Armed with an obsessive love of color-coding and all things related to organization, I’m on a mission to help you maximize efficiency in your business and life so you can spend time on what matters most to you.
Equally right and left-brained, I’m that unique business owner who can think like a creative, but act like an administrator. This blog is where you’ll see me bring that dual-brained magic to life, taking the left-brain side of life and breaking it down for your right-brained self.
Anyone who knows me for more than five seconds realizes pretty quick that I’m pretty particular about organization. Everything from my closet and bookshelf to my computer and planner has a particular organization and color coding system.
The long and short of it is organization is my jam and I feel a thousand times better about basically everything in my life when major parts of it have an organizational system attached to them. Some people don’t like the rigidity of organization and systems, but I’m a “freedom within limits” kind of person — the more things I’m able to get organized in my life, the more freedom I have to not stress about those things and enjoy the stuff that’s most important to me.
When you’re first looking to get your life or your business organized, it can be a little overwhelming because there are so many different options. It’s often hard to know from looking at features online or even working with a limited trial to figure out if an organizational tool or system really works for you, your life, your business, and how your brain works.
To help make that process a little bit easier, these are five of my all-time favorite organizational tools. While some have been in my organizational arsenal for years, others I’m pretty new to using, but they’ve totally transformed my life and business.
This is my bread and butter, y’all.
You know that scene in 27 Dresses when Jane (Katherine Heigl’s character) realizes that she’s left her file-o-fax in the taxi and totally flips out because her whole life is in that thing? That is totally what would happen if I ever lost my Simplified Planner. I bring it with me pretty much everywhere and #allthethings go into it — my daily schedule, my top three priorities for the day, meal planning, notes and reminders about random things, plus analog tracking for some other systems in my life and business.
Now I know a lot of people are all about the digital thing nowadays, and trust me, we’ll get to the digital stuff and the ease it provides soon, but while I’m no luddite, I try to let technology take over as little of my life as possible. (Maybe a little ridiculous since I run an online business, but hey, it’s reality.)
I don’t like being glued to my phone or computer all the time, and keeping all of those major things in an analog format helps me keep track of stuff all the time without feeling like I’m constantly plugged in. It also means that on days off or times when I’m taking a break from business (and the technology that goes with it), I’m able to stay truly unplugged but also productive, because I don’t have to rely on completely digital systems.
I’m totally a detail-oriented person, which is why I love managing #allthethings, but anyone can tell you that doing all the little things doesn’t make that big of a difference if you don’t have a good idea of where you’re going in the long run.
If you’re not familiar with them, the Powersheets are an intentional goal planning workbook for your year. You kick things off with a lot of prep work (it might seem tedious at first, but it’s totally worth it) that causes you to sit down and start looking at the big picture of your life — what are things you want to accomplish not only this year, but over the next 5, 10, or 20 years? What do you want your life to look like when you’re 80? What are the things growing in your life you want to cultivate, and what are the things growing in your life you want to weed out?
From there, you set goals for the year, complete with action plans and a “why” behind it. Then each month you brain dump, clear your head, and set your monthly, weekly, and daily goals to move forward on those big goals you set at the beginning of the year (which you get to refresh each quarter, if you’re so inclined).
I love it because it’s super easy for me to just go, go, go all the time without stopping and thinking about the direction I’m headed in. When that happens, an entire quarter or half the year can go by before you stop and look back and realize you haven’t made progress on any of the things that are actually important to you.
Similar to the Simplified Planner, the whole thing is analog, which helps me step away from the distractions associated with technology to really think about the big picture of my life and business. Plus, there’s just something about writing out all those things by hand that is absolutely wonderful.
The first of the digital organizational tools I use is the wonder that is Trello.
I’ve used Trello as a content management tool for the last couple of years, but I recently found myself wanting a system that was available both on my computer and phone that would help me track #allthethings in both my business and my life. I love my CRM (which we’ll get to soon), but I needed something that would go beyond that.
