I couldn’t find the bride’s email. I’d forgotten to call the accountant before the deadline, and I’d missed a client phone call appointment (which I never do!) Everything was falling apart.
The worst part was that I knew better.
I knew how to tame the wild beasts lurking in my email inbox, the overgrown jungle that was my To Do List, the toxic garden of my overbooked calendar. I knew how to beat the overwhelm of Too Much To Do.
What was my crime? I stopped using my system.
You need a trusted place to dump your thoughts and track your tasks to maintain your sanity.
It really doesn’t matter what your system is. My first organizational system was a Franklin Covey day planner, into which I religiously recorded my daily tasks. I eventually graduated to an all digital system using Google Calendar and its task feature.
I’ve been fairly obsessed with productivity and time management for years. (Who coined the phrase time management anyway? Time moves for no wo/man; the best we can hope is to manage ourselves.) And now, I have found the Holy Grail of organization, the system that promises to deliver all the features I’ve been dreaming about and help you stay on track with your goals and avoid overwhelm for good.
Yes, I am that dork who fantasizes about increased productivity and efficient organization.
The key to successful organization: trust your system and use it.
The promise of a great system is that you can let go of incessant thoughts that wake you at 3am, “I forgot to return Sally’s email!” and know that in the morning everything you need to do is carefully noted for you. Nothing is ever forgotten or lost.
In order for that to happen, you must use your system consistently. For everything. Otherwise, your mind starts working overtime in a futile attempt to remember everything, and we know how that story ends.
I’m going to share two organizational strategies that work. When you use them. The first is my secret weapon of productivity that lets you avoid burnout with your wedding business.
Strategy #1 – For System Freaks & Geeks
This system is right for you if:
- You love making To Do Lists and checking off tasks as you do them. You even add tasks you’ve already completed to your list just so you can have the satisfaction of checking them off. (Yes, weird creatures like me actually do this.)
- You prefer to plan your time, even your rest and leisure.
- People depend on your organization and planning skills for events, business and tasks at home.
- You’ve been described as “anal retentive” or “super organized.”
You already have a system, but you find yourself wasting time using multiple components and you’re still overwhelmed, especially with your inbox.
This system has three essential parts.
This system has three essential parts.
1. Evernote – the free software and app for recording thoughts, tasks, projects, sharing and more.
SECRET TIP #1 – The real power of Evernote for organization is unleashed through the Secret Weapon that incorporates the power of Getting Things Done to empty your head trash and save your sanity.
Evernote alone is just a cool tool; Evernote + the Secret Weapon is organizational divinity.
I won’t go into the details of how to set Evernote + the Secret Weapon because this video series does such a great job.
2. Followup.cc – this service allows you to “bounce back” emails, schedule tasks and reminders right from your email inbox.
SECRET TIP #2 – Forward your tasks and reminders created in Followup.cc to your Evernote address and organize them there. This is perfect for recurring and time sensitive tasks you won’t need to see until a specific date.
Followup.cc on it’s own drove me mad because I had emails and tasks hitting my inbox faster than I could keep up with, until I figured out this secret.
Get a FREE 14 Day Trial of Followup.cc here.
3. Google Calendar – free calendar available on desktop or app that integrates with pretty much every major organizational tool out there.
SECRET TIP #3 – The only things on your calendar should be time specific appointments. Keep your tasks and reminders in Evernote and Followup.cc.
SECRET TIP #4 – Schedule time on your calendar to work on those essential but non-urgent activities that often get bumped, like writing that book, drafting blog posts or connecting with your networking contacts.
If you want to get more done in less time, having an organizational system is essential for your survival.
Now, this system may have saved my life, but it almost ended things for my husband, Jeff. When I tried to teach him the Getting Things Done principles, his head nearly exploded. There are simply too many moving (digital) parts for him.
Which leads me to the next strategy…
Strategy #2 – For Artists and Free Spirits
This system is right for you if:
- You’re a spontaneous person who prefers to “go with the flow” rather than plan your day.
- You scribble down your thoughts on random pieces of paper…and usually lose them, including the To Do Lists you try to make.
- The idea of “planning your day” sounds like a prison sentence.
- You’ve been described as ADD and/or you’re addicted to multi-tasking. Sticking to one project for too long bores the pants off you.
- You’ve tried organizational systems like the one above because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do, but you never stick with them.
This personality type often needs to see their tasks physically, in piles or as sticky notes. Kirsten Simmons calls this the “Fantastical” personality, and here are her recommendations for organization for creatives.
1. Ditch the filing system. Searching through filing cabinets is only going to drive you nuts. You need to have your thoughts literally at your fingertips.
2. Arrange each of your active projects into a separate stack on your desk or work area. Keep it to no more than 5-7 piles, and file them away only when you’re done working with them.
3. Duplicate a similar simple folder system for digital files. Create no more than 5-7 folders for organizing your documents on your computer.
4. Mount a large dry erase board on your wall to track your weekly and daily tasks. This lets you physically interact with them so they stay top of mind.
Build your own dry erase board for $15 or buy a couple of these inexpensive combo dry erase magnetic boards.
5. Consider the Bullet Journal system (no computer required!) to organize your daily tasks in a notebook if you need something more portable. This video explains the entire Bullet Journal system in under three minutes.
6. Use mindmaps. Mindmaps are great for organizing your thoughts while letting you see the whole picture, which is perfect for creative types. Choose one of these top 5 mindmap tools.
Whatever your personality, I’m pretty sure you’re as inundated with information as the rest of us. Choose a system and commit to a trial run of at least two weeks to give it a thorough test drive.
Do this and say hello to less stress and more productivity in 2015.
What’s your biggest organizational challenge? Leave a comment or share what works for you below.