Some people have asked me to about how I stay organized. I don’t. Haaa just kidding. I do a pretty good job and lately I’ve been doing better. It can get a little chaotic trying to juggle the hats of entrepreneur, author, professor, blogger, and podcast host. And then, let’s not forget that I do have a life outside of my professional one. I’ve had more than my share of seasons of burn-out and not too long ago I thought I was going to be in a hospital bed if I didn’t get things together. On Tuesday, Foreman & Associates released a blog post on productivity tips to use when taking work breaks, and I’m determined to implement them in my life. Let me share with you some of the things that I do and the tools that I use to keep me from running around like a wild woman.
As I’ve shared on the Don’t Call It Small…Business podcast (DCIS), in Episode 72, I’m old school with a lot of things, and that includes note-taking, journaling, and tracking my master calendar.
I like using paper, pencil, and pen
I use notebooks for outlining the topics, themes, and schedules for blogs and podcast. I use them to help me write my books, and whenever I have an idea for a future book. I track my writing progress using a notebook, summarizing what I accomplished during a writing session.
Whether I’m meeting with clients or students, you can guarantee that I’m taking notes by hand. Thank goodness I’m a fast writer and have my own form of shorthand that allows me to quickly capture the information shared. I use client notebooks where I keep track of my projects, notes, reminders, tasks, and more.
I use a paper organizer, to-do list, and calendar system. I like to write out my schedule and to-do’s so that I’m mindful and intentional with what I am committing to. I try to map out my schedule and tasks weekly, so that I can have a decent outlook and can make changes as-needed. As I explained during Episode 72 of DCIS, I like the tactile exchange of energy when writing instrument meets paper.
But I Like Tech Too!
Don’t get me wrong, I also like tech. I was born a techie! I convert high priority tasks, appointments, and events to my online calendar and app, so that I’m synced across all devices. Which apps do I use?
- Focus (iOS feature): I use the Do Not Disturb, Personal, Sleep, and Work features to the fullest. I have it shared across all of my devices and boy howdy does it work! When I’m in Do Not Disturb mode I tell my mom and sister in advance, because I have it setup that I can’t be contacted by anyone (no how and no way) and there are absolutely no notifications from people or apps during the designated period. In the other three modes only my “Favorites” list can reach me. Everyone else and everything else is silenced. They are automated to trigger the moment I do certain things or open certain apps on my devices. This has been so helpful with keeping me focused and limiting my distractions.
- Screen Time (iOS feature): I use this to restrict my access to apps, set limits based on my contacts, and more. Once screen time kicks in I have to override the system to access an app, web page, etc. I have to make that choice to go around the system, which means it better be a good reason. I love this feature because it keeps me off of social media. I only get a certain amount of minutes each day before it kicks me out. When I do an override it is usually for 15 minutes or if I need something really quick, I will select “for 1 minute” and I get in and get out before the system shuts me out. This has helped me be more focused, intentional, and disciplined.
- Podio: I compartmentalize my business ventures as virtual “offices” with this app; I will admit that I’ve slacked off on using this app over the past year, but that’s not a reflection on Podio.
- Evernote: I use it for research, to bookmark a website that I’m interested in, and more
- Google Sheets app (to quickly access info from my mobile device)
- Google Docs app (for the same reason as above)
- Reminders app for iOS: I set it up to annoy me into compliance. Basically, I schedule enough repeat reminders until completion, and trust me you will get the task done. I even set reminders to water my plants, make phone calls, get my nails done, and to force me to sit my butt down and enjoy a pamper day (full body skin detox and more)
- Grammarly is a lifesaver folks! I try to remember to use it for everything. Sometimes you can type too fast for your own good and miss some major mistakes.
- Voice Memos app for iOS: I love it, especially when I’m driving and clearly can’t write and drive.
Okay I wouldn’t call them tricks, but rather a system, and one that I can’t take credit for creating. Years ago, I read an article about how Jack Dorsey operates multiple companies (at the time, Twitter and Square), and he shared that his days are thematic. I can’t recall where he initially learned the skill from, but he did credit another entrepreneur. Anyway, I analyzed the process and fell in love. I adopted it and have to admit, any time I deviate from a thematic approach I find myself in chaos. I need structure like I need air. Last year I swayed and boy did I feel it. I’ve buckled down and gotten serious this year and the past few weeks have been like floating on clouds of joy. Let’s look at all that I juggle professionally:
- Professor: I don’t think I ever have a day off in the eyes of my college students. Every day I’m receiving a “Professor Foreman” email and I smile. I teach classes at two institutions and both have their unique culture and expectations. I have courses to develop, curriculum to keep fresh and challenging, assignments to read and grade, projects to oversee, and more much.
