Daily Dispatch

The Friday Five

Tech Tools for Organizing Your Ideas (and Stuff)

By | Jan.06.12 | Daily Dispatch, Legal Technology, Productivity, Workstyles

Did you promise yourself that this is the year you get a fresh start and organize for optimal efficiency? But already you’re feeling a little behind  … and it’s only six days into the year? We have that problem, too. So, for this first-week-of-the-year’s Friday Five, we asked one of our organized friends, marketing consultant Tom Kane, to spill the beans on the technology tools he uses to stay focused and take advantage of shortcuts. So here you have it: Simple and easy tools to help you get the jump on this year’s backlog.

Get Technology on Your Team in 2012

Planning and organizing for 2012? There are so many useful software programs available to help you with that. Here are some of my favorite desktop tools.

  1. Organize your stuff. My all time favorite software is PersonalBrain 6 Pro—the best and the most versatile database I’ve found to organize all my stuff, business and personal. Check out the demo on the home page at TheBrain.com. You can attach URLs, Microsoft Word docs and email messages to “thoughts” in your brain, and connect your thoughts to unlimited “child” thoughts below, or “parent” thoughts above—and so much more. There is a free version that is good for practicing and playing with, or you can download the full version for a free 30-day trial period. The Pro version costs $250, but that’s a pittance once you’ve experienced its versatility and learn how organized you can become—not to mention how easily you’ll find anything you put into the database. In addition to videos on the site, check the Purchasing FAQs and the free “PersonalBrain 101” webinars every Tuesday and Friday.
  2. Organize your ideas. If you haven’t tried mind mapping, you’re really missing something big. It is terrific for brainstorming ideas, by yourself and in meetings. I use it for my daily to-do list, and it keeps me very organized. The version I’ve been using for seven-plus years is Mindjet’s Mind Manager for Windows. (There is also a Mac version.) I am using Version 9 (I tried the new Windows version—MindManager 2012—but it had a glitch I didn’t like so I reinstalled the older version). You can still get Version 9 here, but Mindjet is only selling 2012. Other brands and some free programs are out there, too, like Mind42 (currently the best according Gizmo) and FreeMind. But I can’t attest to how good either program is.
  3. Grab that fleeting idea. GyroQ by Gyronix is another favorite tool. Basically, it is an immediate thought-idea-action item grabber. Unfortunately, it is only available as an add-on ($30) to MindManager at this time. With GyroQ installed, you just click CTRL+Q no matter where you are on your computer, and a small window pops up so you can immediately record a quick thought or action item without interrupting the flow of what you’re working on. You just press the ESC key to close it and later, with a click of the mouse, you can send your notes to MindManager. I use GyroQ constantly.
  4. Go hands-free for writing. I’ve been a speech-to-text writer for at least 10 years, and I’ve used Dragon Naturally Speaking for the past seven. While I didn’t do well with the earlier versions, DNS 11 Premium made quantum leaps in accuracy and functionality. You still need to train the software for your voice to both your wired headset and Bluetooth separately (if you use both), but 15 minutes or less of training will pretty much do it. You can also train it to transcribe from any compatible digital recorder (mine is an Olympus VN model). Use it for word processing, email and even navigating the Web. Although I use the Premium edition ($200 at Nuance, but cheaper on Amazon), there is a Legal Edition (priced a bit steeply at $800 for a single user). You may not need the legal version for general correspondence and dictation, however.
  5. Get it for free. Finally, I’m a huge fan of Gizmo. Okay, it isn’t software, but a website with the best freeware out there. I signed up for their free newsletter a number of years ago, and have never been disappointed. It has hundreds of suggested freeware in every category imaginable.

Tom Kane is the president of Kane Consulting, Inc. and author of the Legal Marketing Blog. A former practicing attorney, he has more than 25 years of experience assisting lawyers with their marketing and business development strategies, and individual coaching needs.

From the Editors: Dig a Little Deeper

You’ll find more ideas and apps for getting organized and focused in the Attorney at Work articles, including Tom Mighell’s terrific three-part series describing his online workflow using Google Reader, Instapaper and Evernote.

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