It’s the beginning of September, meaning school is starting up again and everyone will be getting out of their summer lull. Even if school no longer applies to your life, you may have just spent your summer with projects that you wanted to start up and never did. Maybe you’re starting something new in life — new career, new idea, new anything — and you just don’t know how to go about organizing your new workload. Or, maybe you clicked on this article simply because you’re overwhelmed and need to start over with your organizational process.

I look at all sorts of organizational tools and techniques out there — time blocking, theme days, planners, the Pomodoro technique, etc.

Sometimes, I would try to utilize multiple organizational methods. I have Evernote, a bullet journal, a Panda Planner, Google Calendar, a little notebook to write down “to-do” stuff, and so on. All of these tools have been overwhelming me — “remember to update your planner, and then go into your journal and add it there, and look at your notes, and look at your calendar…” Things were easily getting jumbled and lost, and I was spending more time than I needed to on planning my work out. So, I did a little re-thinking and I got my plans out in order in a way that’s more efficient.

If you need to re-examine how you organize your to-do, here are some tips that I recommend:


Let’s start off with what you need to organize. You have a daily to-do list, you have long-term projects, you have a dentist appointment on Tuesday at 12 that you can’t forget…bottom line, organizing tasks comes in many forms.

Here’s a way to compartmentalize things: identify your big picture stuff (projects, things that will span time), medium picture stuff (your dentist appointments and things — things that you need to do in the future, but aren’t time-consuming) and your small picture stuff (your daily to-do list, your MITs).

Examine what your problems are with how you organize these things. For each organizational type, use ONE system and stick with it.

Here’s what you could end up with if you don’t do this: you add your little daily schedules in multiple places and have a hard time keeping everything updated, a la “I need to write my to-do list down in my go-to notebook, but I also need to write this in Evernote so that I can access my to-do no matter where I go!” Or, you wrote in your planner that you have a meeting at 1, but it just so happens that you don’t really look at your planner all that often.

It’s fine if you use one system for all of your needs — for example, Google Calendar may be your untouchable go-to for everything. Regardless, you need to stick with that system.

Your to-do list will always be found in this notebook. Your daily schedule will always be in Evernote. That 12-month cute kitty-themed calendar hanging next to your desk will always be where you write down meeting dates.

Be consistent.


As I said before, you don’t want to overthink your organizational methods. What works for you works.

There are organizational techniques out there that try to really micro-manage your life and boil things down to a science. Some of my peers, for example, find my Panda Planner to be overly complicated. Yet for some people, they may really need something like that that breaks every little thing down, and they swear by these methods.

However, if things are feeling jumbled in your life and one little snag in your schedule throws you off, maybe it’s time to try something different.

Look at your current organizational plan and think about a way to reduce it. Think of it as “spring cleaning” for your time management. Do I need to plan things out to the very last detail, or can I find a method that breaks it down into something simpler?

I was recently working on my bullet journal — which I love a lot more than I thought I would — and I was realizing that it was becoming just a second planner to me than everything else that I have. Considering all of the planner-type things I have in my life, which planner truly works best for me? And why does it work best for me? Is it because it is easier for me to comprehend? Quicker to use? Always easily accessible to me?

Consider these factors when you reduce your methods down.


You should never feel bogged down by any of your organizational materials. If you ever catch yourself with thoughts of, “Ok, I have to log into my Google account and access my calendar and add an event and…”, then you’ve made your life too complicated. This is probably not the tool for you.

Remember — planners, note apps, techniques, and everything that’s designed for organizational purposes are meant to be tools. If they’re becoming too convoluted for you, then ditch it. If something is too convoluted and time-consuming to use, you’re less likely to use it consistently (remember point #1).

“Convoluted” doesn’t mean “hard to understand.” Most organizational tools are pretty intuitive. However, if they’re not serving as the tools that they’re meant to be, and — most importantly — if they’re not helping you organize things, then ditch it. Try something new.


Always remember that your organizational method is meant to help you. There are more organizational tools out there than ever before, allowing you to really tailor your time management methods to your personality and work style, which is both a blessing and a curse. Abiding by the following points, however, will help you weed out the noise in work culture and organize your life more efficiently:

Be consistent — your to-do tasks should always be in the same places corresponding to the workload-type.

Be simple — your organizational methods should be easy to understand and cut to the point.

And finally, be discerning — your organizational tools shouldn’t be a chore to use. They should support you.

With a little understanding of yourself and your workload, you can organize your life more efficiently. Spend more time doing things than planning things.



Allison is a writer based out of Minneapolis. She lives with her two cats and is loving life.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store