5 Ways to Transform Your Small Business with LightArrow Mobile Apps

LightArrow Apps for Small BizStaying productive and focused when running a small business or microbusiness is difficult. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur, small business owner or freelancer, the challenges are the same. It’s imperative to stay on top of your game and laser focused on your goals to attain the success you set out to achieve.

As you know, these days it’s important to understand new technologies and new media in order to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition. And now, more than ever before, mobile technologies have changed the ways we get things done every day.

This week, we’ve compiled a list of five technologies and systems that you must have in your repertoire in order to achieve success in our modern world of small business. Enjoy!

1. Nurture Small Business Sales Leads and Build Customer Relationships

A CRM application is a great tool for simplifying the management of your small business contacts. It integrates a variety of different information about your leads, prospects and customers all into one place. An ideal CRM also includes project and task management, allowing you to assign sales and marketing tasks that impact your sales revenue. Typically, a cloud-based CRM will cost anywhere from US $12 monthly/person to US $125 monthly/person, not including professional services and ongoing support.

LightArrow apps include many customer relationship management features that web-based CRM systems have, without the monthly subscription fees. Our apps organize a variety of customers’ data that originated from multiple places into one mobile app.

For example, our apps allow you to organize leads, track, and manage leads. You can also interact with contacts through email or social media handles, directly from their contact record in your LightArrow App. In addition, LightArrow apps include powerful project and task management features, which allow you to assign tasks to yourself or others to nurture prospects and move them down the sales funnel.

In the following diagram you see LifeTopix’s spreadsheet-like view for managing contacts. Within this view, you can access and manage all the information about your leads, prospects or clients. Specifically, you can manage all the tasks that are required to advance to a successful sale. Once the lead becomes a customer, you can manage and organize any information for this client through the 12 life topics, included with the LifeTopix app; of course, keeping track of customer details is vital for customer retention.

SmallBizCRM

2. Manage Small Business Assets and Finances Wisely

Accurately managing the assets that your company owns and leases is key for the success of your small business. It’s important to track IT assets, furniture, vehicles and other items.  Asset Management software can come in many shapes and forms. You can choose simple mobile asset management or an expensive enterprise asset management system. It’s also important to manage your financial assets and finances. There are several options for managing finances from simple software to more complex accounting software. Some of the features that financial software solutions offer are expense and payment tracking, receipt scanning, invoicing, etc. Foremost, remember to use the software solutions that fit the needs of your small business.

These days, using a mobile solution for asset management is an important factor because it allows you to manage and update assets easily while on the go. LightArrow mobile solutions are a great choice for the small business, entrepreneur or solopreneur. Imagine your business includes a fleet of automobiles. LifeTopix is an ideal app for managing the details for each automobile asset. You can keep track of purchase dates, cost, current value, manufacturer, model serial numbers, SKUs, vehicle identification numbers (VINs), locations (map included), and categories. In addition, you can associate tasks, appointments, reminders, notes, checklists, online/local files, bookmarks, expenses, services, audio, photos or videos with each vehicle (or other asset). An example of how you might use LightArrow apps for asset management is shown below:

SmallBizAsset

If you’re a business owner who’s often on the go, LightArrow apps also offer solutions for managing finances while mobile. LightArrow mobile apps include tracking of financial information including expenses, payments, accounts, banking information, service payment templates, charitable donations, financial asset management and financial notes. With LightArrow apps, you can associate financial information with other items you manage in your app, such as assets. For example, in the graphic below, you will see that an expense is associated with an asset, which is a vehicle. Another popular feature for small business owners is the ability to set up Payment Templates with recurring payments; an example is also shown below.

SmallBizFinances

3. Make Social Media a Habit in Small Business

In today’s changing world, social media is vital for small business success. In fact, according to a study conducted by LinkedIn, 3 in 5 SMBs have acquired new customers via social media. There are a variety of ways to manage and monitor social media. You can use the free tools from the social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all the way to using a full-fledged social media management tool.

Social media management tools provide features such as keyword monitoring and listening, all-in-one views of social media accounts, scheduling, ways to engage with others, and in some cases, further analysis and recommendations. If you want all of this functionality and more from a hosted social media management system, it will cost you a monthly subscription fee that is typically charged by the number of users.

Social media is a commitment that will reap rewards over time. Before jumping into using an expensive social media management tool, I recommend that small businesses use free and inexpensive apps and web applications to manage their social media profiles and engagement.

At LightArrow, our apps include a social media dashboard and listening via keywords through Feed Accounts. You can set up feed accounts for Facebook and Twitter; and also for Email and Evernote®. You can listen for product or company mentions, and you can stay on top of your industry by creating streams with the keywords in which you’re interested.

SmallBizSocialMedia

Our Pro.Inbox app, shown above, has this keyword listening functionality built in. With My.Agenda, LifeTopix and Pro.Calendar, you can purchase this option via in-app purchase.

What makes our apps unique over the typical Social Media Management tool is you can convert the tweets and posts that you find into actionable items such as tasks, notes, events, appointments and more. For example, you might see an industry article that you believe is important to read in a Twitter feed. You can convert this item to a note and add a date tag to schedule it on your calendar. These items can be pushed to your iOS calendar, which in turn propagates to all the calendars that you’ve associated with your iOS calendar, which takes small business productivity to a new level. It’s important to note that this feature also applies to email and Evernote feeds, which allows you to accomplish “Inbox Zero” easily.

4. Unify Small Business Calendars, Reminders, Tasks and Checklists

Keeping a master schedule is important for your small business. It’s difficult to choose the right calendar app for your business schedule because there are so many choices available. All of these calendars and to-do list apps have their own unique bells and whistles. The apps you choose depend on your personal preference and business needs.

At LightArrow, we focus on productivity. That’s why we combined tasks, reminders, to-dos and eight calendar styles into one app view – with fast switching and beautiful styling. We’ve made our calendar views easy to read and they’re very simple to set up. As soon as you grant access to your iOS calendars that you use on your iPhone or iPad, your LightArrow app shows the events from those calendars. And as a bonus, your LightArrow calendar also includes your iOS reminders.

SmallBizCalendar In the graphic above, you will notice Overdue, Undated and Checklist sections shown in the Agenda view. These sections include everything from overdue tasks, undated tasks; open shopping items; iOS reminders; and checklists/to-do lists. Combining these items prevents you from hopping from app to app. You will also notice the comprehensive Month view, which enables you to see all your calendar items easily.

5. Manage Small Business Projects Like a Pro

Managing your projects without the right tools is like fixing a clogged drain with a Q-tip. The more and more you push; you’re never going to get anywhere. There are a lot of options for managing projects and tasks. Some cloud applications are free for a limited number of users and others require subscription fees.

