 Kristin: owes Evernote an apology.

I recently read that the more stuff you put into Evernote, the more useful it is (as counterintuitive as this sounds at first, I gave it a go and think the sheer amount of stuff I keep in it helps me make the most of it; seriously, try it).

Pocket

  • Bookmarking articles
  • Filtering through Feedly

I don’t always have the time to read every single article that comes through Feedly, especially if they’re long, so Pocket is great for keeping a running tab of things I need to get to for my own reading pleasure.

Pocket can easily become a time trap (you know, the kind where you start off with nice, focused intentions only to emerge 6 hours later with no clear recollection of what you’ve been doing all that time) if you don’t keep it in check. For me, that means bookmarking articles that I want to read for later, but don’t necessarily have to act on (ie. reply to, comment on, etc.), but it’s different for everyone. This is how I go through a lot of informational articles, again, that I just want to read. If the article or link is a potential candidate for a Link Love post, or a post I want to leave a comment on, that happens elsewhere, or else my Pocket gets out of control.

Bonus: Filofax
My Filofax hasn’t been neglected, never you fear. I must admit, I’m not the best at keeping it up to date, nor is it always the sticker-filled, doodled-in, Pinterest-worthy piece of art that some Filofax diehards revel in. But hey, it’s color-coded. And having a physical planner looks much classier at an event than whipping out your phone. Even when said planner is hot pink. With 3D cupcake stickers on it. True story.

How do you stay organized an on-task throughout the day?