Organization: Top Time Savers

An alarm clock in the foreground emphasizes the need for writers to save time and be able to write more.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

This is the last post of the time saving series. You can find the first post here (on social media), post two here (on saving time writing), and the third post here (on book production). Today, I’m focusing on general organization. I’ve found if I’m better organized, I can free up more time for writing.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got tons of information to organize and work through. It could be writing craft posts. It could be research for your book. It could be ideas and images for blog posts.How do you store this information so that you can easily access it?

I use a couple of different tools for organizing information: one is Evernote and the other is OneNote.  Both are free (Evernote has a paid version if you’re an especially heavy user).  This post will include both the writing-related and personal uses of the apps because, in my house at least, if I’m not organized with both home and writing it impacts my writing time.

I’ve been using both for so long that I don’t want to combine data into just one of the apps, although that would work well, too.  I’ve also liked dividing up information between the two applications.

I tend to use OneNote to store text.  I store all types of documents in OneNote, from my kids’ school transcripts, to vet visit info, to book-related information and research. I scan all those bits and pieces of paper that come into our house from doctor appointments,  school, etc. and put them up on OneNote, which is searchable. In most cases, I’m able to get rid of the bits and pieces of paper afterward.

For Evernote, I save things from the web (and I know I’m underutilizing it. It’s even got integration with Google Drive now).  This includes the writing craft posts that I refer to again and again, but it also includes a large collection of recipes (divided into favorites, things to try, low-fat, gluten-free, etc.)  I save online receipts for Christmas purchases there, divided by family member: last year, for instance,  I had Christmas 2016 and a note for each person I’ve purchased for, including the receipts and websites I used. I’ve been doing this since 2012 and it’s been a great way not only to track what I’ve given people, it’s also a good way to get ideas for future gifts for them (maybe they’ve run out of their favorite treat, maybe the guest towels I gave them in 2012 are tired out by now).  I keep vacation planning research there, too.

For both applications, I can access my notes remotely, on my phone. This is great for when I’m writing on the go or when I’m at the grocery store and can’t remember the ingredients for the meal I’m cooking that night.

Besides using apps to stay organized, I’m also using task batching to save time and increase productivity.  For blogging, I’ll set aside time to brainstorm blog post ideas. Then I’ll set aside time another day to find and alter images for posts.  Another day I’ll organize my blog’s editorial calendar.  Sometime later, I’ll write or at least draft several posts.  By putting myself in the mindset and then doing a ‘batch’ of similar work, it helps me to stay focused and more productive. For more information about task batching, read this post by Jennifer Mattern: “How I Use Task Batching to be a More Productive Writer.”

What are some of your tips and apps for staying organized and more productive?

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18 thoughts on “Organization: Top Time Savers

  1. I am in awe of your organizational skills, Elizabeth. I thought I was organized, but you take it to a whole other level. I seem to have lost an edge somewhere. I might have to look into OneNote at least. Thanks for this.

    1. I’m the kind of person that would be really dropping the ball if I weren’t organized (too much to keep up with–as a mom, household manager, and writer!) OneNote is great and one of my favorite parts about it is that it’s so easy to wrangle text over there.

  2. Hi Elizabeth – what a great post … I am really going to start using Evernote this weekend I hope … intention is there and I must do it – I need to get rid of paper. I hate being not organised … so time to change. I’ll look at One Note ..

    A friend has just started using the ‘dictaphone’ on the ipad in the email screen – he has terrible dyslexia – but wants to record his memories from SE London and then onwards … so far it’s working well. I transcribe it … then we’ll sort it for him. He’s retired, and via a computer group I was asked if I could help him … he’s as pleased as punch.

    He dictates … I can guess most of what doesn’t come out sensibly … and then sends to me via email … I’ll be interested to see next week what he says … but he’s exceedingly enthusiastic so far.

    But I need to get myself sorted and paper-cleared out … thanks for these tips – very useful … cheers Hilary

    1. Hilary–That’s exactly the point I was at–I had to eliminate paper. I felt like I was drowning in it!

      Sounds like a great project that you and a friend are working on and you’re very generous to help him. Good luck sorting out the paper!

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Elizabeth. I think what really appeals to me here is that it all offers you mobility and flexibility. I do like being able to access what I need to access no matter where I am.

  4. I have Evernote but I’ve never used it. I think I’m naturally organized – one of my gifts. I can go straight to my file cabinet and find something in seconds.

    It would help to know what gifts I got for everyone. Christmas morning, I’m just as surprised as my husband when he opens his gifts.

  5. Great post! I definitely need to be more systematic about how I get my tasks done – right now it’s just triage, what’s bleeding most profusely – but I love the batching idea. Will definitely check out how to make that work for me.

    Also, I LOVE OneNote! With historical research, I have to organize a lot of material, and OneNote lets me do that so easily (and I’m under-utilizing all its features, too). Maps, photographs, text, tables, even drawing out something by hand when I’m brainstorming – it’s great for all those things. Can’t do much on the go, however, until I get a smartphone with bigger internal storage.

    BTW, thanks so much for your help yesterday! Got StreetLib all set up. Fingers crossed!
    ~Kathy

    1. Kathy–Haha!! Yes, triage. :) Even when I’ve got everything else organized, there’s always the stuff that life throws at us, right (e.g., my sick college kid today, calling me from Virginia).

      I’d see if you can get an external SD card for your phone and just re-route everything there so you can be more mobile with your office.

      Woo-hoo! Glad you got StreetLib up and running…good luck!

      1. Thanks! Ah yeah, about the SD card…my phone doesn’t play nice with it. Wants to run everything internally and keeps moving stuff back from the SD card. Sigh. Time for an upgrade.

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