LightArrow apps are excellent for individual and small team project and task management. The advantage of using LightArrow apps for project and task management is because the projects are integrated with the features discussed in this post, as well as other items, such as appointments, reminders, expenses, services, online notes and files and more. This prevents you from hopping from app to app to find the information that you need. Small business owners appreciate the ease of creating tasks and easily emailing them to a project participant, which allows delegation or task sharing. The recipient can easily open the email message; tap on the message and save the project and tasks in their instance of LifeTopix, as shown in the following example:

In addition, if you use Asana for project management (which is free for up to 15 users), LightArrow Apps include task integration with this popular tool.

Your Turn

Please let us know in the comments how you’re using your LightArrow app in your small business or if you have any questions or comments.

Springpad Shutting Down: LightArrow Has A Top Personal Organizer as Alternative

If you’ve been one of the faithful users of the Springpad note-taking and bookmarking app, you’ve probably heard by now that the service is shutting down on June 25th. This might leave you scrambling to find a new personal assistant to help you with organizing bookmarks, notes, and lists. If the functionality you need is the ability to create notebooks, create notes, store lists, and create bookmarks, LightArrow has you covered via its mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Our apps, LifeTopix, Pro.Inbox or Pro.Notes are excellent alternatives to Springpad for personal and business organization. LifeTopix is our flagship app, which we’ve been developing since 2010. It’s a top app that’s found in the Productivity section of the Apple App Store. LifeTopix is based on 12 life topics, which include Notes + Files, Lists, Bookmarks + Lockers, Tasks + Projects, Shopping + Gifts, Events + Appointments, Travel + Places, People + Services, Health + Goals, Finances, Home + Assets, Education, and Media.

LifeTopix’s Comparable Features to Springpad

Below is a quick overview of the features that will be most valuable for the former Springpad user:

  • Integration with Evernote Notes
  • Tagging
  • Email integration
  • Social integration
  • Notebook and note organization
  • Bookmarking
  • Quick notes and checklists
  • Tasks and reminders
  • Calendars
  • Collaboration via social, SMS, and email
  • Organization and sorting of notes by category, notebook, context tag, date tag, and last updated

If you’re a former Springpad user, you’ll be especially interested in the Notes + Files, Lists topic of LifeTopix, which enables management of local notes, online notes (Evernote and Toodledo), checklists and to-dos, and online and local files (Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive). You can create and organize notes, checklists and to-dos; make drawings and hand-written notes; and add video and audio files to notes. You can create notebooks and easily organize and sort your notes.

For items created or synced via the 12 topics, a robust tagging capability is included through “My Contexts.” Categorization is available through tags with tagging permitted for the following types of objects: Appointments, Assets, Audio, Bookmarks, Checklists, Events, Expenses, Files, Gifts, Goals, Metrics, Notes, Persons, Photos, Projects, Reminders, Service Providers, Services, Education Subjects, Shopping Lists, Tasks, Trips, Video, and Visits.

Additionally, LifeTopix includes features for managing bookmarks in the Bookmarks + Lockers topic. Specifically, the app includes management of all your web bookmarks, credentials for online services, and other secret data such as PIN numbers, credit card numbers, photos of personal information, and recordings of personal information. Secret data is secure with military-grade 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption.

LifeTopix and Evernote Integration

It’s important to note that our personal productivity apps work with Evernote. If you export your Springpad data to Evernote through Springpad’s exporter, you’ll have access to that data through the LifeTopix Notes + Files, Lists topic. You’re currently able to sync Evernote notes with LifeTopix (2-way) and associate your notes that were originally created with Springpad with objects in LifeTopix, such as tasks, appointments, reminders, checklists, files, and bookmarks. For example, notice in the following image that you can view a list of Evernote notes in LifeTopix, locate a note (such as a clipped recipe) and associate it with a project, such as “Meal Planning.”

Evernotediagram

Enhanced Evernote Integration Coming Soon

Our next update of LifeTopix (8.1), which is due to release in just a few weeks, will make it even easier to work with Evernote. We’ve added the ability to create Evernote feeds. Using an Evernote feed enables you to access your Evernote notes (originally created in Springpad or Evernote) in a list view. Once you access a note, you’ll be able to convert the notes to LifeTopix tasks, projects, products, appointments, hosting events, attending events, notes, checklists, trips, visitors, and inbox items. Once these items are converted, you’ll be able to associate them with LifeTopix objects and schedule the items on your calendar, which works seamlessly with your iOS calendar and all the calendars that your iOS device supports.

For example, as shown below; you’ll be able to (1) choose Evernote from among your email, web, and social feeds; (2) convert a note from a variety of types (including checklists); (3) choose a type of object to convert to; and (4) create an object (e.g. checklist), which can be published on your calendar and agenda (automatically).

Evernote Feeds

As you would expect from any excellent personal assistant or organizer, the items that you convert or access through the Notes + Files, Lists topic automatically appear on your calendar (if you wish), as shown below.

calendarCSV Import

We currently do not have plans to build an importer for Springpad data; however, you can format your data into a CSV file and import it directly into LifeTopix. This post, Migrate Bento or Other App’s Data to LifeTopix, includes the information you need to know if you plan to import data into LifeTopix from other apps through CSV.

Your Turn

Please let us know if you’re a former Springpad user and if you plan to take advantage of LifeTopix to help you manage and organize your personal and work life. We’re happy to offer assistance in your transition. Please comment below. We respond to all submissions.

This post includes pre-release images; new features and functionality are subject to change.

LifeTopix 7.0 and My.Agenda 2.0 Guided Tour

Team LightArrow is very excited about our new updates of LifeTopix and My.Agenda. Our new updates include several new features to maximize your productivity at home, at work, and while you’re on the go. Keep reading to learn how you can take advantage of the latest features.

Shopping Improvements

We’re super excited about the Shopping topic’s complete redesign. I encourage you to explore this topic and experience the new features for yourself, and I’ll touch on the highlights here.

The Shopping topic is now so feature rich, it’s available as a stand-alone app for those who only wish to manage shopping and coupons. You can find the stand-alone app at the Apple App Store (My.Shopping).

You’ll first notice the new view of the Shopping topic. It’s redesigned to make it easier to add and view shopping items, shopping lists, things to sell, gifts for others, gifts received, coupons, products, and sellers. You’ll see the shopping items, lists, etc. that are due or coming due in the What Matters Now “ribbon” and items you haven’t purchased yet in the Open Shopping Items “ribbon.” The plus sign makes it easy to add shopping items on the fly from this view. The following image shows the redesigned Shopping view.

LifeTopix7-1

LightArrow apps support multiple shopping lists for those who prefer to manage their shopping into separate lists. For example, you might want to create back-to-school lists, grocery lists, business list items, home improvement items, etc. A great feature included with the Shopping list view is the ability to view items by seller or category. The categories you create are completely configurable by you; therefore, you might create categories by grocery aisle, type of grocery item, price level, etc — whatever makes you more productive. You can also view your lists by open or bought items to ensure you’re not returning to the grocery store, office supply store, or mall to pick up the items that you forgot to purchase.

