Say it ain’t so: back to school is just around the corner. And while your kids probably don’t want to hear those words, if you’re like me, you don’t really either.
One of the things that surprised me most about having a child in school was how much work it ended up being for me. I fully expected my daughter to have homework and projects. What I didn’t expect was how often I would get dragged into the middle of it all.
I’m sure my parents went through the same thing and I just don’t remember it. But it’s tough.
One of the most challenging aspects is staying organized and on top of everything. It seems like every day my daughter will bring home some new paper I’m supposed to read or sign. But inevitably I will misplace it or not realize it was actually really important and I was supposed to hang onto it. Oops.
If you’re like me, back to school can be a bit overwhelming, especially in the first few weeks as your child adjusts to a new grade, new teachers, and new experiences. Thankfully I’ve found a few ways to put my phone to good use to stay organized, and it takes the same amount of time as snapping a selfie.
I want to share three free back to school apps that will help you stay organized and be better able to support your child. All three apps are available for iOS and Android.
OneNote: Your Must-Have Note-Taking App
OneNote is a must-have organization app. It’s been around for years, but it just keeps getting better while still maintaining an easy-to-use interface.
At its most basic level, OneNote is a note-taking app. You can jot down ideas and the app saves those ideas and syncs them to the cloud. There are plenty of other apps that do that. What sets OneNote apart are some of its key features:
In the physical world, you probably took notes in a spiral bound notebook. OneNote has a digital equivalent of notebooks. You can have as many as you want. Inside a notebook you can have sections. Then within those sections you can have pages. It’s a great way to stay organized.
Example: You can create a notebook for each of your children. Within each notebook you can have a section for each of their classes or grades, as well as sections for reminders, important paperwork, report cards, etc.
Images and Sketch Tools
Not only can you use OneNote for note-taking, you can also embed images within notes. You can even scribble notes on a page with a digital pen or marker.
One of the best features of OneNote is its insanely powerful search tool. If you’re not great at organizing your notes, it’s OK because OneNote will quickly search your notes for you and find what you’re looking for. Not only can it search written text on a page, it can also search for text within images you’ve included in your notes. So, if you took a picture of an important document your child brought home and embedded it in OneNote, the search tool can scan through the image and recognize the text. How cool is that?!
In the Cloud
OneNote syncs to the cloud so you can access your notes on your phone, tablet, and computer, all from the free app.
Office Lens: A Digital Scanner in Your Pocket
The perfect companion app for OneNote is Office Lens. This app is basically a digital scanner. The app lets you snap a picture of a piece of paper, document, a page in a book, etc. You can even snap multiple pictures in a row. Then you can choose what you want to do with those images: save to your phone, save in a file storage app, email, etc.
The best thing to do with your pictures though is to send them to your OneNote app. Office Lens will ask you which Notebook and Section you would like to save the pictures to, and then take care of business.
This is perfect for taking pictures of notes your child’s teacher sends home, or reminder notices, or report cards, or whatever else you need saved. Once it’s transferred to OneNote you can use the search tool to search for text within the image.
This is a huge time saver and makes it so you don’t have to hold on to paper that — if you’re like me — you’re likely to lose.
Microsoft To-Do: Keep It All Organized
There are dozens of To-Do and task list apps out there. And I’ve tried more than is probably normal. Some do too much, and some do too little. Microsoft To-Do gets it just about right. It’s a lightweight task management app that lets you quickly write to-do lists and stay organized.
Beyond that, the app also allows you to create separate to-do lists. So you can have a list for your grocery list, one for each kid, and one for the things you need to do for you. For each to-do item you can set reminders and due dates.
One of the weaknesses of most to-do apps is how quickly your task lists can grow, which can leave you feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start. Microsoft To-Do has a Suggestions feature that will look through your tasks and suggest tasks for you to complete. You can then add these tasks to your My Day list, which can help you focus on what you need to get done today, and worry about the rest later.
These three apps have made school much easier to manage. I feel less stressed and better able to help my child stay organized and able to succeed.
What apps have you found that help you be better organized?