biz ladies: how to organize your life with online tools


Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a life coach for bad time managers and the founder of Real Life E. Elizabeth empowers clients who feel too overwhelmed, frustrated and guilty to accomplish more with peace and confidence through her Schedule Makeovers. In this post, Elizabeth offers a comprehensive comparison of some of the best online calendars, to-do lists and social media management tools. As a bonus, she presents tips on syncing your calendar with your iPhone, Android or BlackBerry. Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing these helpful tech tools! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

You’ve had enough! Your life feels completely unorganized, and you know you should pick some online organization tools and start using them. But you don’t.

The sheer number of options is overwhelming, and the thought of comparing them mind numbing. I understand. As the founder of Real Life E time coaching, I empower people who feel too overwhelmed, frustrated and guilty to tackle big projects on a daily basis.

That’s why I’m offering this practical comparison of some of the best online tools for calendars, to-do lists and social-media management. Plus, there are bonus tips on how to sync your calendar with your iPhone, BlackBerry or Android.

The research is done for you. All you need to do is select your favorite pick from the options below. Let’s get started!

Online Calendars

Here are some of the most popular options for staying on top of your schedule:

Google Calendar

Summary: Keep track of and set notifications for different meetings, schedules and events. Event reminders can be sent to your email or mobile phone. Review your calendar schedule by day, week or month. Organize different appointments in customizable colors.

Compatibility: Mac or PC Users — Sync events with Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal and Mozilla Sunbird. With offline access, view a read-only version of your calendar no matter where you are.

Price: Free

Sharing: Share your calendar with others and view schedules that others have shared with you. Invite people to events on your calendar. Guests can RSVP to your events by email or via Google Calendar. Includes two-way syncing to your mobile phone’s built-in calendar or a mobile version of Google Calendar.

iCal

Summary: Track your schedules, appointments, birthdays, and to-do lists and set up notifications for important events. Organize with separate colors for work, home and school commitments, and create a list of high-priority tasks.

Compatibility: Apple users — iCal, Mac OS X 10.6, Mac OS X 10.5

Price: Free

Sharing: Subscribe to other people’s calendars, sync/share with MobileMe Calendar, iCal, Microsoft Outlook, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Outlook

Summary: Email, calendar and contacts all on one account. Create tasks and notes, schedule meetings with other people, set reminders and send and receive email. You must first set up a Microsoft Office Outlook 2010 email account.

Compatibility: For PC users, Windows Phone 7

Price: The new Outlook 2010 Program is $140. It also comes with the Microsoft 2010 Office Suite for $280, which includes other programs such as Excel, PowerPoint, etc.

Sharing: Send meeting requests to others, and their responses appear in your inbox. Use Outlook Social Connector to see email exchanges and meetings you have had together, and send them requests to be part of your social networks.

Online To-Do List Tools

You can choose to keep your to-do lists on our online calendar or to store them in one of these special tools. These virtual lists will allow you to stay on track, even on the go.

Ta-da Lists

Summary: Simple and straightforward, Ta-da List is like your basic paper to-do list, only electronic!

Price: Free

Compatibility: Works with the most popular web browsers (IE 6/7, Firefox 2, and Safari 2) and with Mac, PC and iPhone.

How It Works: Check a box and the to-do is marked, “Done!”

Sharing: Keep your lists private, or share them with your friends, family or co-workers.

Other Info: Ta-da List also offers a paid upgraded version of their to-do list for businesses called Backpack. Backpack is an intranet for your business. You create a “page” that keeps documents, discussions and schedules in one place all the time with content-sharing options.

Toodledo

Summary: Organize and track your tasks in more than just a list format. The calendar-view option is great for big-picture, visual learners.

Price: Free

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, most mobile devices. Allows you to import tasks from Palm OS PDA, Microsoft Outlook, Apple’s iCal and other online to-do lists.

How It Works: Tag and track projects by priority and in subfolders. Keep track of estimated time spent on a project versus the actual time spent. Even assign personal goals to individual tasks, allowing you to see how you spend your time contributes to long-term goals.

Sharing: Public or private with other collaboration options.

Evernote

Summary: Much more than task management, Evernote is also great for keeping track of the mishmash of little things in life that you want to remember (receipts, trip itineraries, even wine labels!). With tons of fun and practical web software applications, techies can take this organizer as far as they want. Check out Evernote’s extensive array of desktop and web services (or as they call it, the Evernote “Trunk”).

Price: Free

Compatibility: Windows, Mac OS X, PCs, iPhone and other mobile devices. Applications for linking your Twitter and social media accounts, too.

How It Works: Type a text note, clip a web page, snap a photo or grab a screenshot. Everything you capture is automatically processed, indexed and made searchable. Add tags or organize your notes into different virtual notebooks. Search for notes by keywords, titles and tags.

