Organise your work
Everyone has their own personal way of keeping organised in their work or personal needs. The real trick, when it comes to academic work, is to ensure that we incorporate tools beyond the ‘traditional’ to improve thinking and productivity.
What are your personal productivity challenges to being efficient and effective? Take a deep breath, In this Thing with a look at some great tools to help organise your work:
- Diigo, a tool for managing and organising web-based resources;
- Evernote as a great note-taking tool; and
- Remember the Milk to share lists, give tasks, and remember in sync with all your devices!
All four tools—Doodle, Diigo, Evernote and Remember the Milk—require you to create an account and this can be done using your email address. If you’re worried about getting too many emails, you could use a secondary or ‘junk’ email account for testing and/or social media use; you can use this email to sign up to these things when you’re trying them out for the first time. Once you’ve finished exploring, you can then create a permanent account using your preferred email address if you decide to make use of the tool/app regularly. Doodle and Remember the Milk also allows you to login using your Facebook or Google account; so does Diigo, which allows you to log in via Twitter or Yahoo.
Doodle is a web-based scheduling tool, great for coordinating times for meetings with a number of people. It has an a mobile friendly interface and an iOS app.. Technically, you can use it without creating an account, though it does offer additional features to registered users. The program sends an email out to the people you’re trying to meet and allows them to respond with their availability. The great thing with Doodle is that the people you’re trying to meet with don’t need to have Doodle accounts to participate. It’s particularly useful for scheduling meetings with people outside your own organisation.
Most Charles Sturt University staff, for example, can use the university’s Outlook Calendar to schedule meetings but Doodle comes in handy if you’re working with people outside the university. It’s also handy as a way of finding out a range of convenient times; if you’re trying to meet with a large group of people, Doodle can let you poll your group for preferred times. You can also link your Doodle account to other calendar programs, such as Google, iCloud (premium users), Outlook and iCal. It also helps to reduce email clutter by creating a visual representation of when everyone is available, without a lot of back-and-forth emails to set a time and a date.
It’s recommended by Gradhacker.org, which highlights the ease of use, and the value of taking the initiative in scheduling meetings. Doodle isn’t the only online scheduling tool, but it is one of the most popular.
Diigo is a cloud-based multi-tool for knowledge management, which is very user-friendly and is easy to set up. Diigo focuses on better ways to process, manage, discover and share information. It’s particularly handy for those times when you’re not on your ‘main’ computer and you want to access sites that you use all the time. Although it’s web-based, there are app versions available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7, which allow you to access your bookmarks from any mobile device as well as a computer.
Key features of Diigo
- Online bookmarking to collect and organise anything
- Highlight and add sticky notes on webpages
- Archive pages so you can refer back to them
- Organize your items by tags or lists
- Search and access from anywhere, anytime
- Group based collaborative research and content curation
Diigo saves your annotations in a Library associated with your account, so you can easily retrieve them. If you’re regularly engaging with websites as part of your research, Diigo is a great way to organise your notes.
Diigo also has an excellent group function which allows you to establish a collaboratively owned group for sharing information and links. These groups can be moderated or public, and provide an excellent way of getting updates to your email box according to the schedule you choose.
When establishing your account be sure to choose the education option for better features. These are special premium accounts provided specifically to K-12 & higher-ed educators. Once your Diigo Educator application is approved, your account will be upgraded to have these additional features:
- You can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks (and student email addresses are optional for account creation)
- Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums.
- Privacy settings of student accounts are pre-set so that only teachers and classmates can communicate with them.
- Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors.
There are many extensions and different levels of functionality available for browsers and mobile devices. Check out the 3 1/2 minute video from Diigo itself.
Evernote is a cloud-based tool for note taking, organising and archiving information (including photos and sound recordings) which allows the user to create tags and to arrange information into notebooks. Evernote also allows you to easily share information with others and syncs across platforms. It is quite powerful and can search for text even in images (eg. photos of slides). It can be used across different platforms; there is a web-based interface but it can be downloaded as a program for both Windows and Mac, and also offers an app interface for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 8 Touch. By creating an account, you can then sync your notes across your devices and computers, as well as access them through the Evernote web interface. It can also sync across platforms, so if you have a PC and an iPhone, you can access your account on both. The basic package is free but a paid version is available with additional services and a larger amount of online storage space.
Evernote allows you to type up notes, of course, but it also allows you to take audio notes, save image files and, like Diigo, lets you bookmark and highlight useful webpages. There are a few extensions to Evernote that I’ve also found very useful including Web Clipper and Clearly. Web Clipper lets you save anything from the web, mark it up and share it via your Evernote account. However, this does not include content from behind proxy servers, so you can’t access an ebook from the Library and use Web Clipper to store the content – nor should you! Clearly will remove everything from a webpage except the text and associated images and save it to your Evernote account; you can then read online content without distracting adverts or banners.
You can organise your notes into notebooks and you can also tag them with different headings. Evernote also allows you to share your notes with your colleagues. One drawback, though, is that with the free version your colleagues can’t edit the notes you share with them, so you would need the premium version if you wanted to use Evernote for collaborative writing.
Evernote provides a good guide for getting started and their blog covers a range of topics. The astronomer blog AstroBetter has a great overview of some of the additional features of Evernote—the ‘Long Trunk’ as they call it—with a particular focus for scientists. Similarly, see how Evernote was used to record all routine experimental information in a lab research setting to replace paper lab notebooks ( a mainstay for scientists to record their work) in Using Evernote as an Electronic Lab Notebook in a Translational Science Laboratory. 10.1177/2211068212471834
Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk is a task and time management app. There are apps available for Android, iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry as well as a web app, sync for Microsoft Outlook, and Remember The Milk integrates with Evernote, Gmail, Google Calendar, Siri, and Twitter. You can even email tasks to your Remember the Milk account.
Need to work offline? No problem! Keep working wherever you are, with automagic switching between online and offline modes.
Create a Diigo account and bookmark a piece of information related to Diigo. Highlight or put a sticky note on something you find interesting and share it with someone you know. Use Diigo to keep a list of your essential bookmarks.
Create an Evernote account, follow the instructions to download the software (including the webclipper) and explore how to take text, image, audio and webpage notes. Over the next week, as you take notes as part of your usual academic practice, see how you might use Evernote to organise and search your notes. Tag them and create a notebook.
Create a Remember the Milk account, download the app for your smartphone or tablet, and use it for your next set of lists: to-dos for the day or week, or a list of the references you need to chase up. Could you use a tool like Remember the Milk as a mobile project management aid?
- Evernote Libguide University of London
- Three views on using Evernote to improve personal productivity and transform academic knowledge mobilization.
- Evernote web clipper allows you to save text, links and images from the web
- Digital reading and studying (written from a CSU student’s point of view)
- Tips and Tricks for using Remember the Milk
- There are more productivity things to explore on the Pinterest board.