If you have been following the blog for a few weeks now, I’ve written about various principles, strategies, and tools you can use to boost your productivity. These tidbits of advice are great, but what about a full organizational system?
This week’s article will walk you through how to use Google Calendar, Keep, and Tasks — a free way to stay organized and use digital systems (not sponsored, unfortunately).
Here’s a quick rundown of what each app is used for.
- Google Calendar: events and important reminders
- Google Keep: notes, long-term lists, and short-term lists
- Google Tasks: to-dos
I love Google Calendar. I started using it during college when I was hopelessly disorganized, and I still use it to this day. I have tried many different calendar apps, but I always go back to this one. You can automatically receive events from your Gmail to the calendar, share events, and get notifications for upcoming events on any device.
Of course, first sign up for a Google account if you do not already have one.
Create new calendars based on your needs. You can find this by clicking on the three bars in the top left hand corner, scrolling down to “Other Calendars,” and then click the plus sign to create a new calendar. For example, I create calendars for each class I take, job(s), and my personal life.
Give it a name, add whatever details you want, and assign the calendar a color.
Now you’re ready to start adding to the calendar(s)! Normally, I just add events, meetings, classes, and important reminders. I’ve attached an example from February 2020. You can see I’ve added exams, rent and bills, life events, birthdays, and important reminders. I don’t add daily to-dos on the calendar because it adds unnecessary clutter. Also, your calendar is only supposed to give you an overview of the day, in which you fill empty blocks of time with tasks. After putting in your schedule, you can figure out areas to implement time blocking and do more focused work.
Google Keep is like a collection of digital sticky notes. You can handwrite notes or type them out, and you can share them anywhere in your Google account (Google Drive, Google Docs, etc.) on any device. In addition, if you want to share the note with team members or family, you can collaborate!
If you are still on Google Calendar, the Keep app is in the top right hand corner (the yellow sticky note).
Once clicked, a dashboard will pop up with all the notes that you are currently working on or pinned to the top. Here’s an example of what my dashboard looked like last summer.
Keep is flexible and allows you to structure your notes however you like. I used this more as a to-do list and to write down a few notes quickly. If you like sticky notes, this is the digital version of it. Keep is a great way to also jot down random ideas, and the best part is that you always know where to find them. I used to write ideas and little things I needed to remember on random pieces of paper, but I could never find them when I thought of it! With Google Keep, all your notes are in one safe place that you can access from your phone, tablet, and laptop.
Google Tasks is a fairly new addition and was built to be a to-do list. However, it is a little less flexible and intuitive than Google Keep. You can make separate types of to-do lists, but you have to toggle between “My Tasks” and the list you want. Otherwise, all of the tasks are compiled in one list.
If you are still on Google Calendar, the Tasks app (blue circle with a check mark) is in the top right hand corner below Keep.
Once clicked, you will see Tasks pop up next to your calendar, which is nice because you can consult your calendar and write your to-dos without having to switch between windows, tabs, or screens. Here’s an example of the format of the app.
A great feature of Tasks is that you can immediately add tasks from your email (using Gmail) into this list. Click the button (picture below, circled in red), a pane pops up to the right, and Tasks inputs its suggestion. That way, you don’t have to do the work of remembering what the task is and just add it to the list with a click of a button.
How Do I Put It All Together?
Now that you know where to start, making it a cohesive system is pretty easy. First, designate how you want each app to work for you. In my personal example, I use Google Calendar for events and important reminders, Keep for notes and various list types, and Tasks for to-dos.
Stick to it! At first, it’s going to feel like a lot of work to remember what goes where and to write everything down. Once you get the hang of your system though, you will find it to be more automatic. Initially, it’s about forming the habit to get organized. Once you have the habit down, your organization will improve and become more natural.
This system is exactly how I got started when trying to be more organized. I still use Google Calendar every day, and it’s a really powerful tool to help you get on track.
If you end up trying out this system, let me know! And if you run into any issues or need help, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help!