Organizing is something you do that takes time away from actually executing plans. It means you have less time to “do stuff”, right? That’s often how I feel. I’m a sucker for working many hours straight into the night focusing on being “productive”. Why am I putting all that in air quotes? Because the fact of the matter is that when you don’t organize or have a system, you aren’t really being productive and instead are wasting time and getting frustrated at the lack of organization.

When I moved to Colorado and into my new office, it was filled with boxes for many weeks and I felt very unproductive. Every time I walked into my office the nagging feeling that I needed to unpack and organize my office dwelt in the back of my subconscious dragging my productivity downward. When I see my Inbox filled with more than a dozen emails, my mind keeps gnawing at the need to respond to each and every one right now! To be fair, I’m an extreme multi-tasker and can handle doing up to about 3 or 4 things simultaneously: phone call, text message, email, and coding – but that only works when I don’t have to organize as I’m doing all those things.

A few things to know about me.

Every person has a different level of organization and I’m not going to pretend to tell you how to organize your life but I do wish to share with you my own methods. They work for me – but not for Chris, for example (he’s got deep down organization issues by the fact that his Inbox unread count is a number higher than Gandalf’s age). A few things to know about me.

  • I use email for a lot. I have 72 email folders that have server-side rules to pre-organize incoming mail
  • I use Reminders a lot because of Siri. When I’m driving, I tend to have flashes of inspiration and so I use Siri to record them.
    • I then have Informant setup to auto-import Reminders into an Informant Sync project so I can use PI’s fantastic GTD based task handling
  • I can’t organize without coffee. Or Sangria. Or both.
  • I have to work with music playing.

So with that out of the way, my organization is quite simple: I use email and tasks. My tasks almost always have a due date, but I don’t do start dates. I don’t like to prioritize my tasks because frankly that’s just too much for me. All I need is to have them in specific Projects and have them on specific dates. By doing those two things I compartmentalize my tasks into bite-size chunks.

My big problem is how to integrate email with tasks. Many of our users use the Informant Sync email->task feature, but for me I get enough email (on average 300 or so – with about 100 of those actionable) that I’d be forwarding email all day long. What would really be nice is if there was a way to <…………redacted………>.

End of Year Organizing

Now this post is not just about organizing, but end of year organizing. For many of us, around this time of year we’ve got holiday planning, Christmas lists, New Years resolutions, travel planning, end of year accounting, and the list can go on and on. So how can Informant help you organize? One word: PROJECTS.

Within Informant, create different projects for all the major things you have to do in your life. Give them a unique color so its easily discernible. Group your All Active tasks by Project so you can easily see your projects in one big list. Start free-form listing all the things you have to do and then if you’ve got Informant for OS X – simply drag them into each project when you’re done. If you’re using Informant for iOS/Android, its easier to create the tasks while in the project so they get auto-associated with the project or multi-select the tasks and do a multi-edit to move them to a specific project.

Whether you assign dates or not, just having everything you have to do in a project will make a huge difference in being able to figure out how far you are from completing that project.

The real issue is not how you organize, but that you do something. Taking a couple minutes to brainstorm everything and putting them into separate projects simply helps put order to your life. In the next few days we’ll have a few more posts from Chris and Amy on how they organize so you can see the different ways that Informant can help you organize.