Life can get crazy. We do our best to juggle multiple priorities and responsibilities that pull us in a million directions, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
To help avoid that sinking feeling (you know, the one where you know you’re supposed to be somewhere or doing something but you can’t for the life of you remember what it is – yeah, that feeling), I’m sharing eights tips that help me stay organized at home and at the office.
I’d love to hear what works for you as well, so please share your favorite organizational strategies, tools, and tips in the comments!
1. Develop a system
I absolutely have to write things down. I have a paper yearly planner, I always carry around extra notebooks, and I get teased a lot by my 100% digitally-organized husband. This NY Times article makes the case for using an old-school planner, but for me, it boils down to this – when I write something down, I’m no longer stressed about whether or not I have to remember it.
However, what works for some people, might not work for everyone. So if you’re more of a digital person and paper just doesn’t resonate with you, then maybe Evernote is the way to go. Another tech-friendly option is a Kanban board; it keeps your tasks and notes organized on a virtual wall.
I do also rely on digital organization because I coordinate the social calendar for me and my husband. I’ll write plans in my agenda, but still put them in my phone so I can get events on his calendar. That balance seems to work well for us. Regardless of what method or tools you choose, what’s most important is to develop a system that’s best for you – then use it!
2. Take note
Most people in my office carry small notebooks and they’ll jot down notes during meetings. I take a pad of oversized post-its and use that to jot down meeting notes. Before I leave the office, I’ll transfer important notes and action items from the entire day into my Moleskine notebook. That way, my notebook is organized and neat, as opposed to a (potentially) messy jumble of thoughts and reminders.
Another good organizational trick is to use color-coding. This is how I prep for major blog planning sessions with Bex, it’s how I organize my monthly calendar, and it’s how I used to take notes in college. Assign different colors to different topics, activities, or people and you’ll know what’s what at a glance. This technique applies equally well to the office and the home.
3. Do one thing at a time
It’s easy to get distracted and we know there’s actually no such thing as multi-tasking, so decide on a task and get it done. However, if you’re looking at a larger project that could take more time than you have available, try dividing that large task into smaller actions. That way, you can make progress without just pushing it to later. Accountability is key though so write down (or type out) what those smaller actions will be.
4. Schedule time to organize
As I mentioned above, I spend time with my notes and action items at the end of my work day, but for some people, the best time to get organized is right when they get in the office. It’s all about recognizing the importance of taking a step back to look at how best to utilize your time and resources. I mean, if I’m too focused on the one thing I have to get done by tomorrow and I might lose sight of a bigger deliverable that’s due in a few days.
This also applies to planning at home. If you’re coordinating sports and activities schedules, a spouses travel plans, and your own commitments, it’s even more important to prioritize setting aside a few minutes every day or every week to re-evaluate how to approach allocating your time and resources.
5. Capture late night thoughts
I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers a task or comes up with an idea as I’m lying awake in bed at 2AM. That late night inspiration can keep me from getting restful sleep and the worst part, I often forget the idea by morning! My fix for this is to jot things down immediately. If you don’t want to be blinded by your phone screen, then keep a small notepad and pen (this Kate Spade set is so cute!) by your bed. Once you’ve captured that thought, you can set it aside and focus on sweet dreams.
6. Appreciate a good list
I love making lists and checking items off as completed; I feel such a sense of accomplishment! Now take your to-do list a step further by organizing into sub-lists. For example, which items MUST be done this week; which items require additional actions first; which items can you delegate to a spouse or partner or co-worker, and which items are there just so you don’t forget? Tackle the most important items first, take an objective look at what’s left, and re-organize as needed.
7. Keep a tidy space
Just like I schedule time for an end-of-day note session, I also regularly clean my workspace. This isn’t just a good idea during flu season (which it is – hello Clorox wipes!), but it can help prevent a generally overwhelmed feeling. If there are stacks of papers and post-it notes everywhere, take a few minutes to evaluate what can be tossed, what can be captured as an action item, and what should be saved for later.
8. Own your time
Whether added to your Outlook calendar or written in a personal agenda, whether it’s an important work task or getting a mani/pedi – be sure to take control of your time. We all need that extra reminder or motivation sometimes and having something planned (even if it’s tentatively), means it’ll be easier to actually make it happen. For example, there’s a yoga class that I attend semi-regularly on Tuesdays. The class is always at the same time at the same place – I know that. But if I write it down in my planner a week or two in advance, I will see that note over and over again and be less likely to forget to pack my yoga gear and mat that morning.