Being organized means I spend minimal time planning my life and more time on projects that matter. On a weekly basis I probably only spend 30–45 minutes planning my week, organizing my files, and updating my to-do list. I do this on Sunday evenings and it leaves me feeling prepared rather than anxious about the week ahead.
Actually taking the time to get organized is the hardest part. But after that, once all of your organization systems and processes are in place, it’s much easier to stay on top of your calendar, to-do lists, and goals.
Use one calendar for everything and make sure it’s something you carry around everywhere. Digital calendars are good for this since they can be accessed via smartphone. I recommend Google Calendar or whatever native calendar app comes with your operating system. When an event or appointment comes up, immediately add it to your calendar. I put birthdays on the calendar and make sure appointments generate a reminder an hour before they happen. Color code it if you want to get extra organized!
Recommended apps: Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook
A to-do list and calendar are not the same thing! You need BOTH! I check my to-do list multiple times per day and try my best to check everything off. I recommend putting the top three most important items on your list and working on those first. Don’t overwhelm your list with too many items. You should feel accomplished at the end of each day.
Recommended apps: TeuxDeux, Todoist, Wunderlist, Google Calendar To Do List, Reminders on iPhone, Habitica
Small filing cabinet or a binder with dividers for important papers
You need a dedicated place for important documents such as Social Security cards, passports, tax documents, and birth certificates. Get a small filing cabinet and file important papers here. Every couple years I go through these papers and shred the ones that are no longer necessary.
I’ve had my laptop stolen twice. Both times I’m grateful that most of my documents were saved in the Cloud rather than on my actual machine.
Make folders for your various projects and sub-folders inside those. I have a folder for “Resumes and Cover Letters” and various sub-folders inside based on jobs I’ve applied for. Whenever I need to apply for a job, all of my past resumes are nicely organized and easy to find. I also have folders for “Design”, “Side Projects”, and “Blog”.
Recommended apps: Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud (please enable 2 factor authentication if you use any of these apps!)
Backup hard drive
Even though most of my life is stored in the Cloud, I still use a backup hard drive just in case. I backup my laptop once a week. Put “backup computer” as a recurring weekly item on your your to-do list so you won’t forget.
Probably the best change I’ve made in 2017 has been my switch to using a password manager. I use Dashlane, and I am loving it. I spent 4 hours one Saturday transferring all my usernames and passwords to Dashlane (although Dashlane is pretty good about saving them for you automatically!). Then I deleted my passwords and credit card information from my browser. Storing stuff there really isn’t as secure as it could be. You can also put your credit cards and ID cards into Dashlane, which made me love it even more.
Also: Enable 2-factor authentication wherever you can! This really helps secure your login information on websites. Save your generated keys in your password manager.
Recommended apps: Dashlane, LastPass, KeePass, 1Password
Clean up your photos. Delete duplicates.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Why do I have 30 photos of my cat that all look virtually the same? I spend some time every month cleaning up my cloud photo storage and editing the photos I like most.
Recommended apps: Google Photo, iCloud Photo
People have written entire books about how to handle your email inbox. There are so many ways to do it. I like to keep things simple. I try to keep my inbox as tidy as possible, so I reply to emails once a day, archive the ones that need to be saved (but don’t need a reply), and delete the rest. Archive folders like “purchase confirmations”, “travel”, and “personal projects” might be a good place to start. I also use Unroll.Me to keep my newsletter subscriptions organized.
Keep lists on your phone
Start jotting down thoughts and ideas. Keep lists of movies and tv shows you want to see and books you want to read. Store these somewhere they are easily accessible, such as the “notes” app on your phone. My notes are synched via the cloud, so they are accessible on my computer too.
Once — Setup your password manager and 2-factor authentication, put all of your events and appointments into one calendar, start using a to-do list, organize your files in the cloud, clean up your email inbox and create archive folders
Weekly — Backup your computer, review your calendar, update your to-do list with weekly tasks, clean up your email inbox
Monthly — Go through your photos, clean up your cloud storage, file important papers, delete old notes off your phone
Figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and make changes accordingly.