Keeping myself organized has not been my strong-point but I'm getting there, and I wanted to share the tools I use to control the chaos. I always have loads of ideas in my head, and keeping all the thoughts organized is a bit tricky sometimes. It's really important to have some sort of plan and schedule for things, and it's equally important to capture all the ideas and thoughts you might have during the day (you might not be sitting on computer when you get that killer idea!). I've developed a strategy for all this using these free tools:
- One to take the notes whenever they come to mind,
- second to organize those ideas and brainstorm more and
- third to get all those ideas, plans and words out "on paper".
- I use the fourth one to set reminders and todo-lists for myself and
- all this is scheduled to calendar using the fifth one.
Yes, I love Google (and I'm not ashamed to admit it) and all the tools they offer for free, but who can blame me, as the tools they provide are the best out there and they're available anywhere you have a Internet connection. Read on to find out more about these tools..
Evernote could be described as a note taking tool, but after you get used to using it, it's so much more. . There's still room for the good'ol pen and paper (you do carry that moleskine notebook with you, don't you?), but Evernote can be used on your phone, desktop and web and what you "capture" with it is synchronized to all the platforms. Evernote is available as a free service and premium, if you need more serious (e.g. secure) storage for your materials.
Find out more and download Evernote from the official page: http://www.evernote.com
Alternatives for Evernote: Pen and paper, text editor. Google Notebook
I'm sure you're familiar with Mindmaps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map)?
I love'em, I like to get ideas out of my head by doing a brain-dump and put everything that comes to mind to the map and then organize it. I use the same method to save article ideas, article content, long-term plans, business strategy, etc. Pretty much everything can be planned with mindmaps, especially at the early brainstorm-stage when it's important to get all the ideas out uncensored.
And there's a great Open Source mindmap tool to use on any platform (it's Java based, so it'll work on Linux, Mac and Windows). The tool is called Freemind. Forget buying any of the commercial mindmapping tools before you've tried Freemind. Get it, try it and keep track of all the things that bounce up and down in your head otherwise..
Download Freemind from Sourceforge: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Download
Alternatives for Freemind: Pen and paper, many commercial (read: non-free) mindmapping software (e.g. Mindjet MindManager, iMindMap, etc.) , MindMeister (Web Application, Free).
Special alternative: XMind. XMind seems like very strong alternative for Freemind, but I haven't used it yet and can't include it on this list. It seems to combines personal mind mapping with team/collaborative brainstorming, so the concept is appealing to me, but I gotta take a closer look at it before I replace my Freemind usage with this (if I do that is)
3. Google Docs
If you're using GMail for all your mails like you should, you already have a Google Account. This means you can start using Google Docs right away. I use Google Docs to store all my documents, blog post ideas, article drafts, worksheets, statistics, etc. The list could go on and on. Just think of it as supercharged Word/Excel combined into one, with ability to share the documents with anyone to share the workload and you don't even need your own computer for it:
- Mobility: You can write your posts (or anything you want) on any "Net cafe" around the world
- I still recommend carrying your own laptop, but you don't have to, with Google Docs
- Outsourcing: How about getting the articles, posts and market researches you outsource to your virtual assistants straight to the Google Docs? Or how about writing that collaborate article that you're working with another blogger together, seeing the changes other one did straight away?
- Ease of Use: There's everything you need in Google Docs. If you need that eBook just right, you might want to do the final work on a different tool, but getting all the words out there first and then pass it on, great. So no, it's not Word or Excel functionality-wise, but for just getting the text written, it's perfect.
- It's Free. Go check Google Docs out, it's free like most Google Services: http://docs.google.com/
Alternatives for Google Docs: Any text editor + Any spreadsheet program, MS Word, MS Excel
4. Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk is *the* ToDo list tool, task manager and note taking all built into one, multi-platform service. You can use via Web or iPhone/iPod Touch/Blackberry/etc and RtM even integrates with Twitter! You can control your tasks in many ways, organize them to lists, schedule them, get RtM to send you reminders or the whole thing integrates to your GMail and Google Calendar. There are thousand and more good things I could say about Remember the Milk, but I think it's better you check it out yourself..
Find out more and sign-up for the free service: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/
Alternatives for Remember the Milk: Pen and Paper (yeah, tech probably won't reach the usability and efficiency of this method), any text editor and plain text, Todoist, MS Outlook, Toodledo and Jott (voice-to-text).
5. Google Calendar
Google Calendar has been the calendar tool / software to beat since 2006, and for me, there's no better alternative yet and I don't believe there won't be in the near future. It's shareable like most other Google apps, it's very fast and reliable and it's available anywhere, so what more can you wish for?
As recommended in the Problogger.net eBook 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, I'm in the process in creating "editorial calendar" for my blog and Google Calendar is the perfect tool for that too. In short, I use Google Calendar to schedule my blogging and personal life. As GCal is available anywhere and it works nicely with GMail and Remember the Milk, it's a no-brainer for me.
Alternatives for Google Calendar: Rainlendar, Thunderbird with the Lightning calendar extension (but to be honest, who uses desktop mail anymore, apart from the corporations forced to use MS Outlook?), iCal (built-in Mac OS, good alternative if you're a Mac-user as it works smoothly with other Mac apps and there's iPhone/iPod Touch version available which can be synced with iCal).
5 Free Tools to Organize Your Ideas and Blog Posts
- Taking notes, capturing the moment: Evernote
- Mindmapping: Freemind
- Article and Post Writing: Google Docs
- ToDo List and Getting Things Done: Remember the Milk
- Calendar and Scheduling: Google Calendar
What Tools You Use to Organize Your Business and Personal Life?
For many years already, my source for finding out all kinds of cool tools and tips how to use them, has been Lifehacker.com. Their "Hive Five" poll and survey is great collaborative series, gathering the best tools people use and recommend. To get into it yourself and find a tool for pretty much anything you need to get done, check the latest Best of the Best Hive Mind list: Best of the Best: Hive Five Winners, March through June 2009.
What do you think of the list? Leave a comment and share you're tips on "getting organized".