Using apps to plan and track your simple self-sufficient life

Plant seeds in the kitchen garden, make sourdough bread, bottle the homemade ginger beer, dry the herbs, construct a greenhouse, and make laundry gel.

Each day in a simple and self-sufficient lifestyle brings something exciting and different do to.  But how do you keep track of the next job, book to learn from, skill to acquire or recipe to try?  Smartphone apps might be your answer.

Last week I thought about and wrote down my reasons for wanting to live more simply, sustainably and self-sufficient (my “why”).  Using this as inspiration and a guide, I started making an action plan on how to live this kind of life.

The actions needed to be organised into a working plan. A plan that clearly lists the steps to take in different areas of my life.  There’s a lot of information to categorise and consider.  I have spent a lot of time this week looking into the best planning and productivity system for me.

Finding a suitable planning and productivity system

I have always been a notebook and ring binder type of person.  We have in our office written plans and notes for all areas of our life:

  • Garden
  • Home renovations and organisation
  • Home manual (housekeeping and recipes)
  • Business (my Virtual Assistant gig)
  • Permaculture property plan
  • Investments

It’s getting a bit out of hand with lots of folders and notebooks taking over the office bookshelf.  I’m also finding that I have less time on my hands now with two children so I never have time to use these paper-based tools.  It’s time-consuming to find a pen and find the right book or folder to write in.

However, I know that some people love working with paper-based systems.  Making a journal or planning folder can be a creative process and the act of writing can create strong motivation to complete the task being written down.

The quickest way to make plans and take notes that I know is on my smartphone.  It’s more efficient than paper when cross-referencing different areas of my life, and when I need to add or delete an action.  And who doesn’t always have their smartphone near them?

Smartphone apps make planning easier

Even though it’s hard to let go of the paper planning habit, I’ve committed to using my smartphone to plan and keep track of what I need to do in working towards simplicity and self-sufficiency in my life.

So began the search for a suitable app or system of apps that work well together.

Criteria for the apps included the ability to record and save the following types of information:

  • Notes (with the ability to take notes by voice and convert to text)
  • Images
  • Weblinks
  • Checklists

It was also important the the apps were able to organise different categories of information (areas of my life) into separate folders, and schedule actions and errands to times and dates.

Google Keep app is a multi-functional notepad

I am already using Google Keep on my smartphone and realised that it would be a perfect fit for a general multi-function note-taking app.  As with most other Google apps (yes, I am a Google fanatic!), it’s simple to use, looks good, and has many useful functions.  The bonus for me is that it can also be accessed from any device.

Functions include:

  • Note-taking
  • Image and web-link saving
  • Checklist creation
  • Colour-coding of individual notes
  • Voice to text note-taking
  • Syncing across all devices

The only things missing from Google Keep that I would like is being able to categorise information into folders (areas of my life) and schedule reminders in the app.  There is a function to schedule a note as a reminder in my smartphone’s native calendar (iPhone calendar) but I would prefer to be able to schedule in the app and not clutter up my calendar.  I have installed Google calendar on my smartphone and use it just for one-off and recurring events (like birthdays).

How Google Keep organises simple and self-sufficient living

Every time I hear about a great book on Permaculture to read, or listen to the radio and find out about what fruit trees grow best in our sub-tropcial climate, I want to record that information somewhere right away.  Remembering these useful bits of information for later on is important to me.

Google Keep organises notes into a “sticky-note” type display that looks good and it is easy to move the notes around on the screen to organise them, or “pin” important ones to the top.

Here is some of the types of notes that I have so far used Google Keep to record for me:

  • Recipes for quick slowcooker meals, including weblinks to cooking websites
  • Dwarf fruit trees that grow well in our sub-tropical climate
  • Books to read next on simple and self-sufficiency topics

Photos can also be saved to Google Keep, and can have notes attached to them for future reference.  Some of the types of images I have saved so far are:

  • Plants and flowers that I have taken photos of in parks that I want to grow in the future at home
  • Seed packets in our local Co Op that I want to buy
  • Parts of our property that I want to create a garden bed in

Errands app is your new to-do list and scheduler

The two functions that were missing from Google Keep were the ability to file notes or actions into category folders, and to be able to schedule actions to a date and time.  I found the Errands app does this and more.

It’s an app that’s a lot different to Google Keep, as it is more a to-do list and scheduler/calendar.  Google Keep is more for note-taking/recording information.

The features Errands app has that I needed are:

  • Category folders
  • Sections for different tasks: active tasks, focus tasks, completed tasks (in the “logbook”), and tasks unassigned to a category
  • List of category folders so that you can see all categories at once
  • List of tasks so that you can see all of your tasks at once in list-view, or by calendar view (when they are due or scheduled)
  • Ability to upload the tasks to an e-mail and send them to yourself or someone else
  • Alerts to remind you when a task is due
  • Ability to repeat tasks periodically

How Errands organises simple and self-sufficient living

What I love about Errands is that each category folder can be set up as a project for each area of my life.  At any time I can select a folder to see what tasks I have to do for that project and when they are due.

I currently have the following categories set up as projects in my life (“Permie” stands for Permaculture and forms part of my Permaculture property and life plan):

  • Self: Health and Happiness
  • Kids
  • Errands: Home
  • Errands: Out of House
  • Housework
  • Permie: Declutter
  • Permie: Food Garden
  • Blog
  • Business
  • Family
  • Events


An example of some of the tasks I am putting in my Food Garden project folder include “Plant the Winter seeds” and “Water pots”.  Watering the pots has been set up as a daily recurring reminder (otherwise I forget and the poor citrus pots get thirsty!).  Below is my Housework folder and the tasks in it (these are all weekly recurring tasks – you can see this by the circular arrow symbol).  Don’t you love how you can put a little image for each category – good if you are a visual person.

So far Google Keep and Errands app have been working beautifully and efficiently together as my complete productivity system to organise and plan my simple and self-sufficient life.  I still use a paper book to draw my garden plans for each season, but who knows, I may find an app to do that too!

Do you have a smartphone app that you use to plan and be productive in your simple and self-sufficient life?  Or do you use a paper-based system?  Either way I’d love for you to share what you do!






2 Comments Add yours

  1. OneNote and Evernote are really good (once you work them out lol.
    I also have a ‘housework’ system that I use, which is based on the ‘HomeRoutine’ app.
    ‘Momo’ is also similar – but i just prefer HomeRoutine.
    (HomeRoutine also has a setup that you can do online, which I found to be markedly quicker than dong it with the app, but it all syncs to the app, and only needs doing once unless your routine changes…
    I’ll be interested to have a look at the ones you are using though, and will definitely test-drive them, and will probably also blog about my systems also, at some point :))
    Thanks for the great articles!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah I like Evernote and Onenote too they are so multi-functional. I’m looking forward to looking at the HomeRoutine and Momo apps you suggested they sound really useful!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s