6 Tips to Stay Organized

coffee-1276778_1920Things have been fairly busy lately. With sickness running rampant at the office, tasks have been piling up. I’ve been getting ready for my best friend’s wedding later this month. Add workouts and dance classes and catching up with old friends and you have a very busy mix.

I wanted to share a few things I do to stay organized. If you have any suggestions on being more efficient I’d love to hear them too!

1. Make all the lists
Every time you think of something that needs to be done, write it down. This can be done on an actual piece of paper or on your phone/computer. I like to make a giant to-do list, then create separate lists for grocery trips, trip planning, packing lists, etc.

2. Prioritize your tasks
Break down your to-do lists into two parts. Time-sensitive, must-do tasks. And everything else. That way you can focus on the urgent tasks and do the rest when you have the time. It also ensures you don’t forget about something that needs to be done ASAP.

3. Break it down
When approaching a huge task (like planning a vacation), it can easily get overwhelming, especially for an introvert. Write down all the small steps (figuring out accommodations, find flights, car rental, money exchange, etc) that lead to finishing the big task. Then start working on them one at a time. It’s way less stressful.

4. Use a day planner or organizer
Set aside time during the week to fill out a weekly planner. Start by writing down all your daily tasks first (work, food prep, laundry, workouts, etc). Then add all your urgent tasks (like work or personal projects). Extra spaces can be filled with hobbies, social time, or recharge time. My personal favourite is the Passion Planner, but there are tons out there.

5. Stick to it
Follow the schedule you’ve made up. The first few weeks will be full of trial and error. You may need to make adjustments here and there. But stick with it, it’s worth the effort.

6. Reward yourself 
Treat yourself when you’ve been successful in staying on track. Then keep up the good work!

Do you have any other tips or tricks?

How I plan things

coffee-2306471_1920There’s something extremely satisfying about watching a well-planned event come to fruition. Seeing all your hard work, research, time, and effort come together is such an awesome feeling.

I recently planned a coffee date with a few friends. I thought it might be interesting to run through how I approach the planning process. I’d love to learn how you plan for things too!

1. Choose the type of event.
In this particular case, I wanted to invite a few friends for coffee. But in the past, I’ve planned camping trips, movie nights, vacations, and road trips. The bigger the event, the greater the complexity (and the more lists I make). But I find that the more I do it, the more comfortable I become in organizing people and making decisions.

2. Pick your people.
There’s nothing like getting together for a one-on-one coffee date. However, in this case, I thought it would be fun to have a slightly larger group. As a result, I decided to invite 9 people. Now this isn’t because I enjoy chaos and want to cram that many people together. But it’s highly improbable that everyone will be able to make it due to conflicting schedules. In fact, I’ve never gotten more than 3-4 people to commit at any one time. So even though I’ve invited 9 people, it will likely be a smaller group of 4-5 who actually come.

3. Pick your stress level.
Coordinating two people can be a challenge. Trying to match schedules for multiple people is stressful and painstaking. If you’re doing it for a momentous occasion, like an anniversary celebration or bridal shower, it’s worth it. However, I decided to make things easier on myself. I decided to choose a date and time and if people could make it, that was awesome. If not, that was okay too.

4. Define the details.
I chose a day of the week and time I knew worked for most people. I picked a Sunday in the late afternoon. Two of my friends work morning shifts and wouldn’t be able to come earlier than that. Additionally, if anyone wants to extend the socializing past the coffee date, it won’t be too late. I also picked a location that was central to most.

5. Make a decision.
I was the one who made the final decision regarding the details of the event. However, I did run them past one of my friends, who agreed that everything seemed reasonable.

6. Send out the invites.
I then wrote up some invitation text with the details, threw in a few emojis, and texted the invite to my friends. I’ve learned from experience that people will not reply to my emails (even if I ask that they RSVP). So in order to ensure some kind of response, I’ve switched to texting. I always ask people to RSVP, even if they aren’t going. That way I can know roughly how many are coming and whether someone has read my text or not. I also like to invite people a couple of weeks before the event. If I don’t give them enough time, they may already have plans. But if I contact them too early, they may forget.

