Tools to help you stay organized are kind of like weeds–new ones pop up every day.
If you’re looking to stay organized, you could literally try a different tool Sunday through Saturday and may not be any closer to your goal.
Part of using tools and techniques is your mindset. You’ve got to work the tool for the tool to work for you.
What do I mean by that?
It means giving it a real go, adding your tasks, notes, plans, and reminders to it to see if it works.
Some people prefer to be organized with digital-only apps; others prefer analog tools combined with digital options.
But the goal of any tool–digital or analog–is to help you keep track of everything.
Sometimes we each have our own preferences for that.
The key is not to let anything fall through the cracks.
For me personally, I use a combination of digital and analog tools and I’ll highlight some of those below.
Must-Have Digital Organizational Tools
1) Project Management Software like ClickUp
How does ClickUp get rave reviews?
What sets it apart from all those other productivity tools and project management systems out there?
- Flexibility and customization
- Designed to work across the organization
- Try waterfall, agile, and anything in between
Implementing a top-notch project management system will also help with your strategic planning, as you can map out goals, understand resources and interpret time estimates at a glance.
Another reason why so many users love ClickUp?
ClickUp has a feature release schedule that’s unmatched across the industry. In a short period of time, ClickUp has built multiple views into its product–including a list view, board view and time view that makes adding tasks a snap.
ClickUp continuously adds special features that users love, such as:
- Dark mode
- Multiple assignees
- Assigned comments
- Time tracking, email task management, screenshots and more.
ClickUp keeps improving while maintaining great deals for its forever free and premium plans.
2) Document Cloud Storage like Dropbox
Reports, sales decks or new collateral–all of it can be stored with Dropbox. What I like about Dropbox is that it’s easy to switch between your personal and professional files with only a few clicks.
Maintaining work-life balance sometimes means eliminating the friction points between the two, and Dropbox definitely does that.
Another bonus? Users can review documents, adding their own comments and then commenting back and forth if there are any questions. It’s part of having a successful workflow management.
Dropbox also conveniently integrates right inside ClickUp, allowing you to link your documents right to the task that it applies too.
3) Note-taking apps like Google Keep
Most posts will slide Evernote into this slot, but I recently switched to Google Keep and haven’t looked back.
Of course it has the simple usability that Google is known for, along with a connection to the rest of the G-suite tools.
It’s much easier to organize notes into folders, and the web clipper can help you grab URLs or notes from your browser. Those are better tools than what Google Keep has, but the everyday usability made it worth the switch for me.
Evernote has also increased its pricing in recent years and has pushed users towards Evernote Business. Before you make the leap into Evernote Business, be sure and check out plenty of alternatives.
4) Business Process Management Software like Process Street
Here’s something that sounds boring but is super helpful: business process management.
The software that does this helps you automate tasks like data entry and reporting, taking the manual work out of it. It’s work that has to be done, but people don’t really like doing it.
If you can systematize it, then you have a better chance of it being accurate, on-time and recurring. Also, business process management software helps with any transition, whether it be one employee leaving the company or a whole group getting reassigned.
If all of the processes are captured and automated, it’s much easier to pick up that work.
Process Street is a good option for this because it’s free and it connects to a lot of the apps that you already use. They establish templates for you, and then Process Street can repeat those templates as often as you need.
They also provide checklists so that you can track progress and follow along. Process Street also has forms that you can use if you need to record a lot of contacts on a repeated basis.
Process Street has a very familiar interface that looks like a blank document. You can add videos or images along the way to show someone the exact steps that they need to finish a task.
5) Knowledge Management like Notion
If you do a search for “knowledge management,” you’ll quickly be placed in two different camps.
One of those will be for customer service and help desk information, the other will be for an internal repository of company documents, history and processes.
A knowledge management system is where teams can store their important meeting notes, past archives or company docs. These have more of a hierarchical system than document cloud storage.
When I’ve used knowledge management in the past, we often used it in conjunction with Dropbox or Google Drive. Dropbox and Google Drive were for active documents in review, and then once completed we moved them to our knowledge management system.