Sharing: Public or private — your choice depends on what you need to organize.

Remember the Milk

Summary: Similar to Evernote but a bit more basic. Remember the Milk has dozens of mobile and desktop applications; this service is focused more on task management, tracking and organization.

Price: Free

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Gmail, Outlook and more. Sync with iCal and Google Calendar, too.

How It Works: Create a list and set due dates, then get reminders to any of your mobile devices, email or social-media accounts. Add notes to your list, and use the maps feature to track where you have to go to accomplish each task. Even print a hard copy of your list or weekly planner.

Check out this Tour of Things to Do with Remember the Milk.

Sharing: Keep your tasks private, publish them or send them to your choice of contacts.

Social-Media Management Tools

Instead of checking your social-media channels separately, you can view and respond to key items in one place with these tools for social-media consolidation. This ensures that you’re effortlessly on top of @replies, tweets and messages.

Hootsuite

Summary: This online program helps you keep track of all your social-media accounts in one spot (from Facebook to WordPress) and update all of your networks in one step. A calendar option lets you decide the best times to update your audience. You can keep track of mentions of your brand or key search terms. Other features include foreign language translation and report building.

Sharing: Use the Team Collaboration feature to manage different contributors and assign tasks to your contacts.

Compatibility: Internet Explorer 7 or 8, Firefox 3, Safari 4, Chrome 4 and higher. Also supported on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices, with iPad and Keitai versions coming soon.

Price: Free Basic version allows for 5 social media profiles. Pro version is $5.99 per month, which includes unlimited social media profiles, and 1 free team member. A free pro trial is available.

Tweetdeck

Summary: An online personal browser connecting you with all your social media contacts. Social media outlets are arranged in vertical columns, composing your “tweetdeck,” and allowing you to access and update contacts from different accounts in one place.

Sharing: With the feature called Foursquare, you can check in to a location from your desk or laptop. Find out where your friends are in a column dedicated to location while also viewing their profiles and Foursquare badges.

Compatibility: iPhone, Android and Google Chrome

Price: Free

CoTweet

Summary: This site allows small or large companies to track, analyze and engage in social media conversations about their brand through Facebook and Twitter only. One inbox enables you to see your streams and conversations in one place. Email notifications and scheduling options are also available.

Price: Free Standard edition and a paid Enterprise edition. Here’s a product comparison.

Sharing: Create workgroups, choose team member accessibility and assign roles such as leaders, contributors or viewers only.

Compatibility: An online resource available to anyone with a Twitter account.

NutshellMail

Summary: This resources goal is pretty straightforward. Receive all your social media account updates in one nutshellmail email on a schedule that you choose and an email address you already have.

Compatibility: Must have a Twitter or Facebook account to connect. Social media accounts limited to: Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube and Citysearch

Price: Free

Sharing: The update messages are sent to the email inbox you choose.

Syncing Your Calendar with Your iPhone, Android or BlackBerry

Looking for some resources to keep your calendar in sync with your mobile devices? Here are some bonus tips to get you started:

BlackBerry

Outlook: Check out this article for very detailed instructions and screenshots for just exactly how to sync your BlackBerry with your Outlook calendar.

Google Calendar: Google has a GoogleSync App for your BlackBerry. The two-way sync works with BlackBerry’s built-in calendar and contacts. This means you do not have to physically connect your BlackBerry to your computer. As you make changes to one, GoogleSync automatically updates the other. Download the Google Sync App, and get set-up instructions sent to your BlackBerry.

Android

Outlook: Third-party software, such as CompanionLink, enables you to have a two-way sync with your Outlook account and your Android. (There’s a free two-week trial!) Here are four different ways you can sync using CompanionLink.

Google Calendar: There is an Android Google Calendar App. Once you download this free app, you can update your Google Calendar on your phone or your computer.

iPhone

Outlook: You can sync Outlook to your iPhone using iTunes. Or you can sync without using iTunes, but it requires a few extra steps.

Google Calendar: iPhone will sync with Google Calendar using the iCal step-by-step guide.

Another option is to use the Google Sync App (here) to create a two-way sync for your calendars, contacts and email (for IOS versions 3.0 and above). This means you do not have to physically connect your iPhone with your computer every time you need to update. As you make changes to one, Google Sync automatically updates the other.

Voila! The research is done for you so that you can select the best online tools for calendars, to-do lists and social media management. Watch for an upcoming follow-up post about the best online tools for business management.

To your brilliance!

Ramona

I recommend Wunderlist. It’s the most awesome task manager I’ve ever used, and I’ve tried quite a few. It syncs automatically, and I use it on my dell, on the web, on my mac & iPhone.

