How I keep it all together: my favorite online organizational tools

June 22nd, 2011 Posted by Goals, Habits, Live, Uncategorized 14 thoughts on “How I keep it all together: my favorite online organizational tools”

Nothing gets me more frenzied than disorganization. I like things to have a place and things to be in their place. And that desire spreads not only to the toys and clothes and paper and other stuff of life but also organized thoughts, ideas, and daily schedule.

When I first started my gig as a SAHM, I found that without the schedule of a traditional “work” environment, I felt at a loss as to how to schedule my day. Part of that problem was my newborn who seemed to operate on her own ideas of how the day should go, and I was supposed to just guess her next move. But soon I got to be a pretty good guesser, and I worked to create a manageable schedule.

Now, I don’t like holding things in my head. Well, I take that back. My mind is always spinning with things I want to do and stuff I need to get done. But I like to give those things a place to go instead of taking up valuable real estate in my head that I want emptied, so I can watch the latest Toddlers and Tiaras.

Anyway, after much pondering, I dreamed up my ideal scheduling/tracking system. Paper and pen would not do, I needed something computer based that could do the following:

1) I needed an online and desktop application, so I could use the system on any computer.

2) The system also needed to be available on an iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. (Note: I only have an iPod touch in this moment, but I figured somewhere down the line if I was super lucky and the stars aligned, I could get myself an iPhone and/or iPad, so I wanted this system to work on all devices.)

3) I wanted the system to be one of those all-in-one things that could support a calendar, notes, capture screen shots, organize notes into notebooks, and keep running lists.

So, I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you use Outlook. No. I like the look and feel of the web-based gmail, so I was unwilling to switch to Outlook. Plus, I needed my Outlook for another reason (which will be revealed later this summer). So, no, not Outlook. I tried Microsoft OneNote. I liked the look and feel, but it lacked a calendaring system that, to me, is absolutely critical. I spent hours and hours trying to find the perfect calendaring/to-do/note taking system. I came close with Awesome Note, but it lacked a desktop or web-based feature.

After lamenting my inability to find exactly what I wanted in one system and after Dan refused to make me said system, I finally had to give up on my dream for an all-in-one online thought organizational system. Instead, I spent some time cobbling together what was available into a workable arrangement.

So, I thought I would share my system for keeping track of all the stuff in my head. Behold, my two weapons of choice: Evernote and Google calendar.

I am sure you just slammed your head into the keyboard because you thought I was going to say something groundbreaking. Sorry, I wish. Instead, all I can offer is a glimpse into my workable, albeit limited online thought organizing solution.

First, Evernote. Oh, I love Evernote. It meets several criteria. First, it is web-based, features an iPod app, and offers a download to your desktop. So versatile! That is crucial to my happiness. I want to be able to access my notes from just about anywhere. So, what notes, you ask? Evernote allows you to make as many notebooks as you want. So, I have a notebook for my meal plans (where I keep my grocery list and meal agenda for the week), a notebook for my blogging ideas, a notebook for recipes I find, a notebook for my Vienna Moms stuff, a notebook for my new, exciting work stuff to be revealed later this summer. This works great. Instead of keeping several different paper notebooks, I keep all my notes in one place. Evernote also does lots of other useful stuff like allow you to share a note via Facebook, Twitter, or email, and you can also clip webpages to Evernote.

At first, as a real notebook paper gal, I was not sure I would like the idea of paper-less notes kept all in one place. I was the type of girl who had a subject notebook for each of her classes in high school. I liked my stuff separated into distinct places. But, I was finding a paper notebook system too cumbersome. Plus, I had nowhere to keep all these notebooks and more often than not, Kate ended up ripping pages out. So, now I use Evernote for everything, and I could not be happier.

Okay, now to the calendaring. I was a lite Google Calendar using girl when I first got gmail. I thought it was…okay. I did not like how I had to create different calendars for different types of things. You know how you can categorize events in Outlook with different colors but everything is on the same calendar? I wanted Google Calendar to do that. But, rather than argue with the facts of Google Calendar, I just had to give in and use it as directed. So, I made a calendar for my personal stuff (doctor appointments, Kate’s doctor appointments, family stuff, friend’s parties), another calendar for my Vienna Moms events, and another calendar for blog postings. So, when I have an event, I just add it to its appropriate calendar. It was hard to manage at first, but now that I am used to it, it functions much like Outlook for me. I also integrate the use of Google Tasks into the calendar to serve as my To Do list. So far, so good. And much better than my previous Post-It system since Kate can’t remove these tasks from my desk and eat them.

So, that is my system. A combination of Evernote and Google Calendar keeps my thoughts organized. Neither are super sexy, but they get the job done. Hopefully one day that all-in-one system I want so desperately will become available, but, in the meantime, I get along pretty well using these two tools.

How about you? What online tools do you use to stay organized?

  • Guest

    Hi Sarah! (with an H 🙂
    I got to your blog today via Jane’s post on The Borrowed Abode.
    You wrote that you don’t like to keep stuff in your head, and I wonder if you know about the GTD system? This sentiment is what the system is mainly about. You should check it out (google “Getting Things Done David Allen”). It could help you get more juice out of your tools. (GTD is a methodology rather than an actual software system, and it’s not tool specific)

    Anyway, I think you might get something out of it. 🙂

    • Hello! Thanks for coming by, and I appreciate you reading 🙂 I have heard about the GTD system, but I have not explored it much. However, I have been meaning to look into it, and you inspired me to action! Thanks!

  • Hey Sarah! I got Evernote on my phone a while back, but I’ve never actually used it. I think I’m going to give it a try and see if it helps me out. I’m not too sure about google calenders though… I’ve always been a planner kind of girl (something about writing stuff down). I know it would be much easier, but I’m not sure if I’m erady to let go of that one!

    • I love love love Evernote. I have tried out a couple different types of online notetaking programs, and I love Evernote the most. I hope it works for you! I totally hear you on the planner. But with Kate and Belle, I cannot keep a paper planner lest it end up destroyed 😉

  • Jen on the Edge

    Okay, it’s funny that I’m reading this now (because Jane linked to it on her blog) because as you know, I commented earlier today on Twitter that I’d been organizing my life on my Google Calendar. I track my family’s schedule, my work schedule, my tasks, and even my blogging plans on Google Calender. LOVE it.

  • I love your system! I’m afraid I would spend too much time at the computer if everything was on there though. However, the Google calendar is sooo pretty!

    • Thanks! It is true, with most everything on the computer, I spend a lot of time organizing my thoughts on the computer. But, it works for me for now. I am always trying to perfect my system!

  • Laura

    Visiting from Blue-Eyed Bride! I actually just downloaded Evernote to my iPod thanks to your post. I’ve got a paper system right now, but like you I one day aspire to have an iphone haha and maybe then I can be all digital!

    • Thanks for stopping by – and I hope you love Evernote! I find it the easiest way to keep track of recipes, ideas, craft project, blog topics, etc… Let me know if you like it!

  • Catherine Parks

    Your system is GREAT for me!! I discovered Evernote yesterday thanks to you and BlueEyedBride’s link up! I can’t get enough. Thanks for sharing!! I am a huge fan of gmail cal as well.

    • Oh I am so so glad you like Evernote. It has done wonders for me. I hope it continues to be a good help to you.

  • Right. I shall go try it now. I am a huge Google cal fan, so maybe adding evernote will be that magic piece that gets me organized!

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