Insurance due on the 15th. Client meetings on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. and Friday at 10:00 a.m. Need to buy a wedding present for this weekend. Call back about doctor’s appointment. Schedule oil change. Email boss back before 4 p.m. today!
Sound familiar? A mere scratch on everyday life – probably more accurately, a mere scratch of thoughts that you had just on your 30 minute lunch break. When it comes to balancing the responsibility and maintenance of your personal, work, and social life, organization is extremely important. Being organized allows for less stress, more productivity, and better quality work.
If you are still trying to master your balance, which I think all of us are, take a look at these organizational tips Caroline and I use that can help you as you transition into being, and growing, as an independent and young professional.
What Helps Caroline
Keeping a calendar is one of the keys to staying organized. I personally use three: a wall calendar, an electronic calendar, and a planner.
A wall calendar is useful because it helps you see the entire month. Plus, it is stationary, so there is no chance of misplacing it. I use my wall calendar to help me plan out appointments or for a quick glimpse of what day of the week matches what date. I also write all-important dates, such as my friends/family birthdays on the day. (It’s how I remember to send birthday cards.) Another great thing about a wall calendar is it is a pretty visual addition to your cubicle, office space, or home.
Although I didn’t use one in college, I have found an electronic calendar works wonders in the working world. I use Apple’s iCalendar, and the best features are you can share calendars with coworkers and sync it with your other electronic devices. Electronic calendars make it easy to color code and divide. For example, in my iCalendar I have four sub-calendars— my blog, my two work schedules, and my personal calendar.
Batteries die, electricity goes out. You won’t always have access to technology, so keeping a hand-written planner is a must. I like the ones that go by week because it helps me focus. I personally use a Moleskin soft cover, weekly notebook diary/planner. I love these because they are slim, flexible and fit into almost any purse or workbag. On one side I fill in appointments and events, on the other I can scribble notes or to-do list.
You don’t have to break the budget to find the calendars you want. I buy my planner and wall calendar every year after Christmas at Barnes & Nobles when they have them on sale for 50-75% off. That $20 Moleskin is now an $8 purchase. (Don’t forget to use your parents Barnes and Nobles membership card for an extra percentage off!)
There are so many useful apps to help you in life, but one I have found particularly useful is called Mint. It is a financial management website that securely imports all your financial information in one place. It is extremely important as a young adult to be able to keep track of your spending, especially if you’re using credit. My favorite part about the FREE app is it automatically separates your spending into categories. You can easily see how much you are spending on what and then create budgets to help you not overspend in certain areas. I have the app on my iPad and every day before I go to sleep I check it and add any cash spending I have done. I have definitely found areas in which I need to cut my spending.
You might think knowing how to navigate Excel is unnecessary, but if you are a freelancer, job hunting or even working more than one job, having simple knowledge of the program can help you stay organized. I use spreadsheets for a number of things: tallying how much money I make and how many hours I work, keeping track of what work I am doing and whom I contact. And thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I even have a spreadsheet dedicated to job hunting, it consist of the companies/agencies I have applied to and the answers I have received back.
Although it can be a pain to keep them up, spreadsheets are really there to save your ass. You need to know how much money you make so you can accurately report to the IRS. You need to be able to tell your client or boss how much time you spend on a project. Having those spreadsheets will make all of that so much easier.
Now I know this isn’t for everyone, but one thing that helps me be productive are to-do list. They will help you focus, prioritize, and feel accomplished. There is nothing better than crossing off the last item. I am notorious for going to the grocery store and spending 20 minutes looking at something I don’t need. Having a list will help you get in and get out fast, as well as make sure you are grabbing everything you need to make tonight’s dinner.
What Helps Savannah
The college experience is different for everyone – more than just socially and obviously educationally, but financially as well. Some students are fortunate to have full parental aid, some gradually become more independent, and others are immersed in full financial responsibility from the beginning. I was one of the latter and learned early on the art of juggling my school schedule, my work schedule, a social life, and making sure my bills were paid. Below are some the tips I regularly use!
