Do you find it interesting how other people organize their lives and their time? I do. True confession: I actually enjoy reading books on organization.
One of the things that people have said about me is that I am very organized. To some extent, that’s true, especially at my day job.
Organizing at My Day Job
I have an ongoing (and detailed) to-do list at work, and every day I look at it afresh and identify the top four or five things, which I then prioritize.
Under my desk you’d find a large box that I call “CYA” that contains documents marked up by project managers. (This is so I can say, “See—that IS how you wanted the text to read.”)
On the other side under my desk you’d find a large box with papers that do not need to be shredded, but do need to be recycled. Occasionally I’ll dump those into the communal recycling bin.
On top of my desk is a wire upright organizer that contains about 10 file folders. These hold my current projects. There are also about 20 hanging folders in a desk drawer.
Organizing in My Studio, Home Office, and Personal Life
A few years ago I started the Getting Things Done (GTD) program, using Microsoft Outlook as the basis (work things at work; personal and JiRaF Studio things at home).
I don’t examine my list each week. And the “Someday/Maybe” list is sooooo long, it’s overwhelming; I don’t even want to look at it.
Since late December I’ve been meaning to revisit the whole list. Today I finally did it!
I have a file folder where I toss notes that need to go on the to-do list—magazine or newspaper clippings, email addresses, Post-It notes, mail (that doesn’t have to be acted on immediately), etc.
I printed out my Outlook to-do list, 2014 calendar (one month/page), and grabbed the file folder above, along with a red pen and a yellow highlighter.
With the pen I deleted many things and added some things (based on the bits in the file folder).
Originally, my Outlook to-do list was divided by WHERE I do stuff. This is the suggestion of GTD’s founder, David Allen:
- Agendas (Since I’m a sole proprietor and don’t have meetings with my non-existent staff, this contains lists of things to get at the office supply store, hardware store, drugstore, art supply store, etc.)
- Phone Calls
- Home (personal tasks, like touching up wall paint)
- In The World (errands to run)
- Studio (mixed-media, art quilt, and book arts projects)
- Someday/Maybe (tasks I don’t want to forget about, but are either very long-term or blue-sky thinking)
After much deliberation, I changed my to-do list by dividing it into “Roles and Goals” a la Stephen Covey (a technique I’d used many years before):
This causes me to see where I’m spending my time and energy. If I’m putting too little energy into Person, Daughter, and Friend, and too much into Businesswoman and Artist, my life is a bit out of whack.
I even walked through my studio to find half-finished projects to add to the Artist category. (Let she who is without UFO cast the first stone.)
And all those Someday/Maybe items? I moved them from Outlook into a Word document so I don’t have to look at them all the time. (The steps: export to an Excel file; remove unnecessary items; sort; copy into a Word document.)
Next I delved into the two-dozen hanging folders in my home office. First I removed the tickler files. A tickler file (for those of you too young to know) was a set of 12 folders with a month printed on each one. You’d toss in anything that was relevant to that month. I rarely do this anymore, preferring to use my Outlook calendar (including notations of where to find the tickets I need for the event, etc.).
I also repurposed some folders. “Writing Projects” went into my “Blog” folder, for example.
Going forward I plan to refer to my to-do list more often—once a week at least. We’ll see if I stick to this.
One of the people I really admire is Karen Grunberg. Karen has a busy life as a wife, a mother of two boys, a full-time employee of Google, a coach, an artist, and a teacher. Yikes! She is very, very organized; she has to be. Yet her overriding philosophy is one of kindness. This is a woman I need to learn from, for sure.
How do you organize your life?