Another great Shopping List feature is the ability to share lists via email with a friend, spouse, housemate or partner. They can open a list directly in their LifeTopix or My.Agenda app from their email. Also, if you’ve set up device-to-device sync and both users are sharing the same Dropbox folder for data, you can share and collaborate using the same shopping list. The following image shows the redesigned Shopping List view.

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Another great addition is how coupons are managed. The coupon management is intended to save you time and money by helping you keep track of coupons and their expiration dates.

For stores that allow electronic versions of coupons, you can take photos of the coupons and access them directly from your app. You can take note of your coupons and add an expiration date. When you’ve added a date tag for coupons, you’ll know immediately when they are going to expire because they will appear in the “What Matters Now” section of the Shopping view as well as the Agenda view. The following image shows the redesigned Coupon view.

LifeTopix7-3

Notes + Files Improvements

We’re equally excited about the Notes + Files topic’s complete redesign. I encourage you to explore this topic and experience the new features for yourself, and I’ll touch on the highlights here.

Notes + Files is now so feature rich, it’s available as a stand-alone app for those who only wish to manage notes, checklists/to-do lists, and online files and notes. You can find the stand-alone apps at the Apple App store (Pro.Notes and My.Notes).

You’ll first notice the new view of the Notes + Files topic. It’s redesigned to make it easier to add and view notes, files, checklists, and drawings. You’ll see the notes and lists that are due or coming due in the What Matters Now “ribbon” and items you recently added or updated in the Recent Items “ribbon.” The plus sign makes it easy to add note items on the fly from this view. The following image shows the redesigned Notes + Files view.

LifeTopix7-4

The drawing capabilities in LifeTopix and My.Agenda have spectacular improvements. The drawing tools have been combined into one control, and a landscape view is now available. Drawing tools include 24 beautiful colors with alpha options; linewidth choices; eraser; clear; undo; print; and email capabilities for drawings. Printing is also available for notes and drawings. Users can now share their drawings via Facebook and Twitter directly from the drawing view.

The following image shows the redesigned drawing view.

LifeTopix7-5

People + Services Improvements

If you’re thrilled about the changes to the Shopping topic and the Notes + Files topic, then you’ll also be excited to see the changes to the People + Services topic. People + Services can now be your central portal for finding information about and contacting your friends, family, colleagues, clients, and service providers.

You’ll notice that we’ve also updated the view with a “ribbon” showing Recent Items and Groups. The following image shows the redesigned People + Services view.

LifeTopix7-6

Imagine the possibilities for keeping in touch with family, clients, friends, and other colleagues. From a central location, you can see their phone number, email address, birthday, anniversary, notes, association with LifeTopix items, and last Twitter and Facebook message for each of your contacts that you’ve set up in LifeTopix or My.Agenda. Instantly, you can send a text message, email, Tweet, or send a Facebook message. You can keep categories — allowing you to easily find your family members, clients, or friends by group. And, as always, the contacts work with your iOS calendar.

The following image shows the redesigned Person view.

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Dynamic Schedules

When scheduling tasks, you can now select the option of Dynamic. If you choose this option, each task is only created after the previous task is cancelled or completed. The Pre-Create option creates all the tasks at once. The new option, Dynamic, is very useful for tasks that need to be completed in a pre-defined or designated order.

Dynamic Schedules

Custom Month Schedules

Custom repeat schedules are now available for tasks and appointments (events). After selecting the month option, you can select specified dates or days on which the appointment or task occurs. This is very useful for events or tasks that are repeated, but occur on varying days.

Custom Month Schedule

Repeat Schedule Preview

We added a preview for scheduling events, as shown in the image below. This ensures that you’ve properly set up a recurring appointment, class or meeting.

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Copy a Project

Due to popular demand, you’re now able to copy a project. The category, description, and starting and end dates are copied to the new project. The following image shows how to copy a project:

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Search

Searching has been improved, our apps now search the content of notes, allowing you to find important information that you’ve added to notes. Also, checklist item titles have been added to search.

Unified Login Management

LifeTopix and My.Agenda include integrations for Twitter™, Facebook™, Dropbox™, SkyDrive™, Evernote®, Toodledo®, and Asana™. To make it easier to enter your credentials for these apps and services, we’ve included a new view for managing your login name and password. To find the new view, go to Settings and tap Logins for Integrations. The following image shows an example of the new view.

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Near Me / Maps Improvements

The Near Me feature includes significant improvements. You can now set locations for service providers, which allows you to better plan your errands to save time and gas. For example, you might add locations for your favorite dry cleaners, grocery stores, markets, or other providers — and refer to them in the Near Me view so you can make sure to locate the providers that are close to your current area while running errands. You will also notice when you’re specifying locations for providers and other items, that the search has been improved.

Refer to the following image to see an example of search when I enter the term “grocery.”

LifeTopix7-11

Photos, Audio, And Video Clips in My Calendar

You now have the option of viewing photos, audio, and video clips in My Calendar. To add or remove the view of these items in your calendar, tap the filter icon in the upper right of the calendar to view the screen shown in the following image. Check the boxes for the items that you wish to view.

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Bonus Theme Colors

If you create an App Store rating from your LightArrow app, the app will provide you with bonus theme colors. The colors are a surprise; however, the following image shows where to start.

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Paid Amount in Bills

When creating a bill payment, you can now enter the paid amount. This is useful to track when the paid amount is different than the amount due. The payment list screen displays the due amount along with the paid amount and the payment template displays the balance.

Full Screen View of Notes Text

We understand that many of you would prefer to see a larger screen version of your notes; therefore, we’ve allowed you to do just that. The following image shows the expanded screen, and how to collapse the screen back to the previous view:

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Smart Conversion

We’ve added the ability for you to convert your device reminders to tasks and shopping items. For example, you might ask Siri to create a reminder for picking up milk to create a device reminder, but this item is better suited as a shopping item. To convert it, tap the icon with the three green dots (or) tap and hold the item to proceed with the conversion. The following image shows an example of converting the item from the Agenda view.

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Additional Alerts

There are now more options in Settings for reminders (alerts) on device calendar events. The following options were added:

  • Remind 15 minutes before
  • Remind 30 minutes before
  • Remind 1 hour before
  • Remind 2 hours before
  • Remind 4 hours before
  • Remind 12 hours before

The following image shows an example of the new settings.

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User-defined Startup View

Now you can define the view that is launched at the time of starting your app. You will find this setting in the My Settings view.

Keep in mind that this setting only takes effect when the app is first started; therefore, you will need to close LifeTopix or My.Agenda and start it again.

Your options include:

  • Home
  • Hot List
  • My Topics
  • My Calendar
  • Recent
  • My Inboxes
  • My Contexts
  • Near Me
  • My Apps
  • Engage
  • Settings
  • Help Center

The following image shows how to specify the default view:

LifeTopix70-17

Reorder Apps in My Apps

The My Apps view allows you to launch other apps from your LifeTopix or My.Agenda app making it easier to launch your favorite apps from one location. You’re now able to reorder these apps as you please by tapping the reorder icon in the upper left, and then dragging and dropping the app into your preferred order. The following image shows an example.

