So much of what I do on a daily basis happens online. Because of this, I’ve perfected a bunch of systems to keep me incredibly organized. As a self-employed person, I find it so so so important to be as organized as possible. There is often no one else to pick up the slack or to catch a mistake or to remind me to do something. I’ve experimented with different systems over the years, but this is what I’m doing– and what works best– for me right now.
I do want to preface this whole post by explaining one weird quirk. It’s actually something that I assumed everyone had until I tried explaining it to my family one night at dinner and they looked at me like I had four heads. It’s basically a kind of synesthesia (if you’re unfamiliar, it’s where brains associate two different senses, so someone might smell a number or see an image with a sound). It’s pretty common, so there’s a good chance you have some variation of it or know someone who does.
I have number form and spacial. (When my parents informed me they did not have a calendar in their head, I pretty much started googling things like “I see a calendar” and stumbled on this whole thing.) I think the number form synesthesia is why I have always been so good at math and can make strangely accurate guestimates (like how much a cart of groceries will be). I see an entire number line in my head… whenever I think of a number (age, weight, price, temperature, etc.) I see where it is on the line. And for spacial, I have, literally at all times, a calendar in my head.
It never changes, and there are different “layers,” one for the week (+ a clock for minute-by-minute updates) and one for the year. And each year’s layer lines up with the year where it coordinates with my number line.
If you have this too, you definitely get what I’m saying, haha, but if you don’t, I probably sound insane.
Having this calendar in my head at all times helps me keep track of things 99% of the time. I put appointments and build to-do lists into the different days, and I have a sense of “moving” throughout my day, and the week, and the year, and then year-after-year. For example, I “feel” like I’m in a different spot for Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at noon than I did on Thursday, October 15, 2007, at 9 am.
The only problem with this is that every time I put something else up there, I feel the weight of it. You know how people say, “I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me!” after completing something? I feel that all the time and it can stress me out. I’ve found that if I can make a real physical copy of what’s in my head, then I don’t feel the weight of it as much.
Ooookay, if you’re still with me (😂), this is all to say that the system I have pretty accurately reflects what’s going on in my head and that helps me stay as on top of things as possible.
– Email // My email system is one that has not changed for years. Ever since I downloaded Gmail, it’s pretty much stayed the same. Here’s a post I wrote seven years ago complete with a hand-drawn flowchart of how I manage emails. The basic idea is that I read everything as it comes in, I “star” emails that I have to go back to respond to, and I use automatic labels so I can quickly see what is coming in. I also have a bunch of different email accounts, but I have them funnel into my one main Gmail account– that’s where automatic labels really come in handy because I know when one is coming from personal and one is from my blog, etc.
The most significant benefit is the starred email section. It essentially becomes my to-do list since I work remotely with so many different people; it’s why I spend so much time on my email! I try to start my morning by going through every starred email on the off chance there’s something I forgot about, and then I start tackling what I can do that day. If I complete an email (most likely a simple response), I unstar it to cross it off my to-do list.
I also keep my ongoing work in the starred email section, like sponsored campaigns I’m working on. At any given time, I’m at different stages with about ten different clients so I keep everything in there. (My manager is great at emails too, so all of our correspondence are looped into each thread for the different campaigns, and the subject lines are uniform so I know which campaign is which.) When I send over the final links + analytics for a campaign, I unstar it and it’s off my list!
– Notebook // For my daily to-do lists and “future” lists/reminders, I use a simple notebook. I don’t care what the notebook looks like or really what size it is, any notebook with lines with work! Even though if you were to flip through it, it doesn’t seem that organized but it works for me because of the flexibility of it.
In the notebook, I jot down my daily to-do lists with everything I need to do from journaling to my workout to a phone call I need to make. I also write down “emails,” which is really just me responding to the email to-do list… this is definitely the biggest chunk of my day. Writing everything down ensures I don’t forget to do anything and I can prioritize what NEEDS to get done if my day starts getting super full.
I put everything in my notebook, especially notes about things I want to remember, like packing or mapping out a travel schedule.