- As a published author my writing never stops. I’m currently in the editing phase of my third set of books, as part of the Seek Him book series. Once this set is finalized and the printer gets to work on it, my eyes have to pivot to the next book that I have on the calendar that is supposed to be released this Fall (sssh don’t tell anyone) and next Spring another book is slated for release. Yes, I do have scheduled breaks that I’m taking in between all of these, but the inspiration doesn’t stop flowing in just because I’m on break.
- Foreman & Associates, LLC (F&A): consulting and professional development firm: I have clients who have to be reminded that they aren’t my only clients; I just love them for wanting me all to themselves (that’s what I tell myself). There’s been some major overhauling of F&A over the years, and especially this year (thank you global pandemic for the wake-up call). Bittersweet is an understatement.
- Don’t Call It Small…Business podcast: weekly I’m focused on delivering content on themes and topics that listeners have requested, and that have been presented through my own experiences. Sometimes I interview people. You can say that it falls under the professional development arm of Foreman & Associates. And I don’t want to forget that I have to devote time finding companies and professionals to show some love to during our Business Shout-Out segment.
- Blogs, blogs, and more blogs: Since 2009, I’ve been blogging through BreakingBreadWithNatasha.com and today I made an announcement that the blog is transitioning from five days per week to seven days of sharing scriptures, reflections, and prayers. I have an audio version that is available for readers who want to listen while they read, or just listen. Of course, there’s this blog site, you know, the one you’re reading right now. Yep. I’ve been blogging here since 2011 I think. I’m not consistent with it like my Breaking Bread one. Lastly, and just as important, I write posts for my business ventures.
How do I break all of this down in themes?
- Monday Management Day
- Tuesday Product Day
- Wednesday Marketing Day
- Thursday Client Day
- Friday Team & Overflow Day
- Saturday Personal Development
- Sunday Rest Day
I will explain each day in detail in another post.
I Finally Stick to My Designated Hours
Thanks to my apps I have alarms set that guide me through my prayer and journal time, workout time, my work hours, work wind-down period, and then “work day is over”. When that alarm notifies me that it’s time to start preparing to wind down for the day, I make sure that I’m going at a pace that will allow me hit my mark. No goofing off and absolutely no distractions. I refuse to take calls or respond to emails and texts during this period.
If I’m serious about my time then I have to give it my all. When the alarm notifies me that my day is done, guess what? Daggumit I’m done. Whatever I didn’t finish can wait until tomorrow. If it’s something tightly theme-based then most likely it’s a deliverable that can wait until the next week. I’ve been getting in the habit of working ahead of schedule so that I’m a week ahead, in some instances.
I’ve only gotten into this rhythm over the past few weeks and I can say, so far so good. I’m less stressed and sleeping much better, waking up feeling well-rested. I’m learning to say no, even if money is on the table. Guess what? The money means absolutely nothing if I’m not alive to invest it or spend it. I’m learning to prioritize better and to be intentional about the hours that make up each day.
You probably noticed that I shared tips throughout this post. My suggestion to you is to find out how you’re wired and what type of structure and ecosystem that you need to operate within. What works for one person may not work for you. What works for you may be a nightmare for me. Make sense? You may not work well with the old school pencil and paper or it may be your saving grace.
Thematic days may be exactly what you need. As I stated earlier, in my next post, I will invest time in explaining how I build out and support my themed days, and how this system has benefited me personally and professionally.
That’s All Folks!
Well, there you go. That’s basically how I run my life, stay organized, and sane. This is how I’m reclaiming my life and closing the door and gates on the old mindset of 90+ hour work weeks, that almost landed me in the grave 65+ years (or thereabouts) too early. I hope that what I’ve shared here helps you, helps someone. Please share with friends, family, and colleagues. And just like that, one of my alarms has alerted me that my time is up. So, now I must go. I will see y’all next week!
Copyright 2022. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.