Organize yourself! App tricks of the trade

As a one woman department show teaching near-double overload, a freelance designer, and an exhibiting artist, I often get the question: How do you do it?

Well, honestly, most of it is slight of hand. No one sees the pile of undone laundry in my hamper, the stack of mail, or the unswept porch. I killed my cable subscription some years ago to save time and money. I own an unplugged video game console that sits next to an unplugged television in a spare room. I guess it’s more like out of sight, out of mind.

However, I do use some resources to manage the classroom, the department and my files. Here is my go-to list for making it all happen.


Dropbox (Cost: about $10 a month) is my cloud source for file back-up. I save all of my presentation files for class on my account, and they auto update to my office and home computers. To share files with clients and students, I copy a link out of my Public folder. To collect student work, I create a shared folder for upload. I no longer have to carry external storage, or even haul my laptop to most classes. My shoulder is thanking me for this one!


Omnifocus (Cost: about $80) is my program of choice for personal project and list management. When you enter data in Omnifocus, it autosaves. Having a brilliant idea? Make sure it hits your Omnifocus and you’ll never lose it again. Everything is searchable. I project-managed my way through graduate school with this handy program. Evernote is a similar program that I just downloaded and haven’t used, but people say similar things about it.


When it comes to managing the classroom outside of a campus course management system like Blackboard, Sakai or Moodle, I’ve just started using Basecamp ($20-$50 a month) and I am loving it. The inspiration to use Basecamp came from the local ADDY award winning agency Mad Genius and their workflow. Since I’m always keen on modeling the “real world” in the classroom, I plunged into using Basecamp for all of my classroom project assignments. The friendly interface is appealing to students and encourages collaborative work. Files and announcements are stored in project locations and I receive a notification when there is an update. This semester, my small group of students have been able to pull off live client classwork for collateral for a large dance conference, a print poster and website design for a Mississippi not-for-profit that benefits the arts, the design of my department handbook, and a social media awareness campaign for campus. In addition, I created a job board where I post incoming internship and job opportunities. Can you say increased enthusiasm and productivity?

Google Calendar, Docs and Drive

The Gmail calendars are amazing. You can create a separate calendar for each course, and students can link to deadlines and reminders for class. Prior to Basecamp, I used this free resource to manage classes. Additionally, I was an adjunct teaching on several different campuses at once, and the combination of Calendar and a blog kept me organized. Emails asking for project guidelines dramatically decreased, and students were able to checklist on their own, outside of the classroom.

I also did a presentation at the CAA conference about some of these products. Here are the slides. Good luck with getting productive and organized!

Other Resources

A former student of mine, Tyson Cadenhead, is a JavaScript Engineer with the patience of Job. He uses a variety of tools for billing and staying focused on work. Check out his list here.