Top 5 Tech Tools to Organize Your Life

Written By John Richards on Friday, November 16, 2012 | 3:20 PM

As I drag myself away from whiling away another hour clicking through Pinterest and dreaming of crafts and projects I am surely never going to actually do, I have to chuckle a bit at the strange dichotomy that is technology. It can be a huge black hole for those of us easily distracted by all things shiny, and yet it offers an amazing array of tools to stay organized, connected and efficient. From online calendars to menu planners to interactive to-dos and reminders, here are some of the best tools and resources to help keep you organized and on track. Whenever you can drag yourself away from that game you’re playing on Facebook, that is.

Oh, and even better: they’re all free.

The Incredible Synching Online Calendar – Google Calendar

An online calendar with electronic reminders is an amazing tool. The last time I forgot a dentist appointment, only to be told it would be five months before I could get back on the schedule, I immediately installed Google Calendar on my smartphone. I synced across all my devices so no matter where I am I will, by golly, get that reminder to pick up the dog from the groomer. I have the family calendar sync with my husband’s phone as well so that he doesn’t miss out on the preschool open house or double book date night.

All you need to get started is a Gmail account. There are a multitude of Google Calendar apps that make it compatible with just about every device imaginable so you can add, view and edit events on the go. Have reminders sent to you via text or email. Color code events so work appointments stand apart from Jill’s upcoming soccer game; share your calendar with others; set up recurring events so you don’t have to remember to give the dog her flea treatment every month. Frankly, it’s the only way I ever make it where I need to be within a rough ballpark of the time I am expected.

Be a Task Master – Remember the Milk

On the surface it appears to be a relatively simplistic online to-do list. The interface is basic with a few bells and whistles, yet Remember the Milk  is a powerful tool to help you organize and manage your life. View tasks by due date (today, tomorrow, overdue, etc) or categorize tasks into lists and sort by work project, home maintenance, or self preservation (what else would you call a reminder that schedules a pedicure or organize a night out with the girls?).  Share or publish individual tasks or project lists so that you can work together with coworkers, or have hubby’s phone remind him to take out the trash so you don’t have to.

With apps for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android, you can manage tasks on the go. Sync with Google Calendar and have reminders sent via email, text or IM. Easily create recurring tasks so that you don’t forget to water the plants on Tuesday or pay your mortgage on time. You can even view location-specific tasks on a map so you can see if there’s anything else you can check of your list while you’re in the neighborhood.

The Family Tracker – Cozi

Cozi  is a great free calendar, task and to-do list application geared toward families. Cozi has a multitude of easy to use features that automatically sync between every computer and mobile device in your busy household.

Use the online list feature to create a family to-do viewable by everyone you connect to your Cozi account. For instance, make up individual to-do lists for each family member, an up-to-date, accessible anywhere emergency contact list, vacation pack list... the possibilities are endless. There’s a grocery shopping list with pre-filled common items, or add your own, that can be updated by anyone in the family and then sent to you via text or email when you’re ready to head to the store.

The family calendar allows you to color code appointments by family member, and then choose to see individual calendars or the whole family’s schedule at once.  A super handy text translator feature takes “Meet with plumber next Thursday at 10,” and automatically adds an appointment titled “Meet with plumber” in the right place on your calendar.

Reminders can be sent to your mobile phone or email, and the calendar is easily printable for kids that aren’t yet web-connected. Cozi syncs with Outlook while selectively adding only those appointments that fall out of normal business hours, so your husband will always know when you need to work late, without also being reminded of your lunch meeting with the boss. Your calendar and lists can be viewed and modified on any mobile device by logging into the website, or downloading the app onto your iPhone or Android. Now there’s no excuse for missing Sparky’s next vaccination appointment, much to his chagrin.

Manage Your Money - Mint.com

If you have a relatively straight forward financial situation, with bank accounts and loans through traditional banking institutions, a free online financial management resource like Mint  can make budgeting and controlling your money a snap. Once you set up a free account with your name and email, simply enter the online login information for your various bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts and loans, and Mint will retrieve and consolidate your current balance and transaction history.  From that point on it will automatically keep your accounts up to date, with the only manual entry from you being to classify expenses it doesn’t recognize (it auto-categorizes what it can).

Quickly and easily set customized goals for anything from paying off a debt to funding your retirement, so you can see how much you need to set aside each month to reach short and long term goals. It even suggests ways you may be able to save money by making easy changes or transferring your accounts to institutions with lower fees.

Corral your Kitchen – Kitchenmonki.com

As much as the plan on Sunday night is to eat at home every day next week, come Wednesday you inevitably open the fridge pondering, what do I have ingredients and time to make? Chinese takeout beckons and your exhausted brain steers you to pick up the phone and dial before you can pull out that “5 ingredients or less” cookbook.  If this sounds like a typical weeknight at your house, check out Kitchen Monki.

Set up a free account to add and organize your own recipes, or search the Kitchen Monki database and add recipes to your collection. Use the “Your Queue” tool to map out a week or more of menus using the Meal Planner tool. You can even create shopping lists automatically and send them to your cell phone with Mobile Monki. No more standing in the produce aisle trying to mentally plan your menu, or throwing out that kale you thought for sure you’d get around to using, but didn’t.


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