Being organised helps me to have productive working weeks and manage life admin efficiently. It also means that I worry less about having forgotten to do something when I’m resting or spending time with loved ones.
Here are the tools and techniques that help me to balance my commitments effectively:
I’m not immune to inbox dread on a Monday morning, but I’ve become quite speedy at processing emails. I like using Gmail’s priority inbox feature that allows me to keep important ongoing conversations in the ‘Starred’ section. With both my work and personal Gmail accounts, I also use specific folders to organise messages, so that I can easily refer back to them.
2. Google Calendar
I use Google Calendar to manage my work and personal time. Recurring events for weekly/monthly processes and the Hangout features are especially useful. I also have Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist calendar on my bedroom wall, because I like to keep track of key dates and see what each month looks like overall.
Todoist is a Student Hubs favourite, closely rivalled by Trello. I like being able to organise tasks into particular projects and create action lists for each working day. Plus, being given points for completing items is like getting gold stars at school all over again.
4. Work notebook
I use a thick Paperchase notebook to keep track of my weekly priorities, meeting notes, actions and ideas. Digital tools are useful, but it’s good to have this information stored elsewhere.
5. MA notebook with weekly actions lists
I’ve used this method since I was studying for my A levels. Every Friday afternoon I write my list of actions for the next week, with sections for each module I’m taking and admin / other tasks.
6. Printed module schedules and OKRS
I keep paper copies of my weekly module schedules and my OKRs (Objectives and Key Results – another Google thing) for the current work period above my desk. These give me longer term views, reminding me what I need to prepare for and achieve over the next few months.
7. Paper lists for mentoring, volunteering and creative projects
I keep these stuck above my desk too. Fitting in other projects is manageable as long as I know what I need to do and fit into my schedule.
8. Blog schedule spreadsheet
This is useful for looking ahead and storing ideas that I’ll turn into future posts. I’ve neglected it recently because I like to be more spontaneous with content and not feel like I’m giving myself additional deadlines.
I keep sites I use every day clearly bookmarked on my internet browser and I have additional folders for blog-related pages, guitar tabs, recipes and wellbeing articles.
10. Phone reminders
I find iPhone reminders useful for recording short-term actions, like buying food on the way home, and daily actions, such as taking medication each morning. I still try to remember to do these, but setting reminders frees up headspace for more important things.
A couple of friends once recommended writing daily priorities on a post-it note. The aim is to avoid cramming in more than will fit on that little square of paper. I don’t tend to use this technique when working, but I do find it a handy way of reminding myself to complete personal tasks and fit in self-care. My weekend post-its usually include resting, reading, seeing friends, painting my nails and catching up with Scandal.
So, there you go. Is that an excessive list? Possibly. Do all these tools help me? Definitely. In the words of Olivia Pope:
I’d love to know if you have any other tools that help you to stay on top of your to do lists. Feel free to post a comment below or tweet me.