The past few weeks, I’ve shared how I keep myself organized and on track in the digital realm, with my calendar, task list, and inbox.
I’ve told you how I use technology FOR ME instead of being captive to it.
But did you know that I have one more secret step to staying on track and out of the overwhelm… analog support.
That’s right, I have a paper calendar and task list on my desk.
When you write on paper, the information takes hold in your brain in a different way.
When you aren’t staring at your computer screen, you take in the information in a different way.
You can step back and see the full, high-level picture for that week or month.
Plus, it’s always calming when I don’t have to look at a computer screen or phone or any digital device screen for that matter. Like my brain lets out a big “AHHHHH!”
Yep! It really is that simple.
My Paper Calendar
I’ve actually kept a paper calendar for as long as I can remember needing to be organized. I grew up in the office products space, around products to keep you and your papers organized, so being organized is a bit second nature to me.
As far back as seventh grade, I kept a Chandler as we called them (short for Chandler’s Academic Calendar), which was a daily planner book to keep track of your homework assignments. It’s probably no surprise that I used it every day.
Then, when I graduated from college, my sister gifted me a Franklin Covey planner. Oh, it was beautiful and I felt so professional. But out of school and the routine of academic assignments, I didn’t use it much.
It was then that I migrated to a paper desk calendar. That would tell me where I needed to be and when in both my personal and professional lives. And here we are, over a decade and a half later and it’s still a must-have for me.
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “But, you’ve been organized practically your whole life – I’m just not like that.”
Well, no time like the present to start.
Keep it simple and head over to your local office supply store or Target or WalMart. I recommend staying away from super large online retailers, you know the kind that sell everything but the Sun and the Moon. The selection there can be overwhelming and we’re trying to tamp that down here.
The point is to keep it simple and get a calendar that is going to work for you.
For me, I’m using a Blue Sky Weekly/Monthly Planner this year. I only use the monthly part though and I like the calendar comes pre-tabbed with each month so I can easily flip between them. I’ve yet to find a calendar that shows only the monthly and also comes pre-tabbed.
Find what style of calendar is going to work best for you.
Then, like my digital calendar, I write down all of my appointments.
And like my task list, everything is color-coded, with clients written in dark blue ink, professional development appointments – aqua, personal appointments – lime green, vacations – orange and big due dates, like quarterly tax payments, in red ink.
This allows me to see the month on the whole and also plan months out in advance. Like this June, where I’m traveling to a retreat in Oregon for an entire week. By seeing that, I have it in the back of my mind that June will be lighter for client work and appointments.
But the fun doesn’t end there…
My Paper Task List
In addition to my paper calendar, I have a notebook where I keep my weekly task list. It’s almost a duplicate of the task list in Apple Notes, but instead of listing tasks by day of the week, it allows me to group them by client.
I have one section for my business and one section for each client, with the high level tasks due for each client or my business underneath each section heading.
On Friday afternoon, before I wrap up for the week, I create the list for the upcoming week.
Now, I can see a big picture view of what’s actually deliverable to each client throughout the coming week.
The key is that the list must fit on one page, one side.
If it spills over to the back of the page, I know that there is too much on my plate, I’m likely not going to get it all done without sacrificing something in my list and some decisions need to be made and/or client discussions need to be had.
Like, if a due date is flexible or a project not top priority, I’ll talk with my client about slotting that task to a future week.
This reshuffling tactic is also a trick. Something that isn’t so apparent in the digital form.
Because when you write the same task week after week and never get to satisfyingly check it off the list, it makes you think.
You see, if you notice that a particular task keeps getting pushed from week to week, it’s a signal to pause and ask:
- What’s going on here?
- Why does this task consistently NOT get done?
- Is it legitimate that I just can’t get to it each week?
- Do I need to break it down into smaller parts?
- Holy bananas, seriously, why is this task not done already?
- What’s the story I’m telling myself about it?
For instance, I had it on my list to put together the criteria for what qualifies a website to be a good candidate for me to guest post on, so that we could compile the research of which sites those actually are.
I put this off for weeks, weeks, weeks and weeks.
So I paused and asked, “What’s the story I’m telling myself here?”
Because the reality was that it really just putting together the guidepost for the research, and not actually going out and doing the research or pitching the sites.
I found a block to the actual activity of guest posting and being visible. I was taking this small, starter task and extrapolating it out to the end product of being published. My fear gremlins were rearing their little furry heads.
The analog nature of writing something over and over helps to identify those mental roadblocks.
When you put pen to paper there’s a point of clarity. It feels intentional in a way that that digital version of “pen to paper” doesn’t always.
Having analog organization helps you to start to see what’s going on and fully take it in versus simply moving a block on the calendar or a task down the order.
You get to think about what you’re doing in your business, where you’re putting your time and energy and efforts.
“Yeah, I want to do that. I love writing that task down week after week.”
“Nope, I do not like writing that appointment in my calendar each week. Maybe I should stop meeting with that person?”
I’m curious to know how you stay organized in an analog sense.
Do you have a paper calendar? Do you have a planner or notebook for your task list?
What’s working for you? What are you curious to test out?
Post below with what questions you have – I’d love to get them answered for you.
Photo by Estee Janssens on Unsplash