Anyone can become organized, and I mean anyone. I am living proof of that. You just have to want it bad enough, have the right mindset, and use the right tools to get it done. It’s that simple.
That’s what this post is all about.
This post will outline the two primary tools needed to get organized, and the reasoning behind each. There will also be a follow-up post to this one outlining how to stay organized after getting organized.
I’m writing two posts about organization, because it is one of the 3 pillars of productivity, (a primary part of the 45 day sprint) and without it, I’d never finish anything.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: The Daily Task List
The task list, also known as the to do list, is the first tool we are going to use to get organized and focused in our efforts. Everyone has stuff they have to do each day, and everyone has stuff they want to do each day. The task list helps us record these tasks we need/want to accomplish each day.
Humans are wired to feel really good when we accomplish things that are important to us. I like to harness this sense of accomplishment to get the most out of my days, primarily by completing the tasks on my task list. I become more and more productive the more tasks I cross off, and the more I feel this sense of accomplishment.
It is a compounding effect, and it starts with this list.
There are many, many different ways to go about creating a task list.
One very popular way of creating this list is through good ol’ fashioned..
Pen and Paper
You really can’t go wrong with pen and paper for two reasons.
- When writing your tasks, you’re making them real by penning them in ink.
- It feels REALLY good to physically scratch through a completed task.
Historically, pen and paper has been my favorite task list method because when I have to manually write everything down, I really think about what I need to get done each day. The pad represents a finite amount of space I want to fill up with tasks.
Pen and Paper is the option I recommend you start with, if you’re looking to organize your daily tasks.
Todoist and other online Task based applications
Lately I have moved back towards a digitalized task list approach.
In past experiences with digital to do lists, it has been too easy for me to ignore them or forget about them. So, after a few days I would stop using lists altogether and productivity would drop rapidly.
I’ve used Todoist for a few days now and I’ve had the same results as pen and paper, so I am going to keep testing it out.
Give it a try, and let me know what you think, either in the comments below, via facebook, twitter, or even email. I’d love to hear about cool ways people are using this app. I know that I have barely scratched the surface.
Of course Todoist is not the only great task list software out there, it just the one that has resonated with me the most at the present date.
Below are some examples of a few of my other favorite digital To-Do list tools.
- Evernote – Probably most famous for being a note taking tool. As a to-do list app it works well, since you can create lists with check boxes very easily.
- Trello – This is a team organization app that has been gaining popularity in recent months. A great app to share your todo lists with your accountability partners.
- Google Calendar Tasks – It is a built in feature of Google Calendar and is very easy to use. I know many people who prefer this simple tool
Creating your Task List
Once you’ve chosen a tool to use, you need to fill it with your tasks.
I like to set aside 30 minutes every night to think about the next day, and the tasks I want to accomplish. Setting this time aside forces me to really think about what tasks are most important, and how these tasks fit into my week.
I really do think about it like that. I follow the 45 day sprint very closely, and I organize my tasks each day to align with my weekly goals. Check out the 45 day sprint post to learn more about this structure.
As I’ve said several times in this post, Task/To do lists are an essential part of becoming and remaining organized, but they are only a part of the picture. Until you have specific time allocated in your day to accomplish your tasks, it becomes very easy to make excuses and procrastinate.
Which brings us to step 2.
Step 2: The Almighty Calendar
As I said above, scheduling blocks of time to complete specific tasks is absolutely crucial to remaining organized, as it helps you take advantage of all of the hours in your day.
I use Microsoft Outlook at my full time job, to track meetings, schedule desk time, etc. and I use Google Calendar for all other parts of my life.
I prefer Google Calendar simply because it..
- Syncs across all of my devices
- Can be reached from any computer, anywhere
- Saves automatically
Many other calendar applications also work well, so if you already use a calendar application that you like, then stick with it.
Here is a picture of what a typical week looks like for me. Notice that I’ve blocked out the time I am typically at work, as well as the times I know I am working out. This is so I can accurately depict any available time that I have in my day. I’ve then scheduled the tasks on my task list, as well as several social activities.
^ If it is hard to see just click on it to open a full-sized picture in a new tab.
I love seeing my calendar full., and I love knowing that I completed all the tasks on my daily list because of the organization the calendar brings to my life.
One very important note about your calendar. Defend it vigorously. Scheduling your time means absolutely nothing if you easily allow yourself to get off schedule. Share your schedule with your significant other, but be sure you schedule open time for them as well! Let them know what your goals are, and that sticking to this schedule will bring you so much closer to achieving those goals. All obligations, appointments, etc. should be added to your calendar so that you can, as accurately as possible, schedule available time to tasks or to leisure.
It will take some time to build out your calendar, but it is time that will have been invested in organizing your life. An organized life will grant you far more time than you put in in the long run. So build out that schedule, then defend the hell out of it!
Got it, now what?
Practice makes perfect. Getting organized is not easy, and staying organized is even less easy.
Which is why I also wrote the following post, Staying Organized, which will be posted later tonight or tomorrow.
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