In this age of constant alerts, badges, and notifications, it’s increasingly difficult to filter signal from noise. How do you remember what’s really important when the flow of information never ceases? In our busy modern lives, it’s way too easy to let essential material slip through the cracks.
The good news is that there are a plethora of tools available to help manage the onslaught. With a little planning, technology can become an extension of your mind, improving your memory and helping you maintain focus.
As a digital fanatic, I’ve created a system that allows my entire brain to live in the cloud. A brief introduction: I’ve worked in digital since the late ‘90s, back when people told me that the internet was a passing fad. Today, I run a social media agency – and to say that our work moves fast is putting it mildly. The good news is that by putting our memories into the ether, we become smarter humans, with an enhanced ability to understand and process information that our minds alone can’t manage.
Don’t be afraid to dive into life your new life as a cyborg! Here are my recommendations on tools that can help you remember the meaningful and forget the rest.
1. Todo (by Appigo)
Although there are many great to-do list managers on the market, I’ve been relying Todo for nearly seven years. Whenever I promise to do something, it goes into my Todo list. If it’s not in my list, it just doesn’t happen.
The app’s magic is in its flexibility: you can keep your list very simple, or you can keep things more structured with projects and tags. Personally, I take it easy, so that taking time to organize doesn’t distract me from capturing what’s essential.
Learn more at Appigo | Cost: Free-$3.9/month, depending on features
When you’re working with a team, it’s important to keep everyone on the same page with a rigorous, yet customizable project management tool. Asana is the best I’ve found.
My favorite feature is the ability to slice and dice all the data into saved reports. I use these to view a daily and weekly “hot list” by a team member, so I can take a temperature check of my team’s bandwidth – and see who’s falling behind.
As a bonus, Asana is great for more than just work; it’s great for any big project you need to coordinate with multiple people. I’ve already used it to plan a home renovation project with my husband, and I could definitely see myself using it to plan group travel or other events.
Learn more at Asana
Evernote is an easy way to capture any type of information. Again, what I love here is the flexibility. I used to keep my notes organized in folders, but the search functionality has gotten so powerful that I no longer bother.
Remember, search is your friend, and it will save you a lot of time. The days of sorting everything into perfect folders, tags, and is over, giving us time to focus less on filing and more on what’s really important.
With the Evernote browser extension, you can instantly save anything you encounter in your internet travels to one place. I use Evernote for everything from capturing meeting notes to saving funny memes.
Learn more at Evernote | Cost: Free-$69.99/year, depending on features
Pocket is an app that allows you to save long form articles and read them offline. If you’re anything like me, when you stumble across an interesting article, your first impulse is to drop whatever you’re doing and read it. The problem is that this takes you out of your flow.
Whenever I find something that threatens to disrupt my focus, I save it to Pocket with a single click of the browser extension. Unlike Evernote, Pocket is my to-read list of awesome content. Have you ever recommended the perfect article to a friend and then been unable to find it? Just search your Pocket.
Learn more at Pocket | Cost: Free
Other popular solutions: Instapaper
5. Habit Bull
With our work lives running 24/7, it’s important to take time to take care of yourself. I use Habit Bull to track my personal goals and help keep me sane. It reminds me to carve out time to exercise, hang out with friends, and to take care of myself.
In addition to occasional reminders (which you can customize so that you’re not overwhelmed), HabitBull tracks your progress towards your personal goals in a flexible way. You can easily look back at your month and see how frequently you achieve your goals. It’s a good way to take a pulse on how your balancing your work and personal life.
Learn more at HabitBull | Cost: Free
6. DO NOT DISTURB
In my opinion, this is the most underused feature on the planet. When you’re done working or you need to concentrate, set all your devices to Do Not Disturb.
Stop the notifications, calls, and pings: you can have pure, disconnected peace.
Your Brain, Your Rules
Not surprisingly, my brain isn’t exactly like yours. We all have different routines and styles of thinking. If you’re going to use the cloud as an extension of your mind, it’s going to have to match your own unique form of crazy.
With that said, here are some tips that might help you to customize your own personal digital brain. The best solutions:
- Offer flexibility, allowing you to can use them in the way that best suits your workflow.
- Synchronize across devices, so you’re not scrambling to find something when you’re on the go. The apps I’ve recommended all offer synchronization, and many of them integrate with other popular services like iCloud, Dropbox, etc.
- Have great search functionality. No matter how organized you are, you’re always going to need to find that one piece of information that’s just barely on the tip of your tongue.
Here’s some homework for you. Take out a plain sheet of regular old paper and brainstorm all your information-filtering needs. Ask yourself: What is important for you to save? What information do you want to monitor? What do you need to remember?
From there, you can reference my list of recommendations or do some Googling to find a solution to your needs. You won’t get it right the first time; spend some time with each tool and find the ones that are best for you.
Control your concentration, and remember what’s important. Good luck!