15 January 2014

On being organised

Pretty organised; I'm sure that's how many would describe me. Sometimes it can feel more like I'm flying by the seat of my pants. But I know this isn't really true; any level of disorganisation simply becomes amplified until I've convinced myself that everything is in disarray. Truth is, yes, I am pretty organised.

Here I shall list and describe five tools I use — and thus, recommend — for organising my life, hobbies, job and blog. And the majority of these tools are freeeeeeee.

1. GOOGLE CALENDAR. life | work | blog | £: free
I'm definitely coming to the party late here, I know. But I have finally started using Google calendar to keep track of my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly events, including syncing it with my Android mobile. The whole she-bang. I use a lot of other Google based services so it really is a wonder I never used this before. The only downside is that I can't 'sync' it with my work calendar (because my work are bonkers and use IBM Lotus Notus). Meaning I have to add any work related events/reminders manually. Boo.

Colour coding is clearly a thing I like to do. Each entry has a colour which corresponds to the different calendar categories, including blog, work and birthdays. This means I can think about my plans, goals, to-do's, etc. for each of those even if I'm not actually sat down doing them e.g. on the bus. There are handy little reminders on my mobile and MacBook too. I do supplement this with a pocket-size physical diary but find I am writing in that less and less.

2. EVERNOTE. life | work | blog | £: free
I was one of those people that just didn't get Evernote; why you would use it and what for. For some people this goes as far as 'Why wouldn't you just create a series of Word documents.' a) No, and b) Just no.

My first flirtation with Evernote left me feeling rather cold. But I really wanted to like it so turned to the internet for inspiration, read a series of articles on it and decided I'd give it another go. The result? I love it. It is a 'cloud' based application which you can access via desktop software and mobile apps (look how pretty it is!), as well via the web version. I want to stress if you're unsure, you should just have a play with it and persevere.

So yes, Evernote might just be my new favourite e-toy. It does just about everything I want. For example, this blog post first existed in Evernote, one Friday lunchtime at work when inspiration struck. I can even use it to create and add events to my Google calendar (I do this via Event Noted. but have since discovered you can do this using IFTTT, mentioned further down this post.) For any O2 customers in the UK, you can get a year's free Evernote Premium which includes offline notebooks; an increase in the upload and note size; and the ability to share notes and allow others to edit, amongst other things.

Still not convinced of it's worth? I concede, it may not be for everyone but if you're open to the possibility, please see the links below for a whole series of articles on what's so great about Evernote as well as how to use it for blogging.

I've Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here's why it's actually amazing. | What's All the Fuss About Evernote? Should I Be Using It?

Using Evernote for blogging10 Tips To Better Productivity With EvernoteHow to user Evernote as a blogger | How Evernote Has Made Me a More Productive Blogger | 6 Benefits of Evernote for Bloggers

3. IFTTT. life | blog | £: free
Now this one, I totally 'got' but until recently, never completed on my mission to use it. Mainly because I was scared of its power! So, what is it? IFTTT — pronounced like 'gift' without the 'g' — stands for If This Then That. Quite simply: if x happens, then do yIFTTT.com allows you to create (or use already created) 'recipes' to connect your different web applications and set certain actions to trigger automatically.

For example, if you want every single photo you put on Instagram to be uploaded to your Flickr account, you would create an IFTTT recipe to do this automatically, each and every time you uploaded a photo to Instagram. If that recipe doesn't take your fancy, there are nearly 80 channels (several I've never heard of) and a plethora of recipes to choose from!

Initially, my main concern with IFTTT was just how much control I would have over recipes once I'd turned them on. What if I accidentally triggered a recipe?! So, I opted to experiment with the above recipe first as I was doing this manually anyway. I am happy to report, it seems to work well.

iPhone users can trigger a recipe by adding photos to a specific folder within iOS Photos or creating an iOS Reminder. Now, you can even trigger recipes based on entering or leaving a specific location, or both!

I do hope it doesn't sound complicated because it really isn't. If it does, please blame my explanation and simply visit the website at IFTTT.com.

