A few favorite tools of mine

My need for some form of organization is great. I work for multiple groups and need to track folks across the country and I consume a ridiculous amount of research articles and blogs. Here are a few things I love.

Evernote [free, with upgrade possibilities]
All hail to Cal for introducing this lovely to me. Kate has also sung it’s phrases. Unlike Kate I don’t use Evernote as a to-do system (more on that in a bit) but I do use it to store and tag all the things I read that I believe are worth saving. Evernote has a chrome plugin that makes this super easy. Reading a blog entry I like? Click the Evernote icon, title and tag with anything I feel is relevant, and save to my Evernote files.

I tag things by ‘who’ and ‘what’ for the most part. Trying to remember that cool post I know I saved by David Cox? I just search by the tag I have for him and they all come up. Planning for something with Algebra 1? Search that tag. My other favorite type of tag is ‘where’, which is the tag I use on location specific stuff. Friend recommends a great breakfast spot next time I’m in Tucson? Tag it. Trying to remember to pick up that odd bulb next time I’m in a hardware store? Tag it. This does of course depend on you actually checking the tags when you go places, but I’ve found that to be an easy to build habit.

With Evernote on my computer, phone, and tablet it’s the best thing I’ve found for organizing. There is a limit on uploads, but unless you are a heavy user you probably are fine with the free account. I upgraded to the paid version due to how much I use it and wanting to make some shared notebooks (the husband and I keep shared lists sorted this way for grocery, hardware stores, etc).

The new thing I’ve started doing in Evernote is using their pdf markup features. Now, I knew that I could mark up pdfs in Evernote, but what I didn’t know was that if you did so, all of your markups show up in a sweet summary page in the Evernote file with that pdf. So all the stuff I highlighted/commented is right there with the page number. So convenient when you just need to find that one sentence you know you highlighted without scrolling digitally trying to find things. I find my memory for where stuff is located is no where near as good with digital medium as it is with print so this feature really helps.

For those with a tablet, Penultimate is a nice app that will auto save in Evernote the notes you handwrite/doodle in it. I’ve been using it for quick thoughts. Skitch is great for taking a photo, annotating, and then sending off all while getting saved into Evernote. How could you use that to share Student work?

Things [$20] [iOS only] [I know. Trust me, I know]
This app consistently wins accolades for being an awesome to-do tracker app. If you’ve ever flirted with the GTD philosophy you may have run across it. I had this app back when I had an iPhone a long while back and loved it. I was in my second year of teaching and it really helped me stay organized. When I swapped to android phones (which I prefer over the fruit) I lost this app and have been trying to find it’s equal ever since with zero luck (and I’ve tried a lot). I now have a shiny iPad mini and, after cringing at the price, bought Things and spent a few hours entering in current projects and breaking them down into doable steps and tossing away the constellations of stickies all around my desk.

Now in the morning when I get to my desk I open Things and plot out what I am going to get done that day. Every Friday I do a weekly review of everything I’ve entered into the program to make sure I am still on track for current projects. This helps me banish that haunting feeling that I am forgetting something and it’s good to see the big picture of ongoing projects and my ‘someday’ goals (hike across Ireland, sign up for another half-marathon, get a kayak).


What tools do you use to stay on track? I’m always on the lookout for new awesome stuff, so please share in the comments!



One thought on “A few favorite tools of mine

  1. I tried evernote two years ago, but I didn’t stick with it. I think I’m going to try it again. I’m tired of not being able to find things that I *know* I’ve bookmarked or saved somewhere!


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