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Expert tips to stay organized this holiday season

Maris Callahan is the author of "In Good Taste," and, as an avid self-taught home cook, is widely knowledgeable about all things culinary. She is especially passionate about helping women on-the-go cook healthy, delicious meals and snack...

Americans have hectic, busy lives and when you're constantly running from one event or activity to the next, it can be hard to keep your to-do list straight. Though technology has often been a scapegoat for distracting us from our daily lives, technology can actually be helpful, especially during the holiday season when checklists are longer and days seem shorter. We caught up with Dr. Douglas C. Merrill, organization expert and author of “Getting Organized in the Google Era: How to Get Stuff Out of Your Head, Find It When You Need It, and Get It Done Right” for some of his tips for using technology to keep your head straight.

Santa Getting Organized

"The holidays are a stressful time of the year," said Merrill. "People have to keep track of vacation schedules, budgets, holiday shopping and more on top of their regkar daily routines. Stress not only feels bad but it also makes you less effective in allowing you to actually enjoy your holidays and get things done."

Studies have proven that your short-term memory can only hold onto about five to nine things at one time, so to keep your life as organized as possible and minimize brain strain, it's a good idea to get important information out of your head as soon as possibe. While some people prefer a traditional method - writing things in notebooks or a planner - many of us turn to technology to help keep us on track. Merrill uses gadgets and tools to help manage holiday stress.

The Duracell myGrid: Duracell Mygrid

This is a great gadget that lets you to charge up to four mobile devices wirelessly. All you have to do is set your phone on it and it'll charge – it's that easy. "Charging my phone is one less thing I have to worry about," said Merrill. "It also de-clutters your home or office of those unslightly charging cords, plus it will help keep your devices organized in one place." The Duracell Mygrid retails for under $100 in most locations - a perfect holiday gift for the multitaster.

"Things" App

The Things iPhone app is great to use for keeping track of holiday gifts. "I used to use sticky notes on my fridge as reminders, but that didn't work very well for me – either they fall off, or the person I'm buying the gift for, can easily read it," said Merrill. "This app is handy because you have it on your phone so you it's always with you." The Things App is a great place to jot down notes, shopping tips, sales and more without worrying about losing the information (or letting it fall into the wrong hands).

TripIt AppTripIt

With the holiday travel season in full swing, everyone needs a way to keep track of their trips and vacations. "There's so much travel during the holidays," said Merrill. "For example, my in laws are coming to town and it can be hard to keep track of their itinerary. I use TripIt on my phone where I can access their travel schedule right on my phone, so I always know when I have to pick them up from the airport."

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is free with a Gmail account and it allows you to share your calendar with anyone. This can be effective for keeping track of holiday plans. "If you're going to a holiday party and need a babysitter you can send the appointment to him or her so they have that on their calendar as well and they will always have access to the appointment," said Merrill. Google Calendar is also a great alternative to keeping a bevvy of Post-It notes on your desk. "I had a friend who once missed a flight because she didn't remember the date correctly and ended up having to purchase a new ticket."

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