Streamlining Your Digital Space

Photo credit to Maegan Tintari.

This week's post is a continuation of last week's post, Cleaning Your Digital Space.  One of my biggest goals as an organizer is not just to help a client organize a space, but also to pass on a skill set to them that will allow them to maintain the work that we've done together.

In order to maintain the work you've done with your own digital space, you will need to streamline and create your own unique and personal system for keeping your newly organized digital world, clutter-free.  I'm hoping I can help out just a little bit by sharing just a few of the things I do to help me streamline my digital space.

Today I'm going to share 4 apps (my favorites of course) that help me to keep my own digital life neat and tidy!

1.  Spotify

For Mac, PC, iPhone and Android

If you are a music-lover, (and lets face it, who isn't?!?) Spotify is really non-negotiable.  It's pretty much a lifesaver and a must-have.  You may think I'm being dramatic here, but if you haven't tried it then you have yet to transform your entire digital music experience.

Before Spotify I was buying tracks and albums on iTunes, syncing to my iPod/iPhone and watching my account balance dwindle.  Every time I discovered something new there was a fleeting moment of excitement, with a brief slide into anxiety over having to pay for every individual song that I liked.  If you think about it, it's a little ridiculous.  If you're the kind of person who always likes entire albums that's a little bit more reasonable, but if you like an eclectic mix of everything from here and there, then your pockets usually won't allow you to indulge in every catchy tune that comes your way.  Unless.....you're one of those rebels that torrents everything, and for the sake of the integrity of this blog we will just pretend that NO ONE WE KNOW HAS EVER DONE THAT.

Anywhoodle, Spotify pretty much solves every single musical problem you've ever had, and here's how:  it's free to have a Spotify account, and from your computer or tablet you can stream any song, artist, album, or playlist that you can imagine, on demand, FOR FREE.  You heard me.  It's free.  Yahhh, I know, I thought it was too good to be true also.  The catch?  There are ads of course, and if you want to do it from your phone and listen ad-free, you have to upgrade to Spotify's Premium account service which is priced outrageously at $10 a month.  I'm joking, that's obviously insanely reasonable, which is why I pay for it.  I no longer have a use for the radio, or really even for syncing anything at all to my iPod.  Of course Spotify thought of everything when they also decided to offer their premium members offline playlists, which basically means you can sync tracks from any playlist to your device so that you don't lose the service when you're out of range, away from Wi-fi or up in the sky on your way to somewhere fabulous.

Spotify gives you the option of browsing the most popular playlists, discovering artists you might like based on your current musical tastes, and offering a radio service if you want to keep things low maintenance.  Obviously I have was listening to my current song obsession.

Spotify's browse function lets you search through the  most popular playlists on Spotify, and under each playlist category there are hundreds of options created not only by Spotify, but mostly by its users.  There's a little bit o' somethin' in there for errrybody.

I know I'm going on and on and on, but seriously this is why you need to have Spotify:  no more music files eating up space on your computer, no additional mp3 organization required, and it's really a time saver because there's no more waiting for anything to sync, to play, or load.  All of your listening, browsing and playlist-creating happens more quickly and efficiently than ever before, which means life is that much simpler.  Now you can just sit back and enjoy the music!  Yessss.

You can find out more about Spotify and download the desktop app by going to their website.  To download the app to your iPhone you can visit the iTunes App Store.

2.  Unroll.me
For Web

The Unroll.me home page.

Are you tired of getting junk email about honey hams?  Are you still trying to figure out how you even got on the email list for the best Croatian skin care money can buy?  Do you feel like you spend wayyyy too much time clicking "unsubscribe"?  (No offense to honey hams which are quite delicious, or Croatian skin care which I'm sure is phenomenal, but I don't really need either of those in my inbox).

Unroll.me is going to be your 5 minute savior!  Promise.  All you have to do it go their website, click the "Get Started Now" button, enter your email address, and wait for that magical magical service to do its work.

I won't even give away the fun by describing how satisfying it is to go down a huge list of email subscriptions and to unsubscribe in bulk.  It's tantalizing really.  This is coming from someone who routinely organizes, categorizes and cleans out her emails (we're talking on the daily if not weekly) and even I didn't realize the sheer volume of how many of these emails I'm getting.

If you're skeptical, you can go to the features page first to read more about what Unroll.me does to help you regain your sanity.  To find out exactly which email platforms are currently supported you can visit their FAQ section.

So, you have to do it, and it's so fast and easy that you won't believe it.  5 minutes was probably a generous estimate, because it was really more like 3 minutes.  3 seamless minutes to a less bulky inbox is a no-brainer.

3.  Sunrise Calendar
For iPhone and iPad
(Sorry Android users, as of right now Sunrise is only iOS friendly, but they have plans to get to you soon, so stay tuned!)

Remember that huge iOS update that was rolled out when the iPhone 5 hit stores?  If you are an avid Apple user you were probably pretty excited, as was I, until I opened the iOS calendar.  