4. OUT OF MILK. life | £: free
Another cloud based application which allows you to organise your shopping. I hear you; shopping isn't difficult?! You're right, it's not. But this app has some very handy functions. For example, ever find yourself at the supermarket, perhaps on the way home, wondering whether you have a jar of cumin in the cupboard for the chilli you wanted to make, or any baking powder left for the cake you were planning to bake? Well, with this app, you can create Pantry Lists that allow you to keep track of your baking supplies, spice rack and other essentials. You can specify quantity and expiration date, as well price. And when you run out of said supply? Just copy it to your current Shopping List.

You can populate your Shopping List using a barcode scanner or voice recognition, both of which work very well. It will remember items you have previously entered, suggest items as you type, let you calculate the cost of your shop (with the option to include tax), and all this will be synced across the mobile app and the website: outofmilk.com.

There is a lot of other functionality that I am yet to try including the ability to import, export, sort, search and share lists! For a big household, sharing can be pretty handy. All that remains is for it to connect with major supermarkets e.g. Tesco, for the times I order my shopping online.

5. PAPER. hobbies | £4.99
Since my other organisational tools are electronically-orientated, I seem to have less time, and need, for paper. But I do still love stationery. I'd heard of German stationers Leuchtturm1917 before but a post by Josie of The Finch's Beak reignited my interest. Like her, Moleskine had been part of, if not monopolising, my organisational arsenal for years but I wanted a change. Whilst I'd already purchased my Moleskine diary for 2014, I still needed to get a notebook for sewing. After perusing their selection, I settled on the medium squared paper Jottbook in turquoise.

The squared paper is a by-product of using lab books filled with squared paper for my calculations, sketches, postulations, etc. for the last decade. And I like it. I already have Moleskine's A4 and A5 hard cover squared paper notebooks, that do a great job but are quite heavy to lug around and also, a touch expensive.

Not wanting to carry around, and probably lose an appropriate pen, I opted for a Bobino Slim Pen which adheres to the inside cover of your notebook, also in turquoise (colour matching/complementing is a thing I like to do too).

Which tools do you use to organise your life? Any organisational tips you have to share?



  1. I am a big fan of Google Calendar. My husband and I share one which has eliminated us getting double-booked at weekends and I always know when he's working late--unless he forget to update it--and I also use it for loosely scheduling blog posts. I put loads of notes in the event details for each blog post so that I don't forget things.

    I have also taken to adding notes about people's children in their contact details on my phone. Birth dates, what toys they're into, and so forth...very handy when birthdays roll round.

    1. Oh sharing a calendar is really good for organising a household. And yup, it is good for blog posting.

      That's a good idea! In that sense, I am fortunate that I don't know too many people with children - I don't fancy having to remember all that kind of stuff!

  2. This post really appeals to the organised phase I am trying to go through at the moment! I have been a bit sceptical about this sort of thing - "what's wrong with pen and paper?!" is my usual response to any attempts my Dad makes at showing me online gadgety things to make notes on etc - but you're persuading me to give them a go :)
    Also, I wanted to thank you for your really lovely and insightful comments on my posts recently. I really do appreciate the time you take to share your words and thoughts with me - really thank you xxxxx

    1. I'm glad to know this post has been useful in some way! :)

      Oh, no, thank you! You're very welcome. I really enjoy your blog and each of your posts. Thank you for sharing and for stopping by here to comment.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this! I am a big fan of being organized and I use ALL THE TOOLS available... Google Reader, Evernote, IFTT, paper planners... you name it :)

    I've already loved Evernote, but your links have provided some extra tips on how to use it. thank you.

    1. Oh no problem! I'm glad you found it helpful. :)

  4. I *love* Google Calendar! Such a great tool and we do the same as Angela, both me and the other half share our calendar so we can each see what we're up to. It's also a great tool for saying to the other half, "well, there's no excuse, it was on the calendar..." :-) x

    1. It does sound like a great way to stay up to date with one another's activities! I suppose I'll just have to get a boyfriend/husband to try out this out. ;)