Organization, That’s the Key

Topic: Human Interest

R. Denys Calvin CFA

December 30, 2015

Image used with permission: iStock/Oko_SwanOmurphy


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Organization, That’s the Key

We all stumble across things that strike us instantly as clever or potentially useful. Usually they grab us because we see an immediate role for them in some aspect of normal, day-to-day life. Every so often one grows over time to earn that highest of accolades “I use this every day and can’t imagine how I ever managed without it.” It changes what we do and the way we do it.

WorkFlowy” has become one of these things for me. It’s an unassuming little piece of software for making lists. If you wanted a fancy label, you’d call it an outline processor. Frankly, I think “outline” is just a two syllable word for “list”.

A list is just a series of entries, one after another. Each entry can have a list of “sub-entries” indented below it – a list within a list, if you will.

This doesn’t seem like much at first. In fact, WorkFlowy’s user interface is pretty stark, verging on minimalist. All you can do is:

  • add a new entry to an existing list,
  • edit an existing entry,
  • “demote” an entry to become a sub-entry to another entry,
  • “promote” a sub-entry to become an entry,
  • move an entry to somewhere else in the list, or
  • mark an entry as complete.

(There are a couple of additional useful features, like adding a descriptive note to an entry or “tagging” an entry — in essence a tool for associating a subset of entries and sub-entries on a list that don’t themselves represent a single list. They’re just icing on the cake.) That’s it.

But it turns out that an awful lot of what goes on day to day involves lists. A “to do” list is obvious. How about my goals for 2016, the agenda for next month’s strategy meeting, the outline for a speech or article, the project plan for a bathroom renovation, or an entire policy manual? That old adage “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” sure seems to apply to WorkFlowy!

There’s one other feature of this little tool that makes it especially useful: ubiquity. I have it on all my devices — my phone, tablet and the browser on my PCs. All my lists appear on every device, and any change I make on one is instantly available on all the others. So if I suddenly remember something for next month’s meeting, even while sitting on an airplane, I can add it to my list using whatever device/screen I have handy. Easy!

Like many “apps” WorkFlowy is available in free and subscription versions. It took me only about a day to realize that it’s worth every penny to subscribe. So, if you’re in search of a way to make and manage your lists, this one’s an absolute gem.

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