Do you consider yourself organized?
Plenty of successful people aren’t particularly so. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to a more orderly, productive work process.
These seven cheap or free (and virtually all have freemium options, save for number seven) organizational tools can give you a leg up on the workday. Which have you tried on for size already?
- Group Chat Suites
Email is so 2000s. These days, people who need to connect and collaborate fast use group chat suites, like Google Hangouts and Slack. Just make sure you select a suite with intuitive search capabilities — your future self thanks you.
- Calendar Apps (iCal or Google Calendar)
At this point, you’d be downright impressive for resisting the allure of digital calendars. Of course, you’d be foolhardy as well. As famed salesman Zig Ziglar put it: “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days.”
If you haven’t already done so, sync your device’s calendar app with your email suite and share it with folks who need to be in the know, such as your personal assistant and fellow collaborators.
- Spreadsheets (Excel or Google Sheets)
Anyone who’s ever tried to categorize information on a blank word processing document knows that this one’s a no-brainer.
“It sounds boring, and it probably is, but I’m not sure I’d be successful without Google Sheets,” says Manitoba hotelier David Janeson. “I use spreadsheets to organize pretty much everything important I do.”
- Project Management Software
Sometimes, you can’t do it alone. When you’re working with a multi-person team toward a shared goal, you need a robust project management suite that can collate and quantify the vast amounts of raw information and finished work product you’re likely to produce. Bear in mind that the best project management suites are not free — but you can certainly reduce your out-of-pocket costs by rotating through free trials and forestalling upgrades by limiting paid users.
- Time Tracking Tools
How much is your time worth? You won’t know unless you track it.
Some project management suites have built-in time tracking (and invoicing) tools. If you’re not yet using a project management suite, your chosen software doesn’t have a time-tracking option, don’t worry — you can pick up a free, lightweight tracker at your phone’s app store. Even if you don’t need your tracked time to get paid, it’ll come in handy the next time you re-evaluate your work routine.
- Task Management Tools
Is it splitting hairs to differentiate between “project management” and “task management”? Not these days.
Project management tools are designed to manage serious endeavors — projects that involve lots of moving parts and multiple process owners. Task management tools are generally lighter-weight, built for discrete tasks that may or may not add up to something more. Trello, the card-based task management suite, is a great example: perfect for staying on top of processes that include lots of components, but that don’t necessarily require complex goal systems.
- Fitness Trackers
Wait a second — fitness trackers can’t bring order to your disorganized work life or render your valued time more productive.
Or can they? Think of fitness trackers like Fitbit as insurance against excessive opportunity costs. At the end of a busy day, your tracker can tell you whether you’ve moved enough to skip the gym, or whether you need to hop on the bike for half an hour before you make dinner. A virtual assistant can’t match that.
Stay on Top of Your Life
In life and business, organizational tools only get you so far. If you’re serious about maximizing your productivity and avoiding preventable mistakes, you need to implement efficiency-enhancing processes too, both in your personal work routine and your organization’s broader-based regime. Since every individual and business works differently, this is a bit of a different ball game. But it’s no less essential.