Organizing My Life

July 30, 2009

I have a confession to make. My life is out of control. OK, that may be a little dramatic, but over the last 6 months I’ve allowed myself to become more and more disorganized. A lot of it has to do with the number of projects and things I’ve needed to get done have increased, and my organizational system hasn’t scaled to the new amount of tasks.

There are those that tell me I need to start using a GTD system, but to be honest those systems seem like they would be too much work to keep going. I see the need for something more than just keeping a list in my moleskin notebook. I’ve looked at a number of different software packages and web tools, but this is what I’ve narrowed my search down to:

1. Entourage
Entourage is what I use for email. It has a task list that can be tied to me email and calendar.  It’s already in my work flow and I’m very familiar with it.  It’s not perfect, but ramp up time would be small.

  • Pro: tied to my work email and calendar, everything in one place, little setup time
  • Con: doesn’t sync to my phone, have to be at my computer to update the list or check things off, can’t share it

2. Backpack from 39signals
Backpack is an online tool for creating simple pages that can include to do lists, comments, and such. It’s super easy to use and the free version is pretty functional.

  • Pro: online-I can use it where ever I am, shareable – I can allow others on my team to ad items or comments to help prioritize, can set reminders that will be texted to me
  • Con: may outgrow free version, todos and reminds don’t tie together, iPhone apps not free

3. Evernote
I’ve been using Evernote for awhile as a place to capture notes and thoughts for projects and blog post ideas, and recently I read an article about how to use it as GTD system (but one that seems doable).  The article itself was confusing at first pass, but there were some great basic ideas that I easily implement.

  • Pro: online – access it anywhere, free version will be adequate for quite some time, shareable, more than just to do system, research and info system as well, can include photos / voice notes, can email items to it
  • Con: will take the most amount of time to setup, a little bit of a hack to do what I want, no reminders or calendar ties

What are your thoughts on these? Anything that works for you?


  1. Greg

    I use the google suite of programs. I have my GMail account set up so that it collects my work email and drops it into it’s only folder separate from my inbox, and also have it set up so that I can send emails from my GMail account or my work email. Google calendar keeps track of my to do lists, appointments, meetings etc and syncs (along with my address book) to my iphone. google docs lets you create & edit spreadsheets & word documents from your browser.

    There’s loads of other reasons but switching to google has helped me stay on top of my schedule

  2. Jay P

    My hope is that my new iphone will help with this. I have synched it’s calender function with my Google calender. This means that I and my wife have access to and can update the master calender. Which then updates immediately with my phone. Sadly the tasks list function doesn’t seem to be synch-able with the iphone. On my computers I can also synch the same calender with Mozilla’s Thunderbird so I’m linked in that way where ever I am. So far it seems to be working fine.

  3. Jay P

    Actually just googled task lists on iphone and discovered how to access my Gmail task list via the iphone too. Very cool. Just use the browser and go to

  4. Chris

    Jay, I love the google platform, I wish my email and calendar were in it. I tried to get everything to sync (entourage calendar to google) but none of the solutions I tried really got the job done. It’s definitely something I’m keeping my eye on also. Google does a great job integrating these services, I only wish they were as easy to use if you weren’t using all of them.

  5. Kyle

    Got to give a shout out for Remember The Milk (, which is an awesome to-do list manager. It can be set up to be as simple or as complex as you want/need, it’s online, and it has a killer iPhone app (though that requires a pro account @ $25/year – but it’s totally worth it).

    Google “remember the milk blog gtd” and you’ll get a very helpful blog post that outlines a GTD-style system to manage tasks that isn’t all that complicated. I’ve been using my own version of this for over a year and LOVE IT…just got my senior pastor hooked on it, too.

    RTM + Google Calender + Gmail w/ Filters and Labels = Organizational Bliss.

  6. JR

    Evernote seemed very clunky to me. I had it installed on my iPod touch, mac and pc and it didn’t seem to offer anything that I couldn’t do with GCal or iCal and basic notes app in the iPhone OS. I love that app. What have you done to make this work for you? I couldn’t even figure out how to add text to the notes with my keyboard.


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