- There’s normal fear and then there’s pathological anxiety. When the state of fear becomes exaggerated, the amygdala and the extended amygdala play a central role.
- Mental disorganization sometimes comes from poor time management, poor organization skills, procrastinating, and then also from the anger, disappointment and sadness that come after poor performance.
- You don’t need an expensive planner or 30 apps to keep you organized. All you need is determination, plan, commitment and – of course: action to achieve an organized life. Choose one or two organizational tools.
- Mentioned Notes and To-Do List Apps: Evernote, OneNote, Google Keep, Simplenote, Apple Notes, Quip, Dropbox Paper, Wunderlist and Todoist.
- Mentioned Productivity Apps and Calendars: My effectiveness, isoTimer (To-Do Calendar Planner), Google Calendar, Jorte Calendar &Organizer and TimeTune: Optimize Your Time.
- Mentioned Habit, Health and Fitness apps: Fabulous – Motivate Me, Lifesum – The Health Movement and 8fit – Workout & Meal Plans.
- Mentioned Article Organizing Apps: Pocket, Flipboard: Your News Magazine and Feedly: Your Work Newsfeed.
- Filofax – Type Organizers and Bullet Journals. Scroll down to find out which web-sites offer some great free printables.
Have you ever had so many things to do but seemingly so little time? Ever felt like the whole world is crushing over you? Ever felt your palms sweating, your breathing quickening, your knees weakening, your heart pumping really loud and really fast and your inside voices screaming too loud? That is anxiety. Or at least one form of anxiety.
There’s normal fear and then there’s pathological anxiety. Let me give you an example: normal fear is when a student has an oral exam at uni with a professor that confuses being strict with being a psycho. I think the above symptoms describe the normal fear, or normal anxiety quite well. It’s an emotion, like any other. When we experience fear, the amygdala plays a central role.
Being afraid of what the questions and what your answers might be in an exam is not the only source of anxiety. It could be because of number of reasons, including relationship problems, loneliness, lose of someone, disorganized environment, etc. When the state of fear becomes exaggerated, the amygdala and the extended amygdala light up like a Christmas tree. (1)
I’m not going to write about the basics of anxiety, you can read about it here.
Here, I will be talking about anxiety that arises from overwork and disorganization. I’m not gonna talk about physical clutter, either. If you want to read about home organization and the difference between clutter and hoarding, then go here.
Mental disorganization sometimes comes from poor time management, poor organization skills, procrastinating, and then also from the anger, disappointment and sadness that come after poor performance. In these cases, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, or what you’ve done in the past, or what you’re planning for the future. In many of these cases, help is needed to organize oneself and to stick to being organized. This is the topic for the week – how to avoid anxiety through self-organization, and how to avoid poor performance because of overwhelm, frustration and disorganization.
Before I became an organized person, the biggest problem I had, was choosing and sticking to an organizational tool. My organizing skills were all over the place. I would choose one organizer, start using it for a month or two, see another one that looks really great (either an electronic one or paper one) and start using that one. That behavior was repetitive, of course unproductive and annoying. It’s hard to keep up when you have too many organizing tools – you have to enter the information in the first organizer, then in the other one and the other one, and so on. So – time consuming and not really helpful.
Anxiety, therefore, comes from disorganized thoughts: your brain first has to recall where (in which calendar, or organizational tool) that information is written down. Before that happens, you become frustrated and overwhelmed. Basically, what I learned is that you don’t need an expensive planner or 30 apps to keep you organized. Trust me – duplicate, triplicate files can create chaos. All you need is determination, plan, commitment and – of course: action to achieve an organized life. It sounds hard – it is.
Whatever organizer you choose is OK, as long as it does the job. Here are few examples, and remember: do not use all of them! Pick one or two.
NOTE and TO-Do LIST APPS
Evernote vs. OneNote vs. Google Keep vs. Simplenote vs. Apple Notes vs. Quip vs. Dropbox Paper vs. Wunderlist vs. Todoist
- Evernote – Evernote (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Web) is free, but there is also Plus version ($34.99 annually) and a Premium version ($69.99 annually). Prices may vary by location.
With Evernote you can write notes, make notebooks, checklists and to-dos. It supports all kinds of formats (from text and sketches, to audio and video). You can also do web clippings and use camera to capture pieces of paper and even comment on them. You can also attach all kinds of documents including MS Office docs, PDFs, handwritten notes, sketches, photos, bills, etc. You can record audio, share stuff with others and sync anywhere. So it’s very versatile.
