Reader request! In my last newsletter I mentioned some of the processes I’m using to set up my 2018 and help reach some of my goals. I also opened up the floor for any blog post requests. A reader emailed saying they struggle a lot with staying organized and wondered if I could provide any additional tips.
YES – I have a bunch!
Although let it be known, it’s not really in my nature to be super organised. This is something I’ve had to learn over time – and I learned it because I was getting increasingly frustrated with the problems that my disorganization would cause!
For instance… I have a history of traveling to foreign countries without any kind of plan or itinerary in place. Like I’ll literally just show up, step off the plane and then stand around awkwardly in the airport trying to figure out my next move.🙈 This is not fun to me by the way (though I admit it’s occasionally turned into a nice adventure). But I’ve ended up in these situations due to a lack of planning ahead and being thoroughly disorganized with my schedule!
Being disorganized creates a LOT of unnecessary stress in life. It leaves you feeling chaotic and often scrambling at the last minute. It causes you to miss out on opportunities. It can leave you unable to find things when you need them.
Then there’s the big one – being disorganized creates a perpetual gap between you and your desires.
That last one is the reason why I started seeking to change my ways. I desperately wanted to start up my own business and I realised there was no way I was going to get there with my current mode of operating.
Because here’s the thing – to get what you want in life, you have to have processes and procedures set in place to keep you on track and move you closer and closer. Otherwise you’re kind of flailing around, losing focus, wasting time, starting and stopping and getting little accomplished.
Does keeping yourself on a schedule sound boring, restrictive and stuffy? I agree!! I felt the exact same way for a long time and resisted organizing my days because to me that felt like I was boxing myself in.
What I’ve come to realise though, is that while being all organized and scheduled doesn’t feel as free in the moment, in the long run it creates immensely MORE freedom for you.
It’s kind of like meditation – we sit and focus the mind (which can feel totally restrictive) in order to feel calm, empowered, and spacious (in other words, FREE!).
I won’t say that I’ve become an organizational master – far from it! But I have a solid scheduling routine that works for me now and I’m pretty happy with it. And the best part is, on this daily schedule I get shit DONE.
Here are some insights into what currently works for me to stay organized:
1) I have set waking and bed times that I stick to always, unless something major gets in the way (like traveling). I do this not only to ensure I get enough sleep every night but to honour my best working time – which for me is the morning.
2) I use a morning routine and nighttime routine to start and end my days. This routine is the glue that literally holds my day and everything I do in it together – in the mornings my routine energizes me for the day and at night it helps me wind down so I don’t spend 2 hours tossing and turning and trying to fall asleep.
3) I use a paper planner and a couple app programs for scheduling my week. That may seem like a lot but there’s a method to the madness.
4) After years of expensive, bulky goal-setting planners, I now use this simple moleskine planner for planning out my week. And it’s much more efficient in my opinion! I love it for so many reasons: the big open spaces for writing in each day, the lined notes section which is an entire open page for every week (great for doodling too!), the fact that it’s thin and super light to carry around, and the soft cover holds up extremely well. My planner covers tend to get destroyed by the end of the year – with moleskine that doesn’t happen! (also, I just want to say that moleskine planners are NOT made from the skin of moles… like I once thought was the case!😂 The cover feels like a soft leather but moleskine planners are totally vegan 🙂
5) In my planner – I do all my personal scheduling and this is where I write down all my to-dos for the week. The physical act of writing things down is really important for me – I know that not everyone feels the same and online calendars have become popular. For me, writing means I can personalise things, doodle in the margins, draw bubbles around text, write in different colours, draw hearts and flowers around my tasks, etc. This brings a much-needed element of creativity to my planner which makes me want to stick with it.
6) I use Evernote to braindump ideas, jot down notes on the fly, even start writing blog posts. I funnel everything into different folder categories so nothing gets lost.
