Originally posted on inc.
They’re free or cheap and they’ll keep you amazingly organized.
In our ever-more-complicated lives, it’s easy to lose track of important information. Ideas you want to remember, websites you want to check out, articles you plan to read, even recipes you want to try. Not to mention tasks you don’t want to forget, and who said what during important conversations.
1. Note-taking and web-clipping software.
For me, it’s important to both be able to write notes to myself to keep track of important information and conversations and to be able to quickly grab web pages so I can find them later. In fact, it’s so important that I have three different apps that I use in different ways for these functions.
So why do I need anything else? For one thing, I read a lot, and Pocket captures online articles and saves them in a format that’s easy to read and works even if you’re offline. It’s the easiest way to grab reading that I want to do later (on a plane, for instance). Pocket isn’t the only app that does this. Here are some other choices that should work just as well.
My final note-taking tool is Google Keep, which duplicates many of Evernote’s functions. Being completely honest, I probably wouldn’t have tried it if Google hadn’t kept it front and center on all my Android devices. But Keep has a few things going for it: It loads quickly, it works across all devices including my web browser, and it has simple and clean interface, which Evernote very much does not. So I use Google Keep for anything I want to capture very quickly and not necessarily keep forever–maps of hiking trails, parking space numbers, WiFi passwords. You get the idea. Using both Evernote and Keep in different ways works for me, but you would absolutely be fine with one or the other.
2. Recording and transcription software.
As a longtime journalist and touch typist, I type fast enough to write down what other people say while they’re saying it. And for years, that was how I did most interviews. But then Otter.ai came along and made that unnecessary. Otter.ai creates both an audio recording and a time-stamped AI-generated transcript of any words it hears, and you can use it across your devices. Storage is generous, even with the free version, which makes it an easy decision for me to record not only interviews but any conversation I want to remember in detail. (It goes without saying that you should always alert anyone else in the conversation that you are recording them before you do it.) Otter.ai’s transcription is about as accurate as an AI transcription can be, but since it matches the text to the audio, you can always click on a word or a sentence and hear what was actually said. Otter.ai’s audio quality isn’t perfect, though, so if it’s a truly important conversation and I can’t easily ask follow-up questions afterward, I usually make a backup recording using my computer’s native audio recording function, or a recording app on my phone.
I’ve also found Otter.ai to be surprisingly helpful writing speeches and presentations, such as this keynote at last year’s Elevate conference. I open Zoom, turn on Otter.ai, and record myself speaking. Then I use the transcript to construct my speech.
Otter.ai isn’t your only option for voice transcription. Google Keep and Evernote actually have this function as well, and Microsoft has integrated it into Office 365. If you’re not using one of these tools, you may be surprised at how much more information you can retain if you do.
3. A file cabinet or box.
Yes, we live in an increasingly paperless society. And yet, there are some items that we need to retain in their paper form. Birth and marriage certificates, car titles, owner’s manuals for your appliances, insurance policies, signed contracts, and on and on.
Like it or not, you need a way to store paper documents so that you can quickly find what you’re looking for rather than having to dig through a stack of important papers searching for the one you need. I use a small filing cabinet, but you may be able to manage with something even smaller. A file box that allows you to store files vertically, preferably hanging so you can easily browse through them, costs less than $30 and will save you a lot of grief, and potentially money. I had a high-end electric blanket fail after four-and-a-half years of use. I looked in my file cabinet and found the warranty, which turned out to be for five years. The company replaced it for free.
4. A power journal.
In my new book Career Self-Care, I use the term “power journal” to describe the way I use my journal, which is a combination of a traditional write-down-your-innermost-thoughts journal, a bullet journal, and a place to write about my goals and plans. It’s important, because it allows me to keep track of my progress toward my biggest goals. My journal is a paper notebook, but it doesn’t have to be that way for you. Your power journal could be a digital file, a text document, or even videos that you record. You can add doodles, or paste in images as you would with a vision board.
Of all the tools I can recommend to help you remember things, this is by far the most important. That’s because, of all the forgetting we do in the crush of our daily lives, the worst danger is that we will forget–or keep setting aside–the goals, dreams, and relationships that matter to us the most. These things may be important to our careers and lives, but they usually aren’t urgent. You have deadlines for most of the work in your daily job, and you know you have to meet those deadlines. You probably don’t have deadlines for the things you aspire to do, like launching a new business or finally writing that book. Just as you don’t have deadlines for taking that vacation with your partner or reaching out to an old friend.