Digital Organizational Documents You Need
It’s amazing that we still under-utilize our personal computers and mobile devices. We have technology to change the world at our fingertips, and yet we can’t remember that thing we were sure we wouldn’t forget last night.
It’s time to change that. Below are nine types of documents and apps anyone can use to make their life more organized.
List of passwords
My dad’s a finance guy, so as soon as I was old enough to use the computer and have logins to keep track of, he taught me to use excel to keep track of the email, username, password and notes for the various accounts I began to accumulate. This file has saved me numerous times–looking up my FAFSA id, logging in to the yahoo account from middle school and keeping track of the school password that I had to change every six weeks, for starters.
Some people like to use browser extensions or services like LastPass. Others prefer to write down their logins in physical notebooks. I prefer the security, searchability and simplicity of an encrypted spreadsheet.
In the days of yore, people wrote checks and kept track of how much money was in their accounts by using a paper check register. Now, most people use credit and debit cards and nearly every bank has a mobile app. Much of our day-to-day money management is automated, but keeping track of money using a document or spreadsheet can still be useful in situations like these:
- Tracking spending for a specific project (vacation, new computer, wedding) without affecting your usual budget or creating a new savings account
- Saving for several different goals at once (car, emergency fund, spring break) within the same account
- Planning a budget
- Tracking your net worth, student loan debt or credit score over time
Menu/master grocery list
Meal planning has trended over the last few years, and for good reason: it eliminates extra trips to the store, helps you balance your diet and saves time and money. To take your meal planning to the next level, just make up a list of your favorite meals (the menu) and the staple foods that you like to always have on hand (the master grocery list).
When it’s time to plan your meals, the menu will give you ideas and allow you to plan varied meals with similar ingredients. Then when you’re headed to the store, compare your master grocery list to what’s in your kitchen, add any special ingredients for the week’s meals, and shop. It’s faster than making a list off the top of your head, and you won’t have to make a second trip to get that really important thing you forgot.
A master resume or CV will do for your job applications what a master grocery list does for your shopping: make it faster, easier and more complete.
It’s common knowledge that your resume shouldn’t be more than a page long, and that you should only include elements that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. But when it’s time to find a job, remembering your accomplishments and the details of every job you’ve worked can be tedious.
Enter the master resume (or CV, if that’s what your field uses). Use the font, formatting and sections (header, education, employment, service work, memberships, accomplishments, skills, references) you want to include when applying for jobs, but don’t limit the amount of content in each section. List every job, responsibility, award and skill you can think of. Include as much information as you can remember, and add every new thing you do that might be resume-worthy.
When it’s time to apply for a job, create a new resume with your most recent contact information and the items in each section that are most relevant. You can edit down job descriptions, pick and choose which skills to include and tailor details to the job application’s requirements.
While this seems like more work than just making a resume and using it over and over, a master resume is more efficient because you don’t have to struggle to remember the details of old jobs and awards, the formatting is already perfect and it’s easy to keep updated since you don’t have to take stuff off to make room for new accomplishments.
Notes to self
The name of your brother’s new girlfriend. A hilarious one-liner you have to tell your BFF later. Your mom’s Netflix password. Your ID number for your new job. Every day, there are dozens of opportunities to forget a crucial bit of information and make things awkward. Having a designated spot to put the information you know you’ll forget later frees you from trying to remember it and makes it possible to look up the information later on down the line.
There are lots of ways to accomplish this: you can text or email yourself, have a designated app for remembering things or just use a Google doc that you can update from your phone or computer and search when you need to.
Lists of ideas
On a similar note, using a list app, Pinterest or just a Word document to organize ideas will give you more to work with when you need a list later. I have lists like “Things to look for at the thrift store,” “Things to ask my boss about,” “Gift ideas,” “Blog post ideas,” and “Funny quotes from my friends.” Not every idea on each list is a winner, but when I need to buy a birthday gift for my nephew, I’ve got several good options already picked out.
Record of significant activities
This list is somewhere between the master resume and your daily planner. You can use an app like iDoneThis or a text document with a page for every month and a numbered list of days. All that matters is that it is searchable and you can write what happened that day.
“Significant activities” might include the first or last day of a job, sending your laptop in for repair, visiting the dentist, going on a first date, getting your oil changed or anything else that you might want to know the date of later. Jot it down at the end of the day or week and forget about it until you need to remember.
Inventory of possessions
This is one of the most boring documents on this list, but if you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, it can save you thousands of dollars in the event that you have to make a claim.
There are several ways to go about inventorying your possessions. A few apps are available, but I’ve found that using a Google spreadsheet is easier and less likely to become obsolete. You can list only your most expensive things, or include everything down to the half-tube of toothpaste on the bathroom counter. Including photos (I use the Google Photos app on my phone and then link to the picture in my spreadsheet) can help ensure that you wrote down everything and is another layer of evidence if something is damaged or stolen.
Many students make the mistake of relying on their advisors to keep track of their progress toward graduation. The reality of the situation is that advisors make mistakes, have dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of other students to keep track of and sometimes change jobs. The best way to make sure you are taking the classes you need to graduate is to keep track of your degree audit yourself.
Your school probably has a campus portal where you can view your academic progress and unofficial transcript, but keeping a separate record can be useful because you can lay out everything at once and it stays the same even if you switch majors or add a minor.
The easiest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with all of the degree requirements in one column, the classes you’ve taken to fulfill them in the second column and your grade in the third column. This will let you see at a glance what you have left to complete. If you can get your hands on the departmental document that says when each required class will be offered (every semester, alternate fall terms, etc.), you can add that information to plan future semesters.
There is so much that you have to remember and keep track of every single day. Save yourself from hassle and disaster by letting your digital devices remember for you.