Up until the middle of my college career, I would not have considered myself a very organized person. Not only were my dorm room walls cluttered with random posters and fliers from shows long past and barely remembered, but my bookcase was bursting with old papers and class notes that would (as they do) go missing just when I needed them for reference. In all honesty, it was some kind of miracle that I remembered to do my homework, since all of my deadlines seemed to be scribbled in the margins of whatever random notebook I’d happened to find under my bed. Some advice I should have taken to heart before that point: in exchanging e-mails with my first-year roommate before moving in, she mentioned that the organizational state of her side of the room would be a consistent indication of her current state of mind. It turned out to be pretty accurate for me, too.
By sophomore year, I’d cleaned up my act a little bit (pun intended) by discovering Google Calendar, Documents and Task List, respectively. Because I’m already half-convinced that Google will eventually take over the world, I’m not going to do a lot of corporation-pushing in this post. Suffice to say, my life got a lot easier upon realizing I could manage my appointments/paper-writing deadlines at the same time I was untagging pictures of myself on Facebook. My grades improved, I wasn’t quite so late to meeting friends for dinner, and generally speaking, I became a calmer person. So, my academic life was more neatly compartmentalized (and handily backed-up), but that didn’t do much for why I was still missing socks, or how the t-shirt from the day before didn’t quite make the jump into my laundry basket. I’d had enough of my near-hoarder lifestyle: I needed to get rid of my STUFF. So, that summer, I moved up the Eastern seaboard to New Haven, Ct., and then across the ocean to France, I got rid of everything I hadn’t worn in a month. It felt so good. To this day, I do a regular six-month purge of my things; if all of my clothing/wall décor won’t fit into two reasonably-sized pieces of luggage, it has to go.
Fast-forward to the present moment: this week, I’ve taken on another personal challenge for organizing my life. In my job, I go to a lot of meetings, write a lot of e-mails, do a lot of brainstorming … you get the idea; I do a lot of things that involve writing and organizing and collating and brain-powering. While I still use my Google Calendar for managing just about every appointment in my life, the task list function just hasn’t gotten me to be very productive like it used to. I’d find myself in the middle of my workday, struggling to remember which project I’d been thinking of the week before, or that I really needed to e-mail a faculty member back about some small issue. I was frustrated with myself for not keeping up with my Task List — even moreso, that I would look at said Task List and lean toward procrastination. What’s the solution? Oh yeah. Reconnecting with the tactile satisfaction of using a ballpoint pen, and writing lists by hand.
So that’s my big “self-improvement” task for the week. Making lengthy to-do lists for the day that run the gamut of the work-important (e-mailing that technophobic professor) to the self-important (grocery shopping). There’s nothing quite like physically checking off an item on the list — by the end of the day, chances are I’ve actually been extremely productive with my work time. And even have some left over to write blog posts like this one.
I also bought a new agenda yesterday; it’s pretty ridiculous-looking, but gets the job done and was only $3 at Barnes and Noble. Pick your battles.