Raise your hand if it sometimes feels impossible to manage all the things. Between a full-time job, passion projects, family and friends, and everything else that goes into daily life, I’m standing here with both hands in the air.
How I stay organized isn’t just about keeping track of deadlines and due dates; it’s also about staying intentional and focused. And some weeks, my organization system is the only thing that keeps me sane. When you are playing different roles throughout the week, the work you’re doing often requires you to shift gears. For example, I do my best to separate my day job projects from everything else. I like to be able to look at my week holistically. But I also like being able to cut distractions (and stress!) by putting away specific parts of my week.
“How do you keep everything straight?” It’s a question I hear a lot. And it’s also one I even occasionally ask myself. But my organizational system in always the answer—and occasionally wine.
I want to break down my personal approach to staying organized, but let me point out this isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” sort of thing. How I stay organized might look completely different from your own approach. Plus, our systems can evolve over time. I started figuring out what worked for me during my freshman year of college. That was eight years ago and my system has changed at least a hundred times since then.
That also mean I might be completely rewriting this blog post next year as my projects and commitments change. Deciding what works best for your life is entirely up to you, but here’s a look at how I stay organized at work and home right now.
Managing All the Things at Work
From Monday to Friday, you can find me managing communications and marketing for a mid-sized nonprofit. It’s a regular joke that working at a nonprofit often has you doing all the things (#nonprofitlife). My job involves daily tasks like social media and photography, to large scale projects like producing a seasonal magazine.
I also have plenty of recurring projects, plus new requests that pop up every day. And of course, each day is a little different than the last. It’s a job that demands I stay organized while staying flexible enough to survive in an ever-changing environment.
There are two pillars holding up my organization system at work. The first is my digital calendar. I use Google Calendar for all my meetings, as well as recurring weekly deadlines. My employer utilizes almost entirely Google products. That means my systems at work overlap nicely with what I do at home. While I do keep my work and personal calendars separate, I do share access between the two. I can easily reference my appointments without having to log into an entirely different account.
The second pillar of my system is Asana. This is the place I track my projects and deadlines, including recurring tasks. Being a list oriented person already, I love that Asana models a traditional to-do list with the benefits of a digital platform—like adding tags or assigning deadlines. I keep Asana open in my browser and refer to it throughout the day.
I also usually dedicate 10 to 15 minutes at the end of each work day to load new tasks into my system. During the day, I’m usually taking notes with pen and paper. It’s essential for me to transfer these items over to Asana while they are still fresh in my mind. And since Asana is web-based, I can also easily access it from my phone or personal computer on the weekends if a random request comes my way.
Organizing All the Things at Home
It’s easy for me to underestimate exactly how much happens outside my 9-to-5 life. But let’s be real, the list is equally as long: Family and friends, fitness and self-care, managing a blog and YouTube channel, occasional freelance project, the demands of adulting, and working towards goals.
My Day Designer is my go-to organization tool for daily life. I’ve been using the brand for the last four years, but my obsession for paper planners started way back in high school. My current planner offers a daily view with space for my schedule, plus a to-do list. While I do write down work appointments and meetings, the things on my to-do list are only related to my personal life. This is another way I seperate things out, always doing my best to keep work at work and home at home.
I also use a personal Google Calendar to keep track of my own appointments and get-togethers. Google Calendar’s mobile app works great for multiple accounts. It’s easy to add a doctor appointment in my personal calendar, and then book some time with a co-worker on my work calendar. I just make sure to assign the particular appointment to my correct account.
So how do my paper planner and Google work together? My favorite part of the morning is filling out my planner for the day over a cup of coffee. First, I write down my appointments and meetings as they show up on my digital calendar. This is a chance for me to mentally check-in on where my time is going each day.
Next, I confirm everything on my to-do list, which includes moving any unfinished items from the previous day forward. Finally, I pick out my most important tasks—the things I absolutely have to get done—and list them out in my planner’s “today’s top three” section. Day Designer also has a place to record things such as your daily gratitude, dinner plans, and important deadline reminders. Just like my laptop and phone, my planner goes everywhere with me throughout the day so I always have it nearby to write down new tasks or reminders for myself.
For everything else, like my editorial calendar and monthly budget, spreadsheets have become my best friend. I could probably spend hours building myself a spreadsheet, but that’s an entirely different blog post. These files live on my Google Drive for easy access across my phone, personal laptop, and work computer.
Putting it Together—But Not Really
My upside-down, backwards secret to keeping everything together? Keeping it all entirely separate—kinda.
I share access between my personal and work calendars so I can see an overview of my entire week, but also hide my work appointments when I’m away. This let’s me stay fully present and focused on what’s in front of me, rather than what I have waiting for me on Monday morning. It’s that whole “outta sight, outta mind” thing. Here’s how easy it is to hide part of my life with a click:
If you’re a workaholic like me, you know how hard it can be to disconnect—especially on the weekends or vacation. These days, my obsession with work isn’t fueled by stress, and rather a genuine love for my job. But it is still important to take a break from the things we love. Constant engagement, no matter how positive, can eventually lead to burnout. Finding an organization system to keep all my ish together, while still keeping it clearly separated, is one way I combat that.
Sharing time! How to you stay organized at work and home? Tell me about your own organization system in a comment below!