How many times have you lamented (okay, out-and-out whined) about the pressure for creatives and solopreneurs to do it all these days? We’re one-person enterprises, overseeing production, marketing, finance, strategy and more. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, right?
Even if you added another eight hours to each day, you would still press to accomplish more in the limited time you have.
So being organized is essential. Otherwise, you wake up one morning to discover your desk has its own zip code and your to-do list is longer than Santa’s. But by investing an hour a week, you can stay on track with your projects and paperwork. The trick is to make this process a part of your regularly scheduled work, not a maybe-if-I-get-to-it task. Commit and you’ll be happy you did.
Each Friday, I do a Weekly Review, a concept I borrowed term from Todd Henry’s book, The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice.
So today, I’m sharing with you my weekly steps to staying organized.
1. Run a backup on your computer if it’s not already automatically scheduled.
Losing data sucks at best and induces a full-on mental breakdown at worst.
2. File all loose papers in the appropriate place.
Even better, handle the task associated with that paperwork. All that flotsam on your desk? Deal with it. Put it in the correct file, binder, precarious pile or whatever.
3. Clean out your purse and/or work bag.
Toss receipts you don’t need. Dig out gum wrappers and used tissues. Also clean out your wallet. This may be painful when you tackle it the first time, but after that, it should take less than five minutes.
4. Use a trigger list.
This will empty your head of those random oh-crap-I-forgot-my-parents’-anniversary thoughts. A trigger list is simply a list you look over to see if it “triggers” any to-dos. I found lists online and then customized. Examples of trigger list items include projects due, items you’re waiting for, marketing tasks, people to contact, upcoming events, appointments to make and more. This is a good way to empty your head of random I-need-to stuff.
5. Review upcoming calendar.
Review the upcoming two weeks, so things due not this Monday but the next don’t blindside you. I use a combination of Google calendar and a set of weekly calendar templates I bought off Etsy because I want my assistant to know what I have going on, but I do schedule blocking on my paper calendar.
6. Review current projects and to-do list.
You may cover some of the same ground as in step four, but I recommend you have an overall plan for each project. I use a combination of mind maps and Google Keep to outline my projects. Are you on target? What’s the next step? Are you stalled out because you’re waiting on something?
7. Review future projects.
You may find you can slot this in every other week or even once a month. But looking at those upcoming projects will help you stay on track and maintain a longer outlook.
8. Review finances.
I’ve bounced from program to program and have recently settled on using an online program called Wave. I can email receipts directly to my account, and I categorize them each Friday in a batch. Then, it’s easy for me to run an Income Statement to see if I’m on budget.
9. Process notes.
This is the most time-consuming part of my process. All my notes, thoughts and randomness goes in one—and only one—spiral. I use this notebook to write my Morning Pages (see Julia Cameron) and jot down blog post ideas, thoughts about my current projects, household to-dos and everything else I need to remember. I code each type of thought in the margins. Nothing sophisticated—an asterisk for a to-do. During my weekly review, I either take care of the task or transfer those notes to their appropriate place. That may seem like double duty because it means typing up those notes. But this process allows me to keep all my ideas on a certain topic in one place, the right place. As most of my projects have their own Scrivener file, I never dig around for a scrap of paper or lost idea.
By incorporating these steps into your weekly schedule, you’ll become a more organized creative and businessperson. Yes, it takes a small time investment up front but pays dividends in the long run.