You have to understand that as a mega Type A, a professional organizer, and someone with 2 of her own businesses and a full client load, my calendar was my everything...then it all slipped away with the new iOS because Apple turned what was once a simple and functional app (though admittedly it wasn't super attractive) into something that may have looked a heck of a lot more modern but seemed to lose its basic functionality.

Frankly, I went into change denial, threw a quick fit and decided to get a new calendar.  That's when I found Sunrise.

Sunrise of course performs all the functions of any standard digital calendar, however it also boasts mega cuteness in its modern but quirky design, integration with Facebook, Google calendar and Google Maps, iCloud, Exchange, and a number of other social media networks, as well as an amazingly simplistic but still feature-packed interface that includes a month view with a rolling and continuous daily view.  Don't want either of those?  Just switch to week view with a tap if you like to see your weekly activities in blocks of time rather than just by appointment.

I personally have my Sunrise calendar connected to my Google calendar so I can have separate calendars for different life areas, and each has a corresponding color.  This helps me keep track of what kinds of things I'm doing just with a glance.

A theoretical and totally made up day on my own calendar (because who would spend their Saturday paying bills?), just because you needed to see examples of the amazing little icons.  Are those not the most adorable thing ever?  Yeah.

My favorite part?  Sunrise is so adorable it assigns little icons to your activities that correspond to what you're doing.  For example, if I type in something like "Coffee date!" a little cup pops up next to my appointment.  No kidding.  It also has corresponding icons for things like Skype, making payments, making phone calls, sending out emails, dinner dates, and even consultations!

Of course Sunrise comes with every major holiday programmed in just in case you're the kind of person that forgets about President's Day and then tries to go to the bank (that's me), but it's optional for those of you who are coldly uncaring about presidents.  I also turn on birthday alerts which are pulled in from my contacts so I never forget an important one.

For those of you are real social butterflies, you can create and respond to Facebook events through Sunrise, and post and share events to your wall.  Facebook friend faces included.  ;)  Sunrise makes inviting people to events (no matter what platform they are on) a breeze.

Basically, if I could marry a calendar I'd have no hesitations about saying "I DO" to Sunrise.  It is my new, essential, delightful, easy, and colorful calendar boyfriend, which is why I feel an overwhelming need to tell everyone about it.

You won't find out much about Sunrise by going to their website since it pretty much sends you right over to the iTunes app store.  That means no discussion needed, Sunrise is so great it speaks for itself so give a try.  You can download the app here - let me know how you like it!

If you already have it and are as dedicated to it as I am, let's talk calendar talk.  Shoot me a comment.

4.  Wunderlist
For Mac, PC, iPhone and Android

Yeah yeah, I know, so predictable that an organizer would be telling you to get a list-maker.  You'll want this though, seriously.  Even if you hate lists, you won't anymore.

Of course Wunderlist basic allows you to make many different kinds of lists, and allows you to do things with those lists like share them, create due dates and reminders, makes notes about tasks, and then sync everything to your other devices.  If you make a list on your phone you don't have to keep it nearby to check things off when you're working.  You can open the desktop app and there it is!  Now you can check things off while you're on your computer and then next time you open the app on your phone you can congratulate yourself on your progress.

Here's an example of the Wunderlist sidebar in the iPhone app - here are my lists, with a numbered count of how many items are on each one.  Changing the order of the lists, or their names is a breeze.

This is the right-hand panel of the Wunderlist app that is highlighted when a list is selected, and this is where all the items you have nested within a list will pop up.  Checking them off is the best part...

At its core Wunderlist gives you all of the functionality that you really need in a list-making program without going overboard with the features.  I won't lie and say that I have never paid for an app that had SO MANY features that even I got overwhelmed and had to call it quits on that relationship.  Too many features make my life more complicated, which is pretty much the opposite of what we're going for here.

So, Wunderlist does everything I need and could possibly want my lists to do and more...but, not too much more.  Just the right amount of more.

In case you do decide you like it but do want that little bit more, you can always upgrade to their Pro account which adds subtasks, file attachments, and task assignments for a small monthly fee.

To explore Wunderlist and find out more about what it has to offer you can visit the Wunderlist website or you can just travel on over to the iTunes app store and download it yourself.  Get the iPhone app here or get the Mac app here.  Heck, get both, you'll want to!

So, you basically have no excuse now for ever saying you've forgotten anything because it should be on your calendar or in your to-do list, and while you're blazing through the day and efficiently and elegantly completing tasks and unsubscribing from junk mail you'll have Spotify to keep you company.

Do you feel streamlined now?  You're welcome.

Organize Anything: My Favorite iPhone Apps!

Sometimes I feel so lucky to be living in an age where technology is so advanced that you can pretty much download an app for anything.  Other times I can't help but feel that this flood of technology is contributing to my own insanity.  That is when it becomes necessary for me to use it to my advantage, and find ways to at justify my frequent, mind-numbing iPhone use by at least making it "productive".

