How I Stay Organized: Digital Systems Overview
Keeping track of the moving parts
I prefer to cook in a clean kitchen, sleep in a tidy room, and select clothes from an organized closet. Maintaining an orderly environment with minimal clutter is fairly straightforward (you can look up organization on Pinterest if you need inspiration).
The challenge lies in organizing the moving parts. Email, schedules, lists, habits, etc.
There are so many digital options that it's hard to evaluate which platforms, systems, and applications will truly help and which ones will only complicate your routine. Below are some of my favorite digital organization helpers:
Eliminates re-typing availability, double booking calls, and manually setting up Zoom meetings. A new addition to my life but the most radically helpful during a time with 3-8 meetings a day. The time and headache saver comes at the cost of unintentionally appearing somewhat pretentious when I send along my Calendly link. But it's a price I'll willingly pay (and then joke about at the end of most calls).
A robust, all-in-one platform that lets you create your own templates for anything. I started with customizing its personal CRM template. After watching several YouTube demos of everything else it has to offer (databases, nested pages, interactive content links, etc), I'm currently migrating my digital home (previously in Notes) over.
For any time-sensitive to-do. If I think of a task I need to do later, I get it out of my brain and into Reminders so I'm alerted at the right time. Following up with a friend, buying tickets when sales open, canceling free trials 1 day before I get charged...these reminders would get buried in list form and forgotten without an alert. I also set recurring reminders such as watering my plants and taking vitamins.
My desktop email app of choice. Some of my favorite frequently-used features include snoozing emails until I need them back in my inbox, creating folders that sync with Gmail, saving templates for all frequently sent emails, and receiving follow-up reminders after a 1-week no-reply.
A cleaner, more intuitive Gcal. But that's just my opinion—they're essentially the same thing. Digitizing all my meetings, activities, and work blocks has been essential to a functional WFH environment. Some key features:
Set a default double alert for events: 1 hour in advance and 10 minutes before. I learned the hard way (by missing a meeting) that my previous single 15-minutes-in-advance alert did not transfer well into WFH. 15 minutes at home is just enough time to get distracted trying to fit in one more to-do and not enough time to get back to my laptop if away from home.
Separate and color-code calendars for different event types to ****know what’s coming up at a glance. I set different colors for meetings, structured class/work hours, self-guided project hours, and activities (hanging out with friends, going on a hike, etc). During the academic year, I also have colored calendars for office hours (usually hidden from the main view until needed), assignment due dates, and exams (to see assignment and exam heavy weeks and plan accordingly).
Mini desktop note pads to jot down quick thoughts. I usually have a pressing to-do list for the week on one and clear all my other stickies at the end of each day. The information will either no longer be necessary or belong in a more permanent and organized Note / Notion page.
Revolutionized my grocery shopping list system. I created a master list of what I buy (assisted recall shortens the "what do I need" process), organized items by category, and manually arranged each category's contents in the order they appear at the grocery store. As I'm shopping, I cross off items or add notes rather than deleting them off a list.
I take my 8 hours of sleep very seriously. SleepCycle not only keeps me accountable to good quality and quantity of sleep, but it also wakes me up during a light sleep cycle with soothing harp sounds so I don’t start my mornings with a mini alarm-induced heart-attack.
For my daily steps. I don’t have a fitness tracker (tracking every physical stat seems unnecessary), but I do keep an eye on my steps. I used to aim for 10k daily steps, but since quarantine and WFH, my loose goal is now 5k. I notice my back and digestive system feel better when I walk a few thousand steps. Unlike my daily workouts, which I don’t need a log to tell me if I’ve done or not, I usually don't notice a lack of daily movement in the moment without the Apple Health's steps approximation.
The only way I can successfully find computer files once they've been saved deep in my laptop is by dividing documents into clearly labeled folders and subfolders (in OneDrive).
All my to-read books. I also have a Notion page for my next 5 so I don’t get lost in choosing from my extensive GoodReads collection.
There are many applications out there that do the same things as the ones I’ve described above. The magic isn’t in the platform but rather the functionalities.
My organization goal this year is to achieve a good balance between what I track/don’t track and when to consolidate/separate information. The closer I get to my appropriate balance, the more my systems and apps to work for me, rather than requiring extra work from my end.
I’m always looking for how to improve. If you have any recommendations, let me know!