How To Organize Your Life
As leaders, we are inundated with appointments, to-do lists, notes to take, deadlines to meet, emergencies that come up, clients to see, and meetings to conduct. If you do not have systems in place by which to organize yourself, you will quickly become scattered and disorderly.
I want to share with you a simple system which helps me in this area. It is one that I am intentional to maintain and disciplined to use.
What I am about to share is not earth-shattering. The reason I want to share it, however, is because I meet many leaders who do not have an organizational system. As I look back at my life, there have been many times that I did not have one in place, or was not disciplined to maintain it.
You should always have one of the following three tools. Yours may look different than mine, however as a leader, you must find a method that works for you.
I use my calendar on my MacBook which syncs with my iPhone. I have used other forms of calendars in previous years. Regardless of your preference, you must have some form of a calendar system.
In the calendar system, place all your appointments and important dates like deadlines, birthdays, or holidays. Whichever system you use, if the calendar is readily accessible to you, it will make it easier to add and make changes to it. If you work with others, you can also share parts of that calendar. I share parts of my calendar with two key people in my professional life.
My staff and I use Nozbe which is an app that is easy to access from my phone or computer to create lists and organize projects. You can share these tasks and projects with other people on your team. This app comes highly recommended by mega-blogger and author, Michael Hyatt.
Regardless of what system you use, your list making system should be readily available to capture your thoughts and ideas so you don’t forget them. Here is my motto: do it now, or write it now. Otherwise it is likely that the idea or thought will be lost forever.
What lists should you keep? That depends on the responsibilities you have in the season of life you are in. I divide mine into to-do lists which require action, and “to-think” lists for things I want to think on and analyze. I also have a list for each person I meet with regularly. This allows me to quickly add items I wish to discuss whenever they come to mind. Then I can pull out the list to refer to when I meet with that person.
Beware. I have fallen into this trap so many times: I spend time adding to my lists and organizing the lists, and I neglect to get things done. The cure to this malady, is the “Do It Now, Do it Today” principle. If you can do it now, do not add it to the list. This is huge. It is always better not to add one more item to the list which you’ll have to worry about later.
I like to carry a black, hard cover Foray journal with me everywhere. Last weekend I attended a mastermind, and the journal went with me. This Sunday morning, I went to a conference where I heard two sermons, and it went with me. I filled two pages of notes. (And by the way, I looked around and noticed no one else was taking notes. I wonder how people remember what God is saying through the pastor.) This journal is with me during my team meetings, during my one-on-one business meetings, and even when I have lunch with friends. You never know when you may need to capture a thought. Or if you are like me, you may need to make a drawing to explain what you are saying. (Some poke fun at me that I must have a pen and paper with me before I can say anything.)
I do not write my thoughts and notes on random papers anymore. We have all done that. And we all know where these end up—in a stack somewhere. The journal I carry works as a repository for what would otherwise be a random stack of notes and papers. It looks professional and gives me the freedom to write anything I want. I also use it to do my intentional thinking. I try to spend several hours per week to think and brainstorm by myself. I do that by writing, jotting down thoughts, and drawing what I need to analyze and think about. I do all of that in my journal.
You may ask what happens to these notes? Good question. If you are not careful, all these journals will become a stack somewhere too. To avoid this, I dedicate time each month to go through my notes. I mark through the pages containing nothing I wish to keep. And the ideas I do want to keep, I type or transfer to my computer.
I have found this method to be better for me than typing everything directly into my computer because a lot of what I write, I really do not want to keep. And going through it again, gives me the chance to process it. Plus having a computer with you all the time is not practical. And honestly it looks kind of odd and not as friendly when people are talking to you, and you are typing away. (Yes, I have tried that too.)
I know there are many other systems that could be implemented in order to live an organized life. However, I have found that if you start with these three, and remain disciplined to keep them updated, you will be much more productive as a leader.
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