How I Used Google Docs To Organize Efficiently And Maximize My Brain Power And You Can Too
In the old days I used Microsoft Word documents and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to do virtually everything on the computer. There were some drawbacks sure, like if I didn’t hit “save” every 15 minutes I ran the risk of the program locking up and crashing along with the last 15 minutes (or longer if I was really being stupid) of my work. If the power went out in the middle of me working I lost what I had not saved yet. If my PC died and I didn’t have an external hard drive backing those files up, they were gone forever. If I backed them up sometimes I got mixed up on which was the newer copy. If I was unsure I’d keep both files and eventually my data overloaded my hard drives and I had to keep buying bigger better hard drives to keep up with the ever-growing files multiplying from everything you can imagine. If I tried to share a document with a friend their email virus scan would strip my attached file. So many issues to use such a simple thing, but it was all we had, so I like everyone else tried hard to fight the good fight of maintaining organization in a computer full of clutter. There were many hard drive failures and file corruption catastrophes over the years that I had to swallow but I still managed to hold onto bits of my very old data through it all.
I like my things to be organized. I like them to be laid out in such as way that my brain can forget most of what is where, as long as I can remember how to get to the place where I left everything my brain is free to ponder other things. Having various backups of various documents all over the place made me feel more cluttered than necessary, and the feeling wasn’t limited to my computer files, having my information all over the place made me feel behind in things I needed to do, and created anxiety and stress. It made being on the computer seem like a frustrating task I should be getting paid for, instead of something I was doing to better my life continually by utilizing the vast resources of my computer and the world wide internet.
I’ve had a gmail account since way before having a gmail account was anything close to as standard as it is today, but the email was literally nothing in my mind since I had my own other emails for my own domains. I also had a free email account with Hotmail, Yahoo, Aol, and all the other freebie email account hosts. I took the gmail account for granted as just another useless free email account that I didn’t really need. If I saw a company using gmail on their business cards I even thought a little less of them as a business professional because a true business professional should have their own .com name and their own email address associated with it. Its part of branding yourself. If they couldn’t afford to buy a domain name, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do business with them.
When Google came out with Google Docs I was very interested in how I could use it for myself and my business. I had read it was one of the most innovative concepts for live sharing of documents and I had to see it in action. Finally there was something that interested me about the old free email account I was holding onto since the dark ages of the internet and I couldn’t have been more excited to see if it was everything it promised to be.
I began using it firstly to write all form letters, mails, documents and anything I needed to write in the style of a Microsoft Word document, just in a Google Doc instead. I shared the files I needed to share with people by allowing their gmail address to have permissions to see my document. Google emailed them a link to the document that I had allowed them access to and they then had access to view everything on my document. They could edit my document while I watched and I could also edit while they watched me. We could text chat with each other to the side of the screen within the document while we were making changes. If the other person messed anything up I could restore back to a certain point or look up a single bit of information to put back in from the documents revision history. A few times that feature really came in handy as not everyone is as computer savvy as others who I have shared docs with, but I am perfectly fine with that knowing that they can’t possibly do enough to ruin the whole document since I can always restore it back to any point.
Once I had a taste of that sort of collaborative power I began to build spreadsheets with math formulas to figure out all sorts of things from how much various products cost to manufacture piece by piece to how much my monthly utility bills cost per hour. I helped many of my friends set up spreadsheets with math calculations built in while talking to them on Skype voice and working at the same time that they were working on the same docs. After a while some of my friends learned more than me about how to set advanced things up on their own and they showed me some tricks I was able to put to use too. The ability to share resources this way was very empowering and helped us all make many steps forward in our organization.
In addition to all document and spreadsheet features Google Docs has to offer, I’ve used api imports within the spreadsheets to pull in external data from money sites to get financial data and information on current market prices. This has been invaluable to maintain current trending data on my own private source to view and share as I wish.
My Google Docs are stored within my Google Drive which I’ve also used as sort of a storage cloud or dropbox to store editable logo files as large as billboards, regular old .gif .jpg .png files, and family photos. I keep backups on external drives and my servers, but being able to log in to my gmail account and access my Google Drive is easy from any computer anywhere I am. Anything that I never want to lose, or I will need to access regularly I copy from my backups to Google Drive to make my life easier.
I tend to work from many computers at a time, every room of the house has a laptop or two just about, or a desktop setup. Computers cannot keep up with how fast I work them and how many browser tabs and programs I like to keep open so I use several computers at a time to work to prevent a single one from being overworked and performing badly. The ease of logging into Google Docs on any of the machines and being able to access and update the same document and switch back and forth is absolutely the best workstation setup for me and has really helped me to multitask better.
I have one general TO DO doc I keep that has about a dozen tabs for various types I things I need to do. I also have a doc for each product my business puts together with all of the production costs and figures included on it, and a LOGINS doc which is a master list of my email logins and account logins. I got in the habit years ago of never using the same password for more than one site for security, so having a spreadsheet of those saved has helped me to avoid constantly resetting the passwords I can’t remember. If I pick a password that has an uppercase letter and a special character, inevitably some website will want it some other way anyway so I can never keep a consistent password anyway, which is probably a good thing or I might have long given into that temptation of laziness.
If you have not tried out the Google Docs feature, its completely free, and I highly recommend it and can’t say enough about how much it helps me regularly to stay on track. I hope the success my friends and I have had are also had by you! Feel free to use my ideas to help yourself get started. When you log in to http://docs.google.com if you start a spreadsheet, keep in mind you can add more tabs to the bottom of that one sheet, so you don’t have to necessarily have multiple documents for similar information. The less documents the better in general. If you find that you won’t need a tab you can always hide or unhide it as needed.
