Since its release in May 2005, I had been using 37signals’ Backpack web application to keep track of pretty much anything I needed to remember. It worked well for awhile, but eventually became a burden. It became a dumping ground for everything in my head, and I began to dread logging into my account each and every day. This was obviously a bad sign.
The breaking point came in November when I got my new Blackberry smart phone. Here I was, with a great little computer and fast mobile internet access, but using Backpack on it was a huge pain. Yeah, I could send emails to my Backpack pages and have them show up as notes and to-dos, but there wasn’t an easy way to access my information from my phone. And, one of my favorite features of Backpack – email/sms notifications – offered no way to add these on the go. It felt like an information black hole.
So, I decided to turn to a several other web apps to fill the void. First, for the random info I gather and access frequently, I use Google Notebook. It offers a Firefox extension, iGoogle Gadget, and mobile version for easy and convenient access.
Next, for any sort of to-do item I need to be reminded of, I use an awesome web app called Sandy. According to the site, Sandy acts as your personal email assistant. Just send an email or text message to a special email address known only by you, and the software will intelligently recognize dates, times, tags, and other keywords to create lists, reminders, notes, etc. For example, to add an item to your shopping list, you can send an email like this:
Remember to get milk and bananas @todo @shopping
This will add a new item, “get milk and bananas” to your to-do and shopping lists, which you can access on the go by sending a message like this:
You can also have Sandy remind you of something on a certain date or at a certain time:
Remind me to pay the water bill on 2/5 @monthly.
This tells Sandy to send an email every month reminding you to pay the water bill, beginning February 5th.
There’s a lot of other stuff you can have Sandy do for you too, making it a very powerful way to manage your information, especially if you have mobile email access on a Blackberry or other smartphone. The big thing for me is that adding and retrieving my stuff from Sandy are equally easy, whether I’m at my computer, or just with my phone.
As great as my Blackberry is, there are often situations where making an actual call is quicker and/or safer than typing out an email. Jott is made for exactly these cases. Once you setup your account, all you need to do is call their toll free number, and say who you want to “jott”. This could be “me” or “myself”, anyone you’ve added to your address book, or even our good friend Sandy, thanks to a feature called Jott Links. After the system makes sure it heard you correctly, it gives you up to 30 seconds to leave your message.
After you hang up, the magic begins. Word has it, Jott sends your voice message to medical transcriptionists in India, who will transcribe your words into text. Typically, this gets emailed to you or the recipient you picked. If you chose a Jott Link like Sandy, however, some even more amazing things happen. In the Sandy example, if you say “remind me oo call for a dentist appointmentat 10am tomorrow”, this gets translated to text and sent to your Sandy account, where it will automatically get created as a scheduled reminder. Jott Links are also available for Google Calendar, Twitter, Amazon, and other online services.
So, that’s my new mobile organization workflow. I love that I can send myself reminders and little notes the moment an idea pops into my head, and that I can easily access them from my phone or any computer. It works quite well for me, but admittedly, I’m not most people (I’m often reminded of this fact). I’d love to hear what works for you. Index cards? PDA? Something else?