Updated March 29, 2021 | First published April 14, 2020
Greetings, fellow word nerds! I don’t dare mention the “c” or “q” words, but I hope y’all are keeping well and taking care of yourselves.
If you’re looking to get organized, experiment with some new productivity tools, or stay productive while working from home, you’ve come to the right place. The best part? All the organization tools included here (except the planner) are free!
My top 5 organization tools for maximum productivity
Without further ado, let’s get to the goods — my favorite organization tools for work, home, writing, and everything in between.
All-in-one organizer: Notion
Since publishing this post last year, I switched from Meistertask and OneNote to Notion. (Why use two apps when you can just use one?)
I use Notion for practically everything:
- planning my blog and social media content
- setting goals and tracking tasks
- storing content I want to read/watch/listen to later
Notion combines the functionality of spreadsheets, task management apps, word processor programs, and so much more. Want to discover how Notion can supercharge your content creation game? Check out my free tutorials to create your own setup!
Even though I’ve moved over to Notion now, I know what works for me won’t work for everyone. If you’re not a Notion nerd like me, keep reading to discover other productivity apps that suit your needs and workflow.
Task management: Meistertask
Meistertask isn’t as popular as some alternatives out there, like Todoist and Asana. I’ve tried just about every task management app there is, but I used Meistertask for years before moving to Notion. It’s aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. Here’s a sneak peek of my old website/social project board:
Because I need to keep long lists of submissions for my job, the sub-checklist feature is especially handy.
Meistertask also integrates with Google Calendar through iCal, so any deadlines you set in Meistertask will show up on your Google Calendar once you set up the external calendar. (Just be aware that it may take some time to refresh.)
I use the basic, free version, which has more than enough features to cover my needs.
Daily planning: LuxPro Planner
Meistertask provides a big-picture view of all my work, blog, book, and home tasks. But when it comes to day-to-day planning, habit tracking, and weekly reviews, I’m a big fan of colorful pens and classic paper.
Just like task management apps, I’ve tried just about every planner out there. I bullet journaled for years, but my doodling and calligraphy skills aren’t exactly Instagram-worthy. And frankly, I don’t have tons of time to design my spreads each week.
Enter the beautiful LuxPro A5 Planner Binder, which comes with daily entries, weekly reflection pages, monthly calendars, finance trackers…you name it, this planner’s probably got it. And if it doesn’t, you can probably order it from the LuxPro website.
The pre-designed front page makes it easy to jot down the day’s tasks and schedule each morning. The blank dot grid back page gives me the freedom to log the day however I see fit. I keep it simple with a minimalist habit tracker, food log, gratitude and meditation sections, daily reading, and reminders for the next day.
I also keep bullet-journal style spreads in my planner: a cleaning tracker, lists of movies and TV shows I’d like to watch, motivational tidbits… the list goes on and on. (But that’s a subject for another post!)
Note-taking and lists: Microsoft OneNote
While paper planning and note-taking is a wonderfully involved process, I needed certain things to be accessible 24/7. I was a faithful Evernote user for years, but I prefer the freeform customization options in OneNote. (This is one feature I wish Notion would implement…) Upload your own fonts, doodle, insert files and attachments, customize your own tags — the possibilities are truly endless.
One of my favorite OneNote notebooks was the Capture + Collect notebook. (Capturing and collecting is a process featured in Graham Allcott’s book, How to Be a Productivity Ninja.)
Basically, any thoughts, nags, or miscellaneous tasks that pop up throughout the day get captured and collected via your preferred system. OneNote is a great place to store everything.
Another of my favorite features is the custom tags. Check out these tags I created when I used OneNote as a digital bullet journal (before I switched to paper to cut my screen time):
I prefer the paid version of OneNote, which comes with a Microsoft 365 subscription, but the free version works great, too.
Time tracking: aTimeLogger
Because I have to track my hours for work, I needed a time tracker to record my hours and generate a report each week. The aTimeLogger app is the best I’ve found, and I’ve used it for several years. It’s fully customizable with dozens of icons, colors, and reporting capabilities. It also syncs across devices.
Discovering this app encouraged me to track more of my time, just to see where my day went. (It’s a lot harder to talk yourself out of tidying your bedroom when you know it’ll only take 10 minutes.)
While I don’t always track every second of every day, I’m pretty diligent about tracking the time I spend working, writing, meditating, exercising, and even goofing around playing video games and surfing the internet.
At first, I was content with the free version of aTimeLogger, but the paid version includes a calendar view, full statistics, and AMOLED dark mode themes. (Plus, unlike most apps out there today, it’s a one-time fee of just $1 to unlock all the premium features.)
An important note on organization tools and productivity apps
After years of experimenting with various apps and systems, I’ve created a setup that works well for me. Of course, what works for me probably won’t work for you, which is why it’s important to evaluate your systems regularly.
Also, I’m not encouraging you to go out and download a bunch of stuff, not even the apps mentioned here. Beware of what Graham Allcott calls “productivity porn” — basically anything that gives you the illusion of being productive.
If you spend most of your workday adding tasks to a productivity app without actually doing the work, it’s just another distraction.
A bonus organization tool for writers
And there you have it — my top 5 organization tools for work, home, and writing. I’ve got one more organization tool for writers up my sleeve, though: my own free word count tracker spreadsheet, fully customized to your needs.
(I know what you might be thinking — “Ah, jeez! The whole point of this post was to promote her own stuff!”)
Of course I promote creations I work hard on, just like every other blogger on the internet. But here’s the thing: I don’t do gimmicks. This tracker is totally free, with no obligations to subscribe or sign up for another email newsletter.
Whether or not you choose to download a word count tracker, I hope you found this post useful, and thanks for reading. Now go forth, get organized, and be productive!
(Featured photo by Copper and Wild on Unsplash)