I have gotten a few questions about how I keep my to-do list organized on a daily basis. I've talked about this a bit (check out this post for the difference between goals & to-do list items), but not since having Ellerie so I figured an update was due. EDIT : you can see how I work through project ideas in this post.
These are my organization tools:
Gmail - if it's in my inbox it needs to be dealt with (demands a response, bill that should be paid/recorded, order that needs to be shipped out, etc.). So my email inbox is a to-do list and I work to get through it daily. (Here are some tips for dealing with email.) Other than shop orders, I don't spend a lot of time filling or labeling my email, but I archive everything except promotions.
Editorial calendar - I have a bulletin board with post-its and I use this to keep track of upcoming blog posts. (More on this here.)
Monthly to-do list - I write a to-do list in sharpie on paper at the beginning of every month. It hangs above my desk and includes the "big tasks" outside of normal day to day life (blog posts, email, shipping) that I have to do. July looks like this:
- summer newsletter
- archive 2014 and 2013
- WDS slides
- WDS recap
- Podcast recordings (with guest names)
- July project life update
- July make29 launch
- Aug make29 prep
- September make29?
- make29 print pack?
- Dear Ellerie book
Daily to-do list - I have a paper planner (from this etsy shop) where I schedule actual to-do list items. Based on my email, ed cal & monthly to do list, I break things down into actual tasks. For example: the big monthly item "July make29 launch" really involves a bunch of smaller tasks like:
- Product photos
- Write web copy
- Prep web page
- Edit web page
- Prep graphics
- Update site
- Draft newsletter
- Set blog post
- Create listing
- Shop update (this has to be done at a precise time)
- Tweet, pin, Instagram promo
- Package prints
- Prep envelopes
- Pack orders
Some of those activities take minutes. Some take hours. All of them have to be done. Most are done over the course of a few weeks.
I use a paper planner so I can see a week at a time. When tasks are completed they get "crossed-out" in highlighter. The color highlighter means nothing. :) My goal is to be moving through the week a bit ahead. So on Monday I know what I have to do and I also know that if I have extra time I can start working on Tuesday. I schedule the bulk of my work (and all of my podcast recordings) for Monday and Wednesday mornings when I have child care. (Remember we have a nanny for 9 hours a week. These scheduled hours are game changers for me and absolutely necessary for the health of my family and business.)
I have no idea if this sounds complicated or not. I have been doing things like this for so long that I don't even think about it. I think a successful method HAS to be second nature to you. If you are worrying too much about HOW you're staying organized it's hard to just BE organized.
My advice is to recognize your time management strengths and weaknesses. It's the most joked about interview question - "my greatest weakness is I work too hard" (ugh). But being realistic about how you get things done is so important - especially when you are in the process developing work habits. None of what I do may work for you. But something WILL work for you. Don't fight for it. Keeping track of your list needs to be the easy part. DOING the actual work should be the difficult part.
Since writing this post, I created Get To Work Book! It's a day planner + goal setting workbook that is designed to help you take your big goals turn them into something real. Learn more and shop the brand here.
Other posts you might enjoy:
- on motivation
- how I tackle huge projects.
- time spent consuming vs. creating.
- why I set goals
- the difference between goals and to-do list items.
- tips for success with long-term projects
- more thoughts on "balance."
- creative books I always return to.