It’s shocking how disorganized we all are. We have too much to do or we just put things off until we can’t find our stuff and tear our rooms into pieces while we search. You never really know bad it is until you actually organize and wonder how the hell you survived before. I was a disorganized mess not so long ago. I’d forget about meetings and I’d put off tasks for too long.
It’s completely different now.
Since I’ve invested my time into better understanding Internet tools, I’ve come across dozens of amazingly useful applications and websites that have greatly improved my productivity. But we can only use so many services before overload and, if you’re like me, you want to get the most benefit out of the fewest tools. Who wants to learn how to use more websites effectively anyway (well, except me, but I’m an anomaly in the first place).
So I’ve compiled my list of the 13 most important tools to help you organize your life so that you can get more done with less headaches. Most you’ve probably heard of, some you haven’t. Take a real hard look at all of these – I hope you will start using them to improve your daily browsing and your daily living.
1) Remember the Milk (Task Management)
What is it? – This under-the-radar service is the king of organizing your life and making sure you never miss another meeting or forget to accomplish a task. It allows you to create dynamic to-do lists, manage tasks, and create reminders. Tasks can be postponed, organized into groups, be mapped out on Google maps, and edited on the go. Set up IM and SMS reminders for your important events or send your tasks via Twitter or the phone for even easier use. If you don’t ever accomplish enough or write to-do lists on paper all the time, switch to Remember the Milk.
Why use it? – Never be disorganized again. Set up several tabs to organize your tasks. Appointments, Work, Personal, Studies, etc. Set up reminders so that you get text messages half an hour before any major appointment. Never have to use a pen and paper task list ever again.
Tip: Remember the Milk’s greatest feature is its integration with a variety of other services. Visit their services page and be sure to integrate Remember the Milk with Google Gears for offline support, Gmail for easier task management, and Google Calendar so that tasks from your to-do list appear in your calendar program.
2) ReminderFox Firefox Extension (To-Do Lists and Reminders)
What is it? – Not looking for something with all of the bells and whistles of Remember the Milk, but need something that will remind you that it’s your friend’s birthday? Or that it’s time to pay the bills? ReminderFox is a perfect solution for this type of problem within an interface you use all the time – your browser.
Why use it? – It’s dead simple to set up and use. You can add new tasks within the browser interface, and it comes with calendar and to-do list functionality. It’s a simple solution for a major problem we all have.
Tip: Synchronization is your friend, especially if you own more than one computer or have a work computer and home computer you keep exchanging information between. By using the network option, you can automatically synchronize your ReminderFox to a remote file that will update any computer for which you set it up. So if you set a calendar at home, and then get to work, it will automatically sync and those tasks will appear at work too!
3) Jott (Voice Notes and Reminders)
What is it? – Ever have a random thought in the car but can’t write it down? Ever want to send that thought to your co-workers? Ever want to send Twitter messages or create blog posts via your voice? Well, you can do all of that with Jott, a voice-to-text service that allows you to call a number, say your thoughts, and get a voice and written copy of your thoughts in your email. You can set up reminders
Why use it? – Record your thoughts, collaborate with coworkers, and Jott Links. Record the groceries or your idea for the next big company. Send your thoughts to your friends or coworkers by email and let them do the same. Use Jott Links to send information to your favorite services by voice.
Tip: Use Jott Links with your Google Calendar and Remember the Milk accounts. You can send new tasks to your Remember the Milk via Jott or add new tasks to your Google Calendar. There’s no need to browse to add these tasks anymore.
4) Google Reader (News and Information)
What is it? – This is the age of the Internet, so why are you reading print newspaper and wasting paper? Have all of the headlines, stories, and your favorite blogs sent to one place via Google Reader. By subscribing to RSS Feeds, you can get the latest headlines from CNN, Digg, Techcrunch, and more. If you’re not familiar with RSS feeds, Check out these tutorials.