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Miscellaneous Improvements

Defect fixes and speed improvements have also been applied to this release, as well as the additions below:

  • Comment field added to shopping items.
  • When viewing the calendar by week, the app autoscrolls to the first item.
  • Checklists now include due dates.

We hope this helps you understand how to leverage the new features in LifeTopix 7.0 and My.Agenda 2.0. Enjoy!

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. The GTD method is an excellent method for organizing your life and getting things done. And it’s not just for your work life. I recently stumbled upon this post from April Perry that mentions how GTD enabled this mom to really enjoy her family.

GTD Lady Post It

We’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix’s features for the Organizing phase of GTD. Keep in mind that our starter App, My.Agenda, can include many of these features discussed by purchasing the Get Things Done Pack as an in-app purchase.

Note: The screenshots in this post were created using an unreleased version of LifeTopix, which will be coming soon to the App Store.

What is GTD?

If you’re not familiar with GTD, it’s “the groundbreaking work-life management system by David Allen that provides concrete solutions for transforming overwhelm and uncertainty into an integrated system of stress-free productivity,” according to David Allen’s website. Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Do. This post focuses on the Organize phase of this workflow.

What is the Organize Phase of GTD?

When you consider organizing, think about how you would divide your home life and work into various areas. Consider how you would sort your life before you get started. In an earlier post, we discussed using LifeTopix to define each collected item as actionable or non-actionable. Once you’ve completed processing items, you can begin organizing them (or this may be done simultaneously for some items). During the Organize phase, you divide your items into various areas.

Major sections include the following areas:

  • Projects – Actions that require more than one step to complete.
  • Calendar Items – Actions that must be completed at a designated day and/or time.
  • Next Actions – Items that only require one step, such as “call mom.”
  • Waiting For – Items that others need to complete that affect you or your work.

Allen suggests that you also organize your reference material, which are items that do not have any actions associated with them.

Reference material might include:

  • Checklists
  • Items without actions, but need to be retrieved at some time
  • Notes from meetings, classes, etc.

Projects in LifeTopix

During the Capture and Collect phase, you collect items that are subsequently processed during the Processing phase. You might have placed them in a holding area via the LifeTopix Quick Inbox and then converted the items to the proper type of object — such as a Project.

Allen suggests that you create projects for actions that require more than one step. For example, if you’re starting a landscaping project, you will have several tasks such as 1) choose three landscape design firms to obtain bids, 2) set up appointments with landscape design firms, 3) choose designs, and so on.

When using LifeTopix, your first step for organizing your projects is to define project categories (under Manage Categories in Settings) that are relevant for your life. Built-in categories include Education, Health + Activity, Indoor, Media, and Outdoor, as shown in the screenshot below.

Project-Categories-LifeTopix

You can add more categories or delete the default categories — LifeTopix is very flexible allowing you to define what works for you. You can further organize by creating subcategories under your categories. Once you’ve created your categories, you can create a project and break it down into tasks, as shown in the following screenshot.

tasks-projects-lifetopix-gtd

As a side note, you can view your tasks by Open, Undated, and Overdue. And you can assign a status such as In Progress, On Hold, Completed, Canceled, or on Hold, if desired.

Calendar Items and Next Actions

Actions that must be completed at a certain date and time, such as classes, meetings, doctor’s appointments, kids’ activities, etc. are handled easily by LifeTopix. Specifically, LifeTopix allows you to define these items by Appointments, Bill Payments, Events, Dated Notes, Occasions, Medications, and Activity/Wellness. By simply accessing LifeTopix’s Calendar View, tapping the plus sign, choosing Quick Add, and selecting one of the options, you can choose to create dated items such as Trips, Visits, Attending Events, Hosting Events, and Occasions.

LifeTopix gives you a variety of options for Next Actions. You can choose to use reminders, tasks not associated with projects, or to-do lists to organize items that only require one step.

Waiting for Items

At times, completion of your tasks might depend upon the completion of a different task by a family member, friend, or colleague. Or, perhaps, you’ve delegated your tasks to someone else. This is when Waiting For items come into play. LifeTopix handles these items by allowing you to add owner(s) to a task as shown in the following screenshot.

TaskOwner-LifeTopix

You can view all tasks for each person through the People + Services topic. It’s a good idea to create a LifeTopix Group for contacts to which you frequently assign tasks for easy access.

Context Tags

When using the GTD method, it’s necessary to consider the context of your captured items. The context defines how and where the item will be completed. How defines the tools, such as @laptop and where defines the location, such as @home.

In LifeTopix, contexts are completely configurable to meet your needs and items can include zero or more contexts. You can configure tags in the My Contexts view, which is shown in the screenshot below. You can also access all the items defined with these contexts directly from this view.

GTD Contexts LifeTopix

Reference Materials

Reference materials are items that aren’t actionable that include data and files, which may or may not support your projects. LifeTopix allows you to associate several types of objects with projects — allowing quick and easy retrieval.

With LifeTopix, you can associate Checklists, Bookmarks, Local and Online Documents, Audio, Photos, Video, Notes, Expenses, Services, and Shopping items with Projects, as shown in the following screenshot. This eliminates the need to file these items into physical paper folders and files using large filing cabinets.

Reference_Materials_LifeTopix

And with LifeTopix, you can back up your data to Dropbox™ or other services, allowing you to feel secure about your data. In addition, LifeTopix supports Google Drive, Dropbox™, SkyDrive™, and Evernote™ — allowing you to access files or notes from these services in context with your projects.

Review and Do Phases

A future post will discuss the Review and Do Phases in depth, but keep in mind that when you choose actionable items to complete when you review your action lists daily, you can simply set the Due Date to the current day — with or without a specific time. If you choose not to include a time, keep in mind that your calendar will consider a task without a date as an all-day event, which results in a blocked out day to others viewing your shared calendar.

When you’ve added a due date, the Agenda view will show all the tasks in a list view that are due on the current day. The following screenshot shows the resulting Agenda view after tasks have been given due dates.

Agenda-LifeTopix

Take note that the items that you view on the Agenda view are completely configurable by you. you can choose to show or hide Device Reminders, Appointments, Bill Payments, Events, Expenses, Notes with Date Tags, Occasion Reminders, Projects, Quick Inbox Items, Checklists, Reminders, Shopping Items, Shopping Lists, Tasks, Trips, Visits, Health Stats, Medication, Nutrition, Activity, and Wellness.

More Information

GTD is a great system for managing your busy home and work life. If you’d like to know more about best practices using LifeTopix for GTD, refer to the following posts:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

We enjoy hearing from you. Please share your best practices for using LifeTopix.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. We’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix for the Processing Phase of GTD.

What is GTD

If you’re not familiar with GTD, it’s “the groundbreaking work-life management system by David Allen that provides concrete solutions for transforming overwhelm and uncertainty into an integrated system of stress-free productivity,” according to David Allen’s website.

Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Do. This post focuses on the Process Phase of this workflow and describes the many ways that you can process your collected items.

