Plugged In: A few pointers on spring cleaning, technically speaking

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plugged-in-marquezSwimming in a sea of sticky notes and piles of follow-up items, spring cleaning often includes time for desk reorganization. Technically speaking, there are several tools that can help reduce the need for these paper reminders. Each of these tools is free of charge and requires no installation, only a slightly different mindset to get started.

Sticky notes can quickly turn from an organizational tool to a mess of clutter. The problem with sticky notes is that they end up everywhere; they can easily become overwhelming and make it difficult to locate the information you need. Even worse, they may end up stuck in our office while we are working from home. Moving to an electronic version may not eliminate your loyalty to 3M, but it will increase your accessibility regardless of location.

Google Keep

Although there are numerous note and list-making apps available, one of my favorites is Google Keep. It is simple, accessible from anywhere that has an internet connection by visiting and logging in to your Google account.

From checklists to random reminders, Google Keep allows you to create an electronic “board” of notes. Whether typing, copying and pasting, or speaking your thoughts, notes are quickly and easily captured just as conveniently as reaching for that pen and yellow pad. Notes can contain audio files, transcribed spoken notes, hyperlinks, checklists and even photos.

Electronic note tools are superior to their paper predecessor for a few reasons. First, these can be searched. Instead of rifling through a stack of 30 notes to find the phone number for your 3 p.m. call, you can enter keywords to locate it within seconds. Even better, you can use the reminder icon to set a date and time to be alerted. So instead of searching for the phone number prior to the call, the program reminds you at the time of your choosing and displays the phone number and any other information you have entered. Finally, it doesn’t matter if you are in the office, on the road or logged into a computer that you have never used before, these notes are accessible with a single login. While no software is required, there is an option to install it as an app on your smartphone and many smart watches as well.

Notes in Outlook

If you just want to get your toes wet with the idea of replacing your sticky notes, using the “notes” tool in Outlook is a good start. This no-frills option is great for storing website URLs and random pieces of information that you only need every now and again in a more private manner than brightly colored squares plastered around your monitor.

Simply click “Notes” from Navigation Options within Outlook. Then click “new note” and type or paste private notes to yourself. These notes are also able to be searched by keyword at the top of the screen. If your email account is set up on your smartphone, these notes are also able to be synchronized to the default Notes app on your phone and are searchable there, too.

Flags and reminders in Outlook

If your desk clutter is more related to reminding yourself to follow up on emails, flags and reminders in Outlook may be the best solution for you. Whether you are the sender or the recipient of emails, reminders can be set to alert you to follow up on the message by simply right clicking at the end of a message and choosing “Add Reminder”. Upon setting a custom date and time, the program will alert you of the email using the same popup window as a reminder for a calendar appointment. The best part is that you can then double click that line item to open the email and follow up directly from there without having to go back and search for the email first.

These tools can be used alone or in conjunction with one another — it is really about what makes the most sense for how you work and what allows you to stay organized the best. With the clutter cleared from your workspace, your mind is able to refocus and be refreshed.•


Deanna Marquez ([email protected]) is a co-owner of the Indianapolis based legal technology company, Modern Information Solutions, LLC. Areas of service include traditional IT services, software training, and litigation support including trial presentation services. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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