I hear from people all the time about how they want to use technology to be more organized. You want to know which software to use to track day-to-day life through email, calendar, contacts, tasks and notes…among others, but these are the top 5. You’ve tried and tossed in the towel because it’s just too cumbersome… and sometimes you keep trying and before you know it you’re spending so much time trying to create the system you forgot the purpose of creating it in the first place. You want a system rooted in technology but keep reverting back to paper.
Here are the three keys to creating a system that works. My three-pronged approach may seem quite obvious on the surface. However, when I work with clients who are struggling with their system they’re always missing one of these key components. The ideal digital organization system requires software solutions for your desktop, the internet, and a mobile device.
Desktop software on a laptop or desktop computer will allow you to store, retrieve and work with information quickly (generally speaking, netbooks don’t currently provide enough processing power) and without access to the internet.
Recommended Solution: Microsoft Outlook (yes, currently only for PC users but Microsoft is releasing MS Outlook 2010 for the Mac) or Apple Mail for Mac; Evernote Desktop for Notes
Internet solutions or Software as a service (SaaS) will allow you to access your information if you don’t have access to your desktop in an emergency or if you are a frequent traveler.
Recommended Solution: Google Apps including Gmail (I recommend using IMAP to send and receive email), Calendar and Contacts; Google Sync for synchronization with Outlook; ToodleDo for tasks plus ToodleDo Sync to sync with Outlook or iCal subscription for the Mac; Evernote for Notes
A mobile device is the third prong and often where most systems fall apart. The ideal handheld mobile device will allow you to quickly and easily capture information. If you’re serious about using technology to keep you organized it’s necessary to invest in a tool that you WILL use to enter information into when you are away from your computer. If you aren’t disciplined enough or hate your device, you simply won’t do it and your system will fall apart.
Recommended Solution: iPhone or iPodTouch using native functionality to sync email, contacts and calendar with Google; ToodleDo App for tasks; Evernote App for Notes. Please Note: The iPodTouch will not allow you full time connectivity, however, it provides the ability for you to enter information when you are on the go.
Finally, if you aren’t willing or are unable to implement this 3-pronged approach, I recommend establishing a hybrid paper/digital information organization system, which can work but requires some discipline…and that’s a topic for another day. As I always say, if your system is working for you then don’t change it. But most likely you’re reading this because you have some questions about how to use technology to manage your day-to-day information. I invite you to ask your questions in the comments section.