“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it,
it is not all mixed up”. -A.A. Milne
I’ve always been an organization geek (stores like Staples & Office Depot make me weak). But staying organized with my creative projects is an ongoing journey. I’ve tried just about every app + system + tool that’s out there, a gaztrillion of them (I admit it: that’s just a made-up number. But really, it’s been intense). I’ve learned that you have to try something, tweak it or drop it, try something else, then go back and tweak and…..it never ends. I don’t obsess about it (anymore), but I do spend time once a month evaluating my tools and if it’s all working for me.
At this point, these are my favorite digital and paper organizing tools. Give them a try (and tweak and evaluate and tweak some more, and well, you know the rest):
Think for a second about Lord of the Rings. Do you remember Gollum and his intense-undying-unrelenting love for the ring? That’s how I feel about my master checklist. It’s “my precious”. A few of the tabs on my master checklist:
- Blog post ideas
- Design stuff (fonts, color HEX codes, etc.) In the past, I had beautiful Pinterest boards and image boards of this stuff. Now I love that it is part of my master checklist, which always stays open, by the way.
- Blog post tracker (tracking how my blog posts do on social media/comments)
- Product creation (what stage is the product in, what needs to be done)
- Product launch tracker
- Events tracker (keeping track of my upcoming events) This keeps me sane. I host local workshops and I do professional storytelling at live events and festivals. If I don’t track, I’m a mess. I track the dates, the host, the venue, marketing, whether payment has been billed/received. A simple glance lets me know what needs to be done. I’m also going to start hosting international retreats. These take a fair amount of planning. Tracking is a must.
- Book writing (word counts, goals, etc.)
Google documents are great for when you are collaborating/working with others on a project, as they are sharable. No need for emails to be flying back and forth. You can set it so that you and team members can update the documents.
This tool gives me a clear idea of how much time I am spending on something. It’s also good if you are working for clients (even if you aren’t being paid hourly). It gives you a good idea of how long it takes you to complete certain tasks/projects. This is great for planning. It’s hard to set goals and time frames for projects if you have no idea how much time they will take. This tool helps to eliminate that issue.You can use prior projects to gauge future time frames. Of course, projects vary, but you’ll at least have a ballpark idea.
Microsoft OneNote – I store all the major project details here (along with future book/program ideas)
I use this for the things that require more space than a spreadsheet. For example. I outline my books in OneNote. An alternative to this is Evernote. Many people love Evernote. The only reason I’m digging OneNote right now is because of its visual aspect. The Windows version of Evernote is not visually appealing to me. OneNote is color coded and just the way it looks encourages me to use it more. I’ve tried Evernote so many times and I never keep it organized. If it’s your thing, stick with it. The key is to find what works for you.
analog (paper) tools
I love digital tools, but there’s just something about pen and paper that I love even more. We are all different. If the idea of keeping paper calendars and trackers sounds tedious to you, I get it. But there are some things I prefer to handwrite, such as my workflows.
For these, I keep a Bullet Journal. I became smitten with bullet journaling a few years ago and thought I would keep my entire work and creative projects together. That’s one of the bonuses of bullet journaling. You can capture and track ideas, tasks, appointments, personal and business commitments all in one place. But this didn’t work for me. I still love my spreadsheets for tracking certain projects. So, I’ve tweaked the concept and now just use my bullet journal for workflows and checklists.
For example, if I am publishing a blog post, there’s a workflow (from the outline all the way through to creating the social media posts and scheduling them). As you probably know, there are a lot of steps involved. I’ve found the most efficient way to do this is to keep a workflow for each step.
I do the same for other parts of creative projects (for example, setting up a new domain, publishing a book on different platforms, editing images). It takes way too much brainpower to try to remember all of these steps. And it wastes so much energy to try to look things up right at that moment. It’s better to have all of that information in a step-by-step flow. I also use watercolors in my journals, including my bullet journal. That’s another reason why I love it. It’s like efficiency meets art. It keeps me motivated to maintain it because it feels more like play than work.
If you’ve never heard of bullet journaling and/or think it may help you stay organized, I’ve rounded up a few video links for you below. The two videos below feature journals in Midori Traveler’s notebooks (those are specific types of journaling notebooks with leather, or faux leather, on the outside). This is just a coincidence. You do not need a Midori Traveler’s notebook (or any fancy notebook) for bullet journaling. I do love Midoris (not just for bullet journaling), but I started out using a notebook I got at a stationery store for a couple of bucks. There’s no standard way to bullet journal. I’m considering creating a video showing you how I use mine. If that’d be useful, let me know in the comments.
I also share bullet journaling for business tips on my pinterest. Hope they help.
Whichever tools and systems you use, the key is consistency. Stick with a tool long enough to make an accurate evaluation of its use. Then tweak or move on as necessary.