The Plus version gives you more space (1 GB each month), you can sync your data on unlimited number of devices (the free version lets you use only 2), You can access your notes offline and save emails.
The Premium version gives you 10 GB of space, scan and digitize business cards, lets you sync with an unlimited number of devices and you can search inside Office docs and attachments, etc. It’s more like a filling cabinet, where you keep all your notebooks, bills, photos, audios, videos, etc.
- OneNote – OneNote (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Web) is really my favorite. Here you can do everything, just like in Evernote, except Evernote’s clipping tool is better.
Still, OneNote is 100% free and I love the notebook. You can use OneNote as notebook, journal and a notepad. You can access your notebook offline and it has many menu items and offers more note formatting options then Evernote.
Evernote’s mobile version is better, but OneNote is constantly improving.
- Google Keep – Google Keep (iOS, Android, Web) is for quick note taking and capturing whatever is on your mind. No fuss. I love Google Keep. I make fast check list notes here. You can also record a voice memo and it’s completely free! You can sync it with other devices. You can’t, however, save long notes, like articles and web-pages. It’s just for simple and fast note taking.
- Simplenote (iOS, Android, Mac, Web) – this app is free and true to its name – it is very simple and clean. It’s all about speed and efficiency. You can use tags and pins, you can’t, however add images and attachments. If you don’t need any note formatting, just writing things down – then this app is for you.
- Apple Notes (iOS, Mac, Web) – this app comes with the Apple device. It’s a simple note taking tool. Beside taking notes, with this app you can also add images, attachments, you can write with a pen, create to-do lists, save articles and even format your notes. So, it’s very versatile and already on your device. The app is of course free, but if you want some extra storage you have to pay.
- Quip (iOS, Android, Web) – With this app you can chat, edit docs and spreadsheets, organize task lists, share notes and docs with co-workers, etc. Collaboration with this app is fast and easy. You can also export docs to PDF, MS Word and Excel. Formatting text here is an issue, so you should keep that in mind. Otherwise, a solid note taking tool.
- Dropbox Paper (Web) – This app is free, but there isn’t a mobile version. It’s a digital blank sheet of paper used within dropbox. You can add comments and there are stickers available to make things more interesting. You can share your notes and export them to PDF or a file in your dropbox.
- Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks (iOS and Android) – This one is free and is used to make to-do lists. It’s very simple and lets you set due dates, reminders and you can also share your lists.
- Todoist: To-Do List & Task List (iOS, Android, Mac, Web) – This app is free and very simple. You can collaborate with your team or share notes with your family. You can make sub-tasks, color-coded projects, sub-projects and priority levels. You can also set weekly/monthly goals and track your progress with color-coded graphs.
PRODUCTIVITY APPS AND CALENDARS
There are so many apps to increase your productivity and organize your life, that it is impossible to mention all of them. Moreover, I think if I mention too many of them, you will get confused and not know what to choose, so I will only mention 5 apps.
My effectiveness vs. isoTimer (To-Do Calendar Planner) vs. Google Calendar vs. Jorte Calendar &Organizer vs. TimeTune: Optimize Your Time
- My Effectiveness (Android) – This app is inspired by the excellent book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Dr. Stephen R. Covey.
It’s free and and very unique. The downside is that at first it looks a bit confusing, but if you follow the guide, which is integrated within the app, you’ll get the hang of it.
So, first – you write your mission in life. Then you write down your concerns and which ones you can influence. Then you define your roles and set goals you want to reach for each role. After that, you define concrete steps (actions) and prioritize your actions using 2×2 matrix.
The app uses weekly planner. There’s also a pomodoro technique and Google Drive integration. It’s a pretty cool app.
- isoTimer (To-Do – Calendar Planner) (Android, Web) – This app is one of my favorites. There is no way you would forget anything with this one. It’s beautiful looking and practical. There’s a free version and a premium (paid version).
The free version though, is not just a pretty face. You can add goals, tasks, subtasks, events, attach notes, pictures or Google Maps to your tasks. If you use it with the Google calendar, that’s when you can sync all your calendar data together, so when you add an event to one calendar it goes on them all, which is much easier and saves you risk of missing to add an important appointment to one of your calendars. The calendar is with daily, weekly, monthly and agenda view. The app also has a daily journal, where you can track your life.
