Updated: Oct 30, 2020
I have provided some BOLDED updates to this as 2020 caused literally everything to flip upside down and changed some of the things I needed for my Organizational Bliss.
The greatest satisfaction of most of my days is when I look at my To-Do List and see that everything on it is checked off. I am reasonably certain that makes me a giant nerd or some weirdo. Even if it does, I am totally okay with it because here's the thing; I am not an organized person. I know, you've seen the expertly color-coded paper planner, you've heard me talk about the apps I use to monitor my lists, and you've probably seen the pictures of my desk that usually looks perfectly put together. It's all a lie. Ask anyone in my family, and they will reveal the truth. I am highly unorganized, and I live behind a facade of organizational bliss.
The reality is that I was an incredibly unorganized child. I was the only kid in my class at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Beaverdale who carried a compact-sized Franklin Planner to school to keep track of my homework. What can I say, being the queen of late assignments with a teacher for a father did not go over well. As an adult, I have figured out how to live a double life. In my personal life, I am a mess or, more accurately, the conductor on the Hot Mess Express. My housekeeping style would be described as "it appears there was a struggle." But if you see my desk (okay desks I have two in the house now), my planner, my computer, my email application, and really anything that relates to my professional life, it is obsessively organized.
I was working in the administrative office of a department store in college when I realized that I could be hyper-organized professionally and not have my life be such a mess. It didn't really carry over to my personal life, but that's okay. Studies show that my messiness means I'm more creative and more productive. Evidently, it also makes me smarter, too, so I'm going to run with it.
So today, in honor of National Checklist Day, I am going to give you the "hacks" I use to stay organized. I call it Organization Tips for the Chronically Unorganized. Everything from planner recommendations, apps that make life easier, and maybe even a motivational quote. So here goes.
• First things first, my planner is my lifesaver. When I grew up and got a big girl job, I didn't even know where to start, so I went with what I knew. I ordered myself a Franklin Planner, and I stuck with it for a few years. I did find that partway through the year I got lazy and didn't switch the months out the way I should, so this year, I tried something new. At the recommendation of a trusted friend, I went with the Passion Planner. LIFE CHANGING. I used to be a two-page per day kind of Franklin Planner user. The Passion Planner uses a weekly spread with half-hour intervals running from 6 AM to 11 PM. While this night owl doesn't often use the early morning hours, going until 11 PM is so helpful. It has the full year in one book that lays flat; I'm not lying; it really does.
2020 UPDATE: My first Passion Planner of the year fell completely apart in March - literally the binding split in half and the pages fell out, it was possibly the most 2020 thing that could happen to a 2020 planner. But the best thing ever happened in June - I discovered the Amplify Planner. A quarterly, spiral-bound planner with monthly, weekly, and daily pages. My planner peace has finally been achieved. The daily layout runs from 5 AM - 11 PM with enough task lists space that even I can't fill it up every day. I thought my Passion Planner was life-changing in 2019, then 2020 arrived, laughed at my hopes and dreams before killing them and then magically bringing me this perfect planner.
• Wunderlist, oh how I love thee. Let me count the ways...by putting them in a well-organized checklist that I can access from any mobile device, tablet, or computer and have it update in realtime. My brother evidently told me about Wunderlist "years ago," I cannot verify the validity of that statement, but if he did and I didn't listen to him, Tony, I am sorry. It is the best app. I have lists for my personal goals, my regular daily checklists, the posts I need to schedule, work things that need to be done. It's fantastic. It also saves me from writing down my to-do list on paper every morning. Didn't get a task done? I'll just copy and paste it into tomorrow's list. You can share lists with your team and delegate tasks, or maybe it's a shared grocery list with a significant other or roommate. This app has been an incredible addition to my personal and work routine over the last year. The best part: it is completely FREE. Click this link to learn more: www.wunderlist.com. The founder of Wunderlist, Christian Reber, did sell the app to Microsoft in 2015 for a rumored amount between $100 and $200 million, but Microsoft has their To-Do app. So my beloved Wunderlist may be disappearing. I am currently downloading Microsoft's To Do and prepared to give it a try. But if Reber is able to repurchase Wunderlist, please know that I will not hesitate to go back. It has been a HUGE part of how I manage all of the aspects of my life.
2020 UPDATE: Microsoft's To Do never really won me over. I am currently using Todoist and IN LOVE with it. It's the perfect app for what I need right now. It's easy to use and understand. Easy to share lists with clients so we can work collaboratively on our projects virtually.
• So I know the first thing I went on about was my Passion Planner so this may come as a surprise, I also use the Calendar app on my phone. As an Apple Addict, I must do this. I keep my schedule on my phone so that my helpful iPhone can tell me when I need to leave the house based on traffic to make it to a meeting and so that my Apple Watch can help me find my way to that meeting. Just because I live in an analog calendar world doesn't mean I don't also embrace the digital. Whether it's Google Calendar, the native calendar app on your smartphone, or something else, it is helpful to make sure that your digital calendar is accurate.
• I am also sure you're reading this going, "Wow. Annie is a really great writer. Look at that amazing punctuation and grammar!" Okay, you probably aren't. But it is near perfect with the only exceptions being that sometimes I just want to go with the way I wrote a phrase instead of the proper way. While I do have a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies, it is definitely not the reason I can do that. Grammarly is the reason. You can get Grammarly for your internet browser, as a keyboard on your smartphone, add it to your Microsoft Office products, use a native app for your Mac or PC (I am writing this blog in Grammarly), or access it remotely online. There is a free version and a premium version. I am a premium user, and it is so worth it. It is more than a spelling or grammar check app. It makes sure that I'm using the correct tone for the purpose of my writing, it makes sure that what I am writing is concise and readable, perhaps best of all, it makes sure my words are mine. It checks more than 16 billion web pages to make sure I'm not plagiarizing someone else's work. It's incredible and worth a try on the free version if you ever do any writing for work or really even if you want to make sure that Facebook post for your business isn't full of misspellings and incorrect punctuation. You can find all of the ways you can use Grammarly on their website: www.grammarly.com.
• My work email is done through the G Suite, which is fantastic. I am not, however, a fan of their online email application. I tried a lot. I used the native Mail app on my Apple Products, and that was nice, but I needed to separate my personal email from my work email. I was finding myself feeling like I *needed* to reply to a client's email at midnight if I saw it. I was responding on the days I tried to take off. I didn't have any sort of work-life balance. So I did my research, and I found Spark. I can't even tell you just how much I love it. I set the notifications on my devices to work differently so that my work email alerts don't stare me down on a Sunday morning or a sleepless night at 2 AM. I set it up so that when I am working odd hours, I can schedule my emails to go out in the morning during a client's business hours, so they don't see that I replied to their email at 2:47 AM. I have it on my iPhone, iPad, and computers. It is the best email application I found during my research. It also gives me a really easy option to click a button and add an email to one of my Wunderlists. When the apps I love function together, it makes me love them even more.
I hope you found one or all of these helpful. What do you do to stay organized, on task, and try not to get distracted? I'd love to hear from you what it is that keeps you going because, as I said above, I am not an organized person by nature. So any tips are welcome and greatly appreciated! You can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh and since I promised an inspirational quote...