Just as Caroline is, I am a proponent of the to-do list. Each night I make a list of things that need to be completed or started for the next day. This may be a little Type A for some, but I even go further and write down the time I want to start each task, as well as a time allotment for completing such. When I am done, I have a tentative schedule for my day.
I also have a tendency to create lists directly in the text of the file I am working on. When it comes to multifaceted projects, just starting can seem daunting. At the top of the first page of the document, I type out main areas that need addressing. As work on the project continues, either that day, or for the duration, I can easily remove things that have been done and replace them with new areas of concern. I often use red color text or the bold typeface to highlight to myself things that are most important or crucial.
When I was younger and first got my license, I thought having a car was obviously great. But then I learned a car also meant car payment, car insurance, property tax, and maintenance… not so great. Then in college I found out how great living on my own was. But then I found out that also meant paying rent, utilities, renters insurance, and household maintenance… again, not so great. And while I have always known being sick is not great, I have also learned neither are the bills for health insurance and costs. In short, as you know, or as many of you will be soon fining out, there are numerous things that require monthly attention from us, and sometimes yearly – such as taxes, car inspection and renewals, etc. As a result, here is why I am a fan of the good ole fashion paper folder. While bills can be easily paid online, adult and independent responsibilities often require a little more than just that, but record keeping as well – especially when it comes to taxes, health, and vehicles. I recommend having categorized folders in which each year you can put the necessary records, receipts, or important information.
Furthermore, I am not only a fan of the paper ones in my desk drawer, but the ones on my computer as well. Each semester I created a folder labeled either “Fall”or “Spring” followed by the current year. Then within each, I created a folder for all of my classes that term. Getting an education requires a lot of work, and the work you do shouldn’t get lost or misplaced. Organizing my academic files this way helped me easily recall needed files for class, easily navigate through prior projects I wanted to use for reference, and aided me in browsing work that I wanted to pull for my professional portfolio.
Use of cloud storage and services
If you are not familiar with the blue screen of death then concerned yourself lucky and immediately knock on some wood. Is there anything worse than having been diligently working on an assignment, or having just crafted the perfect sentence, only to have your document wiped out? Usually through unfortunate circumstances we learn the importance of saving files multiple times and sometimes, multiple places.
So why do I think such cloud devices are so great? First, as I mentioned before, even with all our reliance on technology, it is not always reliable. Saving important files to places other than your hard drive ensures that during technology failure, a dead battery, or whatever else, that your pieces can still be accessible. With that being said, accessibility is another reason I am a fan of cloud storage. Also long as it has internet access, I can use any computer to access Dropbox or Google Drive to view and edit my files. Furthermore, each of these services also has apps for your phone. I could be running errands, get an email that a draft needs to be approved, and could easily pull up the Dropbox app and immediately have the latest file. Dropbox and Drive are especially great for group collaboration. You don’t have to worry about exchanging multiple emails each time someone works on a document. It is simply one file, that once one person saves, automatically syncs on all accounts.
I am a big reviser. Going through my computer files it is not unusual to see a series labeled “Proposal notes”, “Proposal draft”, “Proposal draft 2”, “Proposal Final”, and so on. Now imagine this for a multitude of assignments, classes, clients, blog posts, etc. Every few weeks I set aside a few minutes to go through my computer and simply delete what I don’t need anymore. While draft work is important in making sure the final is the best it can be, when it comes down to it, the final is the only product that matters, and the only file that is usually worth keeping. Discarding the unnecessary frees space on your hard drive, allows your file organization to be more aesthetic, and prevents you from accidentally sending or exchanging the wrong files.
I hope these organization tips have given you an idea on how to better stay on top of work and life so you can fully enjoy it. Since this is a little Type A overboard, I want to point out that what works for me might not work for your style or personality. That’s okay, find a way that works best for you. Do you have any tips on how to stay organized at work and home? Any lifestyle Apps you recommend?
– Caroline Robinson and Savannah Valade