11) I use a project management app for my blog because it’s an ongoing project with always a bazillion to-dos. On any given day I might be writing, editing, designing, coding, resizing, doing site maintenance, taking photos, social media (which admittedly I still need to get better at keeping up with!). My blog is still in construction phase so I’ve got a long list of to-dos which I’m slowly chipping away at. I keep all these tasks separate from my regular schedule – otherwise I’d be totally overwhelmed from seeing nothing but work-related stuff all over my planner! If you run a business or have any big project in the works, using a project management system can be extremely helpful. Otherwise, you might not need this extra app.
6) Every morning before I start my day, I create a to-do list for the day on Evernote where I schedule my tasks in. Basically, I make sense of my day by putting a time limit on everything. For example, here’s what today looks like:
6:30-7:30am: make a fresh juice, journal, schedule out my to-do list for the day
7:30-8:30am: yoga and meditation
8:30-9:30am: make/eat breakfast
9:30-1pm: writing work
1-4pm: client work
4-5pm: run errands
5pm: start making dinner
6:30-7:30pm: eat dinner
7:30-8:30pm: free time/do anything time
8:30-9:30pm: nighttime routine/get ready for bed
Doing this has been a game-changer for my productivity, ensuring I get everything done that’s important to me.
7) You’ll notice I schedule big blocks of time for everything in my day – more than enough time for most things. For instance, it doesn’t take me an hour and a half to make dinner! I use this as a guideline because ideally I’m aiming to start cooking at 5pm. But sometimes I get caught up with answering an email or looking something up. Sometimes an errand takes longer than expected. A lot of times my client work goes longer than expected. And that’s all ok because I have a buffer.
8) I schedule things taking into account my tendencies and habits. I am someone who tends to underestimate how long things actually take me. I get distracted easily. I hate being rushed. I’m also late to most everything… even my own schedule🙈 So I make it easy for myself by adding extra padding time around everything in my day. Giving myself more than enough time to do a task is always a good idea. Some days I start and finish everything on time and that’s great. Occasionally I’m even early! Other days I’m running a bit behind but it’s usually not a big deal because of the extra padding I’ve factored in.
9) Every morning when planning my day on Evernote, I make note of the top 2-3 most important things I’d like to see happen that day. This could range from a work-related or selfcare-related task like “eat a big salad for lunch.” Or it could be an intention for the day like “slow down.” By getting clear on my main priorities for each day, I’m always aware of the most important stuff to stay on top of. Doing this also gives me something to celebrate every night when those 2-3 priorities are met.
10) I use the app Wunderlist for writing my grocery list and any other shopping list I need to remember while out. This is a really simple, clean program that allows you to add to-dos and check them off as they’re finished. (Note that this app is currently only available for iPhone I believe but I’m sure there are similar Android apps out there like it).
11) I avoid multi-tasking as much as I can. When I used to manage yoga studios, I was a multi-tasking master. With my own biz though, I’ve set things up so I rarely have to go this route. Not only does it minimize overwhelm but it also greatly minimizes distractions.
For example, I’ve found that just innocently checking my phone or email for 30 seconds while in the middle of something can totally throw me off. Half the time, doing so sends me off on some other activity – I might get caught up in a text conversation, read an email and then be compelled to respond, start reading an article online, discover that someone needs something from me and have to respond. An hour later I’m then trying to remember where I left off. Texts, email, and social media are some of our greatest time suckers – staying organized means setting firm boundaries around these things and sticking to them.
12) I check my email only twice a day. When it’s a busy work day, that usually goes down to just once/day. And I tend to respond to emails and other messages in bulk all at the same time – that way, I can devote my focus to email 100% and then be able to move on.
My organization processes are constantly evolving so I’m sure they’ll shift down the line – but I hope these insights are helpful and give you some ideas as to what might be useful for you to set up.
Remember – it’s not about following these steps to a tee but experimenting with what works for you. If you find something that helps you stay organized and delivers great results, stick with it!