9 organizational tools to improve your productivity and support your resolutions.

I’m writing this on the first of January. Visions of self-improvement and positive change are dancing in my head. Right now, it seems we’re all setting new goals, making new promises to ourselves, devising new plans of action – in short making New Year’s Resolutions, though some of us avoid using that term. Even if we reject the cultural zeitgeist, January’s dark and closed-in nature lends itself to consideration of entirely new ideas, and recommitment to ideals we’ve held for decades.

I prefer to set goals at other times – around my birthday, for example, or when the seasons change. Still, I am not immune to the vibes of this wildly optimistic month. I’ve been busy fussing over my projects and planning my upcoming year.

Instead of writing about what I intend to do this year, I thought I’d round up a collection of tools suited to supporting resolutions. I’ve tried them all, and I still use some regularly. A couple of them are my own design, but most are winnowed from years of searching through dozens of self-improvement resources. 

The truth is, I’ve never been good at sticking to a schedule or coping with repetitive tasks. I accept the fact that consistency will always be a challenge for me, thanks to my paranormal nature and choices. I’ve made peace with that.

proud to be paranormal badge

NAVIGATING MY PARANORMAL LIFE:
FINESSING BIPOLARITY. WRITING HORROR. CHASING GHOSTS.

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If you read my blog, it’s likely you’re paranormal too. (Some of you have a more than average appetite for the macabre. Some of you do battle with mood and/or health issues. Some of you are deliberately forging a unique path toward an unusual lifestyle. Almost all of you are writers. ‘Nough said?)

If these tools worked for me, they are probably well suited to you. May you find something here that helps you create your best year yet.

General organization – especially routine & accountability:

FlyLady.com:

An involved but effective system for putting your home and domestic life in order. It has a charming, gentle start path that you should follow religiously. Lots of solid organizational info. Concentrates on making repetitive tasks (cooking, cleaning, organizing) easier to handle. Use this to figure out all the stuff your parents should have taught you.

franny in the pink sweatpantsFrom the creator: “Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) like Franny in the pink sweats? Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry friend, we’ve been there, too.”

Joe’s Goals:

I prefer a paper to-do list, but this program is a wonderfully customizable way to stay on track with daily tasks. It would work well in conjunction with the FlyLady principles. There is something very satisfying about seeing a column of green dots when you come to the end of a long day. I’d be interested to know what the interface looks and feels like on an Android phone.

Joe's Goals Banner

From the developer: “Joe’s Goals is a simple yet powerful tool to make tracking your goals the easiest part of accomplishing them. Use the simple single page interface to setup daily goals and track them with just a click. Watch your daily score to gage your success and use negative goals (or vices) to confront and overcome bad habits that finally need to get the boot. Share your success with your friends and family or post your personal score badge to your blog or MySpace page. Add as many Goals as you want and update them all from a single interface.”

Keeping Score:

This is a project I created a long time ago, which I am now dragging back into the light. It’s mostly about the process of figuring out what you could be, and should be, doing on a daily basis. In the end it becomes a daily to-do list with a twist … something that could be tracked on a program like Joe’s Goals. In it’s original (and, I think, most effective) form it is done on paper.

Oh. Go to the office supplystore and buy yourself a spindle.

Paper & a spindle.

From the author: “A Keeping Score tally is a paper list of potential tasks that you need — or like — to do. This list is first carefully designed to suit your life, then duplicated in bulk so that you may use a fresh tally to track your accomplishments every day. Creating a personalized tally requires some time and effort. Keeping a tally once it has been designed, on the other hand, is easily accomplished in just a couple of minutes each day.”

Project management – especially organization and productivity:

Getting Things Done by David Allen:

If you feel like your projects are out of control, and you haven’t yet read this classic, then get to it. Plunging into the program is a bit intimidating, but David Allen’s methods work. If you have read it, and experienced some success but then got lazy, read it again. It’s less overwhelming the second time through, once you realize this is a project management system and not a way to keep track of simple life tasks.

getting thigs done

From the author: “This groundbreaking work-life management system transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.”

Todoist:

Todoist is great for managing projects that have multiple concrete steps which can be definatively finished. (Joe’s Goals is better for ongoing, repetitive tasks.) I believe it plays nicely with google products like Google Calendar and Gmail. I used the free version of Todoist, but considered upgrading to enjoy the fancier bells and whistles that a paid account provides. I’ve since converted to a simple 101 things in 1001 days list, and WriMoProg … because almost all my projects are about writing these days.

todoist

From the developers: “Conquer complexity. Manage projects of any complexity by creating nested-tasks, adding deadlines, assigning priorities, and using color-coding. Todoist features everything you need and nothing you don’t.”

