How I Stay Organized

I pride myself on being organized. Sure, that term might be a bit broad, and sometimes it is organized chaos, but whether it’s in the physical world – my closet, my jewelry, my class notes – or the digital – my computer’s files, my Gmail, Hypable articles – I firmly believe in “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.”

Lately, I’ve had a few friends come to me, looking to mimic my insane organization skills. They’ve asked what apps do you use? How do you organize your calendar? Do you know you’re insane? My answers:

  • A lot of them. Wunderlist and Evernote Premium being the top two, Gmail’s Task tab, too.
  • Meticulously. I use my Mac’s Calendar app, and Google Calendar (and I have a wall calendar), then I have an app on my iPad that combines the two.
  • Yeah, I’m not too concerned about it.

The truth is, I just make sure I always have everything written down. I have three sizes of sticky notes on my desk – squares for quick reminders, larger lined squares for short lists, and a large one to make a ‘run-down’ of whatever (groceries, To Do Today, To Do For COMM 424…). The notes app on my iPhone acts as the virtual sticky when I’m thinking about something when I’m out.

Have you ever had a brilliant idea or question or cure to cancer pop into your head right as you’re drifting off? It happens to writers a lot, but then they go to sleep and wake the next more, trying to scratch the itch that the idea left behind. This is why one of the key pieces of advice for writers (novice or expert) is to keep a journal next to your bed and write it down. I do this for everything. If I have a question for a professor, I’ll quickly type it into a note. Or if I realized a great blog post topic, I’ll write it down.

To become organized, the key is stream-of-conscious writing. Don’t overthink it. You have a million tasks buzzing around in your head, so the best way to make sense of them is to sit down and write/type it all out. An example of what a Google Task list would look like:

  • Write reflection on Case 1 for COMM 419
  • Write and schedule ‘The Mindy Project’ season 3 premiere article
  • Blog post: organization
  • Email X and Y about Z
  • Make sure rooms are scheduled for PRSSA meeting Tuesday

Then, you know to start from the top and just knock ‘em out. You don’t feel like doing Task 1 now? Too bad, probably won’t feel like doing it later, either.

My Mac Calendar (iCal) is color coded by the following groups: Home (Thanksgiving break, vacation), Work, School (exams and essays), Homework (homework assignments), Day-to-Day (meeting a friend for lunch, PRSSA meetings), Appointments (Dentist, school advisor, interviews), so on and so forth.

My Google Calendar is much more editorial. I’m constantly juggling articles for this site, Hypable, and my other site Ampersand New York. This site and &NY tend to fall by the wayside for months at a time because I simply don’t have time to write for them. Which is bull – I do have time, I just haven’t schedule it effectively.
Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 4.22.08 PM
Now, with Google Calendar, I have four categories for the aforementioned three sites, and one more label (green) for when I should actually write them. So, this post was to be written yesterday (let say it was), and is to be posted today. Today, I’ll write a host about two humor books I read and I’ll post it to &NY tomorrow. So on and so forth. The green ‘write’ label is more important to me to follow, and the scheduling labels just help me make sure I stay on top of everything.

As for the files on my computer: Folders in folders in folders in folders. I haven’t deleted anything from my college classes. It goes as deep as Penn State -> Freshman Year -> Fall -> ECON 102 -> Bam, every homework assignment and study guide. For Hypable, we have to download and resize a lot of images. So, some folder may look like this: Pictures -> Hypable -> Suits -> Season 4 -> Episode 6. There’s the eight pictures or whatever I need. I do this for every show, so I’m not shuffling hundreds of files around looking for the one I need that instant.

With the latest Mac software update, they introduced colored tags. While this would have been useful a few years ago, I’ve settled into my ways and have a hard time really optimizing them. I do tag a particular document (cover letter, resume) on occasion so I can grab it, but the search function also works just as well.

I find it funny when job applications require an applicant to have ‘good organizational skills.’ Maybe it’s because I’m the opposite of the Tasmanian Devil, organizing everything I can get my hands on.

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