7. Relax.
All the prep work is complete! All you need to do is wait for people to get back to you. Then you can let things run its course and enjoy the event once it arrives!

How do you plan for things?

Am I too organized?

coffee dateI tend to be a very organized person. Unfortunately, some people view this as a negative thing. I’ve been told that I need to relax, that I need to go with the flow, and to stop being so controlling. For the most part, if I’m attending an event planned by someone else, all I need to know is the start time, approximate length of the event, and roughly how many will be there. I don’t necessarily care about what’s going to happen beyond that. If I know the general outline, I’m mentally prepared for anything within that time frame. If I’m the one planning an event, things unfold a little differently.

Lets say I want to go for coffee with a friend.

  • Firstly, I’ll decide the best place to meet up. Are they a Starbucks fan or do they prefer a cute cafe?
  • I’ll choose a location that’s either closer to them, or equidistant for both of us. Downtown is usually a good, central choice. It’s easily accessible by transit but has lots of parking available if they want to drive.
  • I’ll pick a date and time. Typically I’ll choose a Sunday afternoon after lunch. That way, if we only stay a few hours, we don’t need to spend extra money on food. I’ll also figure out how long it will take to get to and from the location.
  • I’ll compile a mental list of things we can do in the area. We could window shop, watch a movie, walk along one of the river trails, or sit on a park bench and chat. If I don’t know the area, a quick google search will show me nearby attractions.
  • I’ll budget for 2-3 hours of interaction, but depending on the person, it may stretch for a few more. If that happens, we’ll both probably start feeling peckish. I’ll compile another mental list of nearby restaurants ranging in price and formality. Feeling cheap? A&W will do. Want something a little more upscale? Maybe we’ll go to one of the steakhouses.

The whole planning process probably takes 5-10 minutes at most and is often done while I’m driving or making dinner. A few minutes is all the time I need to plan things out. Once I’ve figured out the details, I’ll text my friend the invite. If the answer is affirmative, the coffee date goes ahead as planned.

I really don’t see myself as being controlling. Nor do I get stressed out if plans change. Having everything laid out in my head allows me to kick back, relax, and enjoy myself.

Do you like to plan things or do you prefer to wing it?

Image credit: “Coffee Date” by Vanessa Porter is licensed under CC by 2.0

How planning helps me relax

Girls having funI’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the years because I plan too much. I’ve been told that I need to ‘go with the flow’ and ‘just learn to relax’. But what most don’t realize is that planning things out is what allows me to relax. It seems contradictory but its very true. If I know what to expect in a given situation, I can be the most flexible and relaxed person in the room.

Planning creates order out of the swirling chaos in my mind. At any one time, my thoughts jump from one topic to the next intermittently. By writing things out, or creating mental lists, it creates order and gives me something to focus on. I can organize and process my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I can come up with ideas, goals, and plans and then take steps to achieve them. Planning things, rather than just letting things happen, reduces the stress of not knowing what’s going on. As someone who doesn’t enjoy surprises, this is hugely beneficial.

Even when it comes to spending time with friends, I like to plan everything out from start to finish, laying out all the details. For example, when I spend summer weekends downtown with my friends, we choose a time to meet up. Once I know that, I’ll figure out how much time I need to get ready, to drive to the train station, to take the train downtown, and to walk to the meetup location. Having a time-frame to work within calms me down and keeps me on schedule. Plus, I never have to worry about being late (which is one of my biggest pet peeves).

We’ll usually start out with a game plan, like walking along the river, and we’ll see where the day takes us. In my head, I’ve already compiled a huge list of potential activities we could do. We could go to the movies, check out the shopping mall, peruse the open market, grab food at a restaurant, stop at a coffee or bubble tea shop, check out alternate walking paths, take the train to other locations, do impromptu photo shoots in the park, or just relax on the grass. Even though we’ll never go through that entire list, knowing what our options are allows me to relax as my mind is no longer focused on figuring things out.

Obviously life is unpredictable, I can’t plan everything, and flexibility is another thing I’m still working on. But planning helps me to de-stress, and I’m not going to alienate that part of myself, or feel guilty for it any more.

Have you had similar experiences?

Image credit: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Nicole Pierce is licensed under CC by 2.0