I’m the type of person who likes to plan. BIG TIME.
I strongly believe that organization is the key to everything. If I don’t feel organized, my brain feels completely frazzled. When my brain feels frazzled, I get nothing done because all I can think about is how frazzled my brain is.
With school starting up again, I’ve had to kick my ass into gear and double down on the organization train. Even if you’re not in school, being organized will help you become way more productive and efficient in your everyday life. Once I got a planning system down, it made a HUGE difference in how many tasks I could accomplish each day. In case you don’t already have an organization/planning routine, I thought I’d share mine with you to give ya a few ideas on how I GET SHIT DONE.
There are 5 main resources I use to organize myself: my planner/calendar, my notebook, Apple Notes, Stickies on my computer, and actual post-it notes.
In my opinion, lists are PIVOTAL if you want to be productive. I’m constantly writing lists. All kinds of lists. If it’s in my head, it needs to be written down on a list. Lists are a great way to sort out everything that’s running around in your head and get it organized. Not only will lists allow you to actually see all of your tasks right in front of you, but it will help you prioritize those tasks. Prioritizing your to-do’s makes everything simple – you just work down your list, one by one.
I’m really into writing things down. If I don’t write things down, I know I will forget them. Even if you’re not forgetful, it’s important to always reduce your cognitive load as much as you can so that you can use as much of your brain as possible on other relevant tasks. I’m not just saying this – cognitive load is a thing. MAXIMIZE YOUR WORKING MEMORY. Your brain can only handle so much at once. Even if you’re not actively thinking about something, having it hang around in there is work for your brain. Even if you don’t realize it.
I also prefer to write everything down rather than type it out when possible because I feel like writing is just easier – I can squeeze things onto lists, I can see everything without having to click on it, I don’t have to depend on technology…you know. I also find it really satisfying to physically cross something off of a to-do list or to mark a day off. Like, BAM. DONE.
Let’s start off with my planner. This is where I do my longterm outlining. Like most, my planner has a monthly calendar, and then it breaks down each week. Yes, I actually use the monthly calendar, and I suggest you do so too. Anytime I make an appointment, anytime I make social plans, anytime I find out I have a break from work or school, I mark it off in my calendar. It’s really useful to have everything laid out so you can see how busy your entire month is. I like to have the big picture in order to avoid accidentally overbooking my weekends. For example, if there’s a weekend when I’ll have zero free time, I need to make sure that the weekends before and after it are pretty open so I can get things done then. If you’re on the quarter system in college, you know every weekend counts.
It’s also a good idea to write things down that are far away so you won’t forget about your commitment months later when it’s coming up. I don’t use the calendar in my phone very often because I like to see my plans directly under the dates. I don’t want to have to click on something to see what it is. Does that make sense? I do use the calendar on my phone to transfer information, though. For example, I’ll make an appointment at the doctor’s office, put it in the calendar on my phone, then copy it down into my real calendar when I get home.
Moving onto the weekly part of my planner. At the beginning of each week, I write down everything that’s going on that week so I can visually see it all laid out. I refer back to my monthly calendar to fill in blanks and make sure I’m not forgetting anything that I planned a long time ago. Once I fill in appointments, meetings, work, and other obligations, I plan out which days I’m going to do specific assignments for school, blog posts, and podcasting. This also helps me create my daily to-do lists later on, which I’ll talk about in a sec. I also schedule in when I’m hanging out with my friends. Yup, I schedule it all in. I even schedule in bulk-cooking! It really helps me get an overall sense of what my week will be like so that I can see when I’ll have free time (if any), and which days are going to be super crammed. This helps me figure out if I can afford to make additional plans throughout the week. If I have things that need to get done that week but I’m not sure which day I’m going to do them, I just stick them at the top of my planner so I see those tasks every day. If I have extra time one day, I’ll move something into my weekly plan.
I also like to write quotes or reminders to myself at the bottom of my planner. It might sound corny, but it’s good for me. I look at my planner constantly, so I know I’ll see it. Something I write often is, “Do something for yourself every day.” It’s a really important reminder for me to put myself first. Even if it’s something small like painting my nails, watching a few YouTube videos, or reading a book for five minutes, it’s so important for me to do something that’s not “work” related. Something that makes me feel good. TRY IT.
