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how to be more organized

How to be more organized (and use all your cute stationary)

As far as I remember, since my early school days I was a very organized kid. My mom used to get me fruit-scented markers and a bunch of stickers to decorate my notebooks. I loved going to school with new and shiny supplies. I found any excuse to highlight text in different colors (and smells) and carried little pocket notebooks in addition to my normal ones.

Since those early school days I’ve evolved into a highly organized person that highlights, tags, color-codes, checks and carries several agendas. Because my love for stationary has no limits.

Fortunately, this is an obsession that comes with a great advantage. I’ll tell you about the organization techniques I’ve found while geeking out about getting new pens.

1.Start by getting a planner/agenda

It doesn’t have to be a physical planner, you can also use the note taking app on your cellphone + Google calendar. I’ve found that I work better when I actually WRITE things down, so a physical planner is a must for me. It also allows me to buy a cute notebook every year or so.

2. Brainstorm your tasks and goals.

For a fresh start I always take a big piece of paper an divide it horizontally into three sections. Don’t worry about making it pretty, this is just a draft. Each section has the following content:

  • a) Current tasks and planned events. Finishing a report, sending an email, uploading a file, washing the dishes; these are examples of tasks. A school test, an audit in your office, your manager’s birthday; these are planned events, they have a specific date. If you are in the middle of a big project, don’t write ‘Work on Project’, but list all the small things you need to do in order to complete it.
  • b) Goals. You might have personal goals or goals given by your school or company: $1000 in savings by the end of the year, get 50 followers on Facebook each month, memorize all the capitals of the world in two weeks. While writing this draft you might notice that your goals are not that specific, so this is a nice chance to focus on setting realistic dates. You can also set mid-goals to make sure you are on track before the due date. I try to set mid-goals literally on the middle of the way, so if my project is due in 2 months, I set a personal goal at the end of the first month.
  • c) Recurring tasks. These are tasks that you have to repeat weekly or monthly. Doing laundry, sending a report, cleaning your inbox, preparing a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor. These tasks will always be there unless something extraordinary happens.

3. Fill a calendar

I recommend using the monthly calendar sheets that come in every planner. Write your planned events and goals on their corresponding dates and make them stand out according to your priorities. Make a little drawing or apply a sticker to make them recognizable at first sight. This is not only a great way to remember birthdays but also allows you to quickly scan your workload (or event-load) for upcoming months. Go to your brainstorming sheet and make sure to transfer all the things that go in this category. Cross them afterwards.

To easily track events on my calendar sheets I use small post-its, pieces of washi tape and planner stickers. When I don’t have all those things available I draw geometric figures: I write birthdays inside a circle, evaluations in a triangle and other events in a square.

4. Fill your days and weeks

When you have a monthly view of your goals and events, you can easily plan your weeks. Go to the Recurring tasks section of your draft and start adding those to your planner. Choose the day of the week that works better for you (for example, cleaning your inbox on Monday -when you don’t have a lot of energy- and filling your planner every Friday in preparation for the next week).

Next, look at your brainstorming sheet and highlight the tasks that are more urgent and the ones that allow you to complete your goals. Take those highlighted tasks and try to divide them into a work week. Does it seem doable? Maybe try two weeks. Distribute them carefully, without overloading your days. Try to combine them to make your days productive and pleasant. Finally, fill in the gaps with the remaining tasks. Make sure that you copied everything from your brainstorming sheet and then throw it away :D.

5. Add colors, codes or marks

Find a way to differentiate between finished and pending activities on your planner. I draw a little checkbox next to each task and check it when it’s ready. That way I can quickly glance at my planner and know how many activities I have left for the day/week. You can use color markers or pens to underline or cross finished tasks. Look at this example of the Bullet Journal, they draw a little dot in front of each task and then cross it when it’s ready.


from BulletJournal.com

I also highlight certain tasks in different colors.  The way you organize your colors depends on your needs. If you are a student you can use a different marker for every subject, as an office worker you can color code your clients or accounts. Colors are also useful to highlight different types of tasks: email related, Excel related, walking-around-the-office related, etc. Grouping same-colored tasks will allow you to work in batches, which is often more productive.

6. Keep doing it

I’ve heard a lot of people say that planners don’t work. And that is kind of true, because you have to make them work. If you stop adding your new tasks or filling your monthly calendar, your planner won’t be updated and therefore won’t be reliable. You need to make it a habit. And it can be a fun one! There are a lot of knickknacks to make planners easy looking and fun, from stickers to white sheets for doodling on your page.

Do you have any tips to be more organized? I would love to read them :)!

This article has 3 comments

  1. Jessica | OhHeyJess.com

    Great tips! I bought a new planner for July – June and I sat down yesterday and finally wrote in it! My sister gave me a lot of colorful pens, so that was fun! I just hope I remember to use it more often lol I definitely need to since I always tend to forget to do things haha

    • Celeste

      Hahaha, thanks! I hope you get to use your planner more often. Do it for the colorful pens! ;D

  2. hergeekery

    Awesome tips! I just recently started using a Happy Planner and I love how it’s just so easy to stay organized with it. I love the idea of brainstorming everything out first though!

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