What is the Process Phase in GTD?

In an earlier post (Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect), we discussed using LifeTopix to capture everything that’s floating around in your head. Once these items are in your trusted system, they need to move to the next stage of the workflow, which is Process.

During the Process Phase, you define each item collected as actionable or non-actionable. Non-actionable items are reference items or items that you can delete. Actionable items can be further defined in LifeTopix as described in this post.

Generally, those who follow the GTD process take an hour or two out each day to perform the Process step.

How do you use LifeTopix to Process?

During the Process Phase, you define each item collected as actionable or non-actionable. Keep in mind that LifeTopix is very flexible so you’ll find that you can create objects and categories that are suitable for the way that you work.

The following diagram shows the choices for the Process Phase in LifeTopix.

GTD Process Phase

Non-actionable Items

Non-actionable items include items that you cannot or will not act upon. These might be objects that are not important, not your responsibility, or items for reference — such as background materials in the form of notes, document files, audio, or video. These items might never make their way into LifeTopix in the first place and generally reside in your email or voicemail inboxes. If you find non-actionable items in LifeTopix during a review, you can easily delete these items if they’re no longer needed.

LifeTopix includes features enabling you to organize your important reference materials. For example, you can associate local files; checklists; bookmarks; audio; photos; videos; notes; shopping items; and online files from Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Evernote, Toodledo to projects so you’ll always be able to find reference information associated with your actionable items.

Two-minute Rule

Generally, during the process phase you focus on making decisions, rather than completing actions; however, if an item can be completed in two minutes or less, then you can go ahead and act immediately.

Items To Do Soon or ASAP

During the Process Phase, you decide which tasks to do right away and soon. If you would like to learn more about prioritizing when using LifeTopix, see Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix.

LifeTopix to-do lists (checklists) are very suitable for small items that you wish to complete soon. If you’ve defined projects with associated tasks in LifeTopix, you can choose to complete the next action that helps you complete the project. You can define to-do lists on the fly directly in the Agenda view or you can define a task list. Task lists can include dates if you wish to view them in your Agenda or on your calendar. In addition, you can choose to use online tasks from Asana, Toodledo, or Google.

Items With Dates and Times

Many objects in LifeTopix can include dates; however, generally when using the GTD method, calendar items should be used for objects that occur at a fixed place or time, such as meetings, doctor’s appointments, or social events. The LifeTopix calendar is the logical place to place these items. Simply tapping the plus sign allows you to add events you’re attending, events you’re hosting, appointments, reminders, occasions, and device events. With LifeTopix, you can also use your online calendars (such as your device calendar, Outlook, or Google calendar) and manage those items via LifeTopix. LifeTopix becomes the central place for viewing multiple calendars.

Ticklers, Items You Wish to Defer, Items To Do Someday

Items without a clear due date, items with a due date in the future (ticklers), or items that you wish to do someday (such as learn to speak another language) can be placed in the Quick Inbox as a holding area. These items should be reviewed often.

Alternatively, you can create tasks (as task lists) or as a part of a project in the LifeTopix Tasks + Projects topic. These tasks can remain undated and you can review them regularly.

Projects

In LifeTopix, projects can be used for just about anything you dream up. You can create any type of project for work or your home and tag the project with an appropriate user-defined context tag. For example, in LifeTopix you can create Health projects; Event projects (for a wedding, graduation, etc.); Education projects; Work-related projects, and more.

Delegation

For items you wish to delegate, you can email them directly from LifeTopix to the recipient and he or she can open them directly in their LifeTopix app on their device from their email inbox. The ability to share is available for Projects, Trips, Notes, Tasks, Shopping lists, Checklists, Visits, Events, and Appointments. Another option for sharing includes using a shared Dropbox account with team members or family members and using Cloud Sync. And if you wish, you can use Toodledo or Asana for your task management, which allows you to share with team members.

More Information

GTD is a great system for managing your busy home and work life. If you’d like to know more about best practices using LifeTopix for GTD, refer to the following posts:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

Please comment on how you use LifeTopix for the Processing Phase.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Earth Day – Eight Things You Can Do Today to Save the Planet

Earth Day 2013

Each year, Earth Day is celebrated to educate Americans about ecology and what they can do to reduce their environmental impact. Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day in 1970 and it’s still celebrated today to honor our planet. In this post, we’d like to do our part to educate you about a few simple things that you can do today that will protect and honor planet earth without drastically changing your lifestyle.

1. Set Auto Shutdown on Your Laptops

According to Casey Roe, Sustainability Outreach Coordinator, Duke Sustainability Office [source], it takes 60 to 300 trees to absorb the annual impact of a computer that’s left on 24 hours a day, and only 60 percent of US adults turn their computer off during the night. A simple change that you can make today is shutting down your laptops and devices at night.

To make it super simple, in many cases you can set up your computers to shut down or use other energy-saving options (such as sleep or hibernate) automatically. Macs have options that enable you to automatically shut them down during times that you’re not using them.

Earth Day 2013

You can use the Energy Saver preferences in the System Preferences application. Just click the Schedule button, and you can set up the schedule that works for you.

2. Eliminate Junk Mail

According to 41Pounds.org, “more than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail. 42% of timber harvested nationwide becomes pulpwood for paper.” Furthermore, they state, “The world’s temperate forests absorb 2 billion tons of carbon annually. Creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars.”

So what can you do about it? There are services that allow you to stop the influx of junk mail that you receive at your home. And if you’re a marketer, consider more green (digital) options. I recently started using Catalog Choice. Catalog Choice unlists you from marketing lists for catalogs and allows you to search for and choose the catalogs that you no longer wish to receive. What’s neat about the site is you can also view the environmental benefits of your contribution and the contribution of others as a whole.

3. Buy Used or Borrow Things That You Only Use Once in a While

Many of us rush out to buy something new any time we need it. In fact, according to the The Daily Green, “studies have shown that the average power tool is used for only about half an hour it its lifetime.” If statistics are correct, you probably have some lonely and dusty power tools in your garage. Instead of rushing out to the nearest home improvement store, consider purchasing used items and borrowing tools and other items. 

Nowadays, there are many choices for borrowing items such as tools, and when you no longer need an item you can consider donating it. In the United States, a “Tool Library” movement has begun and continues to gain momentum, which allows you to borrow several type of home and garden tools. Just perform a local Google Search and you’ll find many options for lending and borrowing.

4. Use Cloud Services

Using Cloud Services is a popular trend, but it also can help you to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. According to Go Green, “large companies adopting the cloud can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by 30 percent. The better news is, small businesses even save more energy than the larger counterparts – up to 90 percent.”

We often talk about cloud services and how you can use them to store your documents, photos, and other media to help you achieve your paperless goals (as opposed to printing these items and placing them in file folders). We also commonly talk about how our app, LifeTopix, allows you to access these documents in context with all the things you’re doing and planning in your life. Examples of cloud services that are popular and can be used for free include Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, Evernote, and Google Drive.

You can refer to their websites to sign up and learn more about these services.