Some things I use my Google Docs for –
- I create daily or weekly TASK LIST forms that I can print and check off as I complete repetitive tasks to make sure I’m doing everything I need to be doing regularly without having to think too much about it. The list helps me to focus and knock things out quickly to manage my time so I can get back to my actual work.
- I keep an editable TO DO list for myself that I update regularly as I work that I can print out and attach to a clipboard to help keep myself on track. I keep a pen handy to check things off to go back to the doc and remove after I’m done with a few of the things. After I get too many lines crossed off and a lot of revisions or progress has been made I print a fresh updated copy to refocus myself. Having less things to do on my to do sheet makes me feel less rushed so I can better focus on the remaining tasks at hand.
- My phone’s calendar which gives me reminders doesn’t give me a lot of room for details, so I keep track of appointments with contact details, location information, and reminders of what I need to do before, during, and after each appointment on my Google Docs, which also makes a nice permanent record of appointment dates through the documents revision history. I try to plan to make stops to places that are near places I’m already going, so if I’ve preplanned my day this way I make those notes on an APPOINTMENTS tab of my TO DO doc.
- I set financial goals up like a payment plan for my weekly savings account contributions and marking them off as I complete them. Sometimes I get behind and that’s OK, a week or two later I’ll go back and double up and deposit the contribution for a previous week to keep my SAVINGS GOALS tab of my doc on track.
- I maintain a spreadsheet of my shopping EMAIL LOGINS that I use to sign up on shopping related websites that might spam my main email so instead I create a special one for ordering things online with a different login password for each merchant.
- I always write down every order I place online and the date I place it, when it will arrive and a tracking link so I can keep track of my deliveries by day in a single place on my ORDERS tab of my doc.
- If I’m running low on things I keep track of the THINGS TO REORDER on a tab of my doc. If I order them all together or in groups there’s a greater chance I won’t have to pay for shipping.
- It seems I can never remember WHERE TO BUY items that I use regularly around the home since I shop from so many places for so many things so I put them on a tab on my doc. I write down who has the cheapest deal on each item, and what price per ounce or unit I’ve paid in the past as well as how frequently I purchase the items so I can check the current cost of that item with that store and maybe one or two similar stores instead of getting sidetracked all over the place hunting for the best deal every month.
- I record transactions of all DISCOUNT GIFT CARDS that I buy on a tab of my doc, where I bought them, when I bought them, what the face value was, and how much I actually paid for them. I also well use the math calculation functions within the spreadsheet to figure the cost of the pennies per dollar spent per retailer by using the cards instead of cash.
- I keep track of future ways to save money that I’m offered, such as coupons that are good for a later time frame, really good coupons I’m holdings expiration dates, and rebate checks that will arrive eventually by making a tab on my TO DO spreadsheet called FUTURE SAVINGS that I peek at every now and then to see if anything is going to expire if I don’t use it.
- If I have DISCREPANCIES that I need to watch out for such as refunds for returns to my bank account, or over charges I’ve requested to have removed I don’t want to forget them, but I also don’t want to keep them in the forefront of my mind, so I write them down and forget about them until I’m ready to follow up and check on all of them again. Discrepancies can get you upset, so if I have to be mad, I try to do it in one go instead of it ruining my mood checking up on other people’s responsibilities or mistakes. I put them on their own tab and push it to the end of the tabs so they are not always staring at me fueling my rage and resentment.
- I’m not always in the mood to talk to a bunch of customer no service reps on the phone, so if I have a day where I need to catch up on folding laundry, or reading all the magazines and catalogs and sale ads that have come in the mail, or anything boring and repetitive I need to do I’ll look at my TO DO list for a tab called PHONE CALLS TO MAKE and go through each one on speakerphone hands free while I do the other task as I”m on hold. This way I’m free to comfortably spend as long as I need talking to whoever is unlucky enough to be on the other end until my problems are fully resolved or my questions are fully answered. And while I was getting that information I also got something else done that would have been boring if I had to focus on just those phone calls that needed to be made.
- If someone borrows something I keep track of who borrows what on a LOANS tab, or what money people owe to me, so I can eventually ask for those things back, otherwise when they are out of my sight, they are out of mind. If my friends make a habit of borrowing my things without returning them, I don’t loan them anything else. If they do, I’m happy to share.
- I keep a running list of things around the house that I intend to take photos of and TO SELL online on a tab of my doc. When I have time to take photos and list items the list helps me grab everything without having to think about what all I need to get together so I can get it done faster.
- I calculate the cost of wholesale items after shipping and items costs using the math functions in Google Doc spreadsheets. It helps me figure exact fees and taxes, and figure a % markup for profit of items that I sell online so I know what to charge for each item that doesn’t lose me any money, and doesn’t overcharge my customers so I can turn over volume instead of gauging prices for quick sales. Happy customers who got good deals are more likely to be nice to sell to and return to buy more later and those are the customers I want.
To summarize about Google Docs, let me just say that using it is like having a second infinite brain that your brain only needs to refer to for more than it must hold unto itself. Don’t bog your brain down with clutter when you can dump part of what it needs to remember into an organized filing system and focus on getting things done instead of trying to remember so much!
The cheat sheet of my organizational system using Google Docs spreadsheets is here for you to help you plan your TO DO doc, customize it as will fit your indvidual needs. You can always rearrange the order of the tabs within a doc so if something is more important part of the year move it the left, then when its lesser important move it to the far right tab slot to make room for what is more important.
My TO DO document has these 12 tabs:
PHONE CALLS TO MAKE
THINGS TO REORDER
WHERE TO BUY
DISCOUNT GIFT CARDS
I have a TASK LIST form that is separate and on a word doc instead of a spreadsheet.
I have an EMAIL LOGINS spreadsheet that is separate at all times that no one ever has shared access to view.