As a design partner, I love working with clients to put the rights steps in place (including marketing strategy and planning tools) because it means everything will be better—goals will get met, efficiency will increase and stress will be reduced. I love getting clients organized as much as I love helping them create change with design; the two really go hand-in-hand.
When a recent client said, “Andrea, you need to share your organization routine so everyone knows about it,” I decided I would. Since my days of working on-staff at a nonprofit, to having my own business, I have always maintained this simple work system.
My simple 4 step system:
- Clean up your desk at the end of every work day. Keeping your desk clean and free of clutter enables you to find what you need more quickly, saving time and increasing your productivity. I know I feel much better and more motivated starting the day with a clean desk.
- Make a list the night before. Get everything out of your head before you leave the office. That way you can enjoy your downtime and recharge your batteries. Just write down everything you need to do the next day. Then number the list in order of priority. Next, take it one step further. Assign an amount of time to each task. (If it’s something you do regularly, time it so you know how long it takes for next time.)
- Schedule your day. Take the information from step two and schedule your day starting with your number one priority. Unexpected events will always come up and throw our schedules off; it’s important to pad your schedule so you can make up the time if you need to. (I’ve found that sometimes we try to do too much and we just don’t have the capacity for all that is on our list for the day. As you start to plan and schedule your day, you will start to see what you have the capacity for; tasks may need to be re-prioritized or moved to the next day.
- Set a timer. When it’s time to start working in the morning, set a timer for 50 minutes. During this time, do not check email, your phone, social media, or give in to any other distractions. Completely focus on the task on your list for the 50 minutes. You will be amazed at how much you accomplish.
I also use some wonderful tools that help make my workflow much more enjoyable and productive.
My 5 favorite tools:
- Google Docs – Google Docs is a free web application where documents and spreadsheets can be created, edited and stored online. I use it all the time. It has cleared up file clutter on my computer and made my documents easier to find. I love that I can use it on multiple devices. You can also share documents with other staff members and collaborators.
- Focus at Will – I used Focus at Will’s free trial when I was working on a pretty intense and complicated project. It really made a difference in my focus and concentration and the project ended up a great success. If you do the free trial and decide you want to purchase it, wait a bit because they will send you emails with discounts offers.
- Trello – Trello is a free tool that I feel is best described as digital post-it notes. It’s an interesting visual planning tool that you can set up however works best for your needs. You can create boards to manage different types of projects, i.e. your social media calendar, blog post ideas, brainstorming. You can also collaborate and share your boards with other staff members.
- Buffer – I find Buffer to be such a straightforward and simple social media scheduling tool. They even offer a 50% discount to nonprofits! To get the discount, you need to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a 501c3 (or your country’s equivalent) to verify your non-profit status.
- Sunrise – I love my paper planner, but I can’t carry with me all the time so I needed a digital option. Sunrise has an aesthetically pleasing interface that syncs with google calendar. This free app is very simple to use and nice to look at.
Finally, two important tips!
- Use what works best for you. Don’t feel forced into a tool or app that does not feel right or makes your life more complicated and wastes time.
- Know when to stop. Sometimes you hit a wall and you’re just not going to be productive anymore. If you get stuck, that’s when you need to take a break, go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, talk to a co-worker—take some time to hit the reset button. When you let things settle for a bit, fresh ideas will surface.
Hope this helps you get and stay organized. If you need a design partner who will keep you organized and looking great, I’d love to help.