Organized Chaos: How to Cope With Your Disorganized Life
Technological advancements in the last 10 years have only served to provide us with more organizational tools. We have calendars, notepads, and to-do lists already built into our phones, not to mention the hundreds of apps that are available to you — Springpad, voice notes, YouNote, Remember the Milk…the list goes on. Me? I have most of these applications and functions and still find myself hopelessly disorganized. I get really excited about becoming organized, download an app or create a to-do list…and then do it again somewhere else…then write things down on a physical notepad; pretty soon, I have 40 tasks and appointments distributed across 23 different places, and I am back where I started.
Ah, the life of the disorganized professional. We forget follow-up phone calls, carry stacks of business cards in our vehicle’s middle console, and mix up meeting places. (As I was writing this very article and waiting for my next meeting, I realized about five minutes later that I was at the wrong Starbucks. Seriously.) We are consistently told that, in order to achieve optimal results and maximum effectiveness, we have to manage our time and organize our tasks effectively. So how do those of us in this category defy our naturally chaotic instincts and begin to bring order to our lives again?
Here are a few tools that I have implemented in my life to make it somewhat cohesive again:
- Business Card File Folder: You can pick one of these up at just about any office supply store. Depending on your profession, there are a couple of options. If you do not pick up a lot of cards in your job but need to get rid of the pile in your junk drawer, there are fashionable and light holders that hold roughly 120-180 cards. For someone in a sales position, or one that requires you to do networking en masse, I recommend doing a portfolio-style folder that has a small 3-ring binder. I use an Allant brand called “The Graduate.” It holds 400 cards in its basic form and you can always add more pages bought separately. If you have an office that you can keep the cards in, the Rolodex is always a tried and true product.
- The Agenda/Planner: With the way technology works these days, you may opt out of the physical format. DayRunner and Franklin-Covey have excellent tangible options, however, that combine everything you need into one place: calendar, daily planner pages, notes and address book. I personally choose the virtual route: the advantage of using my phone’s calendar is that I can set audible alerts for myself two hours in advance of every meeting or event I have planned. This way, I (theoretically) never miss a meeting!
- The Padfolio: The drawback to the “Notes” section in a physical planner is that there are roughly five to ten pages where you can write notes…and I’m guessing that you don’t want to spend time typing notes letter by letter into your phone when in an important conference. For any Career Girl, a padfolio is a non-negotiable must. It can be fancy if you’d like (fun designs, calculator and business card pockets inside,) or completely bare-bones like mine: legal pad, pocket for cards/other documents and elastic holder for a pen or pencil. Either way, you need a completely separate place for your meeting notes and ideas that isn’t going to run out after five interactions.
- The “Junk Drawer”: For everyday and often personal use. I have two proverbial “junk drawers”: a journal in which I write everything from restaurant/movie/book recommendations, budgets, grocery lists, goals, new article ideas, etc. I also use Springpad as an internet-based junk drawer. As opposed to adding websites on your computer to your “Favorites,” Springpad is something you can add websites to and then access wherever you are on your phone, tablet or computer. I use this website to compile all my recipes, Pinterest ideas, DIY how-to’s, and more. You can also share your Springpad with others — my friend and I share a folder so that we can add recipes as we come across them for dinner ideas later!
I hate to admit it, but I will never be an organized person. My amazingly well-meaning (and hyper-organized) mentor gave me a book years ago to help me out: Organizing for Dummies. I sat down with every intention of reading it and taking notes…and at about page five, I got distracted and put it down. My life runs at 500 miles per hour and I love it — but at the end of the day, I do need to maximize my effectiveness. While I will never have a personality overhaul, I’ve found some “coping mechanisms,” if you will, for the whirlwind.
How about you? What have you found to be the method to your madness? Post your ideas and coping mechanisms below in our comment section!