Tools for Staying Organized

Freelancing can be a chaotic career. At any given time in your week, you could have 1 project or 10 projects… and that can change at the ping of a new email. I am a fairly organized person when it comes to project management, at least that’s what my former coworkers told me! So today I am sharing a few of the methods I use to keep myself from pulling out all of my hair.

Day Planner

When I was working in an office, I had a day planner. I would write down the pertinent due dates, make note of any meetings or urgent tasks and give myself little “to-do” reminds (like “one week until Project A is due, get on that).

Now that I’m working from home, I find that a day planner just isn’t as convenient. Instead, I use a digital calendar (iCal on my Mac, synced with my Google Calendars). This way, when I’m not at home and I have to set an appointment, I can consult the exact same calendar I have at home, without having to carry an extra book around.

Suggested Tools:

Any day planner you can purchase at your local office supplier store
Digital Calendars: Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook Calendar
(In fact, most email providers – Gmail, Outlook, etc – provide online calendars)

Daily Project Lists

Here’s how it works:

  1. Beginning of every day, write down all of the tasks that need to be completed (I do mean all)
  2. Prioritize the tasks (I used to write numbers beside them, but you can highlight in a specific colour, underline or write them out in order of priority)
  3. Start with the highest priority and work your way down, marking each task complete as you, well, complete them.
  4. End of every day, review your list, pat yourself on the back for being so productive and save the incomplete tasks for tomorrow.

My daily project list is one of the other reasons I switched to a digital version of my day planner. I tried using my day planner to write down all of the tasks, but when I switched them over to the next day, everything became a chaotic mess. Trust me when I say that keeping your to-do lists looking organized is actually key to keeping yourself from panicking at the sight of them!

So, if you’re a pen and paper person, use the above strategy but keep a separate pad of paper for your to-do list (the colour/size/shape association will also serve to help keep you focused… something to do with the brain and memory).

However, if you’re a digital person, try this:

  1. Beginning of each day, create an “event” in your calendar for each task you need to do. Set the events to take 30 minutes.
  2. Organize the events (drag and drop is usually the best function available) in order of priority.
  3. Start at the top and, as you complete the task, add “DONE” to the event name.
  4. End of every day, change the incomplete project events to the next day.

Suggested Tools:

Lined post-it pad. (There’s a yellow model from “Basics” that is 6”x4” that I’ve found to be perfect.)
Digital Calendars: Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook Calendar
Online notebooks: Evernote, Remember the Milk

Folders & Cloud Sharing

Keeping your digital files organized is just as important as keeping your physical paper files organized. This may seem obvious to some people, but you’d be surprised how many people I’ve spoken to that don’t organize their digital folders.

The benefits to keeping those files and folders organized are many, but I’ll save “organizing your digital files” for another blog post. However, keeping your digital files organized will make it easier for you to use a cloud sharing site, which will in turn make working while travelling a breeze.

For example, I work from home, but sometimes I visit my parents or go into a client’s office, and I need my files. I place the clients’ folders in Dropbox, wait for it to sync, grab my laptop and go. Everything I would have on hand at home is waiting for me wherever I end up working.

The added benefit is that you don’t need to download anything – when Dropbox is loaded on a computer, you can open, change and save a file, and it will automatically update on Dropbox AND on your home computer.

Awesome.

Suggested Tools:

Folders – whether you’re on a Mac or a PC, use your folders and keep your life organized.
Dropbox – I love this program
Google Drive – great for sharing and collaborating on files (since two people can open, read and edit a file at the same time). Will go more into this in another blog as well!

Looking for more organizational tips! Leave a comment and I’ll answer in a new post.