When projects get out of hand, when the team is short-staffed, when plans change—I have to admit, I haven’t always had the capacity to pick up the slack when called to do so. These periods end up highlighting how much I’m actually lacking the organizational skills needed to handle curve balls and, well, move up in my career. And when these curve balls come, my over-thinking brain cannot handle it and I shut down completely.
Toward the end of 2017, I was able to observe the tricks of some of the most organized people I work with. And while I still haven’t covered all the bases, these 5 little changes have made a major impact in my workflow.
1. Write Out Weekly To-Do Lists, Not Daily
Here’s where the old adage, “take it one day at a time,” need not apply. It was always a practice of mine to write out daily to-do lists. But when things got hectic and unexpected projects fell into my lap, lesser (but still very important) projects fell through the cracks and the next day, I forgot about them altogether. Though I kept a notebook where I wrote out all my reminders, on super crazy days, there was so much scribbled on the page that my notes were indecipherable.
So, I got myself a large leather-bound journal (a clipboard folio works just as well) and started making a list of the things I wanted to accomplish that week. As the week progressed, I would mark what projects I wanted to tackle for the day and cross them out as I did so. By the end of the week, it was satisfying to see how productive I was based on how many projects were crossed off.
On Fridays, right before leaving for the weekend, I make my to-do list for the following week and include the projects that I never got around to completing.
2. Keep an Ideas Journal or Inspo Folder Close By
We creatives are constantly on the look out for better ways to optimize and market our content. When inspired campaigns fill our inbox and social media feeds, this is when Inspo folders (physical and digital) come in handy. I made a “cool new ideas” folder in Outlook and drag innovative emails, fun videos, and social media campaigns into it. I have a co-worker who prints emails out and collects magazine articles, and keeps them in a folder and binder by her desk. When she wants to implement a new marketing strategy, she has a binder close by for reference.
For writer me, I have an Ideas Journal, which I use to jot down my LLCOT post ideas. And because they come at odd hours of the day, I keep it in my purse and carry it with me everywhere.
3. Create a Makeshift Scribble Book
My job requires me to write out arbitrary notes like specs for social media assets and wireframes for newsletters. One day, I grabbed a bunch of printer paper, cut them in half, and stapled the pieces together width-wise. I began scribbling instantly—wireframes, emails, guesswork, lists etc.
Since making this scribble book, I’ve managed to keep the post-its that would normally invade and clutter my space (and brain) at bay.
4. Create an “AAAATTENTION NEEDED” Folder in Outlook
My boss shared this useful tip with me when I missed an important email in my inbox. She recommended making a folder in Outlook for emails that you’re unable to answer in the moment but will require your attention soon. I called my folder “AAAATTENTION NEEDED” to ensure that the folder remains at the top of the kagillion folders I made in my desperate attempts at hyper-organization. I try to get to every email in the folder before the end of the week and sort them into their corresponding folders once the issue’s been addressed.
5. Reward Yourself with Browse Time
When “social media” is in your job description, it’s very easy to fall into the rabbit hole that is your newsfeed. One second I’m venturing into Facebook to collect stats and the next I’m watching my third Tasty video. I decided to implement a reward system: once I complete a project—complete means I’ve crossed it off my list (see work hack #1), I give myself a 2 – 5 minute break to browse Facebook, shop online, check my personal email, and more.
If you’re like me your mind is in a million places at once. Knowing you can have a chance to indulge in guilt-free browsing, encourages terse but hyper-focused periods of productivity.