How to Make Next Year Great (1): Organizers & Planners
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When I first started to work as a freelancer, and later on, running my own businesses, I was lost for words and struggled with every day activities only to end up exhausted by the end of the month.
For years now I have managed to change that into a way of life that has taught me smart work is possible & success can be achieved without working like a nut. With that being said, I needed experience to learn this truth. And in the hope it will help other business owners, freelancers in their own journey, I’m starting a series of how to make the next year great.
I’m dedicated my first post to something that I care deeply about: using organizers and planners to keep track of everything that needs to get done. In one of my busiest seasons I would work on 5 to 8 different projects per month, with various clients and activities. And I would initially keep track of everything with one planner. It was chaotic, I was stressed, always exhausted and always caught by surprise by various tasks.
How organizers and planners help
We all need to improve our organizing skills to be able to live healthier and happier lives, whether we are business owners, freelancers, CEOs, account managers, doctors, working moms, parents, students etc.
Organizers and planners are tools that help us become more aware of how we spend our time and what we work towards. If we are multitaskers, then we NEED one of these bad boys to help us stay committed to our goals & clear about what it is that we want to achieve.
When I launched my first business I used to be caught by surprise by so many different things. From being “hijacked” by suppliers who wouldn’t deliver in time, because I would place late orders, to not taking into account seasonal activities like paying taxes, running sales campaigns etc. It was mostly because I was working without a clear direction in mind, and juggling multiple tasks without actually planning ahead. I was also using the same agenda for dozens of things at the same time.
Organizers and planners will help us learn what to prioritize, think and work for bigger results (long term vision rather than short term blindness), become better managers of our time, celebrate results, and keep us accountable to the objectives we want to achieve.
The best organizers & planners for multitaskers
How to make the most of using organizers & planners
As I mentioned before, organizers and planners are tools. While useful, you won’t be able to make the most of them without developing some strategies and personal accountability to make sure you are not only following through the goals you list in them, but actually use them on a daily basis for planning purposes.
I have 3 planners I work through daily, 1 planner I work through on a weekly basis and 1 monthly one. Seems a bit excessive I know, but I also run multiple businesses, and have a full time job. I bet some of you are now imagining a crazy person who is doing things only if she scheduled them in her agenda. Not really. Having these tools at hand, allow me to actually feel relaxed, even though I have a shit load of things to do every now and then.
Over the years I have developed systems (or strategies, called them what you want) that help me make the most of using these tools in my planning activities. Here are a couple, learned from personal experience:
Plan one hour in your calendar, early Monday morning to go through what needs to get done the week to come.
Spend 10 to 15 minutes every single day listing your main tasks or goals for the day.
Allocate 80% of your day to working on high priority tasks.
Schedule time to work on less important, small tasks (answering calls, sending emails etc) but in between time you work on the high priority task.
When you plan a new week, don’t fill it in until it bursts at the seams. What isn’t mandatory to be done this week, will be moved to the next one.
Always start a new year, a new month, a new week, a new day with a plan in mind. Write it down to help you feel accountable to it.
Always end the year, the month, the week with a review of what you’ve achieved.
Always plan your week to include self care activities, learning and time with your beloved ones. Trust me, you can find 5 minutes to call your mom, 10 minutes to do some yoga, and 10 minutes for a meditation, you can remember to tell your partner how much you love them every evening or send them a text in the morning wishing them a great day.
When working on multiple projects or clients, it’s a good idea to keep track of the projects separately. On your daily planner you can list your priorities for every one of them, but keep another planner where you keep track of what’s been done and what needs to be done for every one of them in particular.
But Monica, what about digital planners and calendars? Those are great, don’t get me wrong. I won’t be able to go through a week without having Google Calendar, or ToDoIst, or Asana at work. However, as a digital marketer, freelancer and online media consumer I spend more than enough time living somehow disconnected from real life. So, I enjoy being able to write down with pen on paper, and check the tasks I’ve achieved for the day, write about my goals for the week, month or year. It’s also helping my brain better memorize and internalize my intentions.
And what if I can’t find one that I like?
The beauty of technology is not only that it gives us access to infinite solutions, especially when it comes to products. It also allows us to customize what we want to make it better serve our purposes. For instance, I designed planners for myself to help me with keeping track of specific activities, like this yearly financial planner, this daily planner for self care activities, or this weekly marketing planner. They are all free to get, just click on the links and you will receive them by email.