Agency Lessons: Staying Organized

A few weeks ago, my agency lessons post talked about what it is that I do as an agency intern. Your comments and questions were great! One commenter asked how I keep organized with everything I do. Great question, but not one I could answer in a quick comment. So today, I'm straying a bit to share my organization tips. While these aren't things I've learned in my internship, they've been key in keeping me together.

I've read a lot of books about time management and organization, but hands down the best book I've read on this subject is GETTING THINGS DONE by David Allen.
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 I could spend the next month talking about the great tips I learned from this book, so I'll just share the best one. My not so secret, amazing tip on keeping it together is...the composition notebook!

I would seriously be lost without this thing. I've used the fancy Franklin Covey planners and other systems, but I never found one that worked for me. I always used some of the system, but other parts were left completely untouched. The beauty of a notebook is that it's not a system. I don't have to follow any rules or remember what goes where.

So here's how I use it:

1. Lists galore. I keep a running to do list (yes, I'm one of those people who likes to cross things off). Before, I would have lists strewn all over my house for different things. A grocery list, a list of things to pack, a to-do list for work, a to-do list for home, you get the idea. Now, I have one list and everything goes on it. Before you go crazy, I don't have 'lettuce' and 'milk' next to 'make a doctor appointment'. But I do have 'make grocery list' next to 'send press release to x'.

 My main list includes all my action things. Stuff I need to get done, no matter how small or insignificant. If it isn't on the list, it's likely to be forgotten and then even the most insignificant task can become a big deal. Also, I try to break up tasks into their smaller sub-tasks. So instead of listing 'pack for trip', I write 'do laundry', 'check weather for destination', 'buy travel toiletries', etc. All of those smaller tasks need to happen before I get to the actual job of packing, so they go on the list.

2. Keep it all together. That grocery list I mentioned in number one may not go on my main action list, but I keep it in the same notebook. I literally open up to the next blank page and make my list there. I also takes notes during important phone calls or while I'm watching a webinar. And you guessed it, these notes all go in the same book. Some of those notes might prompt me to add items to the to-do list. Others just need to be typed up and filed (another task for the to-do list). The beauty of this is that when I get to that item on my list, I don't have to go searching for my grocery list or the random piece of paper I took notes on. It's all right there.

3. Visual is important. I'm a big visual person. If something is hard to read, I'm less likely to give it the attention it needs. If my to-do list has more items crossed off than not, I fold the page over and make a fresh list with just the stuff left. One of the reasons I use composition books instead of spiral bound is the mess. With spiral books, the torn out page leaves little paper scraps and eventually a well used page will fall out. With the composition, I fold each page on the diagonal (alternating directions) when I'm done with it. It keeps those notes tucked away just in case I need them again, but allows me to quickly find the most recent page I'm working on.

My notebook goes everywhere with me so that I can always add an item to the list or take a quick note when I need to. As a side note, this is also how I keep up with my writing. Every manuscript has a composition book. This is where I make scene notes, write comments I get from my CPs, and jot down moments of inspiration. I also take this with me everywhere so that any unexpected free minute isn't wasted. I write out scenes or notes about edits I want to make all in the same book.

So this is what works for me. What works for you? What are the ways you stay organized? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.