Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Organization How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

You would think I would not be so busy these days. I'm looking for a job and not at one -- but somehow between my job search, this blog and finishing up a tv spec, I don't seem to have that much extra time on my hands. The key thing to utilizing your time wisely is being organized. I'm a bit mental in that department, but in a good way. I LOVE organization and I use a ton of tools to keep things from slipping through the cracks. Below are some ideas and tools you can use to make yourself into an organizational superstar.

1) Keep some kind of To Do List. You would be amazed at how many people don't do this! I literally don't know how I could sleep at night if I didn't. There are so many options you can utilize, here are just a few:

A) Go old school (especially if you are short on time) and use a pen and paper. I often do this if I am not right by my computer or my iPhone (honestly the thing is pretty much attached to my hand, but that isn't the point). I sometimes will do this just to get the thought out of my head and put it into another format later.

B) Use some sort of online or computer related To Do List manager like Vitalist (this is the one I prefer) or Remember The Milk (both have a free and paid version). Gmail now has a tasks function that you can use, read about it here. If you want to use something more simple, take advantage of the functionality of your online calendar from Google (I prefer this one), Yahoo or whatever one you use. On most online calendars you can set it to send you reminders via text or email. People are always astonished that I never forget birthdays, but the online calendar is what makes this possible! All you have to do is set the date for yearly and a reminder 2 weeks before (to get a gift or card) and then the day of and you are all set. If you use Outlook often and like it, I'm pretty sure it has a To Do List or To Do Bar, so try that.

C) If you spend all day out and about on your Blackberry, iPhone or some other device, the majority of them have some sort of to do list on them. Also a few of the to do list online programs like Vitalist have apps for the iPhone and other devices.

2) REMINDERS, REMINDERS, REMINDERS!!!!! I could not be as efficient and on top of stuff as I am, if I didn't utilize the idea of reminders. I constantly leave myself post-it notes, set reminders in my to do list or calendar to email me or even intentionally leave things in my line of sight, so I won't forget (this is shockingly effective). One great inexpensive item to buy that can help you remember things just before you walk out the door is this Don't Forget Door Hanger that you can put things in. I don't have this, but I might need to buy it.

3) Study others who are productive. I'm enough of a dork that I actually read blogs about productivity and well, I'm, uhhhh - PROUD of that. Two productivity blogs that I find interesting are Zen Habits and 43 Folders. The Guru behind 43 Folders has a great video presentation he gave at Google about how to get your email Inbox to ZERO, so you aren't constantly behind AND yes, I said ZERO. I swear it's worth watching. There are many great books about being organized, but one of my favorites is Getting Things Done by David Allen.

4) Make your resources searchable. I have TONS of resources about travel, gifts, restaurants and all kinds of other stuff. I'm always looking for new ways to access this information more easily. One thing I started doing last year was using a new site called Evernote. I love bookmarks and I have tons of them broken down into so many folders and subfolders it would make your head spin, but I was finding at times that I needed a solution that was more visual and that is where Evernote comes in. The best way to explain it is that it is sort of like keeping a collection of visual bookmarks, but you can also incorporate pictures and text and other items into it. Also the entire thing is searchable - even the text on a label in a picture of a bottle wine you take, for instance. It's amazing and I'm not doing it justice, so read a review of it here or listen to the CEO explain the product in this video that is under a minute.

5) Set up some kind of a filing system and as much as you hate it, FILE sometimes. To be honest, I like setting up systems more than I really love to file, but it's necessary. If you have a system set up and at least a basket to put items that need to be filed in - that's a start. Try to get yourself on a schedule if you can (maybe add a calendar reminder :), but don't beat yourself up if you get behind. Face up to it and do it and you will be so much happier when it's done.

The bottom line is that all of these ideas work when they are put into practice. If you aren't organized now it might take a bit of time, but I promise it will be worth the effort. The thing you need to figure out is what kind of system works best with your job, life and the way you think and then build it around that.