My brain is one giant contradiction. I am always on one end of the see saw: hyper focused and organized, or disorganized and forgetful. I’m a Capricorn, so if you believe in astrology that means I am at peace when I have a plan and when things are fully organized. At the same time, I’m horribly forgetful, have a poor sense of time, and my thoughts resemble a popcorn popper–every few seconds another thought pops up and before long, there’s a heaping pile of thoughts and zero organization between them, leaving many to be disregarded.
Anyone who has ever worked for Spire & Co can attest to this. Over the years I have created a slew of organization systems to ensure I don’t sink the ship out of forgetfulness. Those systems have changed over time and continue to do so, but I’ve learned that organization systems are kind of like skincare. It’s sometimes a matter of consistency of using the product rather than the product itself. That being said, one of my favorite things to ask my girlfriends is what organization systems work for them, so I wanted to share mine.
I have learned the hard way that I remember things when I write them down. Typing just doesn’t cut it for me. There hasn’t been a day in my life that I haven’t had a planner with me since possibly second grade. (I blame the Capricorn in me.) I’ve tried a bunch of different planners and in this season of my life, Whitney English’s Day Designer fits me well. (It may also help that they were one of our conference partners a few years ago. 😉 )
How I use it: I use my Day Designer particularly for big picture planning. At the beginning of the year, I set all my goals on the sheets at the beginning of the agenda. I have to say, the fill outs are fantastic for the creative entrepreneur. It feels very effortless to think in the way she organizes the sheets. What I love in particular is that she organizes goals based on areas of your life as well as quarters of a year. For example, if you have career goals, there’s a block for that, and you can set a goal to accomplish in three months, six months, nine months, and one year. It’s a fantastic method for setting longer term goals but then breaking them up into quarters. Then, there are pages for laying out your ideal week, hour by hour, to ensure those goals are met.
Once I do big picture planning, I use the Day Designer for setting up my big picture schedule–such as where I’m traveling to each month, when I’m at the office, when I have a big deadline, etc. The day to day agenda I use to plan out my meals and create daily task lists based on my weekly to do lists I create in Trello (more on that in a second).
Trello is my bestie. I started using it originally an an editorial calendar for Spire & Co just before we rebranded, but as our contributing team grew, it became a challenge due to their pricing structure and we’ve since changed systems. However, I still use it for my personal Spire task lists as well as for every other corner of my life.
How I use it: I organize every portion of my life into boards. There’s one for Spire & Co, one for my other work, one for wellness, and one for learning (like classes, trainings, reading goals, and such). In each board, I have a list of goals–all based on the goals I listed in my Day Designer. I take each goal and make it its own card. Within that card, I’ll create a deadline, an individual task list for accomplishing that goal, and write down some details on the goal itself to combat my natural forgetfulness.
In terms of Spire & Co, I use a Trello board in order to stay on top of the individual tasks that come with getting an article from an idea to a reality. Each month I transfer our entire editorial calendar over to Trello. There’s one card per article, which is labeled based on our content areas–spirit, wellness, style & beauty, and living. Each card has up to five checklists within it, including individual ones for content development, content marketing, social media marketing, photography, and if needed, design. I keep a list within the board that is for strategic development for Spire & Co, which includes opportunities we can utilize in order to intentionally grow the brand. And finally, I have a list for accomplished tasks, which I clean out monthly. I move each card there once all checklists within the card have been finished.
For the other areas of my life, I use Trello in a similar capacity. What I love is that it provides a great visual aid for goal setting and it keeps me motivated along the way. Something about a checklist can do that to you, I guess.
I started using Evernote after I read an article about how an entrepreneur I admire organized her whole business using it. While I didn’t find that that would work best for Spire & Co, I liked the seemingly unending features that Evernote offers and found it to be helpful for other aspects of both Spire and my life.
How I use it: Evernote is my go-to platform for taking notes at meetings and holding onto records. I also use it when I want to write an article for Spire & Co while on a plane, in transit, or in any other circumstance where I don’t have access to strong wifi. Similarly to Trello, I like that it allows me to break things up into notebooks to segment out the areas of my life.
On some occasions, I’ve also used Evernote to map out projects which I then translate into checklists for Trello. They also have a great feature called Web Clipper, which saves articles I see online that I want to read at a later date. I also use it to save articles that I want to keep long term, filing them under different notebooks or tags.
I know, everyone uses Google Calendar. But it’s a big part of my organization system so it’s worth noting.
How I use it: I use Google Calendar as a way to map out my day to day schedule. If I have a meeting, it goes into the calendar. If I’m going to SoulCycle, it’s noted. One of the best features of Google Calendar though is the reminders. For someone as forgetful as me, being able to set reminders that have pop up notifications and don’t disappear until you click to confirm that, yes, the task is complete, is a huge benefit.
I’ve tried to schedule out my Google Calendar minute by minute, in hopes that it would support major productivity, but all it did was make me feel anxious when a project would take longer than planned or something got moved around. That being said, I do use it to block out periods of my day that I set aside to get done a project. I also have the Google Calendar app on my phone, and it’s one of the very few apps that I allow push notifications for because it serves as a great reminder for where I need to be and what I need to be doing.
Everyone has a system that works for them and mine has changed quite a bit over the years, and it’s still something I’m working on. I’ve read so many pieces on other people’s organization systems and my biggest takeaway is that while you can test out what other people do, don’t mute the little voice in your head. If an organization system feels forced, you’ll never stick to it. Customize yours to fit your day to day life. Everyone’s is different which is why the planner world alone has such a plethora of offerings. It takes time to figure out what works for you, but when I’m trying out something new, I typically stick to the three week test. If I can’t get into the swing of it within three weeks, chances are it isn’t for me. When all is said and done, organization is supposed to leave you feeling less stressed and empower you to make the most of your time. Ensure your systems do that for you.