This is where the apps come in!  There are a few go-to apps that I use to help me keep my own busy life a little more organized.  Of course there are so many apps out there that you will have plenty to choose from, and it is only from downloading and trying out about a million things that I landed on my favorites.  I encourage you to do the same, but just in case you're not sure where to start, here are my recommendations.

Lists:

I'm an organizer, and admittedly someone who can, at times, walk too close to the OCD line.  I'm a chronic list-maker, and not just because I like to check things off (though it does give me a thrill to cross off something on a list...I wish I were joking) but also because when I don't make lists I feel like my head is a hamster wheel.  Life feels a little more in control to me when I turn things into bullet points.

I started out using Awesome Note by BRID because of the sheer number of different tasks, calendars, folders, labels, colors, tabs, options, etc. that you can create to basically form your own little overly organized universe.  I'm not kidding - the options in this app are pretty much unlimited for anything you could possibly want while trying to keep a list and "making it you" at the same time.  Awesome Note also syncs with Google Docs, so you won't ever lose your info!  Super important.

I used Awesome Note for a really long time, until I got so far into it, and I had spent so many hours in the app, that I kept feeling the urge to reorganize everything in there.  It actually started to have too many features for me, which was distracting me from just keeping my lists.  I spent just as much time trying to make them look good as I did making the lists, which is ridiculous.  That's when I decided I might need to move onto something simpler for a while.

Do! list view.

Do! label view.

Do! calendar view.

That's when I found Do! - The Best Simple To Do List by Su Won Shin.  This app is just basic enough to keep me from falling into a black hole of over-organization (believe me, this can occur) but it's also adorable!  Score.  The whole package.  The best part is that there are enough customizable features, like fonts, backgrounds and tabs, but not so many that you forget you were making a list and not building a website.

I liked this app so much that I paid to upgrade from the free to the premium version, and then something even cuter happened.  Su Won Shin put out a Spring version which functions in exactly the same way, but just looks even more adorable.  I could barely take it, so I had to download that one too.  Who said making lists couldn't be easy and attractive?  (Sidenote:  Make sure you turn the sound on when you make your first list item, so you can hear the little scribbling sound.  It's great.)

Evernote.

Notes:

I'm not always making lists, really...and when I'm not, sometimes I just want to jot something down.  Like an idea or a quote.  I keep a pretty extensive record of my dreams, a catalogue of beauty products I like and want to repurchase (with photos), and sometimes ideas about Christmas presents come to me early.  That's when I use Evernote.  You can keep all sorts of notes, and you can even record audio clips.  Everything syncs to your own cloud on Evernote.com, so again, you won't have to worry about losing anything.  This is a must-have!

Tracking Hours:

If you're a freelancer or anyone who does any kind of contract work, you know the importance of keeping track of your time.  If you're only using the clock to log your hours, you're probably missing out on some pay, and having your own time clock will make life much easier!  I'm kind of married to mine.

HoursTracker by Carlos Ribas has a clock in/clock out function, with editable times (just in case you forget to clock out for lunch and need to go back and edit), the option to export, and you can even keep track of multiple jobs or clients at the same time.  This was one of the main features that simplified my life, because now I can keep track of how much time each client has logged with me, export them separately, and set different rates of pay for each job.  

HoursTracker keeps track of all of that for me, so I don't have to spend any more time than I need to going back and checking my calendar.  When I'm working, I clock in to whatever job I'm working on, and when I'm done I clock out.  I can look at my hours my day, week, month or just the job in general, and I can always add a note at the bottom if I need to remember something specific about a certain time slot.

The best thing that HoursTracker did was show me just how quickly those couple of minutes here and there checking emails could add up!  It's only 2 min. out of my time right now, but in a year I've spent several extra hours working for free without even knowing it.  So, if you're a freelancer who values your own time this app is definitely worth a try!

Sharing documents:

Dropbox is not negotiable for some of the contract work that I do with my distance clients, however it's even better that I can access it on my phone.  I mostly use the mobile version when I'm traveling, though the desktop version is a staple.  Dropbox makes sharing any kind of document between two people completely flawless, and my favorite thing about it is that they allow you to earn more space by referring other people!  If you aren't already using Dropbox I suggest you give it a try, because the days of fighting with email attachments, or putting things on a CDRW are over.

Inkflow.

Inkflow.

For creatives, designers & artists:

Last, but certainly not least, Inkflow was created for all of the creative types and visual thinkers out there!  You didn't think I would leave you out did you?

If you have a habit of scribbling, doodling or even drawing out your ideas, then Inkflow is a great alternative to the traditional and stuffy list apps that type A's use all too frequently.

If you're working in any sort of creative field, especially in design or art, Inkflow is the perfect app to draw, paint and plot out your next project or idea.  It has much more of a "flow" than a note app, and you can easily share or export any of your pages into high-quality documents.

Just looking at it makes me feel creative!

I'd love to hear from you some of you!  What are you favorite iPhone apps for staying sane, organized and more productive?

*All the apps I've mentioned can be purchased through the iTunes app store either on your phone, desktop or by clicking the links I've provided.