Wednesday, 7 September 2011

September's Here and It's Time to Get Yourself ORGANIZED

Labor Day (the holiday Monday that kicks off September here in Canada and in the USA) may not feel a lot like New Years, but under the surface much of the human activity is pretty similar...

People are examining their priorities and making commitments to improving their lives on all levels; the only difference is they're not openly calling these commitments "resolutions", as they will five months from now.  Yet the idea is the same.

And no wonder - the beginning of September is our society's REAL New Year on a fundamental level, more so than the "official" calendar New Year down the road.  By the way, that "official" New Year is quite arbitrary anyway.  In the old Roman Empire, September 1 was the official New Year for centuries.  

Getting Organized

Of all the things the people around you are doing right now so they can "hit the ground running" this week, I think you'll find that taking back control of their time is near the top of the list.  After all, if you can't control your time and use it effectively, it's hard to make progress no matter what direction you're heading in.  

Fortunately, getting organized isn't nearly as hard as it used to be, thanks to a lot of great online tools available today.  In the list below, the tools that have (F) after them are free and the others are so inexpensive they might as well be.  Here are some of my favorites:

EVERNOTE (F): Evernote is a a fabulous tool whose logo is, appropriately, an elephant, because with Evernote you'll never forget anything again.  

My life before Evernote was an endless series of doodles and notes spread across several notebooks and loose pieces of paper... and you can imagine how hard it was to keep track of what information was where - I couldn't.  Enter Evernote and life just got a whole lot easier.  You work online and they securely store your notes so there's no danger of losing your valuable info if your hard drive crashes.  No more sticky notes needed ;-)

Watch a fun intro to Evernote here.

RESCUE TIME (F): How much time do you waste every day?  Wouldn't your life be a lot more painless if you simply worked more efficiently?  Welcome to the world of Rescue Time, a free online tool that monitors how you spend time at your computer and, if you wish, how much time you spend away from it.  The application even sends you a report each week to let you know how much time you've saved.  It's like having an automated supervisor to keep you on track.

E.GG TIMER (F): Whenever you sit down to work on something at your computer, you either allow yourself a specific amount of time or leave it open ended.  Setting a time limit is one of the secrets of personal effectiveness and E.GGTIMER helps you do that by providing an online countdown for you.  Get in the habit of setting a time limit and you'll be FAR more efficient.  

TIME TRADE: Formerly known as Time Driver, TT is an online appointment software that's a real lifesaver to anyone whose life is full of meetings, appointments, etc.  Instead of the endless back-and-forth of using email to agree on a time to meet, Time Trade lets you decide when you could be available and then send the other person a link to your Time Trade calendar displaying those available times.  They simply click the one they prefer and voila!  Lots of time and mental energy saved!

CALENDAR QUICK: Calendar Quick bills itself as your source for printable online calendars.  Face it, most of us need VISUAL calendars to wrap our heads around the coming week or month.  For me, Google Calendar just wasn't good enough at that.  Don't get me wrong; Google Calendar has its advantages, but I found its visual display far too limiting for keeping track of everything in my life.  

Calendar Quick allows me to build calendars for any date range I want and then print them as a pdf or as an Excel spreadsheet.  These printed calendars are a huge organizational help to me just because they give me the visuals I need.  Calendar Quick also has an online monthly schedule you can use - it can import directly from your Google Calendar and then incorporate that data into any calendar you create, download and print.  

MIND42 (F) (think "Mind For Two") is an online application that lets you and a friend work collaboratively to brainstorm and draw a mind map of your ideas.  Or you can use it for just yourself.  For those of us who need mind maps and can't think effectively with just text or bullet points (and that's most people), Mind42 is a great tool.

GOOGLE DOCS (F): Google Docs allows you to create virtually any kind of office document you need - text, spreadsheet, drawing, visual presentation (think "PowerPoint") and then save them online so you can access them from anywhere and share them in real time.  You can also upload your existing documents to give yourself access to them while you're away from your computer, out of the office or just so you have a back-up in case your hard drive crashes or gets fried in the next thunder storm.  

Before this kind of online storage and sharing, my life was an endless effort to make sure to send myself by email all the documents I would need to work with that day (since I'm in several different locations during the week).  Now I don't have to think about that anymore.  Result?  More time and mental energy saved!

You can access videos about Google Docs here.

There's Lots More

The list above is just the tip of the iceberg.  For an excellent list of the best free online tools to help you out with just about everything, go here

Of Course, the Tools Only Help If...

...if you already know how to schedule and control your time effectively.  And that's a true art, yet one that's not too difficult to master.  So next time on the blog we'll discuss exactly how to do that.  Watch for it!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 

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