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15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016

15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016

So, it’s 2016 and you’re ready to get your life organized, once and for all. The question is how? There’s only so much that you can manually manage all by yourself, and trying to take on too much can cause you to get stuck in the never-ending cycle of “busy work” that keeps you from working on the things that really move the needle.

If you’ve been really struggling to hold it all together lately, perhaps it’s time to take advantage of some of the following productivity resources and tools that are freely available to use online. They can help automate some of your most tedious tasks, speed up your progress, and keep track of everything while you’re at it.

1. Google Drive

Google Drive is the ultimate cloud-based platform for storing, managing, sharing, and collaborating on files. You can create documents, spreadsheets, slides, forms, and drawings directly in Google Drive while keeping them neatly organized in folders to be edited anytime you want. All changes are synced right across your account.

As a Google product, Google Drive is integrated with other popular Google products like Gmail and Google Photos. If you work in teams, files and folders can be shared so that everyone who has access to them can see and make updates in real-time so that everyone has the most updated version of the file.

2. Evernote

Similar to Google Drive, Evernote is a cloud-based platform designed for creating and storing all sorts of different files. It’s generally viewed as an advanced note-taking tool that allows you to organize your notes into notebooks with optional tags for even more precise categorization.

Evernote also has an incredibly useful web clipper tool, which is a browser extension you can use to easily save whole web pages, small sections, or just the URL as a bookmark to your account. Any notes that you create and manage can also be shared and managed by other Evernote users who are invited to do so.

3. IFTTT

There’s a good chance that you use a lot of apps and tools already—both for personal and professional reasons. IFTTT (If This Then That) is an incredibly helpful tool that can connect one app to another, giving you the opportunity to set a specific “trigger” between them that automatically generates a specific action. These are called “recipes.”

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For example, if you use Evernote a lot, you could create a recipe that automatically uploads any new note that has a tag attached to it to your Google Drive account. This saves you the time and energy from having to do it manually. IFTTT works with lots of different apps, and the recipe variations that are possible to create are virtually endless.

4. Any.do

The old fashioned “To-Do” list using pen and paper often ends up being more of a hindrance than a help at the end of the day. To help you succeed at actually crossing more things off your list, Any.do allows you to categorize list items according to work or personal goals while offering you small rewards for completing them.

You get four types of lists to build (Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday) to help you plan ahead, and you can manage your list from the desktop web or any mobile device with the Any.do app. Any items you add or cross off are synced across your account so you always have the most updated list wherever you go.

5. Cal

Cal is Any.do’s stylish calendar app that integrates with your to-do lists. It gives you a weekly calendar view of your list items so that you can see exactly when you need to complete each item. You can also use it to manage events and appointments according to date and time.

Simply tap a day to see all the list items for that day. When you tap an item, it will automatically open up the Any.do app so that you can make edits to the item or cross it off your list.

6. Pocket

Ever come across a really great article or video in one of your social feeds, but don’t have time to check it out at the moment? Pocket makes it easy for you to save it for later with just a simple click of your mouse or tap to your smartphone screen.

Save links from your web browser, Facebook, Twitter, email, Flipboard and all your other favorite places where you love to browse content. When you’ve got some spare time to check them out, just open up your Pocket feed on your computer or mobile device to see a clean and organized list of everything you’ve saved.

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7. Digg Reader

Instead of visiting every one of your favorite blogs one by one, an easier way to stay updated on recent posts is by subscribing to their RSS feeds using a feed reader. Digg Reader is a popular choice that lets you add as many as RSS feeds as you want so that you can stay on top of new post headlines almost as soon as they’re posted.

When you read a post that you really like, you can “digg” it to give it a personal thumbs up, or use the save button to save it for later. Folders also make it easy to categorize your RSS feed subscriptions so that you can organize blogs according to subject, like news, health, sports, technology, and so on.

8. Asana

It’s easy enough to collaborate on files by using Google Drive or Evernote, but when you have several teammates who need to work more closely on big projects and all the tasks that come with it, a platform with more advanced features is often necessary to keep everything organized and running smoothly. Asana is a team collaboration tool that gives every user their own dashboard so that they can work together with their teammates to assign tasks, track progress, have conversations, receive notifications, store files, and so much more.

