Guest post by Matthew Landis.
Whether you are a law student or practicing attorney, time is a scarce commodity. The hundreds of tasks we are asked to perform each day, often across numerous locations, can seem overwhelming at times.
To organize our time, we all have a system in place to manage various tasks. In order to ensure your personal system is running efficiently, consider whether you can consolidate various tasks online to save time and organize your life more efficiently.
Identify your needs
Identifying your personal needs is the first step to making informed decisions that will benefit your productivity in the long-term. As a law student with multiple responsibilities, including school, internship, tutoring, volunteer and personal obligations, I have overhauled my system to make it as mobile and easily accessible as possible.
Whether I am at home, school or work, I need to be able to respond to emails quickly, as well as have access to my documents, calendars and to-do lists. In order to meet those needs, I have consolidated the vast majority of my organizational tools in a way that allows me to access them from anywhere, any time.
Because of the following tweaks, my personal computer can become my work computer and my school computer, and if necessary, I have access to it all on my phone as well.
Consolidate email accounts
I have three email accounts: personal, school, and work. Both school and work have their limitations: the antiquated school email client is tough to navigate, and at work, due to the setup of our network I cannot check this account unless I am in the office. Rather than checking each separately, I have set up both work and school addresses to forward to my personal Gmail account.
In addition to the advantages discussed here, Gmail offers the ability to create filters to automatically label incoming mail from different accounts, so it makes sorting large quantities of mail very easy.
Gmail also allows you to utilize one of your other email addresses as the “from” address in the “send mail as” feature. For example, although I am physically sending the email from the Gmail interface, it will appear to have come from my work or school domain, whichever I specify.
Even if you don’t actively use a Gmail account, I would recommend signing up for one anyway and forwarding all mail from your accounts to that address. This way, if you need to find a particular email, you can utilize Gmail’s excellent search features.
Recommended: Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail
Use an online calendar
Although the included calendar function in a software program such as Microsoft Outlook is often the default option, online calendaring is versatile and accessible from nearly any phone or computer.
I use Google Calendar as my primary calendar application, which seamlessly syncs with the built-in calendar applications on most smartphones, has a customizable notification system, and may be used to invite anyone to a particular event.
Recommended: Google Calendar, Windows Live Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar
Document storage, sharing and collaboration
First I used a USB flash drive, then I would email documents to myself, and now I use Dropbox. For a more in-depth discussion of Dropbox, see this post. Since I began using Dropbox, the only time I use a USB flash drive is when internet access is limited.
Dropbox is installed on all of my personal computers, it can be accessed at work or any other computer online, and I have access to it on my iPhone. These features make saving, sharing and downloading files at any location very simple.
I have also collaborated on projects and shared files with others using both Dropbox and Google Docs. Both services offer mechanisms to track changes associated with particular documents.
Recommended: Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net
To keep track of assignments across several jobs and school, I have always utilized the to-do list. Instead of the traditional pen and paper method, there are a couple of solutions that will serve as an accessible alternative.
If you keep your email inbox relatively clean, you can simply email yourself reminders and delete them after completion.
If you use Gmail and/or Google Calendar, Google Tasks allows you to create and manage numerous to-do lists, which are viewable in your inbox, calendar, and as a web application on a smartphone.
Recommended: Any web-based email client, Google Tasks
(photo: Ben Dodson)
Matthew Landis is a third-year law student at Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.