The paid version lets you synchronize with Google Tasks, plan your goals in project view, collaborate on tasks and projects, get organize with daily step – by – step routine, create backups and restore them, protect your data with a password and export data to CSV files.
- Google Calendar (iOS, Android, Mac, Web) – This calendar (free, of course) needs no special introduction, as it is used by more then 100 million people. I love that events from gmail (flights, seminars, etc) are added to the calendar automatically. There’s a daily, weekly and monthly view, you can create to-dos and add personal goals like yoga 3 times a week, and the calendar will schedule time for them automatically, which is really cool.
- Jorte Calendar & Organizer (iOS, Android, Mac, Web) – This calendar also has a daily, weekly and monthly view. You can sync calendars, schedules and tasks across all your devices. It supports importing from Google Calendar and you can sync with Evernote, too. This app allows you writing notes and tasks; it has a diary; a countdown feature; you can include photos; there’s also a lunar calendar and many more features to explore. The calendar has a free and premium version. The premium users have passcode lock, more icons and themes, can hide ads, and much more.
- TimeTune: Optimize your time (Android) – This one does not offer a calendar, but is designed to analyze your distribution of time and optimize your daily routine, so you can boost your productivity. Here you make routine schedules, share them with other people and create tags and reminders. It’s free, but there’s also a paid version, which allows you to run your routines automatically on specific dates and more themes are available.
HABIT, HEALTH AND FITNESS APPS
Fabulous – Motivate Me vs. Lifesum – The Health Movement vs. 8fit – Workout & Meal Plans
- Fabulous – Motivate Me (Android, iOS-coming soon) – this is a science based app, that will help you build healthy rituals into your life. You get a personal coach that guides you through your journey. You get emails, tasks you must complete, goals and weekly reviews. It’s a very charming (free) app.
- Lifesum – The Health Movement (Android, iOS) – This app helps you make better food choices, improve your exercise, and reach your health goals. It is for everyone – people who want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain weight. It helps you build healthy habits in small sustainable steps. The app reminds you to drink water, gives you a selection of diets to follow, summaries on your progress and gives you a feedback on how to improve the quality of what you eat. It’s available on Android wear devices, too and can be integrated with Google Fit and S Health. You can also share your progress with the community. The app is free, but there is a premium version which gives the members detailed meal information and nutritional value.
- 8fit – Workout & Meal Plans (Android, iOS) – 8fit is a free app that gives you a personalized fitness and nutrition plan. You get daily reminders to your email or phone. The meals are based on your personal goals, body composition activity levels and dietary choices. For the exercises, you get daily motivation from fitness trainers, time-efficient exercises and many other exercise programs. There’s also a premium version that gives you time-efficient recipes, shopping list to plan your week and many recipes.
ARTICLE ORGANIZING APPS
Pocket vs. Flipboard: Your News Magazine vs. Feedly: Your Work Newsfeed
- Pocket (iOS, Android, Mac, Web) – This app is created so that you would be able to save, discover and recommend articles on the Web. It’s free and you have unlimited storage.
- Flipboard: Your News Magazine (iOS, Android, Mac, Web) – This one is like a personal magazine, you save the news and topics that interest you and you can also share them with the community. It’s free.
- Feedly: Your Work Newsfeed (iOS, Android, Mac, Web) – With this app you can connect to your favorite blogs, websites, podcasts, YouTube channels and RSS feeds. It’s free and you can share what you’re reading on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Evernote, OneNote, etc.
FILOFAX – TYPE ORGANIZERS
If you don’t like digitalized organization, or want digitalized and paper organization, then good old Filofax never fails.
You can also start a bullet journal, which is always a great idea. Buy a good notebook – something that you would love to write in.
I use Moleskine notebook, mostly because of esthetics and because the paper is really great, but you can use any notebook.
You can also make your own organizer using printables. Here are some websites I’ve found on the Web that offer free printables:
The biggest mistake would be to choose too many apps and too many ways to organize yourself. Your phone/tablet/desktop becomes cluttered with apps and anxiety will come back. A great calendar (max. 2) and an app that offers space for notes and to-do lists are essential.
See you next week!
- J.B. Rosen, J. Schulkin: From normal fear to pathological anxiety. Psychol Rev. 1998 105(2): 325-50.