Category Archives: Organization

Staying Organized in 2015

Every day I do my best to keep myself organized. I keep my files in their own folders, I keep my desktop clean, I keep my calendar free and relevant, I clean up my phone contacts fairly often, I keep a task list. However, after about a month, none of this seems to matter. I’m not sure how many people experience this, but it seems that no matter how hard I try, I always end up being lazy for about a week and that ruins everything. I save all my downloads to my desktop, I don’t put pictures in their correct folders, I don’t name files in my usual naming convention. All of this leads to chaos. My task list is currently running rampant with tasks that were never actually meant to be completed. I need to bring this to an end. Here’s how I plan on doing it.

E-mail

One of the main problems with my organization has been e-mail. For the past 6 or so years, I have been using Mozilla Thunderbird as my primary e-mail solution. All of my email accounts were imported into my portable version of Mozilla Thunderbird which was saved in my Dropbox so that it would be synced across all my devices. This, honestly, worked quite well. Recently, however, I have been running many operating systems (Android, Linux, Windows) and having all my files synced across these devices is a challenge, especially when one file is a .exe file. Thus, after months of searching for a solution, I have decided to go with a web-based solution. I have decided to use Gmail.

Although it’s not surprising in the least (everyone uses gmail), I never knew that you could import POP3 mail accounts into Gmail and send/receive mail as if they were your primary Gmail address. The integration is seamless and all of my mail goes into one easy-to-use unified inbox, just like in Thunderbird. I’m a happy camper. What makes this even better, though, is that it syncs with the Android Gmail app, so that all of my emails (and imported accounts) are synced to my Android device.

I have also made a commitment to myself to delete emails that I didn’t need immediately. This way, my email inbox is never cluttered with a bunch of stuff that I will get to eventually. That phrase is long gone.

Schedule Management

I love calendars. I’ve always had one of those little date-books where I wrote down what I needed to do and what was in store for me every day of the week. Today, however, carrying around a little pocketbook isn’t all that feasible. It is the digital age, and my calendar must correspond accordingly. Thus, I have become an avid user of Google Calendar. Another completely unique decision. I’ve tried Google Calendar in the past, but I never really kept up with it because I would forget to look at the calendar and/or schedule events on the calendar. To circumvent this, I use a few methods. First off, my calendar lives in a pinned tab in my Google Chrome, so it is always there watching me and alerting me of any upcoming events. On top of that, I’ve found that its icon actually reminds me to schedule events and keep track of what I should be doing. I’ve done the same sort of thing on my phone. I use Today Calendar to display a nice little Agenda widget on my homescreen so that whenever I look at my phone I see exactly what’s next on my plate. I now understand why people hang calendars on their walls. Having a calendar constantly staring you in the face really helps you stay focused and stay on top of the things that you want to accomplish.

Along with my calendar, I have also started heavily using task lists. Of course, there is a task list built into Google Calendar, Google Tasks. Why not use that? So I am. It’s perfectly simple. I simply type in what I need to do and it sits there, right next to my calendar, telling me that I need to do it. No gimmicks, no fancy user-interface, no fancy animations – Just a task list. It’s just what I need. On my phone, I use the Tasks app to follow my tasks. Of course, it’s the same deal on my phone.. it simply lists the tasks that I need to complete. Although it’s not much, it definitely helps me stay focused.

Item Organization

A big part of staying organized is staying clutter-free. This means organizing everything in your daily life. Whether it be having a special place to put pens or organizing books by author’s last name, anything can help. There are many things that I have decided to do to keep my stuff organized.

  • I make my bed every morning. I know this is more of a personal issue, but I am convinced that hopping into a completely made bed at night actually helps me sleep better. On top of that, it makes my room look clean and tidy even when it’s not.
  • I do my dishes every night. Again, this is a more personal issue, but it also helps me stay much more organized. When I wake up in the morning, I can get started with my morning routine almost immediately. I don’t need to worry about washing my bowl for cereal or not having a clean spoon to use. It’s great.
  • I control my phone’s files. Especially with pictures, my phone is a mess. All these photo apps (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) all put their pictures in their own separate directories. This makes accessing photos very difficult if I am looking for a specific picture. Thus, I am using Redirect File Organizer to move all of my pictures to a single directory. It really helps. On my computers I am doing something very similar. I am making sure that I don’t save anything to my desktop and I put the files where they belong the first time. It’s amazing how much frustration this saves.
  • Notebooks are also a recurring problem for me. I love pens, I love stationary, and I love notebooks. I have a ton and they are very unorganized. Thus, I have decided to take the advice of the label-freaks around the world and label my notebooks and arrange them in alphabetical order. I have also done the same with my books. Say what you want, these small changes work wonders.
  • Music is another thing that I find myself being stressed about often. Instead of having my music collection neatly organized, I just have a list of songs. This is something that has been changing as of late. I am now an avid user of Spotify and I make sure to put all of the songs that I wish to keep into playlists that reflect when I want to listen to them. So far, things are going great.

Overall, being organized is a great thing. It eases a lot of stress and makes daily life a lot smoother. I highly recommend taking a week of your time to sit down and really organize everything. You won’t regret it.

