We might be at the point into 2015 where we are done saying Happy New Year, but we are certainly not ready to give up starting our New Year’s Resolutions. So let’s tackle one of my top things to accomplish this year — getting “digitally organized.” You are probably asking yourself, what does that mean and how does this apply to me? Think about the thousands of emails you have in your inbox, the hundreds of photos sitting in your iphone, and the constant conversations you have with your husband about what’s on the calendar for the week and why you didn’t know that your husband had a business dinner the night of the school play. This my fellow Train Moms, is why we need to commit to being “digitally organized” in 2015.
For this week’s Train Mom Chat (#TMC), we turned to Lilli Weisz, a working mom, organizational guru, and founder of Simplified, a company that trains individuals, small businesses, schools and non-profit organizations to be digitally organized and productive.
What are three things every busy mom can do to keep digitally sane?
1. Have only ONE place where you keep a to-do list. pad of paper, Reminders, Evernote– the app isn’t as important as the fact that it isn’t scattered in various locations. Collecting your commitments in one place means you only have to look in one place to know what is on your plate.
2. Backup Backup Backup. Use an external hard drive as well as a cloud backup service to back up all of your important digital data. Set them to be automatic so that you don’t need to remember to do it.
3. Archive old emails. Keep your inbox current. All that email clutter makes it impossible to find and focus on the important emails.
Work emails and personal emails… So many to read! Any advice to help organize emails so we don’t forget to respond and know when to delete?
1. Prevention is key! If you find yourself receiving a lot of emails you don’t read (newsletters, Facebook or LinkedIn notifications, etc), it’s time for you to get on the unsubscribe train. Having so much clutter in your inbox, makes it difficult to find and focus on the emails that really matter. When you see an email that you want to unsubscribe from, just do it right away. The 10 seconds it will take you to unsubscribe will pay off exponentially in the amount of time you will save in the future. You can also do a search for the word “unsubscribe” in your inbox— that way you can find a whole bunch of newsletters at once.
2. Turn emails into actions. Email is best as a method of communication. Treat your email inbox like you treat the post mailbox at the end of driveway: it’s a stopping place for information, it is not a place to store information. Some people use their email inbox as a task management system, but it is not an ideal way of knowing what tasks you have at hand. After reading an email, step back and say, “what is the next action(s) I need to take regarding this matter?” Then write that action on a separate to-do list, outside of your email inbox. For example, your sister emails you about a fabulous restaurant she went to for a birthday party. That reminds you that your daughter’s 4th birthday is coming up and you need to plan for it. You write on your to-do list: “Call fabulous restaurant to find out costs for bday party.” You then archive the email. By archiving, you can still access the email, but you do not need to look at it every day.
What apps do you recommend every busy mom should have on their phone and why?
1. Evernote is my external brain! I can’t imagine living without it. Our brains are not designed to be storage facilities, they are designed to create and problem-solve. What technology has given us —by having a computer in our pocket at all times— is an opportunity to store every random bit of information that gets thrown at us throughout the day into one safe place. And that’s Evernote. No more post-it notes!
2. Fantastical is a brilliant calendar app.
3. CloudMagic is what I use to check email.
4. Dropbox is fabulous for looking at documents and for backing up photos.
5. Downcast is perfect for listening to podcasts and audiobooks in the car (warning: very addictive!).
6. 1Password is an essential tool for safely storing your passwords.
7. Drafts is great for quickly capturing text and sending it nearly anywhere.
8. Songza is where you go when the kids are out of the house and you want to dance around the kitchen to 80’s pop hits.
As moms we all have so many photos on our phones, what can we do with all of them? Any suggestions?
Most importantly: have a plan and stick with it. There are different strategies depending on your computer’s platform (Mac or PC), your comfort with cloud storage, the number of photos and videos you take, and how much you care whether your photos are lost, among other factors. Some key things to ask yourself:
1. If my phone was lost or stolen, do I have a secure backup of these photos elsewhere? If yes, is that place being backed up too?
2. If your photos are being automatically backed up elsewhere, how are you ensuring that it is happening? Is it backing up only over wifi? Are videos as well as photos being backed up?
My current personal system: As an Apple user, I take photos and videos with my iPhone. They are then automatically backed up to Dropbox. Once a month, I move them from Dropbox to iPhoto on my computer. My computer (including those photos) is backed up to a cloud service (CrashPlan) as well as an external hard drive.
Apple is about to release their new Photos app, so this could all change for Apple users— hopefully for the better!
What is the best “family” calendar option to keep track of every meeting, birthday party, dinner and soccer games?
Google Calendar. No question. Within your own Google Account, create a calendar for yourself and for each kid. Each calendar is a different color. You can share entire calendars or just certain events with your partners and care providers. It’s easy to view on the web and in all calendar apps on all devices.
Need help implementing any of these technological lifesavers? Give Lilli a call! As founder of Simplified, Lilli provides digital organization & productivity training for individuals, small businesses, schools and non-profit organizations. She specializes in helping busy people gain greater control of their lives through basic productivity principles and a better understanding of their technological tools. Based out of Nyack, New York, Lilli meets with clients in their homes or offices in the metropolitan NYC area. She also works remotely with clients all over the world via screen sharing. Contact/follow Lilli at firstname.lastname@example.org and @lilliweisz