Why use it? – The ultimate way to organize your news. Instead of visiting 50 websites, you visit one. Get more news in a smaller amount of time. Save your favorite articles rather than your favorite websites. If you aren’t already a Google Reader/RSS Feed user, start now! You won’t regret it.
Tip: The Better GReader Firefox extension will give you increased functionality, including the ability to preview partial feeds within your Google Reader, truly making sure you never have to leave your Google Reader when you’re reading your news.
5) Google Alerts (Information Alerts)
What is it? – We use Google searches all the time to find information. Some searches, though, seem to happen all the time. Come on, how often do you search for yourself? That shady customer you just met? The company you’re working for? Well, let Google search for you and send you that information via Google Alerts It will email you everyday when new content with search terms you specify are found.
Why use it? – Keep track of mentions of your name (if your name isn’t John Smith), the company you work for, of terms you constantly search for your job, or of anything you find interesting. You’ll be on top of the news about your company and can react. You’ll be able to know if someone is using your identity or slamming you on a blog.
6) Wesabe (Finance Organizer/Social Network)
Wesabe is a community-based personal finance site which allows users to track their bank accounts (privately) while sharing money tips and goals (publicly).
Wesabe will, via the website or, even better, via a Firefox extension, grab your financial data so you can automatically balance your checkbook. You have no idea how long I’ve wanted something that would do that for me. And don’t worry – it protects personal financial data. It even graphs and track stats so you better know your finances.
Why use it? – Two reasons: organizing your finances, and tips from the community. It will make sure to track your checkbooks and payments and you’ll be sure to be on track financially. The other great feature is that it has social networking power – by inputting the prices of groceries for example, you can find out if you’re getting ripped off or found a deal, plus other members of Wesabe will give you relevant tips based on your spending habits.
Tip: The very first thing you should do after signing up for Wesabe is grab the Firefox extension. It will help you automatically access your account information so Wesabe can track it.
7) Mint.com (Finance Organizer)
What is it? – Lucky for us, there’s not one, but two incredible web applications for organizing your finances. If you’re not into the Wesabe interface or social networking features, then you need to take a look at Mint.com, the winner of last year’s TechCrunch 40. Mint allows you, like Wesabe, to manage, organize, and track your finances all from one location. You can compare your spending to the average, get advice, perform personal budgeting, and see some very slick metrics on your spending habits.
Why use it? – Mint claims that it “provides users an average of $1,000 in savings opportunities during their first session.” Even if that number is not true, it does save you money by the simple fact that you’re tracking your finances intelligently. Plus it searches for finance deals via a very sophisticated algorithm. Did I mention the alerts that make sure you don’t screw up your finances?
Tip: Set up those alerts ASAP! You can get email AND mobile alerts to remind you of payments that are due or of low balance issues in your checking. It’s perfect for tracking any fraud or any stupid spending on your part.
8) LinkedIn (Business Social Networking)
What is it? – LinkedIn is the premier business social network. If you’re in the corporate world, you almost certainly know of LinkedIn. Connect with your business associates and then use those connections to find business partners, potential employees, information about employers, or answers to your questions. Being introduced by one of your LinkedIn friends to an executive in a company you want to work for can do wonders.
Why use it? – Always know what your connections are doing business-wise. You’ll be kept up-to-date to your connections’ company changes, promotions, etc. By keeping in touch with your business contact periodically, you may just be able to get the opportunities others fail to grasp.
Tip: Subscribe to an RSS Feed of your Network Updates. Always know when your friends are promoted and congratulate them. Always know when your friend joins a company you want to work for and reconnect. Learn when your Gmail contacts have joined LinkedIn so you can add them to your network.
9) Plaxo (Business Contacts)
What is it? – Plaxo has two basic functions: Act as a dynamic address book of all your contacts, and update you on the happenings of your contacts (similar to FriendFeed or Facebook). I’m only concerned with the first one – the very advanced address book Plaxo has created that allows you to easily input your contacts’ information, organize them into folders and tags. If you input an email already in the Plaxo system, their contact info will be filled in automatically. It’s still a great service, regardless of its acquisition by Comcast.
