I'm in a new position requiring a lot of project management in many directions. I am getting swamped with sticky notes and papers accumulating and advanced planning and 'this is a great idea that I said yes to or suggested but now how do I make sure it doesn't fall through the cracks?' I am embarrassed that I'm in my 50s (gulp!) and still struggle with these personal issues of organization.
Definitely Feeling Like an Imposter
Dear Definitely Feeling Like an Imposter,
I am thrilled you’ve asked this question, because organization is my jam and I love to help others get on top of it. But first things first: you’re not an imposter. Like so many people the world over, you’re juggling a lot of things all at once and you’re trying to keep a “can-do” attitude because that’s what is expected of you. That makes you human, but the fact that you can admit you need help makes you superhuman! So, pat yourself on the back and let’s jump in.
I don’t care whether you’re twenty-two or sixty-five, writing things down is an age-old art that is always a good answer to any organization challenge. List-making is the most simple and effective foundation for getting organized and it’s going to be your best friend. There’s a reason that every project management tool out there has some sort of list-making function. Whether you do it on a piece of birch-bark or on your phone, start with a list. This serves two important purposes:
- It forces you to slow down and organize your thoughts. It may sound like a stretch, but make the time to do this by grabbing a coffee and stepping away. You want to allow yourself the time to have things come to you that you may have forgotten or overlooked. Force yourself to sit down, undisturbed, and start your list. This may mean you need to gather up all those Post-it notes and scraps of paper and random digital notes and transfer them into this one list. Do it!
- It gets everything in one place. I’ll say that again: It gets everything in one place. The problem with scraps of paper and sticky notes on your desktop is that they scatter your list and when the list gets scattered, things get dropped. What if that Post-it note task didn’t make it onto the agenda in your email because it was sitting under your lunch—oh no! Keep ONE master list and build it out from there.
The list-making tool you use you depends on your personality. Perhaps everything you do is digital and you’re glued to your screen 24/7. If that’s the case, make your list either in something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or something more layered like a project management tool or digital notebook. If you tend to like an actual paper notebook that can sit on your desk and travel with you, then find a good solid hardcover notebook that will become your best friend—maybe it’s just blank pages or maybe it’s a calendar too. You do you! And don’t judge yourself. There’s not one right tool to stay organized. If you try to force yourself into a system that doesn’t work for you, you won’t use it and then you’ll feel guilty for one more thing you didn’t get done today.
Once you’ve made a list of everything that needs doing for a certain project (perhaps you’ve broken it into categories, added deadlines, and noted others who have a hand in this), then make sure you keep that list active and available at all times. This is key because every time someone mentions something else that needs doing, or you suddenly remember an item you left off the list, or a deadline changes, you need to adjust that list. If you don’t have it readily accessible, you’ll revert to a Post-it which may not make it out of the bottom of your bag.
And here’s the most important advice I can give you: Review that list often, and AT LEAST once per day. I used to sit down with my coffee and go over my list each morning before I did anything else. And, when I was really on my game, I’d review it again before I went home each day so that I could cross things off. If you’re not reviewing the list, adding to it, taking away from it, and generally letting it serve as the guard-rails for your day, it’s not serving its purpose.
There are lots of tools and resources out there, but this is the best starting place I know, and it has never let me down. I hope it works for you too. And remember, slowing down and taking the time to declutter your desk, stopping to look out the window, or doing a short loop around the block all help to clear out the cobwebs in your head. And that makes room for all those great new ideas to be added to your list!
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Feeling the Years? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!
Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.