It’s free for teams of up to 15 people with unlimited usage for tasks, projects, conversations, and file attachments. Besides the convenience of having a central place to store and share all your project files, the added benefit of being able to interact and chat about each task directly within the platform itself will help take your team’s productivity to a whole new level.

9. Doodle

Doodle can help you take the headache out of coordinating a time to meet with friends or colleagues. Instead of getting on the phone multiple times or having to send text messages and emails back and forth, you can use Doodle to send out a schedule poll with a few suggested dates and times to meet so that recipients can choose the ones that work best for them.

When the poll reveals an optimal date and time that works for everyone, you can close the poll and confirm it with everyone. It saves you a ton of time and energy by only requiring two emails to be sent, and it can even be integrated with other popular calendar apps like Google Calendar, Exchange, Outlook, and others.

10. LastPass

Most of us have too many passwords to keep track of these days, and ideally, you should have a different one made of a complex combination of characters per login for strong security. LastPass is a free password management tool that stores all of your passwords away safely in a vault so that you can organize them and quickly perform a search to find the one you need at any time.

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LastPass also comes in the form of an extension for popular web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) so that you can easily save passwords as you’re browsing and have your passwords automatically filled in the fields for you anytime you visit a specific login page. Password access and automatic app fill is also available on mobile devices when you use the LastPass app.

11. Mint

No matter how financially stable or unstable a person may be, managing budgets is a good idea for everyone. From the makers of some of the most popular financial software, Mint is the ultimate money management and budget creation tool that safely and securely connects to your bank account to track every transaction.

You can automatically generate budgets tailored to your needs, set up alerts for unusual account charges, get a free credit score, see a bird’s eye view of your overall financial life, and even get tips on how to improve your finances. Mint breaks everything down for you using easy-to-read reports and graphs so that you always know exactly how you’re spending and saving.

12. Camcard

Business cards are often more of a nuisance than anything else—especially when you collect a lot of them through networking and friends. Camcard is a free app that allows you to scan, manage, and sync your entire collection of business cards so that you can avoid having to store and shuffle through loads of physical versions.

The contact information from each individual card can be quickly and accurately stored to your mobile device so you can instantly contact them by tapping a button. You can also organize all of your cards by adding notes, setting up reminders, and attaching tags to them so that it’s always easy to find and contact the individual you have in mind.

13. Momento

Keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of events and memories so you can reflect on them in the future. To bring it up to speed in today’s mobile tech-driven world, Momento is a smart journal that you can install on your mobile device as an app that helps you privately capture your daily activities, thoughts, ideas, photos, videos, and location check-ins with the opportunity to combine them with the stuff you share on social networks.

Whether you decide to use Momento for professional or personal journaling (or both) is completely up to you. The app gives you an organized timeline of journal entries, which can be expanded on to see stories for each day. You can also see everything in a monthly calendar view and categorize your entries by adding tags to them in order to keep them organized and searchable.

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14. Trello

There’s only so much you can do with a regular to-do list and a calendar when you’ve got multiple projects going on. Trello is a tool that helps you and your team members (if you have a team to collaborate with) keep track of every single detail of each project task in a visual organization system.

You can create a board and then add lists that contain drag-and-drop cards for storing all your information (including photos and attachments) about a specific task. The app is designed to be used for both professional and personal projects that take a lot of planning, collaborating, and multiple task completion. Like Asana, Trello also allows users to have conversations on items and receive notifications so that everyone stays up to date with the latest information.

15. Way of Life

Much of your success comes from the little habits you persistently stick with doing over a period of time. Way of Life is a free app that helps you develop good habits with reminders that you can set up on specific days to help you stay on track. You can even use it to keep track of bad habits.

Once you spend a few days tracking the good habits you’ve stuck with and the bad habits you’ve avoided, you’ll be able to see pie charts and bar charts with trend lines over a specific period to give you a glimpse of your progress. As you keep using the app day after day, you’ll be able to spot both positive and negative trends through the chart data so that you can figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Remember that just signing up for one of these free resources doesn’t guarantee that all your organization and productivity problems will instantly be solved. You have to actually use them to do the necessary work. Try picking one to start with and commit to using it every day.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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