A coworker asked about the notebook that’s always sticking out of my shirt pocket. This led to a discussion of tools for taking notes and storing and retrieving data. I am not an organized person by nature but rely heavily on external tools keep me moving in the right direction. As the conversation with my coworkers wrapped up I decided to send an email to my teammates with the various tools I use to keep track of my life and work, and how I use them. Out of that email came this post. There may be one or two others out there who read this blog and haven’t yet considered these tools, or who have ideas and suggestions of their own. For you I submit this short list and encourage feedback.
At the heart of my organization efforts is Evernote (http://evernote.com). Evernote is a great tool for collecting and organizing information. Notes can be gathered into Notebooks and notebooks can be further gathered into Notebook Stacks. Add tagging to this and what you have a is a great tool for easily storing and retrieving information. Best of all Evernote is free. Sure, there’s a premium service (which I do subscribe to) but most people can get by with the free account. Evernote is available for Win, Mac, iOS, Android and has a web interface as well.
Evernote recently added a feature called Reminders. This handy tool helps me look like I have my stuff together. Just get your car serviced? Take a pick of the reminder sticker, put it in Evernote and set a reminder for the next service. Now evernote will give you a heads up when it’s time. Bought a new computer? Scan the receipt and set a Reminder to let you know when the warranty is about to expire.
Evernote also has several other tools which I employ regularly: Clearly for reading web articles without the distraction of side bars full of adds and easily sharing interesting articles, Webclipper for easily turning web pages I’m viewing into a note in Evernote, and Hello for keeping track of people I meet and visit.
A word about Hello: When it first came out I didn’t see much use for it. As it has evolved, and as my information tracking has changed I’ve found it one of the most handy tools for contact tracking I have at my disposal. One of the duties of a Pastor is visiting people. With Evernote Hello, not only do I have an easy way of remembering new people I meet, but I also have a way of tracking each time I visit with them. At a glance I can tell when the last time I meet with any given church member, or which church members I’ve met with this month.
Another tool in my arsenal is Pocket (http://getpocket.com). Pocket is a plugin on my Chrome web browser (I believe it’s also available for Firefox & Safari). Often I see an article that I just don’t have time to read at the moment, or I wish to read more in depth later. Pocket allows me to store it for later perusal. I set aside time each day to go through these articles. Pocket also has mobile apps so you can read the articles during downtime like waiting at the doctor’s office or on the train.
A tool which gets constant use is Good Drive (http://www.google.com/drive). With Google Drive I can create and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. It currently gets its greatest use in sermon and worship service planning, creative writing/adventure planning, and tracking my list of must read books. Google drive allows me to share files for collaboration. In service planning, for instance, I have shared the spreadsheet of sermon themes with the worship planning team. This allows us to plan a service solidly around a given theme, making sure the message is conveyed through the entire service, not just the preaching. In education, student can share their papers with their teachers and professors either for draft proofing or as a means of turning in a final paper.
There are, I’m sure, many more tools available out there. These are just a few and just how I use them. I am interested in hearing what tools other people use and how you use either these or others. I’m always open to new or improved ideas.