I would love to start this post by telling you that I have mastered personal organization and productivity. Yes, I've read books. I've read blogs. I've attended workshops. But do I have it all figured out? No. Not even close. I do think there is value in sharing some of the systems that work for me - that way you can try them out if you want. I'm actually more interested in what you do to stay organized when it comes to tasks, emails, tweets, and everything else on your plate. Please share in the comments!
How I Stay Organized
- Google Calendar
- I have one for work, one for personal events, and one for birthdays. On the birthday calendar, I set each event to last all day (so it shows up at the top) and to recur annually. For really important birthdays, you can also set an email or text reminder one week in advance.
- Appointments spreadsheet
- I use this to track medical and car appointments. I record "last appointment" and "next due" along with key contact information for each provider.
- I am one of those people that uses my email as a to-do list. I do not ascribe to the "inbox to zero" philosophy if it means filing things I haven't finished or responded to just so they are out of my inbox. When I complete an action, I archive the email.
- Enable "superstars" feature in gmail
- Allows you to star emails with various symbols. I star an email when I need to respond to a person (rather than handle a task or read a newsletter); I "superstar" with an exclamation mark when I feel like I'm overdue on my reply.
- I make sure the labels match the folder names on my computer and the categories in my Google Bookmarks (which I use so that I can access my bookmarks from any computer). I name frequent or important labels with numbers first (ex: 1 - Life After College).
Capturing ideas, notes, tasks:
- Small Moleskin notebook
- For personal use - capturing to-do lists on weekends, shopping lists, blog ideas, contact info, other notes when I'm on the go.
- Work notebook - science lab style.
- I primarily use this for taking meeting notes at work inside the notebook (duh), mostly so that I'm not distracted by trying to take notes on my laptop.
- At the start of every week, I place a big post-it on the cover. I draw a line down the middle. On the left I list key work priorities, on the right I list personal tasks. When the week is over or I finish everything, I stick the post-it inside the notebook and label it with the date.
- A great online tool that allows you to group tasks by projects. I use this when I get overwhelmingly busy or am working on a complex project. Otherwise I find that a simple pen, paper and post-it works better for me.
- When I'm on the go, I email myself reminders and websites to check out. I used to use Jott for recording voice memos that were transcribed as emails, but I haven't since they started charging (even though it is a small fee and probably worth it).
- Keepers File
- From my recent post: I have a Google Doc that houses "keeper" emails that make me smile. Instead of archiving them in email, I copy and paste into a Google Doc (with the name of sender and date) so they are all in one place.
- Things to read later:
- Networking Spreadsheet
- This might sound mechanical, but I keep a list of people that I've scheduled calls with or that I know I want to reach out to. If someone reaches out to me, I also add them to the list. It helps me remember how I connected with someone, when we last spoke, and their contact information. I divide the spreadsheet into two parts: "not yet spoken with" and "archive."
Other Offline Collection Buckets:
- A folder called "To File"
- Where I stick bills and papers when I'm too lazy to file them in my filebox. When the "to file" folder gets big (about an inch thick), I file everything at the same time (usually while watching The Hills or something equally mind-numbing).
- Post-it notes by my bed and front door
- In case I really need to remember something the next day, I keep post-it notes handy at all times! Major reminders go on my bedroom door or my front door, depending on what I have to remember.
- Key Plate
- The most obvious: a plate by my front door to hold my keys. Which is whey are never lost (until I forget to take them with me and lock myself out).
Have I scared you yet?? I know this seems like a lot to keep track of. But when I try to consolidate I lose things, so I'm generally okay with this for now. That said, I would love to learn more tips and tricks from you (nothing like a good lifehack to spruce up the day) - please share yours in the comments!
P.S. I think the phrase "fill-in-the-blank-hack" will go down as one of the most over-used, over-rated words of the year. And yes, I used it anyway.