16 organisational & productivity tools travel writers should use

Organisation is the downfall of many, no matter what industry you're in. If you struggle to juggle multiple tasks, thought streams and relationships, you might well struggle in life, let alone travel journalism.

Whether you're a staffer or a freelancer, the likelihood is you're going to need to keep on top of multiple stories, social media accounts and relationships with PRs, editors and writers. You'll have numerous to-do lists and the need for hundreds of sticky notes reminding you of everything from your various account passwords to that PR you promised to follow up with.

Thankfully, technology is here to help. I use a variety of tools online to help me keep on top of my workload, which involves writing, editing, uploading content, commissioning, budgeting, schmoozing (PRs), managing people and, of course, hundreds of emails a week.

Here's how I get through the day:

1. Google Keep

for general organisation

This is my favourite app in the Google portfolio. Keep acts as a digital sticky note keeper. You can write short notes, construct lists (which you can then, rather satisfyingly, tick off as you go), store photos and I, and draw freehand should you feel a little more creative.

I keep my various to-do lists here, as well as reminders that don't have any other sensible home (like those keyboard shortcuts I keep forgetting). I also use it to make notes when I'm on the go (there's a smartphone app, as well as chrome extension and web app) so I can come back to them later at my desk and figure out where they fit in.

The app can read text in photos, so you can snap an image of that pesky wifi password or brilliant press release at WTM and convert it to editable text. The best thing about Google Keep, though? You can convert anything from your Keep dashboard directly into a Google Doc, which leads me nicely onto number two...

2. Google Drive & Docs

for writing/editing

If you've not yet discovered Google docs then this might just change your (working) life.

Drive is an online storage tool, giving you 15gb free storage from the outset. Upload images, documents and entire folders and you'll be able to share them with colleagues in an instant.

Couple this with Google Docs, the free online equivalent of Microsoft Office, and you'll have all your essential documents on hand, editable from anywhere in the world, at any time (even offline, providing you have an initial connection).

I use Google Docs for editing: I'll paste a writers work into a new document, make comments and minor edits, and then share it with them. This allows the writer to respond directly to each query, and I get to track which edits they've made (you even get notifications when someone resolves or responds to your comments). Plus, you can both be editing the same document, real-time, without any clashes or potential loss of work. It really is a dream.

You don't need Gmail to sign up (though it is by far the superior email provider so I'd recommend), so anyone can benefit from this service.

3. Last Pass

for secure password storage

If, like me, you've been keeping your passwords in an insecure environment (perhaps a notebook; a document on your computer; a draft email to yourself) but always had that pang of guilt, knowing it was a terrible digital faux pas, you can stop now.

Enter Last Pass: a one-stop-shop for all your passwords in a secure place. And, it's entirely free for personal use.

4. Google Maps & Calendar

for press trip planning

I swear I'm not getting commission from Google, they just happen to make some of the best tools out there.

When I'm planning a trip, press or personal, I rely heavily on Google Maps. Not just for navigation, though. With Google Maps, providing you're signed into your Google account, you can star individual hotels, restaurants, bars, points of interest or transport terminals. This allows you to see (desktop and mobile) all of your planned visits in one map, which you can then download offline (to avoid those pesky data roaming charges).

This was especially useful on my guidebook update in Albania: I marked on all the places I had to visit in a town and then worked out a walking route that covered as much ground as efficiently as possible.

If you've got appointments to keep on a trip, perhaps with a tourist board or a PR, put them into your Google calendar, with a location, and when you're in that destination it'll show you your appointment time on the map in the relevant spot.

5. CamCard

for digital business cards

Business cards, for some reason, still haven't yet died at the hands of a digital alternative. They're rife in the travel industry, and go to WTM, IMM or any networking event and you'll be suffocating under a pile of them within hours.

CamCard makes it easy (ish) to digitise them and put them straight into your phone contacts. You just snap a picture of the card through the app, check the details it has pulled are correct (there are a few inaccuracies) and hit save.

6. Google Chrome

for a reliable browser

It amazes me still that there are people out there using Safari and Internet Explorer. Especially when Chrome just makes so much sense.

