I’m all about organization. Almost to a fault. I’ll spend more time planning a project than executing it. In part, that’s a good thing. Good planning makes for easy execution. And I can create a plan even Leslie Knope would be proud of. 💁🏻
Sometimes it’s not so great.
Like when I say I’m going to clean the apartment. But then I get distracted by the askew DVDs while dusting the bookshelf. Two hours later, the movies are re-alphabetized, but there’s still dust everywhere and I’m totally over the whole cleaning thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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. I may follow-up with posts throughout the year as my setup changes and detail what works for me and what doesn’t.
My Notebook Organization System
While most people I know like to keep everything in one place, I don’t. I see the advantage, but I like to separate things a lot.
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 book 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.”
Right now, I’m using:
- An Erin Condren Life planner
- A May Designs weekly + monthly planner
- Poppin & May Designs Notebooks
And here’s how I’m using them:
Note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I *could* say all the proceeds from affiliate links go back into the blog, but let’s be real. I’ll probably buy more pens and planners. 🙃How does a type A, Leslie Knope wannabe stay organized? Look inside @thatbberg's planners and notebooks to see how she manages them:Click To Tweet
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 the setup. I’ve had to learn to write a little smaller, since each box is so narrow, but I love structuring my day like that. The boxes are actually 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 denote 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.
(Want $10 off an Erin Condren purchase? Just sign up for their newsletter.)
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 post almost daily, so between posts and blog admin, it was taking up a ton of space in the life planner.
I used Google Calendar for a while, but I really prefer a physical calendar, even though I normally spend Sunday evening or Monday morning putting it into GCal as well.
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.
Notebooks: For Plans of World Domination
I take a lot of notes. A lot, a lot. As in, two notebooks per month (one for work, one for home).
At home, I’m using the May Designs notebook pictured above. I really wish the cover said something snarky, like “effing brilliant ideas,” but hindsight…ya know. I’m so close to correcting this error in judgement with a sharpie.
I love the customization options of May Designs. 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.
At work, I’m currently using Poppin’s medium soft-cover notebook. It’s a bright mint green, but since it’s pretty plain, I didn’t include a picture. In case you haven’t noticed, I love bright colors!
I love that it has a built-in ribbon to use as a bookmark, and the way the top margin makes it really easy to add the date and a summary of what’s on the page.
Next up in the work notebook lineup is this one. It’s bigger than what I normally go for, but I loved the quote on the front too much to resist!
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. But I digress…)
We organize and plan my day job’s entire content marketing program in there. There’s a board for our 100+ future blog ideas, one crazy 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.
I love too much about Trello to include it in a larger post (without it being a gazillion words), so I’m just going to say that it’s awesome.
Take my 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.”
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. Anything on the above list with the little circly thingy (yes, that’s the technical term) next to the project name is recurring.
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.
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.
So, what keeps you organized? Comment below!
If you liked this, you’ll love:
- In Defense of Paper Planners and To-Do Lists…
- 6 Popular Productivity “Hacks” I’ve Told to GTFO (and Why)
- How I Stay Organized (and Still Sleep): My Personal Planning System for Doing the Things
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