We’re all busy. The last two weeks have been killer for me. With the kids coming off Spring Break, dogsitting, and our babysitter out for two weeks, my wife and I are struggling just to catch up. When things get this chaotic, ideas and plans can get lost in the shuffle. I know that if I don’t catch a blog topic idea or a note for a product I’m reviewing when I think of it, I’ll lose it. Of course, I don’t have my notepad and pen with me at all times, but I do have my phone with me, always. So I figured I would share some of my favorite websites and apps that help me stay organized.
Several years ago I read Getting Things Done. This highly influential book with a cultish following has helped numerous people organize their lives. When I first tried to implement the system in my life, I had trouble keeping track of all the paper pieces of information. Additionally I prefer to work digitally, so I just couldn’t fully embrace the method. About a year ago I read an article on The Secret Weapon, and I knew I had found the missing piece for me. The Secret Weapon combines Getting Things Done and Evernote into a digital organizational system where every piece of information can be accessed with a quick search. I was already using Evernote and had already read Getting Things Done (which I still highly recommend), so The Secret Weapon was extremely easy for me to get up and running. Even if you think you don’t have time to set this up, the amount of time and free brain space you gain on the other side makes it all worth it.
Most of my life flows through Evernote at some point. This includes my news and blog reading. However, in this process Evernote is not the tool, just the repository. Here’s how the process flows. In the morning I check feedly which contains all the blogs and newsfeeds that I like to read. If I see a headline or an article that interests me, I save it which automatically forwards the article to Pocket. Pocket then downloads the article allowing me to read it any time I want, with or without an internet connection. After reading the article, if I decide I want to keep it, I save it in Evernote from Pocket and tag it appropriately. You think this seems cumbersome, but everything is pretty automated. I use this for recipes, my Weekend Reading posts, articles I find interesting or anything about blogging that I would want to use in the future. You might be asking yourself, “Why go through those steps and not just save everything to Evernote immediately?” Well, I tried that and found that sometimes there were issues with not getting the full article right in Evernote. Additionally, by filtering everything through Pocket, I only get the things I need in Evernote, which I usually review on a weekly basis, while I read my news and blogs daily. Pocket also integrates well with Buffer, which I use for sharing what I enjoy reading with my followers on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Aside from managing Tailor & Barber, managing home life requires organization too. I have a few apps that I would describe as indispensable at this point for me. AnyList is more than just a grocery list for us. My wife and I use it for groceries, shopping, meal planning, house projects, etc. We have several shared list, and either one of us can add anything thing we want to the appropriate list. So, for example, the next time either of us has to run to the drugstore, we can look at the list and see what’s needed without even wasting time with a phone call or waiting for a text response. As the family cook, cooking for adults and children, I usually have a couple things going at once in the kitchen. Thyme is a five item kitchen timer accounting for four burners and an oven which instantaneously replaces the single timer on your stove top. Thyme is available for iOS and Android. Another incredible app from the Evernote family is Scannable. This has literally replaced my desktop scanner. It’s free, it’s portable, the image quality is better, and the scanned document is immediately saved in Evernote. I can’t tell you how much this app helped during this tax season when our accountant needed something signed and sent back to him.
Of course, even with the best organization, not everything is going to go perfectly all the time. That’s when I rely on meditation with Headspace. I’ve written about my morning routine before and the role meditation plays in that. Among other benefits, meditating daily helps me not let my emotions control me, so that when things do go wrong, I don’t fall to pieces. And then there are the times when things still slip through the cracks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put a kid to bed with only a handful of diapers left and no way to get to the store before running out. That’s where I need Soap.com. The Soap.com group of stores offer next-day shipping (sometimes same-day) on all orders over $49. Two boxes of diapers easily cover that. And their customer service is incredible. Certainly you pay a premium for convenience, but sometimes you need that convenience.
I hope some of these recommendations help you add a little organization to your own life. I absolutely don’t use these tools perfectly, but I cannot imagine how scattered and out-of-control my life would be without them.