5. Reduce Travel

Whether you’re traveling across town or traveling across the earth, consider video conferencing as an option to reduce your carbon footprint. An article published by Yale University by Elisabeth Rosenthal [source] states that, “According to various estimates, emissions from aviation currently represent 2 to 3 percent of CO2 emissions and are likely to double or triple by 2050.”

To reduce the number of trips that you take, consider video conferencing options. Lower cost and free options that are available include Skype, Google Hangouts, iChat on Apple Computers, or Adobe Connect Pro among many others. Refer to their websites for more information.

6. Cancel Paper Newspaper Subscriptions

Are you still receiving the daily newspaper? Have you ever wondered about the environment impact of that daily newspaper? According to the Daily Green, “The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector’s carbon emissions” and “Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).”

Understanding this, I investigated a local newspaper and found that there are several options for online, iPad, and various tablet subscriptions. I also found that the tablet choice was more economical than choosing the paper option with full online access. Consequently, there’s no need to give up the subscription altogether.

7. Use Reminders, Notes, Lists, and Calendar Applications

iOS reminders, calendar apps, shopping/to-do list and note apps, and personal organization apps such as LifeTopix are excellent for helping you incorporate green habits into your life, such as reducing the amount of paper that you use. For example, you can use a variety of apps or use LifeTopix to:

  • Set a reminder to carry your reusable shopping bags to the grocery store or farmer’s market.
  • Schedule times that local farmers sell at the markets.
  • Schedule recycling day.
  • Create digital shopping lists and ditch the paper lists.
  • Stop using paper notes and create digital to-do lists and notes.
  • Set reminders to turn off the lights in your house.

8. Better Plan Your Errands and Carpool

Near_MeOne great way to reduce emissions is to cut back on the amount of time you spend in your car commuting and running errands. According to the EPA, “Leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by an average of two tons per year.”

Your built-in map app on your iOS device or Google maps can help you plan the most efficient route when running errands. And, if you use an app such as LifeTopix, you can use the handy Near Me feature to view shopping and other items on your map to ensure you’re taking advantage of the best route.

There are several websites and apps that can help you find ways to carpool. Social media is also a great way to arrange rides with friends.

Please comment and let us know your tips for reducing your carbon footprint. We love to hear from our readers. 

A Day in the Life With LifeTopix

In this video, we’re following Susan who is a busy woman on the go. She’s a wife, mom, and real-estate agent. How does she do it all? She manages her time using LifeTopix. Watch the following video to learn how…

You can find LifeTopix at the App Store.

Transcript

Today, we’re going to be following Susan. Susan is a busy woman on the go. She’s a wife, mom, and real-estate agent. How does she do it all? She manages her time using LifeTopix.

Welcome to LifeTopix. If you’re not familiar with LifeTopix, it’s a complete productivity app for personal organization. With LifeTopix, you can manage your calendar, tasks/to-dos, projects, notes, files, health, and much more with its 12 topics. 

Let’s take a look at Susan’s busy schedule. We’ll start at the LifeTopix Agenda view. The Agenda view is a high-level view of everything that Susan has planned today, tomorrow, and the next 7 days.  This way, Susan always knows exactly what’s on her schedule. 

Also with the handy Agenda view, Susan can also manage her to-do lists. She sets up a daily checklist so she makes sure she hasn’t forgotten anything.

And if there’s something Susan doesn’t want to see, she can easily filter it out.

Susan has several ways of viewing her busy schedule on her calendar. She can view it by Day, Week, Month, and Year. And once again, handy filters let her decide what she wants to see.

The Near Me view makes planning your day very convenient because you can see exactly where all of your items for the day are located. You can tap the pin for more information, or you can dive into the details by tapping here.

Let’s dive into some of the details of Susan’s schedule. Sometimes Susan is required to drive the kids to school via carpool. So she set up a recurring appointment. She has not set up the location yet, but it is easy to do. If you tap here, select Specify/Show on Map, Add the Address, or just the name of the school, Search — it will automatically find the location for you and you can save it and refer to it at a later time.

Susan is a very fit and healthy woman and it’s important to her to exercise and eat right. I’m going to show you how she logs her calories and workouts each day. By choosing the Quick Add here. And then choosing log form, you can see the different log forms that she’s set up. One is for Activity, One is for Calories, and the next one is for her Daily Medications. When she wants to log her activity, she simply taps here, enters in the information, let’s say she did the treadmill for an hour today, and saves it and it’s logged for the day. It works the same way for calories and daily medications.

During lunch, Susan has set up an initial appointment with her Interior Designer for her home remodeling project. She sees her appointment is not confirmed so it’s easy to give Tad a call by tapping here and finding his contact information.

Susan has set up her home remodeling project as a LifeTopix project. When she meets with Tad, she will want to make sure she has some notes. Tad might have a blueprint that she can easily add, by adding a file here. 

It looks like Tad has brought his sketches. What’s great is Susan can attach them to her remodeling project in a PDF format.

Susan is also furthering her education by getting certified as a real estate broker. What’s very important for her is getting certified, so she’s set up a broker certification in her Education topic in Lifetopix. Today she has a test scheduled, so she has scheduled that as a task. In addition, she’s added notes to this so she can make sure to study for this quiz. She can also use Evernote to sync notes back and forth from LifeTopix to Evernote.

Last but not least, Susan has set up dinner with her family. Let’s go back to the My Calendar view and take a look at that. Here’s the appointment. She can easily tap here and see where to find the restaurant. But what’s really important to Susan is sharing her remodeling notes for collaboration with her husband. All she needs to do is tap here and send her husband this note via email. He can import this note directly into LifeTopix or he can open it.

I hope you found our “day in the life” helpful to give you an idea of how you can leverage LifeTopix in your own busy life. 

13 Ways LifeTopix Can Improve Your Life in 2013

What are your goals for 2013? Everyone wants to live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life — but how do you get there? We’ve compiled a list of 13 ways that the LifeTopix calendar, productivity, and organization app can help you do more. The result? Get more done, reduce stress, and spend more time doing the things you really want to do.

1. Improve your nutrition

After the holidays, many of us are mortified when we step on the scale. Perhaps you can relate and you’re wanting to make better food choices and to maintain a healthy weight in 2013. LifeTopix can help you track your food consumption. For example, you can record and view the calories, protein, solid fats, alcohol, desserts, or almost any other item that you’re consuming each day in a graphical format. As an example, in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic, you can use the LifeTopix Nutrition Log Forms to view the maximum number of calories that you’ve set to make sure you’re not exceeding this number. Or, if your goal is to eat more vegetables or protein, you can set this too!

2. Get your health under control

Ignoring health issues can have serious consequences. LifeTopix includes many features for tracking your health stats. Are you dealing with hypertension and your doctor has asked you to log your blood pressure? Are you anemic and you need to track your blood count? Do you have sleep problems and you want to track your sleep quality? LifeTopix can handle these items and many more via the LifeTopix Medication Log and Wellness Log in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic.

