A new year means resolutions; it means out with the old and in with the new; it means marking your calendar with exciting plans for the new year. But keeping up with all the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming if you haven’t quite mastered how to stay organized and manage your time efficiently. So here are a few tips I have found to be helpful over my years of attempting to perfect a strategy for organization.
1. Get a planner & USE it!
My planner is like my personal bible. I meditate on it, take notes, and spend a lot of quality time with it each day. If you want to see a list of specific planners that I find particularly helpful in staying organized and on-task see Top Planners For 2017
But it’s not enough to simply buy a planner – you have to actually use it! It seems so simple, but it’s very easy to buy a planner and just let it accumulate dust for months until you dig it up a year later and open it to find unfulfilled dreams and murmurs of humiliation (maybe it’s not that dramatic but you get the picture). Once you choose a planner that’s right for you, I recommend filling it out completely with big overall milestones & goals you have for the year, then fill it out at the beginning of each month, and each week. Finally, you should use it each day to check and make sure you’re on track, cross things off your list, and update it as things pop up on your schedule.
2. Stick to one main calendar
I actually have about 4 different calendars and schedules, but I keep one main calendar as the hub of all my activity. This tip is particularly important because if you have dates, deadlines, and to-dos in more than one area, it’s more likely that you’ll miss something. So make sure you have one master-schedule.
While I suggest having one main calendar, I also suggest having several smaller calendars (I’m not a hypocrite I swear). For example, I have a work calendar and a school calendar that is broken down into individual days on an excel sheet. I check each one each day to see what my tasks are for the day and what tasks I have coming up. I also have a budget calendar with dates my bills are due and savings suggestions for things I’m saving up for. Each of the important deadlines are all on my main calendar, but specific info and suggestions of work each day to keep me on track go on my smaller “broken down” calendars.
When planning things out for your day, it’s crucial to prioritize. Arrange a to-do list in order of importance, with the most important items at the top and least important at the bottom, then work top-down through each one. Prioritizing may seem obvious and easy in thought, but in practice it can be easy to get side-tracked on tasks that really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
4. Set reminders for your most important tasks
Here’s a little syllogism for you: Phone reminders help you remember things, people need to remember things, people should use phone reminders.
Okay that wasn’t really a great syllogism but the point is that reminders are really helpful to, well – remember things! Whether you have an iPhone or other device that you check on the daily, setting a reminder about the most important things on your schedule will help make sure you complete it in plenty of time.
5. Set your own deadline before the “actual deadline”
The point of this tip is that you can trick yourself into thinking that you have less time than you actually do (you sly dog you), and this ensures that you will complete the project/task/goal in plenty of time. If you set the deadline for a task on the day it is actually due, you might get to that date in your calendar and be like – oh my god! I haven’t even started this! (admit it, we’ve all been there). Even if you don’t set a deadline before the day it’s due, at least set a reminder about 4 or 5 days in advance (or earlier if it is a massive project), to make sure you stay on track.
6. Do & focus on one thing at a time
I know that I personally can become very overwhelmed by everything that’s on my plate (not when it comes to dinner time though). If I start a day thinking about each and every little thing I do, I lose focus and start to become intimidated just thinking about it all. So the trick here is to look at the first thing on your to-do list and then do and think about that item only. Once you cross it off, do and focus on the next item and so on until the day is over. This will help you stay on-task and also reduce your stress.
7. Keep your physical space organized
This is also important for your stress and productivity level. It’s like they say – a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. So make sure to keep your physical space organized (when it comes to a planner and calendar this is crucial so it’s easy to follow and access). I also recommend adding a little flair and personality to your space so it’s a place you enjoy coming to and working every day. If you hate the space you work in, then you won’t be as productive and will have more trouble staying motivated.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Let me know what your personal organizational tips are in the comment section.