Digital life is full of shiny distractions. Yet we must keep moving forward or nothing gets done.
Good luck if you have to deal with something something confusing or complex. Now the aforementioned distractions are even more disrupting.
There are four tools I use consistently to combat this and stay on track every day:
- Evernote – Been using this one for over a decade now to manage notes and tasks in all areas of my work and personal life. Despite over 21,000 notes, the app performs well. It is the sun around which my thoughts and tasks orbit. It is very stabilizing to have one tool to rule them all if you will. I’m not surrounded by post-its or papers or things I could leave at home when I needed them at the office or what have you. Everything important is in one searchable place and that place is Evernote.
- Smartsheet.com – Larger projects which involve dependencies and critical paths warrant a more robust tracking system. The geniuses at Smartsheet have somehow built an “all signal, no noise” app for project managers who are dedicated to getting these more challenging projects completed through maximal collaboration with their teammates. I have implemented this particular system in five separate companies at this point over the last 10+ years. I basically bring it with me and demonstrate it to my new employer or client and when they see it in operation they immediately want to put it to use.
- Mindmeister.com – If you aren’t yet familiar with the concept of mindmapping I recommend checking into it. I find it to be very helpful when pulling apart complex subjects or challenges. A blob of ideas can be quickly organized into relative, hierarchical importances using a kind of parent – child structure. This has gotten me out of more trouble than I care to admit, often before the trouble even has a chance to become trouble.
- Microsoft Whiteboard + Wacom tablet – Sometimes you just gotta draw something out to understand it. If it’s not complicated enough to justify a full mindmap, I’ll open up the free Whiteboard app from Microsoft and just start sketching. I can easily get to it from work or home. If it’s important, I’ll paste it into an Evernote which syncs with all my devices.
These are the core weapons in my arsenal against chaos and confusion. So far they’ve not failed me. I wouldn’t be lost without them, but I would not be able to start, stop and pick up where I left off with tasks as quickly and easily as I do. Lost gear- changing time is money wasted.
They also make it so that I’m basically paperless. Even if I do use some paper, Evernote’s scanning (via camera) feature let’s me digitize it immediately on the fly should I choose (searchable by keyword–even my handwriting!).
It has taken some personal discipline to get to this point administratively, but it has definitely been worth it!
Do you have any favorite digital tools for managing work?