Friday, September 11, 2015

So Many Ways To Stay Organized

There are as many ways to get things done as there are people out there coming up with ways to get things done. An entire culture has been created by David Allen and his GTD (Getting Things Done) process of getting organized and being productive. Which, by the way, is worth a look-see if you are looking for some tips on, well - getting things done.  As we become more and more reliant on, and tethered to our phones, tablets and laptops we have come to rely on them to provide us with the means of doing things better, more efficiently, and hopefully, with less effort.  They also provide the means for living a fairly paperless life.  If you are like me, and are doing everything possible to live with as little paper as possible, there are some tools you should take a look at.  All of them are free (although some of them have "premium" packages you probably won't need).

I use two programs regularly to organize my research and writing projects. I have been an Evernote user for almost 10 years and use it to organizine research I collect from the internet. It has one of the best web clippers around and organizes everything efficiently making all my stuff easier to find. I can scan documents directly into Evernote and they immediately become searchable with Evernote's OCR capability. I actually use the Evernote app on my phone to scan documents at the library. It can scan a full page with one click. Much easier than a flip-pal scanner. With its ability to record voice and voice-to-text notes, it is my favorite research tool. I can even make hand-written notes using my finger or a stylus on my phone, tablet or touch-screen enabled laptop. You can find out more about Evernote by clicking here.  Colleen Greene did a wonderful post in her blog about how she uses Evernote for her genealogy research, and you can find dozens more example by Googling "Evernote for Genealogy".

I have recently incorporated OneNote into my toolbox. Like Evernote, it is a great organizational tool. But OneNote allows for more in-depth organizational tiers and, because it is a product of Microsoft and has the advantage of  being the "little sister" of Word, it's word processing, charting, drawing, and form-making capabilities are head and shoulders above Evernote. I use OneNote for creating templates and for my digital journal.  Learn more about OneNote here.  Caroline Pointer has done three fabulous uTube videos on how to use OneNote for genealogy.

The other day, while browsing through the blogs I follow regularly, Dick Eastman posted about Google Keep.  How this little Google app got past me is a mystery. This is a new tool for me but I see a lot of potential.  It is a simple program with minimal organizational capabilities, and shouldn't even be compared to Evernote or OneNote, since Google Keep is used for different purposes - such as simple "notes to myself". If you aren't currently using a syncing, note-taking app such as Evernote or OneNote, Google Keep might be a great place to start. It's free, fun and intuitive and, best of all, easy to use. Give Google Keep a try by clicking here.

If you are looking for an absolutely fabulous project management tool, I highly recommend Trello. This absurdly simple, wonderfully intuitive little tool is my go-to project management place for just about everything. It is hard to believe that something so simple can be so effective.  It's free, it's fun, and it's so easy to use, you will wonder how you ever got along without it.  Although it can be used for just about any project (I am currently using Trello to manage a kitchen remodel, organize my blog-to-book family history narrative, organizing all our D.I.R.T. presentations, and about two dozen other projects), it will work fabulously for your genealogy research.  You can set up a board for your research log, to do list, organizing a field trip to a library or archive - just about anything you can think of. It allows you to create checklists within cards, and attach documents, photos, videos, etc. You could set up a board for each family name, add a list for each individual and add cards for the stuff you have and the stuff you need! You can move the cards around in a list, or between lists, and move the lists around with simple "drag-and-drop". One of the best things about Trello is that I can use it as a place to gather together my web clippings from Evernote, a journal entry and template from OneNote, and a todo list from Google Keep and store them on one Trello card! I LOVE this program!  My only regret is that I didn't discover it sooner.  If you would like to see a couple of examples of Trello used for genealogy research, please check out the blogposts at Its All Relative and Ancestry Paths.

The best thing about all of these programs is that they store everything in the cloud and you can access all your information anytime, anywhere you can get connected to the internet.  You never have to worry about where you filed that document or where you put the SD card or thumb drive.  It's in the cloud and instantly available. All these programs sync automatically across all your gizmos making sure you have everything you need, everywhere you go.

I don't always travel around with my laptop or tablet at hand, but I never leave the house without my smartphone and in case you haven't been keeping up, those little things pack much of the same power and capacity as a computer. Every one of these programs has an app for your iPhone, Android or Windows phone and tablet. You are toting around some very expensive toys - might as well make them earn their keep!

I hope you will check these out give some, or all, of them a try.

NOTE:  I will be giving a seminar at the Lake House sometime in October or November on "Evernote vs. OneNote".  Keep an eye on the Tidelines Blog and the Friday email blast for more information.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

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