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At the beginning of 2020 I started a habit of organizing my weeks and days that was really working well for me. Sadly, Covid eventually interrupted my momentum and my new routine fell by the wayside as I focused on the struggle to simply put on real pants and juggle a spouse and kids all working from home! These things happened to many of us, but when you’re your own boss, you eventually realize that nobody is going to hold you accountable for accomplishing anything except yourself. I have come to the realization that, even though I might not feel like my daily tasks and goals are as numerous or lofty as they were pre-covid, simply having them and laying out a plan plays a big role in my overall well being, my family’s well being, and my business’s well being! SO, as I look forward to our post-covid future, I’ve decided to go back to what was working before!
I’m going to share just this one piece of my organization and accountability process, in hopes that it might inspire you to create your own! Feel free to use my method, or twek it to make it more personal to you!
I use my phone and electronic reminders for everything, but I still like tactile things like paper. And stickers. And color coded tabs, markers and pencils! So I organize myself in an old school, 3-ring planner binder. But I start with an empty binder…not one with pre-made pages…so that I can truly make it MINE!
The Repeated, Every Day Tasks
First I identified what things EVERY day needed. On top of every page I have a space for that day’s commitments, where I write in meetings, events, and other stuff going on that day. Then I have my “Do-NOW’s” which are tasks that are urgent and can’t wait for another day…such as packing up a customer’s online order, responding to quote requests, etc. On the bottom of every page I have personal tasks I want to remember to do every day. For me those are my devotions, and some sort of physical activity or workout. You can make these be anything you want! Time for yourself, time for rest, time to feed your own soul and body. I know I want to aim for exercise and devotions every day, so those are printed on every sheet, but I also have blank lines for non-daily personal tasks I want to do that day.
The Different, Changing-Daily Tasks
I have SO many to-do’s flying around my brain at any given time, but I know that the key to productivity is to FOCUS on single things at a time. For this reason I try to dedicate each day of the week to a particular “bucket.” When I think of a new to-do, I find whichever day of the week it fits best with, I add it to that day’s list of tasks, and then I can rest knowing it’ll get done that week. I like catchy alliteration, so I came up with some sort of theme for each day of the week. Here are my daily themes:
Mondays are my day to focus on my website, creating social media content, newsletters, etc.
Tackle it Tuesday
On Tuesdays I ask myself, what random tasks can I get crossed off my to-do list today? I start with quick, small things and work my way up so I can cross off a lot and feel accomplished. And yes, I’ve been known to write down things I already did just so I can mark down that super satisfying check mark, haha!
Weight Lift Wednesday
Wednesdays I focus on chipping away at a task that is heavily weighing on my mind that week. It can be a huge project, a personal thing, or just something I really don’t want to do but want to quit thinking about!
Think Big Thursday
Thursdays I dedicate to big ideas and future goals and large projects. These might change from week to week, but I always have something that fits! The back of my planner has divider tabs dedicated to my big projects.
Last year Fridays were “frazzled Fridays” where I tied up random loose ends. This year I decided I need to be more regular about keeping up with boring financial stuff (because I hated the pile of work that awaited me come tax season!), so Fridays my goal is to catch up on filing receipts, reconciling bank accounts, and checking in on the status of invoices. Which brings up a good point about all this…if you are going through your week or month or year and discover that a particular theme day doesn’t seem to be working for you, or like me, you find that there’s something you’re not getting done that you’d benefit from fitting into your regular routine, change it up! I designed these planner sheets on my computer so I can change them up easily. I also don’t print out an entire year at once…I print out maybe a couple months out, just in case I want to make a change.
What you DON’T put on your calendar is just as important, if not more important, than what you do! On Saturday I write down the things I said no to that week which would have drained me, and write down what else I was able to do with that time that filled me up instead! Don’t feel bad about what you turn down…celebrate what saying “no” gave back to you!
Start Again Sunday
Sunday is my day to reflect, restore and re-focus. I reflect on the past week, take time to rest, and look ahead at next week’s plan.
My Other Binder Accessories…
There are a few other little things I have in my binder to help organize things…
While I don’t print out daily pages for an entire year up front, I do still want to have a place to jot down gigs, conventions, and other events that are farther out into the future, and be able to see a month at a glance. So, I got these blank monthly planner refills. I put each month’s spread right into my daily pages, so they work as dividers for my daily pages as well.
I like to be able to quickly flip to TODAY in my planner, so I also purchased a pack of these little snap-in bookmarks. I labeled one “TODAY,” and each day I move it farther into my planner to mark the day I’m on.
I purchased these little pockets that are great for stuffing small bits of mail, to-do lists, receipts, etc that I want to put with a project or month or day, but don’t want to hole punch.
“But I don’t think like this!”
Many of you are probably thinking, “But I’m an artist! I don’t think like this…I live in an organized chaos and bounce around from task to task. I could never live this organized!” But I’ll tell you, I’m the same way! I can get SO easily distracted by shiny things (literally and figuratively), and am always bouncing from thing to thing. I love crossing things off my list, but after a while, that bouncing can get mentally exhausting. One minute I’m working on one thing, and the next I am distracted by a new idea, or I remember something else I need to do that day/week. Having this method to my madness has removed a lot of the madness from my methods!! Now when I’m working away and an idea or task comes to mind, I don’t have to worry about forgetting it or it not getting done. I simply stop, and think about the urgency first. Did an order just come in and it needs to ship asap? Then I write it down on my “Do-Now’s” for the day. Can it wait a few days? Then I figure out which theme day it fits within best, and write it on THAT day’s “Do-Now’s.” Is it a new appointment or a family activity to schedule? I write it down under the commitments on whatever day’s page it is. The act of writing these things down gets them OUT of my head, so that I can cut off the distraction without losing the task, and more quickly get back to what I was focusing on that day.
Of course life happens, and many days the “theme” gets overridden by an event or something else more urgent. And that is totally fine! Remember, these theme days are just a guideline to help you get things done by focusing more each day on a particular task or bucket. You’ll always have “do-now’s” that jump in at a moment’s notice, and you’ll always have big ideas that you’d like to remember to work on someday. But I find that sorting my days by theme helps me to focus on one thing without fear of the others getting forgotten, and in turn, be more productive. In general I try to at least get all of my “Do-Now’s” done every day (the things that truly can’t wait), and the day’s commitments. Everything else I count as extra productivity. If I have to spend half the day running errands and don’t get to one task I had written down for one day, if it’s urgent I’ll move it to the next day’s “do-now’s,” but if it’s not super urgent, I’ll move it to that same theme day next week! Give yourself some grace and flexibility in the process!
I hope that you are able to find some method to the madness in 2021 that works for you!