3. Take vitamins and medications consistently

Do you have good intentions about taking your vitamins and prescription medications, but frequently forget to take them or cannot remember if you’ve taken them? With some medications, it’s imperative that you’re taking them each day, and sometimes even at the same time each day. With the LifeTopix Medication Log form in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic, you can record your intake of vitamins and medications each day — and the log automatically includes the current date and time when you add a medication entry.

4. Reach your fitness goals

Are you wanting to start a fitness routine, maintain your current fitness level, or bump your fitness up to a new level in 2013? Perhaps you’re training for a triathlon or planning your first marathon. Or, maybe you want to make sure you take a 30 minute walk with your dog each morning. Whatever your fitness level, LifeTopix provides the flexibility for planning and tracking your fitness. You can use the LifeTopix Activity Log Forms in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic to set and view any type of exercise you wish — and just like nutrition, you can see if you’re reaching those goals via a graphical format.

5. Make shopping trips more efficient

Do you spend hours planning your family meals and shopping at the grocery store? Do you want to spend less time shopping and more time with your family or friends, catching a game, or spending time on your hobbies? If this is one of your goals for 2013, LifeTopix can help. Many of us are creatures of habit so LifeTopix helps you organize the stores you go to frequently and the items you buy most often. You can add the items that you purchase — along with the seller, unit price, unit, quantity, and total price to your master list of products. Then, simply select these items, add them to your lists, and check them off as you buy them. It’s as simple as that.

6. Save money and stick to your budget

After the holidays, you might want to put a little jingle back in your pocket. And with the downturn in the economy, sticking to a budget in 2013 might also be one of your highest priorities. The LifeTopix Finances topic was created for just this reason. Not only can you track all your financial accounts, credit card and debit cards, and investment accounts  — it lets you record the recur­ring bill pay­ments for all the ser­vices you use and the one-time pay­ments you make. You can view all of these pay­ments on your Expenses Calendar. And you can track the things that you sell, such as through a garage sale or ebay. And, as an added bonus, you can track your online coupons in the Shopping topic to help you save a little extra money.

7. Get smart

Whether you’re a student or a professional who’s focusing on their personal growth or professional skills, LifeTopix can help you organize and track the things that you need to further your education. If you’re a student, the Education topic enables you to take notes about education, set up projects and assignments, and add the subjects that you take. As a student, you can create a class schedule and associate a location with each of your classes. Or perhaps you’re a professional who’s obtaining a HIPAA certification, taking graphic design classes to improve your design skills, or becoming a fitness instructor — with LifeTopix, you can utilize personal growth categories to help you track your certifications and training in the LifeTopix Education topic.

8. Be creative

Are you planning to start a new business, write a novel or screenplay, or compose music in 2013? Have you ever had a creative thought related to your job or hobbies, but didn’t catch that idea immediately and then forgot it later? We just can’t predict when a great idea is going to pop into our heads so being prepared through journaling is wise. Mobile devices are amazing for capturing those ideas because we carry them almost everywhere we go. The LifeTopix Notes + Files topic is perfect for this use. You can take notes everywhere you go and if you prefer to use Evernote for note taking, LifeTopix conveniently works with it too.

9. Build relationships

In 2013, one of your goals might be to build business or personal relationships. To build relationships, it’s helpful to record your interactions with friends, family, or colleagues. For example, perhaps you’ve included all your friends’ and family members’ birthdays and you want to ensure you wish them a happy birthday and send them gifts. Through LifeTopix, you can set a reminder, plan the gift you wish to purchase, and automatically add it to a shopping list. Any time you associate a person with an item in LifeTopix, those people are filed under the People + Services topic. The possibilities are endless. You will be the star of your next family reunion. And, LifeTopix works with your iOS contacts so double entry is not necessary.

10. Make more time for yourself

For your well being, it’s a great idea to schedule time for yourself. If you’re the type of person who takes on too much responsibility and needs to share more of it, then LifeTopix is for you. Through the LifeTopix “Discuss” features, you can share your projects, checklists, events, shopping lists, trips, visits, notes, and more. For example, you can create a shopping list and then share it with your spouse. Or you can create a “honey-do” list with chores for your husband. Your spouse can view it via email and then add it to LifeTopix in just one tap.

11. Go paperless and reduce clutter

Is your home office a cluttered mess? Do you want to reduce your consumption and accumulation of paper to reduce your impact on the environment? Do you want to lighten your load when meeting clients or going to the office? If so, LifeTopix is for you. LifeTopix works with popular cloud-based file storage systems such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive so you can store all your items digitally — and then associate those documents in the context of your life items within LifeTopix.

12. Get things done

Do you have DIY projects that you want to complete such as organizing your closet, remodeling your kitchen, or landscaping the backyard? Or perhaps you’re planning to build a new website? With LifeTopix, you can plan your projects and tasks with ease. The LifeTopix Tasks + Projects topic gives you the abil­ity to enter, orga­nize, pri­or­i­tize, track, and check off your projects’ tasks.

13. Take a vacation

Now that you’ve saved money, got more done, built up your client base, got your health under control, finished your projects, and lost a few pounds — it’s time to take a vacation. Luckily, with the Life­Topix Travel + Places topic, you can plan your vacation from end-to-end. You can track the dates, set reminders, make packing checklists, set bookmarks to travel websites, and make note of places you want to visit such as restaurants, golf courses, or tourist attractions.

We hope this gives you some ideas of how you can use LifeTopix to improve your life in 2013. Please share and comment! Happy New Year!

Download LifeTopix:

Guide to Going Paperless for Educators

Teachers and other educators are constantly required to work with an enormous amount of paper, files, notes, and digital media. They’re also tasked with managing an abundance of data for their students. Organizing this information can become more and more challenging and unwieldy. A solution for this problem is going paperless. This solution reduces the cost of paper production, reduces the negative impact of paper use to the environment, and it also increases the efficiency of educators.

When talking to teachers, it’s interesting to understand how they organize their data. It ranges from paper filing systems to full-blown digital solutions. But nearly all educators agree that they’re looking for the best solution to help them get organized and stay that way. This post is intended to give teachers, tutors, homeschool parents, and other educators tips and tricks for getting their information organized and easily accessible.

Cloud_ComputingTeachers and other educators typically look for solutions to manage the following types of items:

  • Assignments, textbooks (ebooks), and lesson plans
  • Student profiles or portfolios
  • Progress reports and notes
  • Meeting notes from conferences and staff meetings
  • Attendance
  • State-required documents, particularly for homeschooling

Tools that educators can use to get this information in a digital format and organized into a central location include Dropbox, Google Drive/Docs, Evernote, and LifeTopix. Keep reading to learn how to leverage the power of these tools.

Storing Assignments, Textbooks, Lesson Plans, and Other Files

Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive/Docs are all great tools for storing and accessing documents in many types of formats. All of these tools can store documents, photos, and other files “in the cloud” and allow access from a personal computer or mobile device. When data is stored in the cloud, it means that it’s managed and backed up remotely and made available over the Internet, instead of locally on a computer. The advantage of storing files in the cloud is there’s no worries about hard drive crashes, computer theft, or migrating data to new computers. However, these tools are not exactly the same, and this post will help you understand what makes each one appropriate for different types of uses.