Especially for writers:

WriMoProg:

This is my own writing progress management system. Even if you don’t actively participate in the challenge, I encourage you to read the section called ‘Setting Your Monthly Goals’ before you plan another chunk of your writing schedule. The information there may help you better decide how much of your time you want to dedicate to developing a writing career.

wrimoprog 600 X 325

In the wake of National Novel Writer’s Month in November, I revised some of the information at WriMoProg so that it more closely aligns with what I experienced as I fought to get through 50,000 words.

From the developer: “The Writer’s Monthly Progress Challenge is about feeling accountable AND receiving encouragement & credit for all of our work. (Much of which, let’s face it, is invisible to our non-writer loved ones.) It is not about giving us one more thing to do that gets in the way of the actual writing. After the initial set-up, WriMoProg should take a few minutes a week.”

Write or Die:

I’m not sure I would have beaten NaNoWriMo if it hadn’t been for this app. I purchased the desktop version a few months ago and I love it. It does have some glitches, but I quickly learned how to avoid stressing the program. I guess I work better under pressure. Try it out HERE, with the free web app version.

write or die screen shot

From the developer: “Write or Die is a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences.” READ MORE HERE.

Critique Circle Online Writing Workshop:

Critique Circle is a wonderful resource for writers who are ready to submit their fiction to review by other writers. In order to participate in the group, you must sign up for a free account. The free account works very well if you are working primarily with short stories. Effective management of a novel, as it goes through the review process, is much easier with a paid membership. I am not currently active there, because I spent too much time critiquing and not enough time writing.

critique circle

From the developers: “Membership to the Critique Circle is free and we welcome everyone interested in using an online forum to improve their writing skills while helping others improve theirs. Critique Circle is open to all genres, including science-fiction, fantasy, romance, children’s novels, horror and suspense. Members submit their stories to the story queue, and pay credits to do so. Only a certain number of stories will be displayed each week (more on this later), so you may have to wait a week or two for yours to come up, depending on how much queue activity there is. When a story comes up for critique, other members can read it and submit their critiques to the author, thus earning credits.”

And, finally, get your free wordcount meter. It looks like this:

To get this no-membership-required manuscript meter from Critique Circle, just go HERE. After you install the meter, simply clicking on it will lead you to the place where you update your word count.

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18 Comments on “9 organizational tools to improve your productivity and support your resolutions.”

  1. Write Or Die sounds interesting. And a little intimidating.

    • Oh, try it! I thought it made things more fun and it REALLY forced me to not edit as I go. Turns out that’s smart – because I learned a lot about where the story was going, fast. You don’t have to use kamikaze mode … I usually just went with the red-screen and unpleasant sound penalty.

  2. Off to clean the top of our “mail table!” May the force be with me, lol.

  3. Hunter Shea says:

    Wow, you are an organizational queen! I have to say, I keep things organized in my head pretty well, but the older I get, the harder it is to track everything. I might need to jump on board with some of these. :) Hope you have a happy and healthy new year!

    • I had to train myself up from completely useless. Thank God for self-help books and aids. (The Food Channel – especially Alton Brown and Giada – taught me to cook.)

      I’m betting you’d love Getting Things Done. You seem to have an awful lot of projects (books, conferences, etc.) to manage lately!

  4. Great list! I can handle Flylady when I’m off for the summer, but she just doesn’t work for me during my work year. Does the David Allen book work with things like blogging or other ongoing projects or just with projects that have an actual end to them?

    I ADORE Write or Die!

    • Another FlyLady veteran! I’m not sure it’s necessary to do FlyLady forever … just until you internalize some of the main concepts. I still try to do a daily sweep of the hignpoints, and I’d like to get better about putting my rooms/spaces on a monthly deep-cleaning rotation.

      I believe GTD tries to deal with ongoing things, but I don’t like the way it works for that. I’ve never found a GREAT system for that kind of thing. That’s why, I think, I’m working with / developing the Writer’s Monthly Progress idea … it’s flexible and simple. It’s a bit challenging to think about writing in terms of hours rather than pages / projects, but it makes me focus on PROGRESS which is what I need when it comes to writing.

      Do you have the desktop version of WorD?

  5. Heather says:

    I have nominated you for the “One Lovely Blog Award” http://witchsweb.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/one-lovely-blog-award/

  6. Oh I love your list ~ so glad I found you through Rambling of a Hedge Witch!

  7. L. Palmer says:

    Organization often feels over-rated, and yet there’s something about having everything lined up and ready to go. It makes it feel more accomplishable.

  8. mistylayne says:

    Excellent, excellent list! I have problems managing my time so this looks like it’ll be extremely helpful! Thanks. :)

  9. Jimmy Wills says:

    Thanks for this wonderful list. I think you should also include Proofhub in your list. Very effective organizational tool to improve productivity. Check out.

    • Thanks, Jimmy. I peeked at Proofhub and can see that it’s interesting. It looks like it’s designed for teams, though, and I’m something of a lone wolf :D

      For anyone that IS interested in a collaborative project management program, have a look at it. It has a 30 day free trial, after which it costs something like $15 per month, or more.


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