A couple of years ago, I talked about all of the changes I had made to make “work from home” work better for me. This year as I take on some different tasks at work (including working on the Rise Feminist Book Project committee!), I thought I’d revisit some of the strategies I have in place to keep myself organized. I add the “right now” caveat because, as with many things, organization is an ongoing journey and something I’m constantly honing. What I like best about the options below: it’s all modular and scalable so you can take what you like and leave the rest.
Back in 2017 I wrote on Teen Services Underground about going all digital with my organization. For the most part, that’s still my favorite way to keep my life on track. But now that I have a committee where I’m reading more and have more meetings, I have been embracing a hybrid model.
If you’re starting from scratch to get organized, I highly recommend reading Joy At Work to help set up a good framework. Kondo and Sonenshein have great advice to organize your life with tips for everything from your desk to your email and digital files.
There’s no single right answer for how to stay organized on paper. I have found that I prefer modular options for notebooks and undated options for planners so that if I don’t update them for a while, the planner is still usable (like if I end up not going to my office for a year and left my planner there instead of taking it home, hypothetically).
Back in 2015 I first learned about Midori traveler’s notebooks (and all of the different versions out in the wild) from Hannah’s blog post about her faux-dori: https://www.soobsessedwith.com/2015/03/my-foxy-dori-other-favorites.html
The idea of a refillable notebook with endless options for inserts appealed to me immediately and, in the the years since, this planner option is the one that has stuck with me and what I’ve continued tweaking.
There are tons of versions of traveler’s notebooks and various notebook inserts. My favorites are from Webster’s Pages. They have a whole range of planner (and scrapbooking) products including binder and composition notebook planners. I like their traveler’s notebooks because they are modular, start lightweight, and can hold a variety of inserts. The size is such that I can also keep it on my desk at work or bring it home pretty easily. Plus everything is vegan (not leather). I also appreciate the variety of notebook inserts (lined, blank, grid, undated planners) as well as the standard sizing that means I can use anything that fits.
You can also find Webster’s Pages on Amazon if that’s more your bag: https://amzn.to/3ucl1vm
Currently my paper planner has:
- Card Holder/Zipper Pouch: I use this to hold paperclips (how I mark my place in the other notebooks), colored pens (I’m big on color coding), spare business cards, and a flash drive with work files.
- Lined Notebook: I use this for work notes including things for quick reference (titles/stats for the staff book club I run), meetings, and other projects
- Grid Notebook: This notebook has graph paper grids on every page. I’m using it for my committee work. I have a few pages at the front with criteria and am using the rest to track books that are nominated. I can use the squares to mark books read, where I got them, and what format.
- Undated Calendar Notebook: This one has monthly and weekly spreads so I can see my full calendar at a glance and also use the weekly spread to drill a little deeper. More on that below.
Some people like to keep notebooks as records of everything they do. For work and projects, I view notebooks as more consumable so I don’t worry too much about keeping them organized. My biggest tip: use a different ink color for every meeting/item so when you flip pages you can see where a topic change occurs.
I use the Notes app on my phone similarly to write down quick thoughts (which I delete once I act upon them or transcribe the information) and longterm information I might need like hashtags for Instagram posts.
I have a smartphone (specifically an iPhone) that I use for everything. While I am not a fan of cloud syncing or Google, I do like having all of the information I need on my phone and syncing that with my laptop at home. I keep everything I do for work/fun/household chores in my phone with color coded calendars so I don’t accidentally double book.
Where the paper planner pays off is I can lay everything out for a monthly spread that I can see all at once what I have happening for the month (a feat beyond my phone’s screen size) before drilling down more for weekly spreads. Librarians have all kinds of weird schedule things so I like being able to use the weekly paper calendar to mark daily desk shifts and (again for committee stuff) track what I’m reading.
I am a big fan of color coding here to help me better parse information at a glance. My favorite pens are Marvy Uchida Le Pen because they are bright, have thin points, come in a variety of colors, and easily fit in my notebook pouch.
This is the one item that has remained mostly digital. I have to do lists for work, blogging, my shopping list, and general reminders. I find I like the reminders app format because I retain the ability to check things off my to do list while also being able to add time sensitive reminders where I can set alarms.
My blog reminder list is the one I use the most as it’s where I keep track of reviews I have to write. I like being able to see all the titles at once without scrolling through my read shelf on Goodreads or my blog post drafts. I can also add to dos when I want to email reviews to publicists or reach out about an author interview.
And there you have it. Now you know everything I’m doing to stay organized (right now).