Dropbox

Dropbox is really handy software for storing and retrieving large files such as textbooks. Files can be private or shared with invited users. Dropbox is free up to a designated amount of storage, and provides software for personal computers and mobile devices. The file structure works seamlessly with OS X and Windows operating systems as shown in the following screenshot.

Dropbox

The Dropbox app is available on the iPhone or iPad, which allows complete mobility, such as moving around the classroom while accessing students’ files. There’s also the capability to connect an iPad to a television or projector to share any files with a class or student.

Take note that Dropbox allows file sharing; however, it does not allow simultaneous file editing with others (Google Docs/Drive offers this functionality). With Dropbox, the servers first sync the file to their web servers, and then they’re synced to all computers that are connected via shared folders.

Evernote

Evernote is considered best-in-class for note taking, but it provides more than just creation of online notes, which makes it suitable for a variety of scenarios. Think of Evernote as a digital filing system. Educators and students are always creating content — whether it’s tests, report cards, typed notes, audio files, images, or projects. Educators need a way to organize this information and to easily share it. Evernote allows note creation, and it also supports almost any type of file imaginable. It also includes advanced searching and tagging so it’s easy to quickly find files and notes.

Evernote provides great information about how it can be used for schools at Evernote for Schools. It works with a variety of computers and mobile devices — there’s a free web application, desktop client, and mobile app so educators can use it anywhere. The basic service is free, and there’s options to upgrade to the Evernote Premium For Schools version.

One typical scenario for the classroom would be to create an Evernote login for each student so each student would have access to their homework and projects. All their projects and homework would be included within these folders. An Evernote-compliant scanner for the classroom allows the students to store everything digitally. Imagine how this scenario would simplify parent/teacher conferences. For example, all the students’ work could be included within the student’s profile — and shared in real time with the students and their parents via computers or mobile devices.

Google Docs/Drive

Like Dropbox and Evernote, Google Drive includes free storage in the cloud. What’s different about Google Drive is it becomes the central place for managing Google Docs. Google Docs is free web-based software for creating and updating spreadsheets, documents, presentations, and more. And with Google Docs, more than one student can edit files simultaneously, which makes collaborating on projects easy. The basic service is free, and there’s an upgrade to Google Apps for Education.

Google Docs/Drive is an excellent tool for both educators and students. Educators can keep track of attendance via spreadsheets; create seating charts via presentation or drawing tools; build presentations for students, parents, and faculty; or create homework assignments that can be accessed at home or in class —  the possibilities are endless. Students can collaborate easily on projects and always have access to their assignment lists and homework — which increases visibility for parents. And as iPads and other mobile devices become mainstream in the classroom, it’s important to note that Google Drive is available through the Apple App Store for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Bringing It All Together with LifeTopix

An increasing number of schools have started pilot programs using the iPad, and they’re seeing great potential. As iPads and other tablets become more popular in schools, apps that bring all this information together will be of utmost importance.  There’s no need to wait — educators have options now for organizing all this information into one place via their mobile devices. Imagine showing up for school without a backpack, laptop bag, heavy books, and piles of papers. With the right tools, educators and students can lighten their load significantly.

From what we’ve seen over the last few years, educators are using a variety of tools for per­sonal and col­lab­o­ra­tive notes, doc­u­ments, and files. We’ve embraced the con­cept of get­ting more value from notes, files, and doc­u­ments by allow­ing these items to be used in context within LifeTopix. Hence, LifeTopix was developed to be compatible with Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive/Docs. It’s an extremely flexible app via its 12 connected topics, which allows educators to manage all parts of their lives — their own way.

I’ll show you a few scenarios of how educators would use LifeTopix to organize their education-related data for the classroom. The following screenshots show how to create a LifeTopix project (which organizes the classroom data), and then create student profiles associated with each class through LifeTopix.

In the LifeTopix Tasks + Projects topic, projects contain all of the data associated with a class as shown in the following screenshot. There’s the ability to include a description of the class, start and end dates, tasks, checklists, appointments, reminders, bookmarks, files, audio, photos, videos, notes, expenses, services, and shopping items.

Education Project

In the LifeTopix Notes + Files topic, there’s the capability to create an entry for each student as shown below. These notes are associated with the Project above.

Students in LifeTopix

Once an entry for each student is created, the associated tasks, checklists, appointments, reminders, bookmarks, and files (both local and online from Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive/Docs) can be added. This data can be kept private or shared within one tap via email with parents and students. The following screenshot shows an example of a student profile.

LifeTopix Student Profile

Imagine the types of items that can be associated with the students’ profile. It’s possible to set up conferences and view them on a calendar; attach a photo of the student; access online homework folders; update attendance spreadsheets in Google Docs; set reminders specific to students; and anything else that’s important for students.

And for students, it’s important to note that the LifeTopix Education topic allows students to track assign­ments and related doc­u­ments and resources for school, work, or per­sonal growth sub­ject areas. And it’s inte­grated with other top­ics from LifeTopix so students can, for exam­ple, directly access local and online learn­ing resources that are defined in Life­Topix Info + Docs right from within the Life­Topix Edu­ca­tion topic. To learn more about LifeTopix for students, refer to 7 Tips to Get Organized for Back to School.

We hope this helps you learn how hardware and software can help you make the move to a paperless classroom. Please comment with any questions or ideas of how you’ve gone paperless.

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A Super App that Shines on the Dock

When we set out to build LifeTopix, we were not trying to build yet another task app. Or list app. Or notes app. Or shopping app. There are lots of those. Some of them are very, very good. A huge number of people find those apps sufficient for their needs, and many are in fact delighted with them.

But at LightArrow, we look at organization and productivity differently. Most users store their personal information through a heterogeneous set of software tools. For example, they might use: Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive and Docs, etc. to manage their life information. They collaborate in multiple ways — Email, Facebook, Twitter, Messaging, etc. They track things they need to do in different ways. For example, they use Google Calendar, Toodledo, Google Tasks, other online calendars, and other tools. Moreover, they have a lot of data, files, media, apps, etc. on their iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

Working directly with our users to understand how they get things done, we’ve built LifeTopix to be the “superapp” — or “one app to rule them all.” This allows our users to use the software they love — and we went miles further by putting everything in context for them. This gives them an organizational paradigm that goes across several relevant topics in their lives — beyond anything any other app even attempts to do.

LifeTopix Shines on the Dock

We believe our “super app” shines on the dock of the device. In fact, most of our users see it as a gateway to organization, on the device and in the cloud. An app that removes the need to be constantly hopping between other apps does rightfully belong on the dock — used multiple times every day, just like the email app or the phone app itself.

Users want to accomplish much more with the apps they invest their time into. We have raised the bar, and our users agree. See our Testimonials to learn more.