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Getting (and staying) organized

By January 8, 2011People+Technology

One of the biggest challenges I face daily is keeping on top of my “to dos”.

Task lists, projects, mini-projects, business development goals, and commitments to other people. Not to mention scheduled meetings, tentative meetings, crisis firefighting, and various levels of competing urgency and priority.

They all need to be categorized, tracked, logged, and monitored to make sure everything is moving forward and nothing is forgotten.

Once the task is done, I like to mark it done and keep it – so there is a dated archival process as well.

How the #*!%&$ does one person stay on top of all of that, in a way that makes sense and is streamlined? In a way that is hassle free and logical?

It is no small feat, as I’m sure you’ve experienced in your own life and business.

We all have giant and ever-growing lists of things to keep track of. How can we master it all and stay sane?

Some great tools and solutions I’ve used over the years:

  • My iPhone, Notes, and various other iPhone apps, including MobileMe
  • My email in Apple Mail, local folders, server-stored folders
  • TaskPaper
  • Daylite
  • Things
  • OmniFocus
  • GTD
  • Whiteboards, and Numbers spreadsheets that are setup as a whiteboard would be
  • Down to the simplest solutions: TextEdit or a paper “To Do” note pad

I think the short answer is, there is no one tool that can handle it all. Not that I’ve found, anyway, and I’ve spent a lot of time with all of them.

I have bad news, everyone: The very best tools are daily discipline and significant mental effort devoted to building and maintaining a system.

What do I mean by that? Developing an organizational system that is ideal for you takes work. It takes thought, planning, trial and error, assessment, re-assessment, categorizing, re-categorizing, constant maintenance, and frequent upgrades. It takes a combination of software tools and a continual hunt for better options.

That, or a mind-reading personal assistant android Jedi with astounding artificial intelligence, from the future.

I’ll outline my personal task management workflow in my next post. Stay tuned.


  • Jordan says:

    I think the biggest problem is having free days, absolutely no structure at all for a day or two. Really puts things into perspective, also makes it easier to keep your daily routine going without getting burnt out. Oh and 7 hours of sleep.

  • Ernest says:

    I’m waiting for that mind-reading personal assistant, but in the meantime, after having tried a multitude of electronic options, I still use a yellow legal pad and pen. It’s particularly enjoyable taking that sheet of paper filled with crossed out to-do items and stuffing it into my shredder when all is done.

    Now if I can only read what I hastily scribbled on that paper yesterday…

  • Chad says:

    I agree, I’ve tried many ‘tools’ out there over the years for trying to keep things organized. Hoping that each one was better than the next at finally keeping things organized for me. However, like a hammer doesn’t build a house by itself, you still have to be disciplined enough to USE the tool.

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