I Dislike The Mouse

 

My Desktop

The above picture is a screenshot of my Linux machine. What is unique about it? Well, everything is controlled by the keyboard. I have a tiling window manager (i3) and do all of my text editing in vim. What does this mean? It means that I rarely touch the mouse.

I grew up using Windows. It was my primary operating system for the past 10 or 11 years. I got very used to it, its semantics, and using the mouse+keyboard combo in order to navigate around my Windows machine. There was nothing wrong with it. As I got more into computers, however, I got bored of using Windows. There’s nothing wrong with the operating system – I just got bored of using the same thing for 10 straight years. Because of this, I installed Linux.

When I first install Linux, I tried to emulate my Windows experience as much as possible. I installed LXDE as my desktop environment and Openbox as my window manager. I used these just like I used Windows.

As I used Linux more and more, though, I realized that most of the power of Linux was not in the interface, but rather, the terminal. This led me to be in the terminal a lot more than I ever was. I no longer needed a file manager as I did all of my file operations in the terminal. I no longer needed desktop icons because I launched everything in the terminal. Eventually, I no longer needed my mouse to switch Windows, as I just used keyboard shortcuts. I no longer needed my mouse to open terminals because I used keyboard shortcuts.

What did I need my mouse for, then? I decided to experimentally ditch the mouse entirely and switch to a tiling window manager that allowed me to manipulate my windows and their positions by just using the keyboard. At first, I used Awesome. However, Awesome felt very static. In order to move windows around, I had to switch the layouts entirely. I wanted something more dynamic, so I switched to i3.

It definitely took some getting used to. I had to train myself to not reach for my mouse every time that I wanted to do something. Eventually, however, I got used to it. Once I did, it felt awesome. It made me feel like a whole new breed. I was able to rearrange windows, launch applications, and do everything from my keyboard. Not to mention that when my mouse isn’t around, it has the added bonus of keeping people from using my computer since they don’t know how to use things.

As I practiced more and more, I felt that I was getting faster and faster. In fact, I felt that I was doing things faster than if I needed to reach for my mouse. Need to listen to Spotify and type some notes at the same time? Easy.
<WINDOWS>+3 – Switch to a new Desktop
<WINDOWS>+D – Open the app-launcher
‘spotify’              – Launch spotify
<WINDOWS>+B – Open the next window to the right of Spotify
<WINDOWS>+<ENTER> – Open a terminal window
‘vim notes.txt’   – Launch vim and write some notes
Of course, this is a lot of steps, but they can be executed very quickly without reaching for the mouse to resize the windows in order to get the right proportions between the vim and Spotify windows.

Of course, as time goes on, I will only get faster and faster. However, this experience has made me realize that I really dislike using the mouse. Of course, this experience is only on my laptop, where I often find myself reaching for my touchpad because it is easy to reach with the keyboard so close. However, I plan on getting a new Desktop soon and installing Linux on it with my i3 setup. I am excited to see how everything will end up working out on my setup with two monitors and so much screen space. I will report back.

If you’re wondering whether or not you want to take a shot at using a computer without the mouse, try it. It’s a great experience and it looks super awesome whilst doing it.

What Happened to Organization?

Ever since I got a smartphone, one of my favorite things to do has been customize it. I got an Android phone for just that reason – I wanted to make the device completely my own. As soon as I got my Droid X2, I played around with launchers and icon packs and ROMs so I could get every aspect of my phone working perfectly.

I loved going to forums dedicated specifically to Android customization. I would show off my designs and peruse others. I loved it.

However, when I arrived at college, I was severely disappointed by the amount of people who did not care how the homescreen on their phone looked. Several conversations with people brought up the ideas that “it wasn’t worth time” or that “this just works”. I never understood them.

Around the same time it also became apparent to me that I have been growing more and more forgetful. It is something that I am not proud of nor is it something that I like to admit, but I seem to simply be forgetting more at an accelerated rate as time goes on. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but my guess is technology.

As I integrate technology into my life more and more, I feel smarter. My now Samsung Galaxy S4 and Pebble Smartwatch do everything for me. When those aren’t enough, my Nexus 7 and ASUS K55N-DS81 do a great job, and when those don’t cut it, my custom-built desktop can handle anything. However, I feel like I have grown more reliant on them. I now cannot remember simple events coming up, homework assignments, or the names of APIs I want to try out. I forget because they are not constantly staring me in the face through my technology.

In order to circumvent this, I’ve resourced to Google Tasks. I simply write everything that is on my mind in Google Tasks and have it display on the homepage of my phone.

A clean screen

 

Well, another problem has also occurred. I seem to forget about apps that I install. I install them and then I just forget to use them. Maybe it is because I have no real use for them or maybe it is because they are hidden away by Action Launcher, but either way, I forget about them. In order to solve this problem, I just leave them lying around on my homescreen. They just sit there and look extremely unappealing to anyone who uses my phone, including me.

A mess

I really hate how my organization and want to be clean and crisp has disappeared and turned into this. But why has it? Because it works.