Knowing what organization tools work best for you will greatly help increase your productivity and overall workflow. I tested out several different free applications to share their pros and cons in the hopes you might see one that fits your work style. All of the following applications are available in both mobile and web-based formats. I tried to recreate the same general schedule in every tool (with the exception of Google Calendar and Calendly) to show you how each tool differs for the same information! My base schedule was how I plan out my blog posts. I did block out most of my future blog post ideas in the screenshots to keep some secrets! Note: the organizational tools appear in no particular order below.
If you are looking for more details on daily and weekly time management tips, see my other blog post here!
Google Calendar may be familiar to those with google accounts, as it’s the default organization app that’s attached to your Gmail account. It’s colorful, easy to understand, and has a range of useful features to keep you on top of important meetings and events. You can color-coordinate different calendars, enabling you to see the events you have coming up at a glance. When you have a plethora of calendars to the side, you can toggle on and off the ones you want to be visible in the main calendar view. You can also add tasks, which have the additional function of a checkbox to check things off upon completion. (Note, if you want to use the tasks function on a mobile device, you will need to download the separate Google Tasks application as well). The main downside to Google Calendar is in its name; it simply acts as a calendar and offers no further organization assistance like task status or management. This, however, should be expected.
Calendly is something I’ve come across before but never really tested out. It connects with your Google Calendar and allows people to schedule meetings with you on zoom. You can set your available hours for meetings and choose additional dates you cannot be available for meetings during the set working hours. You can set up different meeting durations and add customized messages to describe what each meeting is for. A feature I really like about this tool is that you can ask the calendar to add some padding on either side of already scheduled events to make sure someone doesn’t schedule a meeting right after something on your calendar. For example. If you have an in-person meeting from 1-2pm, you wouldn’t want someone to schedule a zoom meeting for exactly 2pm, as you wouldn’t be at your computer yet! Calendly is a tool I’ve implemented on my website now, though I am unsure how often it will be used.
Asana is a tool I’ve used in the past for project management at internships and jobs, and it works well for personal organization. In Asana, you create “teams” and “projects,” which I use as “schedule” and “subject,” respectively. I tested out Asana while working on this blog post, and I would say that for me, it works well for keeping track of specific deadlines and tasks with multiple steps. For example, I can keep track of my blog posts there! You can create different columns for different stages of completion. If you click on a specific task, you can add information like a description and subtasks. In addition to this, I can also add final due dates to the tasks (in this case, the day I want to post the blog post) and view everything in a calendar format. The blog post category was a “project,” and my “team” was simply named schedule. I created other “projects” for my classes and have all my major deadlines in my calendar view. For working alone, Asana can be useful, though I think it is made more for group work, as you can add other people to your “teams” to share deadlines and other information.
Trello is very similar to Asana, with the downside that there are a lot fewer options for use in the free version of the application. Trello works mainly in kanban boards, which you can create up to three of in the free version. You are limited to the board view and can create columns based on the level of completion of a task. After creating a task on your board, you can click on it and add more detailed information about that task, such as the due date (keep in mind, you do not have access to the calendar view in the free version), a description of the task, connect directly to google drive links, and create a checklist of things to do before the task can be considered complete. One unique feature is that you can add a cover image to tasks to make the board more interesting to view.
Monday is styled quite differently to Asana and Trello, favoring a more excel-sheet look. The main view for Monday is a table view, showing you every task in a “to-do” list format, making it a lot more focused on what tasks are and aren’t done rather than focusing on the phase of completion. You can view your schedule in various ways, including a timeline and a kanban board. One of the unique features of Monday that I enjoyed was how you can set a timeline for your work (the previously mentioned two do not have this as a feature in the free-to-use versions) and it will show you how much time you have left on your timeline in the main table view. The table view also syncs well with the kanban board, as the kanban board status appears as a column in the table view (and can be color-coded!). The only thing I dislike about Monday is that its calendar view has everything in the same color, and you cannot view different boards on the same calendar.
Mind Meister is completely different from all the other tools I tried. I was initially drawn in by the pretty colors, but then I was baffled by the way it asked you to form ideas. I tried looking at some of their template options but found that they made me even more confused. However, once I tried making a map from scratch, I began understanding how it worked. Mind Meister isn’t so much about keeping track of a to-do list or schedule, but more about organizing your thoughts and ideas in a way that might help you be more creative or even help you come up with more ideas. You start with the main topic, then slowly build a map off that, building your ideas and allowing you to see a visual representation of how everything is connected to each other.
Of all the tools listed above, I mostly use Google Calendar, Calendly, and Asana. After writing this blog post, however, I might give the others more of a long-term trial. Of the kanban boards, I liked Trello the most but disliked how I would have to pay if I wanted access to the calendar feature. Asana had the most features for free and was overall the most useful of the tools. There are many other tools out there, but within the time of the week, these are the ones I had the proper time to look into! If you have suggestions for more tools for me to look into, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
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