(I tried Bullet Journaling, but I needed a lot more flexibility with it. The blank notebook where I can do anything works the best for me!)
– Editorial Calendar // Above are two screenshots with how I manage my editorial calendar. I used to have a whiteboard where I kept track of my campaigns and a list in a notebook where I mapped out my blog posts, but neither worked. This Google Doc is now my most-referenced. I keep it (and my Google Calendar + Gmail) open in a tab at all times on my computer. To make it as easy as possible, I have both the campaign tracker and editorial calendars in the same document; you can see the different years and months as tabs at the bottom.
The first screenshot is how I keep track of campaigns. This is so, so helpful for me because I can see how I do month to month and also compare months to different years. It’s encouraging sometimes and lights a fire under my butt at other times. Red squares are normal posts, On My Radar in yellow, guest posts in green, and sponsored posts in orange. This is always the most helpful for me because I can make sure I’m spacing out sponsored posts in the best way. Especially when a brand wants a specific day, I can glance at my calendar and see if it will/won’t work without having to go through a million emails to make sure no other campaign conflicts.
It’s also just a generally good idea to know what I’m going to post. It helps me plan outfits for photoshoots and I don’t get that “uhhh what should I blog about?!?!” panic because woo! I know! I also fill in sponsored Instagrams, often affiliated with a post, and what Youtube videos I’m posting.
– Google Calendar // Remember the calendar in my head? I try to get all of that into my Google Calendar. I could not function without it. I have different calendars synced with my main one so I can keep track of everything. For example, my boyfriend and I have one to coordinate schedules (gray label) and Carter and I have one (orange label) to keep track of her shooting schedule with me.
My personal one has all of my appointments (labeled in green), travel dates (labeled in yellow), NYC travel days (labeled in purple).
The best part about Google Calendar is that you can add notes within each event. I use this ALL the time to keep track of whatever I need to for the day. For example, if it’s a phone call, I’ll add the dial-in # and questions I don’t want to forget to ask; if it’s a meeting, I’ll record the suite/floor of the office along with talking points I want to review before going in; for trips, I’ll include flight numbers, hotel confirmations, etc.
– Google Docs // This is probably my least organized item. But honestly, it still works for me because I can search for what I need. The best part is that you can search for google docs within Gmail, so I can easily pull up, for example, my editorial calendar. I also like I that the app allows me to edit documents on the go and everything is ~in the cloud~. I use Google Docs often to share sponsored post drafts, Sheets for packing lists, etc. Pretty straightforward!
PHOTOS + VIDEO // I have so many videos and photos. It can seem overwhelming to keep track of everything, but if you’re on top of it, it’s so much easier to deal event-to-event versus having an entire year to organize. (Although if you do have a big chunk to organize, my biggest tip is to sort by date and then start making folders from there!)
– Google Drive: Carter and I organize/share photos and videos between us with Google Drive. It’s the simplest way and we can work remotely more often. She shares folders with me and I download the photos/videos from it to save to my hard drive. Again, easy… not much to say about that!
– Hard drive: I have multiple copies of my hard drives so I never lose photos or videos. This is where I store everything photo and video related. I have a “Photo” folder and “Video” folder and then project based folders within each of those. I label the folders in the simplest way I can and then I can sort them or search for them by name or sort by date and find what I need. My workflow is to download from the drive (if it’s coming from Carter) to the hard drive and then upload the fully edited photos to my Dropbox.
– Dropbox: I am crazzzzzy about storing photos in the cloud. I want to make sure I can download photos to my phone if I need an Instagram right away or pull up a video on a computer when I’m traveling. I know that I have everything I need at all times. If I shot the photos, I only upload edited or “fully ready” photos so it doesn’t become bogged down with raw files.
– Google Photos: This is where I store all of my iPhone photos. It’s AMAZING. I never have to worry about losing photos, even if my phone breaks or is stolen. It (quickly) backs up your entire camera roll, which can also free up space! But the best part? You can search the photos! If you type in “dog” all pictures/videos you’ve ever taken of a dog will pop up! So cool.
I’m still tweaking my finance system, but this is exactly how I organize everything else in my digital life!