Amy

I haven’t even read this yet, but I just did a happy dance! I’m sitting here at my desk across from my business partner… read the topic out loud and we both let out a sigh of relief! But for now I’ve got paper work to finish. I’ll have to read it on lunch break!!!

Mark

I’m biased (as the creator) but I’d point to http://goodtodo.com as a clean, simple, effective todo list. Syncs easily between desktop, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

tams

Another vote for teuxdeux. It’s so pretty and clean looking that it makes me want to use it. I’m not always great at actually checking it but when I do everything seems a bit more clear.

Laura {prix-prix}

I’d strongly recommend Teamly for getting organized. It works so much better for me than a to-do list. It has a list of all of the tasks you need to do eventually, and you set up to 5 priorities to accomplish for each day. It shows you feedback on how many of your goals you’ve met, and I find it so much more motivating than a never-ending list of things to do. http://teamly.com/

manvi @ mochatini

super helpful. thank you. someone recently boomerang gmail service that sends emails back to you to reply and action when you tell it to

Jules

I love the multiple calendar feature of iCal. You can have multiple categories of calendars, all on the same calendar. I keep personal things in pink in personal category, and things in green for the business category. Helps keep everything organized!

Tania/Mauishopgirl

Great list, thank you! Definitely gonna check out hootsuite. I also love my Splash password keeper app, kinda pricey for an app but stores all my passwords, I can organize by different categories, etc. Synchs with a backup on your desktop (sells separately).

Jules, I love the multiple calendar of iCal too. I have my personal calendars plus my day job outlook calendar synching all on one. I still remember the days you couldn’t synch more than one source onto a palm or blackberry, thank goodness those days are over.

erica

Another vote for Wunderlist. By far, the most amazing to-do app out there.

Melissa (Terrene)

Going to second the Evernote recommendation. If you’ve really moved from paper to computer for notes and random things, even recipes, Evernote is great to organize all of that stuff…esp. since you can clip recipes and other things right from websites. Better than bookmarking, imo.

Have to try out Toodledo though.

What There's Time For

For iPhone, I’m happy to already see a mention of my app, Cross It Off! in the comments above.

Cross It Off! lets you type lists in the most intuitive way possible and cross it off by swiping with your finger. No bothersome date and detail settings, just quick reminders of what you need done. It’s ideal for lists you use over and over again (like packing lists, daily routines) and shopping lists.

app store links (should work from your device)
To purchase: itms-apps://ax.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=427425546
To download the free version (one list): itms-apps://ax.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=427444399

leanne

Springpad – the most amazing tool ever for keeping stuff organised. You can have different folders, with tasks,lists, photos or anything else you might need, you can even forward emails in or clip from the web. You can have a board for projects to show information as a diagram rather than a list. Can’t be without it. I use it to plan decorating, holidays, as a recipe binder, everything.

Jake Easley

So many great resources, thank you! I’ve tried most of them. But recently given them all up for one app, Cozi. You can view it at http://www.cozi.com

Cozi is a family app. Meaning that the entire family can have their own schedule, but it can be viewed by all. It has a calendar, shopping list, to-do, and a journal section, for taking notes and adding pictures. There is a desktop app and an iPhone app that support real time sync. Sorry, not sure if other phones are supported?

My wife and I have even added our 5 year old son. No, he doesn’t update anything, but it lets us see upcoming school events and special activities so we don’t forget.

Kathryn

Great, particular thanks for the info on Hootsuite and Tweetdeck as I’ve been meaning to look into those!

Jaimee Todd

Man, I have iCal sitting here on my desktop, totally unused. I’m going to take advantage of it now! Thanks for this juicy 411!

Liz

Working on organizing the business as I gear up for a big re-do! Back to school time. Thanks so much for all this information.

Chanda

I would also like to throw out there iProcrastinate. I did a lot of research on these to do lists and it was the one that fit my needs the best (I love having a daily to do list and the repeating to dos). Plus the developer is awesome and helped me with questions right away. Plus you can sync it between your iMac and your iPhone. http://www.craigotis.com/

Allison

Don’t forget Action Method! http://www.actionmethod.com. After some time-coaching strategies from Elizabeth a few years ago, I’ve used her strategies in conjunction with Action Method to keep me sane! If I think of something away from work, I can use my iPhone app to sync it to my work computer and worry about it when I get back to the office. I can plug in due dates a month from now, organize by project or group like-projects together, and delegate tasks to coworkers. It’s really helped me a lot.

reeve

Do It Tomorrow is my favorite, simple To-do list app. For bigger projects, Evernote can’t be beat, once you get the hang of it.

Miguel

Wunderlist is an excellent to-do manager with Android and iOS apps, though the web is adapted for mobile devices, too.

Judson

Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very useful info specially the last part :) I care for such information much. I was looking for this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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