When I was growing up, I was never the most organized kid. It never seemed to affect me much then, because as disorganized as I was I always seemed to miraculously know where to find whatever I was looking for. However, as I got older my habits of being disorganized would prove to be more difficult to handle once I factor in kids, my own place to live, school, and work into the mix. It was abundantly clear that being disorganized was no longer an option I could get away with doing.
But simply deciding to get organized is much easier than actually becoming organized. Fortunately, my decision to organize my life just so happened to be after the rise of smartphones. Slowly but surely, I’ve been finding new ways to keep my life at least somewhat organized, and over the years I have found numerous ways to help me keep life organized and in check.
I think learning how to take notes with my smartphone was one of the first things I picked up on. I was a big fan of handwriting notes before, but I always ended up losing them. Since my phone was one thing I almost always knew the whereabouts of, I decided that this was a better platform for taking notes of any kind.
Most smartphones come with a “Notes” application of some sort installed, but I prefer to go third-party style on this one. I’ve been using Evernote (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry) to keep track of a lot of things: grocery lists, blog ideas, addresses, and pretty much anything I need to quickly jot (or type) down. Evernote is one of those rare applications that is available on every platform, and it syncs to your account no matter where you’re writing from. You can even write down your notes physically and then “scan” them to Evernote with your phone’s camera, so even if you’re old fashioned about taking notes it’s still a great way to store them across any platform you’re using.
Part of being organized is timeliness, and that’s something that smartphones in general have immensely helped me with.
The general alarm app on most smartphones is usually “good enough” to get the job done, but I’ve recently found that there are some apps out there that can really out-do your basic alarm clock function. I’ve found that the Sleep Cycle (iOS and Android) app does great at being an alarm clock, a bedside clock, and an excellent tool for ensuring a good night’s sleep.
As for timers, I find that the stock iOS app is actually not that great. While the stock Clock app is good for setting alarms and working as a stop watch, the timer section of the app only allows one timer to be set at a time. This is not good for somebody like me who needs a lot of timers set. For this, the help of third party apps is once again required. There are a lot of great apps on the app store that work better on the stock iOS timer, but I’ve chosen to go with Timer+ (iOS).
Scheduling is extremely easy to do with your smartphone, given the handy Calendar app that all phones utilize. If you use iOS, Android, or Windows Phone, you can also schedule things by way of your virtual assistant (Siri, Google Now, or Cortana) more quickly.
I have grown to prefer Google Calendar (iOS and Android) for my schedule, which only becomes a problem when I want to use a Windows Phone given that it’s only available for iOS and Android. Not only is it free, but it looks good, can be personalized, and the “Assists” feature (autocompletes commonly scheduled events) really speeds things up for me.
I work from home and do a lot of the housework while I’m here, so apps that help keep me on track when it comes to cooking, cleaning, and general house maintenance is a godsend.
Previously I would enter what days to do certain chores on via the Calendar app, but I’ve since found a handy app that does a pretty good job of scheduling things for me. BrightNest (iOS and Android) is a free app that helps schedule regular house maintenance, and also gives a lot of helpful tips on how to do a better job of keeping your house clean as well.
Getting on top of my finances was probably the biggest hurdle to jump when it came to getting organized, but between bank and budgeting apps I don’t have a late payment problem anymore, mostly thanks to reminder notifications.
Personally I really enjoy using Mint (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry), another application that is available for each platform and the web. It’s a good way to be able to track my budgeting no matter what OS I’m using, and since I tend to switch between them somewhat frequently I wanted to make sure whatever app I used was available across all, or at least most. Still, even if Mint isn’t up your alley there are a ton of both paid and free options to keep track of your own budget.
For the digital aspect of your life, I’ve learned to somewhat embrace “the cloud”. I typically choose a cheaper price tag over a larger amount of storage in phones, and when you use a phone that only utilizes internal storage you quickly find out that skimping on the price of more storage does come back to bite you in the butt if you use your phone a lot. So I started using cloud storage to offload excess data because I am still too stubborn to pay an extra $100 or $200 for extra storage.
Even then, cloud storage provides an easy bridge between contents I can access on my phone and on my computer, so it’s honestly something that I would have been using one way or another anyway. Plus, a lot of cloud storage options offer significant amounts of storage space for free (I have 75GB on Dropbox for free) or just a nominal fee.
With as many apps as we use these days, it can be hard to keep track of all of the different passwords. Even if you typically use just one password for all of your accounts, different companies sometimes require different qualifications for a password. So maybe on one website you use “phonedog” as a password, but another website requires one capital letter, or one number, so you use “Phonedog1” instead.
I’ve found that LastPass (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) is a fantastic app both for smartphones and web for keeping multiple passwords securely. Just one “Master Password” is needed, and then you have access to the rest of your saved passwords. When using LastPass from your phone, you can also enable Touch ID in place of your Master Password for quicker secured access.
There are so many ways that our smartphones can help keep us organized, but these are the things that I pretty much use every day in order to keep my life from falling to shambles. Readers, what are your favorite organizational apps and features that you use on your phone?