One of the top questions I’ve been asked since becoming a professional organizer is how do you organize your life’s schedule? My answer is always, I keep it simple but have key go-to apps and rituals that make my life organized. Here are the top 3 that I use, they’re either free or inexpensive and it’s easy.
Number One: A calendar
It’s amazing how many people don’t use a calendar. Whether it’s a planner or an app doesn’t much make a difference so long as you always have it with you and use it consistently and accurately. I’ve used both an actual planner and a digital calendar and find benefits to both. For those who are super visual, having an actual planner can give you a big-picture view of your week or month. Look for a planner that is large enough to write everything in it that you need, I prefer planners that have full letter-size pages. Currently, I use my Google Calendar on my phone to track everything from my work schedule to appointments to dates. Get-togethers with family go on there, weddings, showers, vacations, workouts, and tasks like dropping off donations. Anything that has a date and time associated with it goes on my calendar. The key is to have one calendar for everything whenever possible so that you have a big picture view of your life. It may make sense to have a work and personal calendar, especially digitally, but putting your work schedule blocked off on your personal calendar helps you stay realistic about how much time you actually have to get things done. You can even block off the time you allow for sleeping if it gives you better boundaries and a visual reminder that there are only so many hours in the day. The key is to update the calendar whenever something changes and to always make sure you add events in the first place. I always used a pencil and eraser when I used a physical planner so that I could easily make changes.
Number Two: The alarms on your phone
I use these alarms a lot to keep me on track and not just for waking up in the morning. The best part about the alarms app on your phone is that you can name the alarm with a label so it tells you what to do. I use this for things that I don’t want to muddy up my calendar with. For example, there’s an alarm for the following on my phone:
Number Three: To-Do Lists
I have two ways of planning my day and making to-do lists. The first is just simple paper and pen. I prefer lined paper and a nice pen. I use this for my personal tasks and planning my day with the finite things I don’t want on my calendar and that don’t have a set time that I can set an alarm. I always put the top priority items first that need to be done that day, then things that need to be done that week or month for if I get to them. I use the previous list to make the next list if I didn’t get everything done on the previous list.
My other method is the free Notes app on my phone. I am also a personal assistant in addition to being a professional organizer and I keep my To-Do list for this job on the Notes app so that it’s always with me and I can easily edit it. I have the list broken down into things I do daily and things I do weekly on specific days of the week. I also keep grocery lists on the Notes app both for myself and for my client for whom I’m a personal assistant. I love the checkmarks option for the grocery list, it makes it super easy to see what I’ve gotten and what’s left. I keep other lists as well on the Notes app, like books to read, books I’ve read, places to check out. All sorts of lists are handy to have with me at all times so that’s what I use this app for.
If you implement these 3 tools, calendar, alarms, and to-do lists, your life will become more organized and you’ll be carrying less around in your head which will decrease stress. We must use the tools we have to declutter our brains the same way we declutter our physical belongings. I hope that you start using these three tools today to see what a difference they make in staying on task, organized and to give yourself a big-picture vision of your schedule. It’s always important to know what lies ahead so we can plan.
Here’s to an organized you!
How Prioritization & Trello Can Help You Accomplish Your Goals
Life is filled with many things we don’t want to do, but we do them anyways.
Studying for a test, putting together a presentation, public speaking, making important decisions; these are all things that require preparation and have consequences if not done well. They are also things I tend to procrastinate.
When I was in fifth grade, my dad gave me the advice to study a little bit every day, so I wouldn’t have to stress and cram before a test. No matter HOW HARD I TRIED over the years, I couldn’t get myself to do this. 20 years later, I still think about this advice. It sounded simple, but with a due date so far in the future, I always waited until the last minute.
When I couldn’t procrastinate any longer, my brain would go into hyper-focused mode and I would always get things done. I wasted a lot of time overthinking and stressing, rather than actually doing. For the majority of my life, I assumed I operated “better under pressure” and identified myself as a procrastinator. Something about that didn’t feel right, because I am also a planner and list-maker.
A few months ago, I started thinking about this topic, in-depth. I started reading articles and listening to podcasts and audio books, and quickly noticed a trend: procrastination often goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. MIND. BLOWN. Maybe you already knew this, but for me, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. The things I had been procrastinating my ENTIRE LIFE had negative consequences if they weren’t done well, and therefore, I was putting off doing them because I subconsciously knew the amount of time and energy I would have to put into them to gain a PERFECT result. I would overthink, over-prepare by making lists and planning out a schedule, and would attempt to line everything up “just right” before actually starting - but what I was actually doing was procrastinating. By the time I needed to take action, there was no TIME to overthink, I just had to DO.
If you complete that task, not only does it feel good when your biggest task is done for the day, but you will gain more momentum to get the rest of your tasks and goals accomplished!
I’m sure you’ve heard that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Thank you Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for this wonderfully accurate quote!
Having a plan will give you peace of mind, a sense of structure and stability, and direction, even during uncertain times like the present.
Since my job as a professional organizer is primarily done working inside clients’ homes, I have had to make a massive pivot in what I’m focusing on and where I spend my time.
Over the past year, Trello has been the single best tool I’ve found to help me manage that. It completely has replaced my paper planner, random to-do lists and functions alongside the calendar on my phone!
Trello is an excellent tool for business owners, but is also an amazing tool for managing your LIFE, even if you’re not!
I operate off of several Trello boards, but have one board in particular that I call my Life-Management Board. On this board, I include every task relating to my personal and work life that I need to accomplish so I can see it all in one place.
You can add due dates, checklists, notes, links, and pictures to your boards, prioritize and categorize them as needed, and keep track of everything from your computer or phone.
I have also used Trello to plan trips, study, organize social media content, create shopping lists, to-do lists, and manage projects. Overall, I use it to maintain structure in my days to make sure I’m accomplishing everything I need to.
I want to provide a few basic Trello functions to get you started, because over the past year it has become the most essential tool that I use to keep my life organized (and as a bonus, it's FREE!)
Once you create an account you will:
I created a life management board template HERE that you can save to your own account to get you off to a good start.
To save this template so you can use it, select the button at the top that says “Create Board from Template,” select your settings, and Create.
Once you’ve done those steps, the template is ready for you to use!
My hope is that this wonderful tool can help you the same way it helped me. With all of my “thoughts, tasks, and reminders” living in one place, I spend significantly less time wondering what I have to do, searching for lists, and second guessing due dates. The drag and drop feature helps me adjust my priorities into a timeline so I can time-block and move my “frogs” earlier in the day, serving as a reminder for me to get those done FIRST.
If you use Trello, I'd love to hear about how you like to use it, too!
Helping feed your urge to purge clutter from your life!
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