Following up to yesterday’s post about spring cleaning, today I’m sharing my favorite 8 programs to organize your digital life!
As the owner of a photography business, my job relies on digital organization — both for my clients and for myself! Every day I have countless projects, tasks, emails, and appointments to keep track of, and I really rely on my “digital memory” to keep me on track.
A couple of weeks ago, a photographer friend of mine sent me an email to ask how I do it all. I laughed because it certainly doesn’t feel like I have it together…it always seems like I’m going about 80 miles a minute! But these tools help give me sanity, and I hope they’ll do the same for you!
I honestly don’t know how I managed everything before Trello came into my life! It’s hard to believe that my absolute favorite program is FREE…but it’s true!
First and foremost, I use a Trello board to keep track of my client projects and workflow. I use lists for every stage that a project goes through, and each client gets a card. Within the card, I use a checklist for client “homework” (contract, pre-session questionnaire, etc.) I also store any notes for the session (locations, things we discussed over the phone, etc.).
Here’s what my board looks like at the moment:
You can use Trello for any project that needs organizing! Here’s another one of my Trello boards that I use as an editorial calendar for this blog. I’ve enabled the calendar tool so that I can see the entire month at a glance:
Seriously, try Trello! You won’t regret it!!!
2) Google Calendar
My Google calendar is the single most important piece of technology I use to manage my time. I have the WORST memory, so every single commitment (or even potential commitment) gets entered into my calendar.
Since I’m a visual person, I love being able to see how my time is allocated on any given day. I use color coding to represent different kinds of events (green for meetings, pink for client sessions, and orange for personal).
The BEST part of Google Calendar is the ability to set reminders via text message or email. My favorite way to use this function is to beat companies at the “free trial” game. I sign up for the free trial and set a reminder in my GCal to cancel the trial the day before they charge my credit card. 😉
I sync GCal with my iPhone, but NOT with the default IOS app…the design drives me crazy. Instead, I use the app Calendars 5. The beautiful interface and week view won me over.
3) Inbox Zero
I’ll be the first to admit I am not perfect in responding to emails, but I practice Inbox Zero to try to get back to everyone quickly.
Inbox Zero is a fancy term for the practice of removing emails from your inbox once you’re done with them. (To learn more, here’s an article that explains it well.)
Once I finish answering an email, I archive it so that I can see exactly how many emails I still have to take care of in my inbox. Sometimes I’m not able to answer my emails as quickly as I’d like, but with my email system, I know that eventually every person will hear back from me.
The Boomerang plugin is a key component of helping me reach Inbox Zero. Boomerang allows me to temporarily take an email out of my inbox and set it to bounce back at a specific time (basically, pressing snooze on a message). Because my email inbox functions as my to-do list, it’s helpful to take out tasks that I can’t complete until later. For instance, if I need to confirm a lunch meeting with someone in a couple of weeks, I’ll Boomerang that message to appear in my inbox the day before the meeting.
The Gorgias plugin is another new favorite of mine! If you’ve ever used Gmail’s Canned Responses, Gorgias takes email templates to a whole new level. It allows you to set keyboard shortcuts for common responses so that you don’t have to hunt for the proper template.
I use filters to automatically organize my Gmail. For example, incoming client inquiries are tagged with a red label and sorted into a “Clients” folder. Client questionnaires are sorted into another folder so I can easily access info before sessions.
I keep my junk mail under control using a combination of Unroll.me (an free one-stop unsubscribe service) and filters to remove the stubborn messages that just won’t go away.
As much as I love Instagram, it definitely requires a lot of thought and maintenance to post new images on a regular basis! Later.com takes some of the effort out of the equation by allowing me to batch schedule new posts and captions. For this month’s 30-day blogging challenge, I’ve drafted many of these posts ahead of time so that I don’t need to write every single day. When it’s time for each post to go live, Later sends me a nifty little reminder to log in and post the image!
Remembering passwords used to be the bane of my existence! Then I discovered 1Password, which serves as a virtual vault to keep all of your logins in the same place. All you have to remember is one “master password” and you’re good to go! After using this software for a couple of years, I’ve now racked up over 400 logins. When you visit a login page, 1Password automatically pulls up the correct username and password for you so that you don’t have to go digging!
I used to live in fear that my computer would be stolen or that it would crash in between backups. I tried automatic backup plans like CrashPlan, but I wasn’t a fan. The backups took forever to complete, and I never knew exactly which files had or hadn’t been backed up.
Then I made the discovery that you can store up to 1 TB of data for $10/month using Dropbox. What?! Now, all of my computer files live in Dropbox so that my entire hard drive syncs to the cloud. I love Dropbox’s interface because you can see exactly which files have been backed up, and it’s really speedy! I also enjoy being able to access my computer files from the iPhone app when I need to reference something on the go.
I use WaveApps to maintain the books for my business. It’s FREE (well, besides the usual credit card processing fees), and here’s why I love it:
– I can email customized invoices directly to my clients
– When clients pay with a credit card, the payment imports to my books, and the credit card fee is automatically deducted
– Wave stores digital versions of my receipts so I don’t lose them
– It makes paying sales tax a cinch
– It syncs to my business checking account so I can double-check transactions
– Pretty, helpful charts. Enough said 🙂
8) You Need a Budget
I track both my personal and business budgets with You Need a Budget. This software helps me organize my transactions into categories that I adjust on a monthly basis. I have “envelopes” for income tax, sales tax, packaging, software, education, insurance, salary, and a bunch of other spending categories that make up my business. YNAB makes it easy to see how much I have left to spend in any given month, and it allows me to roll over savings (for instance, each month I contribute $300 toward a computer replacement fund).
The best part about YNAB is that the company offers free education to help you learn how to use it, taught by LIVE instructors!
PS: The BEST book I have ever read about finances is “I Will Teach You to be Rich” by Ramit Sethi. Seriously…this book changed my entire perception of money and gave me so many practical tips. I’ve even bought copies for friends, and they have loved it too!
All right, y’all…that’s all I’ve got for now! I hope this list will help save you some sanity this year!