Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 3)

No technology or organizational tool is perfect, and no tool on it’s own will make much of a difference.  But when you learn to leverage tools properly, and stick with them over time, they can really help you stay organized and get stuff done.  So far, I’ve talked to you about Evernote and Things.

The third tool I use to stay organized is Dropbox.

Dropbox is a simple file-sharing service that I use to backup and sync all of my documents and files. Instead of keeping files in the default documents folder, I put everything in the Dropbox folder, which is automatically synced with the cloud. Dropbox keeps all of my documents and files organized.

Here’s how I use Dropbox.

  1. I pay for an extra 50 Gigs of storage so I literally have every file saved and synced on Dropbox.
  2. If I need to share a file, I simply stick it in the public folder, right click on it, get a public link and send that link to the appropriate person.  File sharing is super easy with Dropbox.
  3. I can access all of my files on my IOS devices or any other computer.
  4. Dropbox works like a backup as well. I still back up my entire computer using Time Machine and a portable hard drive that’s kept in a fireproof safe.  But knowing my important files are synced is nice.
  5. Dropbox is so much nicer than Google Docs because it lets me keep my folders organized the way I want to organize them, and I’m not limited by file type or formatting issues.

Are you a Dropbox user?

Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 2)

This week, I’m sharing a little bit about the tools I use to stay organized.  Yesterday, I talked about Evernote.  The second tool in my organizational tool belt is a task manager called THINGS.

I use Things to manage tasks. This is important, because I don’t believe action steps should stay in your head. A bunch of stuff in your head that you’re forced to remember is mind-clutter. And worse, when you remember it, you’re probably supposed to be thinking or working on something else.

  1. When I think of a new task, I put it in the Inbox.
  2. If I get an email task, I create a new task in Things and assign it a deadline.  I do not keep tasks in my email Inbox.
  3. I have about 50 tasks in THINGS – about 30 of them are due in the next month, 5-10 are for the next 24 hour period and several are just future things that could do.
  4. I schedule RECURRING tasks. This is important to creating an action rhythm and keeps you doing the most important things on time. Think about it…much of what you do (or should) do is repeating. For me, “Read Bible” and “Exercise” is a recurring daily task. It pops up every day and I check it off. “Tag stuff collected in Evernote” is a recurring weekly task, so it appears every Friday and I check it off. “Spray house for bugs” is a recurring monthly task, so it appears once a month and I check it off. “Check credit report” is a recurring annual task, so it appears once a year and I check it off. Here are some of my other recurring tasks: schedule blog posts, review website, pay affiliates, blog spam twitter followers, look at spending plan, schedule dentist appointment, and create school awards for kids.
  5. Things keeps my tasks in sync between my phone and computer, so if I’m out and about and add a task on my phone, it can sync with my computer.
  6. The key to using a task management program is to assign a deadline to action steps, even if it’s a self-imposed deadline. Tasks without deadlines are somewhat silly. If it’s important enough to do, it’s important enough to do on time.

Things is a Mac program, but there are a ton of other task management solutions.  You might check out Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, or Action Method.  Like most things, there’s no perfect solution.  It’s a waste of time to constantly search for the perfect tool or switch from one thing to another.  Just find something that works, and use it daily.

How to Get More Done in Less Time

I’m not a Getting Things Done guru or an organizational genius, but over the years I’ve learned three important principles about to get things done.

  1. Prioritize. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln once remarked “one war at a time.” You’re not going to be able to accomplish everything, so you must decide what can wait. Everything isn’t important.
  2. Write it down. I use Things to record all of my tasks, never keeping tasks in my email inbox. I capture every to do in my Things INBOX, move important things to the TODAY folder and capture future, unplanned stuff in the SOMEDAY folder. I’ve found that when I write things down, it has a much better change of getting done.
  3. Plan your week then plan your day. On Sunday night or Monday morning, I take a look at the whole week. I plan the week before I plan the day. Looking at the big picture helps me not get sucked into the whole picture. Sometimes, I give each week a theme. For example, this week is about “content” because I have 3 significant content projects that need to be finished.

What system do you use for getting stuff done?

How Recurring Tasks Keep You Organized

If you do something more than once, it’s time to create a system around it. That’s true when it comes to following up with guests, writing sermons, leading a team meeting. It’s also true for your daily task management.

Many of my tasks reoccur on a regular basis, so I use my Task Management software (Things, from Cultured Code) to create a scheduled task. These tasks automatically show up on my “Today” list according to their due date. When I check them off, they go away, until they automatically reappear at the next interval.

Here’s a screen shot of my repeating task tab in Things.

You’ll notice that I plan and schedule the things that are important.

  • There’s one task I do daily: Read the Bible (and pray)
  • There are some tasks I do weekly: Review our website and tag stuff I clipped into my Evernote inbox.
  • There are some tasks I do every month: Write in a journal to the kids, review Evernote clippings, spay my house for bugs, look at household spending, etc.
  • I also have some annual tasks:  Go to the doctor and request my credit report.
Think through all the things you do on a regular basis, and if they are important, make them automatic.