Time management tools for Idealists

We know that changing the world can sometimes be a process that’s tough to organize. There are meetings to run, articles to read, relationships to build…

We certainly don’t have all the answers, but decided to round up some of the tricks and tools our staff use to make the most of our time.

Task management:

Craig Dennis (Website):
I use Remember The Milk and their Android application to follow a very light version of the Getting Things Done task management philosophy.  Once I started putting literally everything I need to do in there, prioritized and categorized, I no longer have that sinking, “What should I be doing right now?” feeling.

Chris Machuca (Grad Degree Fairs):
I’m a big fan of Behance’s Action Journal. In a single page, I can capture my notes from meetings, jot down my ideas for projects, and distill the subsequent tasks necessary to complete them. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the Journal comes in a stylish, Moleskine-like cover!

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Photo of pomodoro timers from psd (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Michel Pelletier (Website):
In the past, I’ve used open source tools like GnoTime and Trac to keep track of time and tasks.  Lately, I’ve been intrigued by something I’ve read about called The Pomodoro Technique. This is a very simple technique involving a 25 minute timer, usually in the shape of a tomato.

Mike Sayre (Programs):
I really like Springpad!  It organizes tasks and information really well, using either tags or categories.  Any note is searchable by tag, category, or full text, and they offer apps for Android or iPhone.  To top it off, the interface is pretty easy on the eyes.

Scheduling:

Kara Montermoso (Operations):
I like Google calendar because of the ability to plan way in advance. I use it to separate work commitments from life commitments, but I’m able to view them at the same time. For example, I color code the calendar to plan my family’s dinners for the week, my daughter Maya’s school obligations and also my personal life and work at Idealist. The email reminders are handy, especially when I need to remember something is happening in two weeks.

Amy Potthast (Careers and service programs):
NudgeMail is an email-based efficiency tool – forward any email to NudgeMail and tell NudgeMail to send it back to you at a more opportune time. For example, you read an important email on the commute home; forward it to NudgeMail and indicate you want it forwarded back to you when you’re back in the office the next day when you can respond with a clear head. I like it because emails are less likely to vanish in my inbox.

Efficiency:

Celeste Hamilton Dennis (Programs):
I can be easily distracted, especially when I’m using my computer. It’s not unusual for me to have fifteen tabs open at once. So when I want to get some serious writing done, I use an application called Write Room. It blacks out my entire desktop and helps me focus solely on the words.

Julia Smith (Communications):
Sure, I love Instapaper and Google Apps and all this good stuff…but can I put in a vote for good old-fashioned self-care? I’m most likely to stay on track (and not open a zillion browser tabs and windows) when I cook healthy food, exercise, and most importantly, get a good night’s sleep.

What about you? What tools help you stay on track?

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Comments (6)


  1. Jeremy writes:
    March 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Woah. Write Room sounds like an amazing app.


  2. Talia writes:
    March 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Perfect timing Julia – it’s National Sleep Awareness Week! http://www.sleepfoundation.org/event/national-sleep-awareness-week%C2%AE


  3. Julia writes:
    March 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

  4. Erica writes:
    March 11, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Alas, you can’t *really* color code Google Calendar, you can only use a workaround to create separate calendars that are different colors – and Google Calendar will only sync one of those several calendars with Outlook. This prompted me to switch to 30 Boxes, which is similar but does allow color coding on one calendar.

    I’m also a big fan of LastPass, which remembers all your passwords for you (securely). This is especially helpful on sites where you’re forced to use complex passwords or change them frequently.

    If you organize international conference calls frequently, World Time Zone Planner is helpful:
    http://www.worldtimezone.com/time/wtzplanner.php


  5. Etienne writes:
    March 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Another task you could automate is filling in your timesheets. There are software applications out there that will track employee activities then automatically generate timesheets based off what they actually did. Clever Timesheets is an example. http://www.clevertimesheets.com


  6. Celeste Hamilton Dennis writes:
    March 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks for the additional helpful info, Erica and Etienne! So many tools to choose from…


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