Tools I Use to Stay Organized

POSTED ON Feb 12, 2010

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > The Joel Friedlander Archives > Tools I Use to Stay Organized

Things for the iPhoneLet’s face it: book publishing can be a complex business. No matter what part of publishing you’re in, if you deal with books there are editorial schedules, publication dates, production timelines and details, details, details to keep track of. Staying organized is really crucial if you want to keep your sanity.

Everyone has their own workflow and ways of doing things. There’s a column that runs periodically in the New York Times Magazine in which some celebrity is interviewed about what they have in their house, their favorite artifacts, what’s in the refrigerator, what kind of car they drive.

I find these fascinating and irresistable. It’s almost like guilt-free snooping into someone else’s business, sneaking a peak at their diary, or rummaging through their drawers while they are taking out the trash.

But the tools we use in our work life often make a huge difference to how productive we are. When you find something that works for you, it’s like you’ve struck gold.

Visiting the App Store

For instance, I’ve looked at scads of iPhone apps for tracking to do lists, action items, whichever metaphor you want to use for a pretty mundane but necessary task. Since I’m rarely very far from my iPhone, it makes sense to use its abilities to help out.

The trouble is, most of these apps are next to worthless, little more than a glorified notepad. But then I stumbled on Things, an award-winning piece of software that not only packs tremendous functionality, it does it in an elegant and intuitive interface.

I quickly bought both the iPhone version and the desktop version, because they sync with each other over our network. Pretty neat.

This is the tool I use to track my projects and their associated tasks. Books can be complicated projects, and the ability to keep these projects together and tag various elements of the project are really helpful. Things also allows me to dump entire email messages right into individual tasks, or notes, clips from websites, any text or photo links I might need for that task later. A great time saver.

Persistence of the Past, or Life off the Grid

MoleskineHere’s another one of my favorite tools: the Moleskine notebook. Countless times this book has saved me. There are a lot of events where it’s quite normal, even laudatory to whip this little black book out of my pocket, with it’s flexible leather cover, and start taking notes. Events where people would be booing and hissing if you took out a phone and used it for the same thing.

Here’s what’s strange: people assume that you’re writing about the event, but is it really true? The Moleskine protects your privacy, and if you want to practice 1 minute associative writing while others are discussing 5-year plans, who’s to know? This is a great and valuable tool.

Apple’s iCal, the Calendar with its Head in the Cloud

Apple iCalLet me share something with you that you might not know: the older you get, the worse your memory. Especially your short-term memory, which is the first to go. Things like remembering you promised to pick up the medication for the cat. Or that your son is waiting for you outside his guitar lesson, that kind of thing.

The humble Apple iCal, which comes with all Macs, is my savior. It has two crucial functions on which I depend:

  1. You can set alerts that go off at a predetermined time before the event, and
  2. It’s linked to Apple’s Mobile Me cloud—a fancy way of saying it syncronizes the copy of iCal on the iPhone with the copy on my iMac automatically, wirelessly, invisibly.

It’s pretty close to magic, in fact, the stuff we used to read about in “Tales from the Future” when we were kids. When I enter something I really ought to remember, I know my phone will alert me in plenty of time. Now that’s handy.

The Big Time Suck: Blog Reading

readerBlogging for me means reading other blogs. Although I don’t have time to read that many blogs, I try to keep up with news in the publishing field, with friends who are bloggers, and with people who have something to teach that I need to learn.

The best tool I’ve found so far to keep this organized and efficient is Google’s Reader service, which allows you to subscribe to a blog’s RSS feed and group, scan, read and manipulate the feed from many blogs at once. Here you can see I’m catching up with Hamish MacDonald’s blog from Scotland.

(You can also see just how far behind I am in my reading. But never mind that.)

The Reader software almost makes it fun, and if you want to visit the blog location itself, it’s just a click away.

The Biggest Time Suck: Email

gmail-logoI can’t say I’ve really gotten control of my email situation. I’ve split my accounts between Apple Mail and Google Gmail, and I plan to move more of my work over to Gmail as the year goes on. Although I’ve relied on Apple Mail’s smart mailboxes for some time to filter incoming mail, there’s a huge amount of functionality in Gmail I’d like to explore.

Email is such a crucial function for staying organized and getting work done efficiently, I feel like I have a lot of room to improve there.

In fact, I’d welcome any suggestions about software you use or methods you’ve devloped for dealing with email or any of the other organizing chores we’re confronted with on a daily basis. It’s the actions we repeat over and over again that have the most potential for big time savings and efficiencies.

What’s working for you?

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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