Trello is fantastic because it helps me keep everything organized — random ideas that pop up for content, my life, or the business; actual editorial calendars and corresponding workflows for blog and social media content; priorities from week to week; annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly checklists; client tasks and information; and more.
This is the one tab that stays open all day when I’m working because it’s the digital equivalent to my Simplified Planner — it’s where everything goes and if my account ever went up in flames, I would be so lost.
Few things stress me out as quickly (in the digital world at least) than an out of control inbox and it’s hard for me to get work done if I know my inbox is a mess.
There are a lot of elements to creating an organized inbox (which we’ll discuss in another post coming soon), but one of the biggest contributors to a messy or out of control inbox is when you read an email but aren’t able to respond right away, so it sits in your inbox unread, and often falls off your radar as a result. This is where the Gmail Priority Inbox will change your life (at least it totally changed mine).
The default Gmail inbox comes set up with different tabs that it auto-sorts emails into. I can’t stand those tabs, so I got rid of them immediately, and instead set up a Priority Inbox, which does exactly what it sounds like — helps you designate the priorities for your inbox.
There are four different sections — two default (“unread” and “everything else”) and two customizable. You can choose any of your labels you’ve created within your inbox as the other two priorities and if something is tagged with that label, it will stay in your inbox, no matter what.
You can obviously use those two priority slots any way you want, but I create a To Do and an Answer label for those two spots. Any time an email comes through that I’m unable to deal with right away, I tag it with “Answer” or “To Do,” whichever is more appropriate, and archive it. It then stays in my inbox, but with an action associated with it, until I handle the email and untag it.
This means my inbox stays organized, but the things I still need to handle never suffer from “out of sight, out of mind” or just plain overwhelm from so many unorganized emails in the inbox.
If you run a business where you work with clients as opposed to customers, finding a good CRM can quite literally be a lifesaver.
Every small business owner has their fave and will probably preach to the high heavens about how wonderful it is and that is certainly how I am about the amazingness that is Dubsado.
When I started this business, I looked into a lot of different CRMs recommended by countless different business owners, but ultimately with Dubsado because it was so customizable, which allowed me to set up my questionnaires and contracts and workflows in a way that made perfect sense for how my brain works and in a way that integrates seamlessly with my other digital and analog organizational systems.
While Trello helps me organize all the things I have to do, Dubsado helps me organize, automate, and keep track of all the things for my client workflow — emails, contracts, proposals, questionnaires, the whole shebang. It’s all in one gorgeous place, which means I never have to question where specific pieces of information are, where a client is in the workflow, or what the next step is for a particular project or retainer client.
And thanks to the beauty of workflows, not only are all those important things like contracts and invoices organized beautifully, they’re also all automated, which allows me to spend only the absolute necessary amount of time managing those things.
Considering spreadsheets is in the name of this little business, it’d be hard to write a list of my favorite organizational tools without including them and Google Sheets is my BFF for so many different things.
A gorgeously designed spreadsheet makes my heart aflutter and I use them to track and plan everything from my wardrobe and reading statistics to inventories and Instagram plans.
Admittedly, I do have a couple of spreadsheets that are pretty complex (though my favorite one was actually built by someone else…and yes, I have a favorite spreadsheet), but once the creation part is done, they help keep things so organized and help me stay on top of things way better than I used to. But even then, most of my spreadsheets aren’t that complicated. I could theoretically put a lot of the info I keep in spreadsheets into Google Docs or something similar, but being able to see all the information in different columns and aggregate that to other areas to view snapshots and summaries of different things is so helpful to me.
You can, of course, insert Excel or Numbers or whatever your spreadsheet program of choice is, but the thing that puts Google Sheets over the top for me as a favorite is its accessibility. Just like Trello and Gmail, the app allows me to use them on the go, which is so helpful when I need to quickly reference or update something and I can’t get to my computer.
Even if you don’t think you’re an organized person, finding tools that help add a little semblance of order to your tasks and to dos can quite literally be life changing and most definitely business changing.
Now that I’ve shared my favorite tools, I’d love to hear what yours are — both if we have the same or different ones!
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