In Part 1 of my Mummy Sanity Savers series I talked about how porridge, pouches and pre-made formula all help me juggle work and baby care. In Part 2, I share some of my favourite organisational tools. I have so much to remember all the time that I depend on these to keep my head straight! I’ll admit I do still forget quite a few things. They often tend to pop back into my head during the 4am night feed! However, by using the apps below, I at least have a place to quickly jot down tasks and events as I remember them.
My favourite Google apps (Calendar, Keep, and Maps)
As I do a lot of mystery shopping, being organised is essential. The mystery shopping companies don’t take kindly to you missing report deadlines. If they can’t reschedule the task you won’t be able to complete it and won’t get paid. Missed reports count against your reputation with the company resulting in you being offered less work. More than a couple of strikes could mean you are taken off their list altogether.
Using Google Calendar and Google Maps together
As I use an Android phone Google Calendar and Google Maps come as standard. I use Google Assistant to input new appointments/events to the calendar when I can’t hold my phone. This is very useful when I’m driving or when my phone is out of reach and I’m holding the baby! You can also ask the Assistant, “OK Google, tell me about my day”. It then gives you a run down of the day’s weather, what’s in your diary, and the latest news. These functions also work if you have a Google Home device that’s synced to your account.
Download Google Calendar
When you add an event to Google Calendar you can put in the location and time you need to be there. With this information Google can remind you about the event. It also tells you when you need to set off to get there on time, taking into account current traffic conditions. It gives you the option to get directions or navigate to the location via Google Maps.
While using Google Maps you will have your phone’s location setting switched on. Google uses this to track your location and can give you a summary of time/distance/routes travelled that day (or previous days). To access this data, go to the menu and select Your Timeline. I find this so useful when I have forgotten to record my mileage for the day!
Download Google Maps
Using Google Keep
Google Keep is such a handy little app for making quick notes and lists. You can make notes different colours and move them around the screen. Important notes can be pinned so they always appear at the top of the screen. When you have a collection of notes it looks similar to having a wall of Post-Its! Another useful feature of keep is that you can attach photos to a note. It can be very helpful to be able to snap a picture of something and know exactly where to find it later.
My favourite use of Keep is to give myself cue-card type reminders for mystery shopping tasks. A lot of the assignments require me to remember large amounts of information. It’s easy to forget to check for something so I make a quick reference list in Keep. I can discretely check this list during the shop and it just looks like I am reading a message on my phone. I can also make further notes in Keep about my findings, with the appearance that I am sending a text.
Download Google Keep
Speedy Access to Google Calendar and Google Keep
I use the Google Chrome browser and this allows me to very quickly access Google Calendar and Google Keep. Both can be added as extensions to the browser. With the Keep extension you can quickly save notes with web links, images or quotes from webpages. The Calendar extension allows you to see at a glance what you have coming up. Clicking the calendar extension button takes you straight to your Google Calendar if you want to see it in more detail.
What if I have an iPhone?
Google Calendar, Google Maps and Google Keep are all available from the app store (see buttons above). Siri does not work with Google Maps, but you can use it with Google Calendar if this is set as your default calendar in your phone’s settings. You may prefer to use the Apple’s default calendar and map apps if you are an iPhone user.
Keeping Track with Trello
Trello is a super simple and very useful website/app. You record individual chunks of information as ‘cards’ which are displayed in lists. You can freely move the cards between lists, so it’s good for seeing what you have to do, what you are doing now, and what has been finished. I find Trello perfect for organising my mystery shopping work.
How to use Trello
To get started, this guide explains the basics of using Trello. For my mystery shopping board, I use the following lists:
- Job applications pending – cards in this list show mystery shops I have applied for
- Upcoming jobs – all the cards in this list are for jobs I have been given
- Completed jobs awaiting payment – once I’ve sent the report, I move the relevant card to this list and archive it after I get paid
If I have applied to a shop, I create a card in the pending applications list. I give the card a useful quick reference title. This is normally the shop name and location, and the date range that I can complete the task in. I mark the card with one of the coloured labels (I use a different colour for each mystery shopping company) and use the description section to say what the job involves. I attach useful info, like my shopper guidelines, to the card. Finally, I use the due date field to make a note of the deadline for the report.
What I like about Trello is I can upload all this information via the website, then access it easily on my phone using the Trello app. It’s so useful while I’m out and about. The best thing about the app is that when I have taken photos as part of a mystery shop, I can upload them to the relevant card. I can then easily access and download the photos to my computer from the website version of Trello ready to upload to my report.
The Wonders of Wunderlist
I spent a long time searching for different productivity apps that allowed me to make quick notes of tasks. It was difficult to find something like Trello where I could make notes and add attachments, but that also allowed me to quickly list and tick off different jobs.
I tried Taskworld and Wrike, but after a short trial period they both required premium subscriptions for me to continue using them. Then I tried ToDoIst. It worked well for me on the web but I found the app fiddly to use. It also needed a premium account to enable full functionality.
Then I discovered Wunderlist. This had everything I needed. It is really easy to use both on the app and online. I can add notes, comments, attachments and subtasks to any task. Completed tasks are ticked off and archived with a single click/tap. The lovely backgrounds are fun too.
Not forgetting… good old fashioned pen and paper
Even with all the technology available I still carry around my pen, a little diary and a great little notebook/folder I found called a Padfolio (by Paperchase). You just can’t beat writing stuff down sometimes, especially when you don’t have phone reception.
The diary helps me to see at a glance what I have coming up for the week ahead. It is useful to have to hand when I get calls about mystery shopping work. My Padfolio gets used for recording mileage and time spent on each job. I stash the receipts I need to keep hold of in the little pocket in the front.
Thank you for reading!
I hope you’ve enjoyed Parts 1 and 2 of my Mummy Sanity Savers and found the tips useful. To finish off, I recommend that you schedule in some YOU time. Like, actually put it in the diary and stick to it. Enlist help from partner/friends/family, give them the pre-made formula and take yourself off to do an unrelated work/baby activity. A morning or afternoon alone will feel really refreshing, but if you can get a whole day you will feel really rejuvenated. If you’re breastfeeding you may need to consider having your pump so you don’t mess up your supply. If I take mine anywhere I also take a cool bag, ice pack and milk storage bags/bottles. I don’t want to waste that milk!
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