I always learn a lot from my coaching clients. Sometimes they share their favourite tech tips: software and apps that help them write, revise, stay organize, and plan their days. This week I thought I would pass on some of their suggestions, as well as a few of my own. I haven’t tried all of these programs myself (nor am I sponsored in any way by any of them!). But as we all head into a busy new semester, maybe there’s something here that will offer you a new way to keep organized, keep writing, and keep calm.
I’ve written about Pacemaker before (here) and I continue to use it religiously as I work on my new book. It’s a word count planner that lets you customize your pace down to the day. You choose what kind of project you’re working on, your overall word count goal and timeline, and your preferred method of getting there. For example, you can write the same amount every day. Or start off slow and build to a big finish. Or randomize it. You can also set which days of the week you want to work (and how much); vacation time; and “push” days.
I use the free version, and it’s great. A tool like Pacemaker is especially valuable for daunting projects like books or theses. This app breaks the whole thing down into manageable bites and lets you see your progress (for example by telling you the percentage you’ve completed). It’s simple, easy to set up and adjust, and again, free!
Scrivener has long been a favourite word processing app for novelists and creative writers. With a much more flexible, intuitive, and frankly, fun, layout than programs like Word, Scrivener lets authors compose in a more fluid and non-linear way. It’s easy to move things around and to save chunks of text that don’t even have a home yet. One of my clients, working hard on dissertation revisions, moved her entire thesis into Scrivener and she said it changed her whole perspective on the project. Revising and reorganizing the massive document became much simpler.
Just as many of us know that it can be easier to revise writing when it’s printed out, moving your writing into a new app can help you to see it differently. I often glaze over when reading and re-reading my writing, failing to catch even the most obvious typos or the most glaring logical inconsistencies. A program like Scrivener could be really helpful for those working on any project that feels stuck or simply too big to manage.
When I have an idea for a project, I love making mind maps. Using paper and coloured pens, I write my main idea in the centre of the page and then use lines and arrows to connect associated concepts, histories, and literature. Scapple is a desktop app (from the makers of Scrivener) that lets you do this digitally.
Instead of losing your scraps of paper, or not having them handy when you need them, or having to re-do them when your ideas change, Scapple looks like a much more flexible way to keep track of your ideas and connections.
Most of us are searching for better ways to stay organized and manage our to-do lists. I love a combination of my bullet journal and online calendar. Other folks, including many of my clients, prefer online list-making and organizational apps like Toodledo. Toodledo is a multi-functional app that syncs across your devices. It includes a scheduler, to do lists, and project management features. One client likes the ease with which tasks can be set to repeat, or moved forward if they don’t get finished. She uses it for everything from reminders to back up her computer to organizing paper revisions.
If you use some version of the pomodoro method (writing or working in focused chunks of 25 minutes or so followed by short breaks), then Forest might be the app for you. It’s designed to help you focus and stay off your phone while working. You set a timer, plant a seedling, and a little tree grows on the screen. But if you leave the app to use your phone during the set time, your tree dies. There’s also a browser extension to help you stay focused while on your computer, too. Over time, you earn coins that allow you to plant new species. Best of all, you can trade in your coins to plant a real tree through Tree for the Future.
None of these apps will instantly finish your thesis for you or cure your Twitter addiction. But, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with new tools that just might make some parts of your work a little more fun and streamlined. Enjoy!