First Published: January 30, 2015 | Last Updated: November 7, 2021

The gist: I've got a tote bag full of planners and notebooks with me at almost all time! But what do they do? In this post, I'm walking you through the notebook organization system I used to organize my work & blogging in 2015.

I'm all about organization. Almost to a fault. I'll spend more time planning a project than executing it.

But it also means I can create a plan even Leslie Knope would be proud of. 💁🏻

Trying new planning and productivity methods is fun for me.

So just for fun, I thought I'd write something about what I'm currently using to stay organized as a neurodivergent creative who's naturally chaotic but needs structure to function.

Note: Some of these links are affiliate links. So if you decide to buy anything, I'll receive a commission. Most creators say something like "100% of this goes back into the business," but I'm not most creators. Some months it goes into the business, others it will be used to buy inappropriate amounts of chocolate. Remember, working brighter is about balance!

Notebook Organization System Overview

While most people I know like to keep everything in one place, I like to separate things a lot (see also: my thoughts on balance).

Not only does having a separate notebook or planner for separate projects help me compartmentalize (who wants to think about work when I'm playing with my hobby blog?), but it also makes things easier to find.

For me, at least. 

I'll never say any setup is "the right way," but I will say something is "the right way for me."

And right now, that's this.

Understand how you really spend your time

You can't manage your time better if you don't even know how you manage it now. That's why improving your productivity needs to start with a time audit. Try our free worksheet to help guide you through a time audit of your own!

Life Planner: For an Overview of Everything

The Erin Condren Life Planner is ah-mah-zing. It's incredibly detailed, yet still blank enough that you can use it how you'd like. When I first started looking into it, I thought it was kind of weird how a calendar had an almost cult-like following.

But now? Totally get it.

I love structuring my day like that. The boxes are labeled, "Morning," "Afternoon," and "Night," but I re-label them to give me an overview of my day.

The top box holds my schedule: things with dates attached to them. 

So that's where I put any meetings, calls, Twitter chats, and the hours that my interns are in the office.

I'll also make a note of any marketing emails scheduled to go out.

In the middle and bottom boxes, I put abbreviated to-do lists.

Since there's not much space, instead of putting, say, all of the editing to-do list items I have, I just note the big picture projects I need to work on.

That annoyed me at first, having to use a separate list or app to go into more detail. But now that I'm used to it, it's a good thing.

I can look there and get a quick overview of my plans. It's less overwhelming than the detailed list of every single thing that needs to get done.

The best part of being an Erin Condren customer? The accessories. 

Things like coil clips to attach any piece of paper to the spirals, customizable stickers, and clip-in dry erase to-do lists make planning more fun. There are also entire Etsy stores devoted to handmade accessories for the Life Planner, so you don't need to shell out Erin Condren money for accessories for your Erin Condren planner. 😉

May Designs Planner: For Everything Book Blogging

Soon after getting the Erin Condren planner, I realized I would need something separate to use to my book blog's editorial calendar. I posted almost daily, so between posts and blog admin, it was taking up a ton of space in the life planner.

Enter May Designs.

I forget who told me about them, but I'm pretty sure it was during a One Woman Shop Twitter chat (#OWSchat), so I'm just going to throw kudos to everyone who participates in them, since I know most of us in that community are obsessed with our planners and notebooks. 🤓

Because it's small, I feel forced keep things simple - that's a plus. Yet, there's room for everything I need.

In the monthly view, I cover topics: which days are for reviews, how often I'm going to post a blogging challenge, reminders for weekly wrap-ups, etc.

In the weekly view, I dive deeper. Which book will I be reviewing? What will the blogging challenge be?

To make quick looks even easier to interpret (and to make the whole thing prettier and more fun, obviously), I color code by blog category:

  • Blue is for "announcement" type posts, like weekly wrap-ups, updates for blogging challenge participants, and other "just so you know" posts.
  • Pink is for book reviews. If it's a review that's part of a publicity tour for the book, meaning I absolutely have to post it on that date, I make not of it with an asterisk.
  • Purple is for tips/advice posts for other book bloggers. Those only go live on Saturdays, down at the bottom of the page, so none show in this inexplicably blurry picture.

Sidenote: If you like color coding, but hate making things permanent with pen and highlighter, let me introduce you to Pilot FriXion erasable pens. They use gel ink, write really well, and come in a ton of colors. And they're *actually* erasable! Not like the stupid cheap ones that only halfway erase and ruin your paper in the process.

Understand how you really spend your time

You can't manage your time better if you don't even know how you manage it now. That's why improving your productivity needs to start with a time audit. Try our free worksheet to help guide you through a time audit of your own!

Blank Notebooks for Brainstorming

I take a lot of notes. A lot, a lot. As in, two notebooks per month (one for work, one for home).

May Designs to the rescue again. I love the customization options. For a regular notebook, not only could I pick the cover pattern, emblem shape, emblem color, text, and font, but there are a lot of options for the inside as well.

I had trouble choosing between blank and lined. I went with dotted, because it adds enough structure that I can still write in a straight line, but the lack of solid lines does make it easier to write "outside the lines" or doodle.

Trello: To Put ALL THE IDEAS

I use Trello in about a thousand different ways. Last summer, I used it to compare apartments while moving with my boyfriend. I used lists to separate the apartments by how much we liked them, included links to the listings and pictures, and added comments with pro/con lists. (And then we ended up not getting a new apartment at all and I moved into the one he already had. But I digress...)

We also organize and plan my day job's entire content marketing program in there. There's a board for our 100+ future blog ideas, one ridiculously detailed one for the finalized content calendar, and one for my marketing automation plans.

I even use it for goal-tracking after reading this blog post a week or so ago. I'm still in the process of setting that up.

Trello is my favorite digital way to bring order to chaos.

Take a master list of blog post ideas.

I blog about a lot of things, in a lot of places, so you would think keeping all ideas in one place would get chaotic. But I can create one board with several lists and endless items. I use the lists to separate ideas by general topic.

Then I use the labels and color coding to designate where the post might go: this blog, my day job's blog, any of the blogs I guest post for, or "TBD."

Todoist: For Detailed To-Dos

Like I said earlier, my paper planners are for overviews of my days and projects. But I like to get detailed, add in a few good verbs. For that, I turn to Todoist.

I've been using it for a while, but have only recently started to really build out the best way for me to organize my days. As I do so, it's becoming more and more helpful.

For example, take repetitive tasks. Todoist has a great recurring tasks feature.

Since a ton of my day-to-day tasks happen once per day/week/month, I spend a lot less time writing my to-do list, and more time completing it. That's a win, right?

I also like that you can set priority. Logically, you would complete all the red items first. But a lot of my priority 2 and 3 tasks are quick and easy, so they make for good breaks. After frying my brain for a few hours on something in the red zone, I can relax for a little with a light blue task, like organizing my desktop once a week.

Understand how you really spend your time

You can't manage your time better if you don't even know how you manage it now. That's why improving your productivity needs to start with a time audit. Try our free worksheet to help guide you through a time audit of your own!

And Many More...

There are other things I use, too: post-its, Evernote, folders. But the above tools are things that I look at every day, several times a day. I'd be lost without them.