It all comes down to organizing

As I’ve been not-so-subtly hinting at, life has been a little chaotic over here lately. Normally, I’m very on top of my schedule, like to be early to both attending and completing things, and don’t have too much trouble keeping track of most of what needs to be remembered.

Lately, that’s been less the case. But as much as life being busy makes that understandable, it doesn’t make it sustainable. So I’ve had to put in some extra effort on my usual methods of organization. I tend to be a highly organized person, but rarely feel that way.

And of course, not every organization tool works for everyone. Planners worked great for me in high school, but eventually my to-do list became more complex in terms of deadlines and priorities and a planner no longer suited my needs. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

For the when and where

  • Paper calendar or planner. I’m still a big advocate for physical calendars or planners whenever possible. In part it’s because I’m a pretty kinesthetic person, and in part because writing this down actually helps with comprehension and memory.
  • Digital calendar. Of course, analog doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re constantly on the go, or just know you’d never look at a paper one, use your phone or computer to input your schedule and any important events and set up reminders so you’re always prepared for them.

For the to-do list

  • A little black book. Seriously, this is what I have kept my to-do list in for the last 5.5 years, and it’s worked great. It’s small enough to travel with me, and provides the memory benefit of actually writing down the thing I need to do.
  • Temporarily, any random scrap of paper. If it’s just a day-of list, I’ll often write my stuff on a post-it note and cross out tasks as I accomplish them. It still provides the ease of writing things down but gives me a little more flexibility and room for detail in day-to-day tasks.
  • There’s always digital. If paper isn’t handy or I’ll be moving around enough that I’m likely to lose track of a piece of paper, then I usually opt for my phone. The Notes app on iPhone actually has a “list” option that puts little bubbles to the left of each line so you can check off things as you do them. This is also my preference for the grocery list because, again, a single piece of paper is harder to keep track of.

For dude, you cannot forget this

  • A reminder or alarm on your phone. I have a few recurring reminders set to water plants and pay my bills, and they just make things easy when I’m busy and might have lost track of time.
  • Ask a friend to help you remember. It doesn’t always work, but even if they don’t remind you, saying it aloud is sometimes all you need to remember on your own.
  • The “item out of place” trick. One of my moms taught me this one a while back: You put something odd in a noticeable place (e.g. a picture frame in the kitchen or a pen on your pillow) and mentally link that thing to whatever you’re supposed to remember. Then when you see it, you get reminded.
  • The “on top of whatever you won’t forget” trick. If all else fails, you can put the thing you’re supposed to remember on top of something you wouldn’t go without, like your wallet, phone, or keys. It’s a pretty tried-and-true method of ensuring you’ve got everything you need.

For you need to know where this is

  • Filing, filing, filing. Y’all, this is not negotiable. Do you know where your most important documents are (birth certificate, ID, tax stuff, medical info)? Because when you need it, chances are you aren’t going to want to go searching for it. Buy a small file box and make a folder for important categories like the ones I mentioned above. Then when the time comes, you know where to find it.
  • A safe. If you’re worried or just want to be extra secure, you can get a small safe to house important papers. Just note that unless you buy one specifically designed for it, many safes aren’t waterproof or fireproof (and those that are usually have time limits that they can sustain that stress).
  • Give stuff a home. I used to be terrible about keeping track of small stuff I use frequently, like my earbuds, until I assigned them a “home.” Now, they are either with me or in a particular pocket of my purse. Once in a while I still stick them in a jacket pocket or somewhere random, but it’s far less often.

What tools have you found to help stay organized? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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