9 organizational tools to improve your productivity and support your resolutions.Posted: January 2, 2013
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.
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:
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.
From 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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
From the author: “This groundbreaking work-life management system transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.”
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.