Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Getting organized . . . part 2

Consider a datebook. Paper is endlessly formattable--you can use different color inks, boxes, and underlining to keep track of things. If your stuff for a day is going to overflow the allotted space, you can use a Post-It note to accommodate the overflow.

If you're sick of standard student planners and spiral bindings, you might want to look at The Daily Planner, a great source of datebooks and other stationery items. Datebooks from Exacompta, Letts, and Quo Vadis are especially well-designed (and not very expensive). Bookstores and office-supply stores are also good sources. Just buying a datebook that you really like can inspire you to stay more organized.

If you have many meetings and appointments to keep track of, choose a datebook that breaks the day into hours. If not, choose something more flexible, with blank or ruled pages to write on. And choose something that you can easily carry with you.

One obvious but very useful suggestion: Don't use a datebook only to keep track of appointments and meetings and due dates. Use it to list the things you need to do and when you're going to do them. A running to-do list can make a great difference in keeping up with your responsibilities. (Much better than turning the page and suddenly seeing that there's a paper due--something that you wrote in a week ago and forgot about.)

One way to make a genuinely useful to-do list is by breaking down a project into small, do-able parts. Not write research paper but go to library to find sources, organize by call number, read first five and take notes, finish other sources, organize stuff on computer, check bibliography format, and so on. Write research paper isn't really a do-able task for anyone. But all of the above are very do-able, and they give you the satisfaction of crossing things off and making progress. (This general strategy is a major theme in David Allen's book; the example is mine.)

One more thing--use your datebook as a backup for phone numbers. (Many datebooks have pages for addresses in the back.) When a cell-phone goes on the blink and you can't get to your numbers, you'll be glad that you have a paper backup.

Links » Getting organized with simple tools: Part 1, 3, 4, 5

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