Every night before I go to sleep, I make a to-do list for the next day. I have one notebook where I keep weekly to-do lists, and another notebook where I keep daily to-do lists. My weekly to-do list is literally just a list of things, in no order, that have to get done at some point that week. Whenever something pops up in my brain, I write it down. Schoolwork, calling someone, buying something, planning an activity, googling something… it’s all just jumbled on there. I then use that list to fill out my weekly planner and my daily to-do list.
When I make my daily to-do list, I start off with the things I do every single day. I write down even “small” tasks so I don’t forget anything. I also include small tasks so I have more items to cross off of my list so I feel like I’m accomplishing a lot. Trivial items that go on there regularly: meditate, answer emails, workout, post to Instagram, cook X, clean Y. After I have those on my list, I copy down what’s in my weekly planner for that day. Then I look at my to-do list from the previous day. If I didn’t get to something, I put it on my list for tomorrow. If it looks like I still have room, I take an extra from my weekly to-do list and stick it on there.
I cannot sleep without making my daily to-do list. I don’t like waking up not knowing what my plan for the day is. I used to waste a lot of time deciding what to do, when I could’ve been actually doing something. When you go into your day with a prioritized, clear plan, you’ll get a lot more done because you won’t have to make any decisions. I just work my way down my to-do list as the day goes on.
I use Notes on my phone to write random things down that I need to remember when I’m not near my planner. Every night when I’m making the rest of my lists, I check my Notes to see if I need to transfer anything onto my weekly or daily to-do list. It’s basically a temporary storage unit. I also use it for lists that I might need while I’m out and about, because I don’t like to carry my planner with me. For example, I always keep a running grocery list on there. I also have a long-ass list of restaurants I want to try so I always have a reference.
When people see the Stickies on my computer, they usually say… “Holy shit.” Yeah. It’s pretty crazy on there. I have a lot going on in my brain, so I use Stickies to write it all down. I use Stickies to make lists that aren’t to-do lists – lists that will be there for awhile. Things that don’t necessarily need to be crossed off. For example, I have a sticky for blog post ideas, one for recipes I want to make, one for movies I want to watch, one for TV shows I want to watch, one for my Wish list, one for things I want to buy when I have money, one for books I want to read, one for random things I want to google in my free time… It’s just a huge pile of lists. I also like to use Stickies for future to-do lists that are metaphorically too “big” to be put into my planner. For instance, it’s only October, but I have a sticky called “Things To Do Over Winter Break.” This will eventually be referenced when I’m making my to-do list for winter break.
I also have a sticky for really longterm goals that may or may not happen. Like, my dreams. I think it’s really important to write those goals down so you see them and remember what you’re working toward. I don’t want to lose sight of the big picture. It keeps me grounded.
Lastly, I use actual post-it notes. These are to make really specific lists that don’t deserve a whole page in my notebook. For example, I’ll write down talking points for a phone call. Right now I have a post-it on my desk with all of the things I need to discuss with my mom the next time I call her. LOL. I know, this might sound ridiculous, but it makes the conversation more productive.
I also use post-its to break up my larger to-do’s into smaller ones. For example, say my to-do is “work on blogs.” I’ll make a post-it with each blog topic and then divide each into smaller tasks – take pictures, edit pictures, write post, edit post, Instagram photo, post to FB page. Then I can keep that post-it up all week and refer to it when I need to. I also use post-its just to write things down that I want to make sure I see often. If I see an important quote that gives me the feels, I’ll put it on a post-it. If I have a to-do list that I need to bring with me, I put it on a post-it instead of carrying my whole planner or notebook with me. I usually stick it to the back of my phone or fold it in my wallet so I won’t lose it.
PHEW! That was a lot. It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not. Organizing my life ahead of time saves me so much time in the long run. Planning is the key to success. Even if you don’t get everything done, at least you have a direction to go in, and you won’t forget any of your tasks. You won’t waste time deciding what to do next, and you’ll definitely never get bored. If you’re a student or you have a job (most of the population), then you need to get organized! People complain about not having enough time in a day to do things, but if you schedule it all in, you will have enough time. Taking five minutes to plan out your next 24 hours will save your brainpower for the next day, and you’ll be so much more efficient because of it.
Do you have any amazing organization or planning tips? Let me know! XO