Why use it? – Don’t use a rolodex of business cards you’ll never look at. Instead, input them into your Plaxo and put on some tags – Where you met them, what industry they’re in, the company they work for. When you need someone of a certain field or want to remember the people you met at a conference, just go to that tag and your contacts are there. The organization of contacts by Plaxo is far superior than any pen-and-paper system you could ever use.
Tip: Always start by syncing your email contacts with Plaxo. Plaxo is secure, don’t worry. But by inputting them automatically, the hundreds and thousands of people you’ve talked too via email are added and any that are plaxo members already have their info filled in. Just add tags.
10) Google Notebook (Notes)
What is it? – Google Notebook is basically a scratch pad that allows a user to write notes and save links, images, and text while they are browsing the web. In conjunction with Firefox and Internet Explorer extensions, a person can be on any web page and write down their thoughts or important info based on their browsing.
Why use it? – Stop forgetting your thoughts while you’re browsing the Internet. Write down key information to be used later, save links for your blogging, and organize your thoughts as you browse. Plus you can export all of those notes to Google Docs and share them with others.
Tip: By using the Google Notebook Firefox extension, you can add a “Note this” link to each Google search result, allowing you to more quickly tag important links you find via browsing (or just save them for later)
11) Google Calendar (Calendar/Reminders)
What is it? – This one requires very little explanation – It’s a calendar/time-management internet tool that allows you to input important times, dates, and information in calendar format. What makes it special, though, are its integration with Gmail and the ability to collaborate with others.
Why use it? – For the two features I just stated above. Gmail will automatically recognize appointments in your email and you can copy them to your calendar and set reminders. You can get your friends or co-workers to create a calendar to schedule tasks or keep everyone up-to-date on progress.
Tip: Get the Google Desktop gadget. Your Calendar will appear on the corner of your screen, whether you are online or offline, so you can see and edit your tasks at any time.
12) FriendFeed (Social Media)
What is it? – There’s a ton of clutter if you have an account on StumbleUpon, Digg, Twitter, YouTube, Disqus, and more. You want to track what your friends are doing, or you want to catch on the latest popular story across multiple platforms or the best new video, but visiting all of these websites all of the time is, well, a time drainer. But that’s been fixed.
FriendFeed aggregates all of the activity you and others do on the internet and brings it to one place for easy viewing. You can find out what your favorite people have been Digging, find out what’s the big news, and even post links, send out twitters, or share photos. As FriendFeed adds new features, it’s going to become more useful and even easier to manage.
Why use it? – Stop visiting dozens of social media websites and hone in on the conversation and buzz through one service. Know what your favorite people are Digging or posting on their blogs and organize your internet life through one service. It’s one of the fastest growing services out there now.
Tip: Improve the functionality of FriendFeed further by adding additional tabs of the services you visit most within FriendFeed and use it as your homepage. I also suggest FriendFeed apps for other functionality improvements.
13) Greasemonkey Firefox Extension (Improved Functionality)
Why use it? – It’s almost certain that your favorite website has a Firefox extension to make the little changes you’ve always wanted to websites. Making emails clickable in LinkedIn, adding more features to Google Search, tweaking your email…all of this is possible via Greasemonkey. Browsing just becomes more efficient and you can organize information faster.
Tip: The main resource for Greasemonkey scripts is at Userscripts.org. Search for your favorite website and add any extensions that pique your interest.
This article is the most time-consuming article I’ve ever written. But I hope you find some great value in all of these tools. Keep reading, because I’m going to go in-depth into all of these tools and more in new articles.
Looking for more articles and information on these tools? Or do you have your own tips? Don’t forget to add them to the Internet Tools Wiki: