The calendar is probably the second most essential organization tool after email. It facilitates time management, a significant challenge for many of us. I use Google Calendar, but Microsoft Outlook is an excellent option as well. It is not about the tool, but the mindset. Anytime there is a time commitment in a picture, you need to make sure to add in the calendar directly (or add in notes or To-do list so you can add later).
Again, use the same standard labels. You may want to color each label, so it is easy to visually map the appointments or activities on the calendar to the categories.
To-Dos or Task List
To-Do (or Task) lists are the next more essential tool after the calendar. I use Google Tasks, but Microsoft Tasks is an excellent option given it is well-integrated with the email and calendar. Use the standard labels. Another feature I use often is to create tasks directly from the email. Gmail offers this as an option in the menu on top of the message. Outlook provides the same if you right-click on the message from the list.
Always add descriptions to the tasks. If it is an enormous task that requires significant effort, I create multiple tasks to complete in parts.
Email is the most essential organization tool. I like Outlook as well as Gmail, Outlook is far more feature-rich. Gmail is straightforward and well-integrated with other Google services and available cross-platform on desktop and Android devices. Outlook is now available on Android as well. So it is really a choice of platform, Microsoft or Google. Choose what you are comfortable with.
Most important part is to assign a follow up for every email. Populate To-do list or add calendar or save attachment to personal data folders. Review emails at least 2 times a day.
This is relatively a new tool I have begun using to organize. When you meet people or attend an event, you need to store record of what you learned, what you need to follow up. The daily journal logs such information. Use a template to fill in daily. Beside the activities, record your daily reflections, gratitude, food, exercise, TV, music, movies and so on. Again, make sure the tool is available on all the platforms you use including desktop and smartphone. I use a tool called Diarium.
As we age, our ability to recall the detail of daily routines is diminishing. Journal help retain such information. E.g. I can now tell the movie that thrilled me last week.
SMS or Text Messages
SMS, just like Email, may generate follow up ac tions. Record the actions in To-do, Calendar, Notes or Journal, as appropriate. Usually the SMS (text messages) belongs to the phone. But with the cloud services, now same SMS is also available on browsers, on desktop, laptop, tablets. Google provides messages on web feature. This is handy for you to keep organized from single machine rather than having to look for other devices just to access SMS.
Photos or Pictures
Photos are an important part of the organization. With the abundance of pictures thanks to high-resolution cameras available with smartphones, photos are in abundance. I use the automatic backup of the pictures from the Cameras folder on the phone to cloud storage (Google Photos). For the pictures coming from other sources like social media or websites, I select the key pictures and move them to the Cameras folder so they can be backed up like the one taken from your camera.
You must organize the photos in appropriate albums. I create an album for a specific event, collection and name the album with the month/year. E.g. San Diego tour of June 2016 could be named 2016-06-San-Diego-with-Family. You may choose another naming scheme that suits you better.
Papers, Hard Copies
So far we talked about digital data. Unfortunately, papers are still part of our lives, not easy to shake it off completely. Papers are still used for important documents, letters, records, sticky notes, drawings and so on. The best way to organize is to have clearly documented folders and bin the documents appropriately. If they are 1-pagers, I prefer to scan them to JPEG or PDF and store online as explained in Personal data storage.
I also do the printouts of important documents from digital version to paper copy and bin them. For example, tax retruns. I store digital as well as physical copies for the past 10 years.
To conclude, the better personal organization is very critical in today’s world where data is plenty, and keeping track is beyond our capacity. A better personal organization reduces anxiety and stress caused by not having control of things. It increases your efficiency, enabling you to do more things in less time. You will find you have more time to accomplish more things and, consequently, more time for yourself. In my blog Don’t Just Survive, Thrive! I talk about how thrivers are people of organization and order. The personal organization will help you turn into a thriver, rather than survivor!
If you follow the tips above, you would significantly improve your personal organization.
I did it, so can you!