Much like the business management systems, these tools can be used to keep records for your company moving forward.
Notion.so is a great tool for this because of its simplicity. It’s easy to organize, start writing, or add a table without thinking too much about pesky menus. You can capture and store the information, and organize it later if needed. In addition to meeting notes, Notion also provides some handy tools like calendars and to-do lists.
6) Work Automation Apps like Zapier
Zapier is like one long chain that connects the whole Internet together.
Maybe not the whole Internet, but definitely all of the workplace collaboration tools that you use the most. It converts all of those small, nitty-gritty digital tasks (like copying from Google sheets) into automated tasks.
They’ve thought of all the small tasks that need to be done between tools and built ways for them to work together. Because they have thousands of tools in their ecosystem, you can cross-pollinate tools together that you may have never imagined.
Let’s take ClickUp as an example. Yes, ClickUp is part of the Zapier system and was even named one of their fastest-growing apps in 2018!
For instance, if you’re using a Hubspot landing page for marketing, you can set up a Zap to automatically convert any form submission into a task in ClickUp.
There could be different use cases for that, but it’s great to know that you have it! That’s a game changer for your whole marketing department.
7) Mindmapping tools like Bubbl.us
Mindmapping tools are great to get your ideas out on paper (or the screen as it were). One of the best is Bubbl.us. You can create shapes, write your ideas, and then string them together, filling in each circle as you go.
Mindmapping is one of the best brainstorming techniques and Bubbl.us is a fast way to do it.
Must-Have Analog Organizational Tools
In my opinion, one of the things that has become lost in our current culture is the recommendation of analog or physical products along with those digital recommendations.
It’s a lot easier to make digital tools go “viral” or something, but the two have been unfairly pitted against one another. Many people use day planners, notebooks and journals along with their digital tools to do their work.
People collaborate with a blend of different tools and options including those you can touch. In this section, we’ll look at a few analog productivity tools to help you stay organized.
8) Day Planner like Ink + Volt
The Ink + Volt planner is one of my favorites. It’s sturdy, it looks nice (but not corporate) and is clearly focused on goals–including monthly, weekly and daily.
It gives me a broad view of my life–from work meetings to personal appointments–and helps me set personal and work goals. It’s a great blend for achieving success in both areas.
The Ink + Volt planner also presents monthly challenges to help you improve your quality of life.
Other recommended options:
9) Journal like Leuchtturm1917
What, no Moleskine? Nope, blank pages are out and dots are in. Hardcore note-takers are turning to this one because it’s literally so much easier to connect the dots.
The dots give writers natural separation between lines and ideas. It’s also much easier to create columns.
Those dots are also great for the bullet journaling craze.
10) Index cards and Sticky Notes
If you want to go all-in on the analog organizational system, then you’ll need index cards and sticky notes. These will be handy for writing quick notes and reminders, and even setting goals.
Index cards aren’t very thick, so you could keep them in the hem in your journal and take them with you. Sticky notes could stay by your computer and helps you leave reminders for others.
Index cards and post-it notes are great for brainstorming and ideation, but I wouldn’t trust those to really manage all of your project details. Ultimately, that’s just not safe for your ideas.
They could be blown away, drop in the trash can and then be emptied by the cleaning crew at night. It just doesn’t make sense.
But if I’m going to buy index cards and sticky notes, I prefer the large ones, so I can write a lot on there.
Conclusion: Which Organizational Tools Are Right For You?
When looking for organizational tools, you’ll have to balance what’s right for you personally compared to what you may use for your company or workplace.
These organizational tools can help you in both circumstances, it just depends on if they can scale or not. A journal will help you stay personally organized, but will be hard to share with your teammates (unless you take photos!).
The more collaborative tools like ClickUp can help you keep your own personal tasks, notes and to-do lists, while also sharing tasks and ideas with other team members.
You can’t do that as easily with post-it notes and index cards.
More collaboration resources:
- The top online collaboration tools
- The top productivity apps
- The best free project management software