I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a super organized person, but the fact of the matter is I have four active kids, a husband, and at least half a dozen of my own projects or activities going on at all times and very little falls through the cracks. I must be doing something right, right? These are three top organization apps I regularly use to help keep things running smoothly and to fend off that feeling of impending hysteria when things start to pile up.
Most people with iDevices are familiar with Apple’s default Calendar app. I use the basic functions of the Calendar app daily to keep track of my personal activities, but more importantly, the share calendars feature is what helps me keep my family organized.
In my house, the Calendar app is sacred. If you are planning to do anything, or have committed yourself or anyone else to do anything, or there is an activity that anyone else in the family might find remotely interesting, it goes in the Shared Family Calendar. This includes everything from free Lego build dates to details about the school’s Christmas break days (so my husband can book his vacation). Our Shared Family Calendar really is our command centre so we know where and when to be places and what’s coming up in the next hours, days, and weeks.
We have a few shared calendars actually. My husband keeps one to track and communicate all health related appointments for his dad and shares it with all his siblings. When we went to Disney World, I made a separate shared calendar just for that trip. I included what park we would be at each day, our dining reservations, and show times. Might sound a bit anal, but I’m sure it saved me from a heated conversation involving the words “How was I supposed to know…?”
If you have updated your operating system to iOS8, check out how to set up a Family Sharing Calendar here.
Wunderlist is relatively new to my arsenal of organizational apps. I’ve had many to do list type apps, but Wunderlist seems to be the one that is sticking. I think you could really use any robust list app, one that allows to to categorize and share list items. It’s not the app itself that will make a to do list work, it’s that way you use it. I’ve been using the five step method from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen to keep my to do list organized and functional. The basic idea is that if you are thinking about things you need or want to do, they should be put in a list. You have different lists for different types of things needing to get done. The types of lists I’m using and examples from my own lists are:
Action – for things needing immediate response, but can’t be done in the next two minutes. Example, “Pick up vodka for tomorrow’s family dinner”
Waiting For – to keep track of all the things where you have done your part and handed off to someone else but you cannot go forward until their part is completed. Example, “Bloodwork – am I still anemic? Call back if I don’t hear by Thursday.”
Individual Projects – these are lists that have multiple list items needing to be done for the “project” to be complete. Example “Fix the bathroom light that is smoking when turned on” is the list item and it has all the steps to complete this activity as sublist items.
Someday Sometime– the rose coloured glasses list that you hope one day might get done, but you are not actively trying to complete. Example, “Clean bathrooms” Haha, just kidding, but “Paint bathrooms” is on the list.
Reference – this is for when you want a re-usable list for something, but you don’t have to actually do anything. Example “Camping: Foul weather gear”. Again, this list has a sublist of all the things we will need if the weather turns on us during our camping trip.
Like the Calendar app, Wunderlist allows people to share lists. This is awesome when I send a list item like “Pick up chocolate on your way home. “ to my husband, but less awesome when he sends me lists of “Complete piano lesson homework with each of the kids”.
The Shopper Lite app allows you to organize everything related to food shopping. I like this app because although it has a lot of features, including recipes, coupons, etc., I want to use in a very simple way and it lets me do that. I basically want a reusable digital version of a paper and pen grocery list so I can get in and out of the grocery store without forgetting something. I can set up different lists for different stores and organize the list based on how the store is set up. The app comes with a pre-populated list of grocery items that are organized much like a large grocery store and list items are easily customized to match what I buy and how I navigate my store. You can set up an account and share your Shopper list, but I don’t as I am the only one in the family that ventures into the food shopping abyss.
There are many feature-rich organization apps in the app store, but I find that I do better when things are simple. These apps take the basic home organization tools of 20 years ago, a family Calendar, To Do list, and Grocery list, and put them in the palm of your hand.