Google Chrome is a seriously user-friendly browser, with Google search being directly built into the URL bar. Plus, if you're using all those other Google apps I've talked about, you only need to sign into your browser and you'll be logged into all of them.

The nature of my work is on the internet, so I have at least 10 tabs open at one time. To save some space in the tabs bar, I pin some of them (meaning they always sit at the front of the queue to the left of the tab row as small icondls, not full-width tabs), usually my email and the Google docs I refer back to multiple times in a day, to allow room for more and so I can see what each tab is.

Chrome is clever on the go too: sign into a Chrome browser on any computer (don't forget to sign out afterwards if it's not yours) and all your bookmarks and Chrome extensions will load up. Speaking of Chrome extensions...

7. Page Analytics

for monitoring website analytics on the fly

If you monitor analytics constantly like I do (and if you run a website you really should), this will save you so much time trawling through Google Analytics (GA, for short).

If you're using Chrome, there are thousands of extensions you can install, entirely free, to make your online life simpler. Page Analytics is a Google app that hooks up to your GA account, allowing you to visit any page on your website and instantly see the relevant analytics (page views, time on page, bounce rate etc) in a bar across the top.

You can toggle the extension on and off, so you don't always see the numbers, but it's highly useful in gauging performance of specific pages.

8. Similar Web

for quick website overviews

When you need to know how much traffic a competitor website gets, where do you go? Similar Web. This popular site has a Chrome extension too, meaning you can instantly check the recent visitors stats for the website you're visiting that second.

9. Buzzsumo

for share counts on other sites

Wondering how many shares your latest piece of content had? Perhaps you wanted to check on your competitors. Install Buzzsumo to your Chrome browser and you'll be able to see how many people shared a piece to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and G+ with the click of a button.

10. Oh My Word!

for curating a personal dictionary

Okay, full disclosure: this is one of my side projects. But I still use it and think it's pretty cool. Oh My Word! allows you to save words you come across as you browse the internet to your own personal dictionary.

I use this to remind myself of lovely adjectives or interesting terms I don't often come across that I might like to use in my own writing. Just install the extension, highlight a word anywhere on the internet and hit the heart icon that appears above the highlight (or right-click and hit 'log to dictionary').

11. Full Page Screen Capture

for screen grabbing entire web pages

Commercial client wants to see an article before it goes live? Download this chrome extension and take a full page capture, then save it as a jpeg and you're away... No more stitching together your own screenshots!

12. AdBlock

for stress free browsing

We're being sold something at almost every turn these days, so avoid it as much as possible while you work and turn ads off with this extension.

It can be toggled on and off, should you want to see ads occasionally, or you can keep them running for specific sites (as some websites won't let you browse without ads).

13. Pushbullet

for phone<->browser messaging

Need to get an image from your computer to your phone quickly? Want to open a URL from your phone on your laptop? Pushbullet to the rescue. Seamless sharing from mobile to laptop makes my life so much easier.

14. Pocket

for reading offline

I'm constantly coming across pieces online that I don't have time to read during my working day. Thankfully, a Chrome extension and mobile app, Pocket allows me to save an article (images, video and all) offline for reading later on.

Both the Chrome extension and app sync when I have a connection, so I can read on any device, anywhere, anytime.

15. Snapseed

for on-the-go photo edits

Turn your pictures from OK to amazing in a few taps. Snapseed is a surprisingly sophisticated and powerful photo editing app (free on Android and iOS).

You can use presets like the HDR effect or vintage filters, or play around with individual settings, from ambiance to structure to saturation.

Plus, there are some impressive selfie-editing tools, should you wish to blend in that glaring sunburn...

16. Adobe Clip

for mobile video editing

I was amazed by the power of this video editing app the first time I used it. Adobe Clip is really handy for stitching together a short sequence for social videos.

You can either do it manually, or just select the clips and have it fix them to a soundtrack. Here's one I made for Rough Guides while in Dubai:

A post shared by Rough Guides (@roughguides) on

Lottie Gross

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