Keeping Organized Online (for Free): Part 1

Wendy TownleyIf I kept every single to-do list or note I have jotted down over the years, I would have amassed a pile of papers that might make the Library of Congress blush. I’m a paper fanatic, and something about being able to touch, cradle, and hold my thoughts gets me giddy to no end. I’m a sucker for the handwritten note, and own a surplus of pretty stationery that will likely last me a lifetime if I never purchased another card or corresponding envelope.

When it comes to calendars, I have tried and failed with anything digital or that lives online. Unless I can physically write my appointments and lunch dates, decorate special events with colorful markers, or cross out meetings that are moved, I don’t feel quite comfortable. Weird, I know; especially given that I have owned an iPhone for three years, an iPad for about a month, plus a MacBook. All three devices have calendars that can easily be shared. But call me old fashioned; I still want and need my paper datebook.

Thankfully, however, not all of my organization efforts in 2010 resemble 1910. My note taking, for example, has moved seamlessly and completely online, thanks to two free applications I cannot live without.

The first is Ta-da Lists which I learned about several years ago from an online article, and have been hooked ever since. Viewing, updating, and sharing your own Ta-da Lists couldn’t be easier. There’s no app to install; all that’s required are a web browser, a username, and a password. The fonts are large, the text fields are large (which I love), and the sense of accomplishment I feel while literally checking off a task is wonderful. Plus, crossed-off tasks aren’t deleted forever in an unreachable abyss; they simply appear below, accessible and readable, if need be.

When balancing freelance writing projects, speaking engagements, my weekly (at times it seems daily) grocery list, and all of the gifts to buy for family and friends this holiday season, I can’t imagine keeping everything organized, chaos-free, and moderately readable in slim notebooks. Because Ta-da Lists are web-based, they can be accessed anywhere. I often find myself referencing my lists on my iPhone in the baking aisle at the grocery store, or while in a project meeting over coffee.

Best of all, my lists can be shared – a perfect solution when collaborating on projects. Sometimes circulating a saved and re-saved Microsoft Word file isn’t the best way to exchange ideas or separate project tasks.

You’ll have to wait til tomorrow to find out what my other favorite is. But in the meantime, what are you favorite, can’t-live-without-’em tools of the trade?

BTW: Whether you like paper or electronic calendars, the Marketing Mentor Marketing Plan for 2011 comes both ways.

5 thoughts on “Keeping Organized Online (for Free): Part 1

  1. Susan Baird

    Great review, Wendy! I definitely need to check it out the Ta-Da list! A couple of other productivity-enhancing tools that I would be LOST without include Delicious for storing all those great links (like this blog) that I discover on Twitter and Toggle, a great tool for keeping track of projects and logging time spent, which makes invoicing easier at the end of the project. I’ve also played around a little with Remember the Milk, and Tungle also appears to be a cool tool for calendar and collaboration applications.

    Thanks for the insight on Ta-Da List from @37signals! Love that company!

  2. Diane Stewart

    I can totally relate to you, Wendy! This year I’m trying very hard to become paperless, as I organize. I recently bought the iPad, and with that, downloaded one of the note taking apps, (bought a stylist) so I can still take notes and sketch while talking with clients. I can then email the notes and sketches for my electronic files. My downfall for paper is the calendar. I like the visual aid every morning before I start my day. This next year, I vowed not to buy a calendar, as I am retraining my habits to the iCal. I even bought the online version Marketing Mentor Marketing Plan calendar for next year, no paper. Now I need to check out your Ta-Da List. thanks!

  3. Neil Renicker

    Everyone has their own little tricks, I suppose, for organization and calendaring. I’ve gone all digital in the last year, and I don’t regret it! For the obsessively organized out there, check out task management programs like Omnifocus or Things. I can speak for Omnifocus: it allows you to create individual “actions”, group them into “projects”, with multiple other goodies like due dates, viewing filters and other geeky stuff. I use the Omnifocus app on my computers as well as my phone (so my tasks are always with me!).

  4. lidia varesco design

    I’m with you Wendy…as much as I love writing notes on scraps of paper I’ve forced myself to become more organized. I’m also a fan of Ta-Da Lists. I used a combination of Ta-Da Lists, Remember the Milk and BusyCal (a pumped-up version of iCal).

    I keep my personal & business to-do lists in Remember the Milk, which syncs nicely with my android phone, as well as BusyCal.

    I use Ta-Da List to keep running lists of interesting business books, plus personal stuff (restaurants, travel). I like that you can access it on a mobile device — and that the company, 37signals, is local (from Chicago).

    It’s useful to hear everyone’s comments on this subject. Great post!