I used to carry around a giant paperback agenda (Yes. In 2018.) to write all my reminders, appointments, and work schedule. My excuse was that I liked the feeling and control of handwriting all my notes in a visually pleasing way. I thought that any sort of organizer app would pale in comparison to such handwritten satisfaction.
When I started Praxis, it was like I stepped into a room with all these insanely productive yet balanced humans. They were slamming away on keyboards, meeting insane goals and deadlines all while remembering their brunch date with grandma the next day. That same week I missed my dentist appointment because I didn’t check my prehistoric agenda before I left for the gym that morning.
Disappointing my life long dental hygienist was the wake up call I needed to finally embrace technology’s help to organize my life. I experimented with various methods and have finally dwindled it down to 5 essentials for living an organized life.
Get your phone right now. How many email notifications do you have sitting on top of your little Gmail icon? My number used to be embarrassingly high. Let’s not dwell. Here’s what you need to do:
- Whatever the number is, open your email account on the computer and get to hacking away. Delete it all. Except what’s important of course.
- Now that the bulk is done, the key to maintenance is to keep deleting and unsubscribing from the junk emails that keep popping up.
- That funny email that your dad sent you? Yes, it’s nice and feels harsh to delete, so archive it. It’s out of sight, but if you want to pull it up again, a simple search will do the job.
- Get into the habit of doing a mini email clean daily. When you’re stuck on the train, at the doctor’s office or trying to fall asleep at night, just pull out your phone and do your cleanup for the day. Unsubscribe, delete or archive.
I use two Gmail accounts. One is my main email for business, family, friends and notifications I deem as important. The other email is my junk folder. I use it to sign up for things that I don’t want spamming my inbox. My second email’s inbox isn’t checked very often, but it’s okay because it’s meant to be for junk. I highly suggest doing this if you’re truly overwhelmed with the volume of emails your inbox receives every day.
*Bonus: If you’re really feeling excited by all this, clean up your phone contacts and sync them to your Google account. Now you have phone numbers, emails and birthdays all in one place.
2) Google Calendars
This is the holy grail of the entire system. Google Calendars ended up being a lot more flexible and customizable than I had anticipated. There are so many options that allow you to decide how much control you want to give Google to organize your schedule and how you want them to do it. This is how I set up mine:
- Colors are important to me. So, I assigned a color to each type of repeating event in my life. (appointments, work meetings, fun plans, classes etc.)
- I set my week to start on Mondays.
- On my computer, I set up the default view as 5 days. Not too little and not too much information to process.
- If I have an important task I want to complete by a certain day or time, I set a reminder for it. Once I’ve completed the task, a line gets crossed through it. Very satisfying.
- Depending on the event, I turn off or turn on reminder notifications.
- When I have an event or meeting planned with somebody, I invite them to the event and it gets added to their calendar too.
These are just the basic settings I’ve configured for my calendar. Depending on what kind of person you are, you can get really into settings and customization.
Now when I know of something I need to add to my calendar, I just pull out my phone and input it right away. It leaves very little room for error and forgetfulness.
3) The DONE app
Another aspect I wanted to gain control of was my daily routine. I am big believer in the power of keeping daily habits to be your best self and reach goals. I made a list of things that I would like to try to do every day and another list of things that I want to make progress on in the long term. A shortened version of my list would look like this:
Run 3 miles under 30 minutes (run 3x/week)
Improve Spanish (study grammar book 3 hours/week)
Eat at home more (meal prep on Sundays)
Learn Adobe Illustrator (1 hour of practice every day)
Using the DONE app (IOS only. For an Android equivalent try Loop) I added all my daily habits from the first list and set them to be met once a day. For my long-term goals, I translated them into attainable chunks. For example, I created a habit called “RUN” and set it to be met 3 times a week. This allows me to work towards my “run 3 miles in under 30 minutes” goal.
Each habit can be color coded. When you double tap it, the column will fill with color to represent how much of that habit goal you have completed. I only need to take my vitamins once a day, so the entire column will fill. I have a habit set to drink 18oz of water six times a day, so when I double tap only a part of the column fills. See the beauty?
With the free version of the app you can only add 3 habits. I loved it so much after using it a week that I paid the one-time full price of $4.99 for unlimited habits and customizations.
4) Flora app
Now you have a clean inbox, beautifully filled calendar and organized goals. Time to actually get stuff done. But wait, your girlfriend is texting you about her horrible day at work. Now she’s talking about her coworker’s man hands, so you need to find that Seinfeld clip to send to her. Oh look, some of Jerry Seinfeld’s old stand up clips. Ha, remember his last AMA?
The technology that saved us is apparently also our biggest inhibitor. So I found a way to turn our nemesis into our friend.
I’ve been using an app called Flora, with great success, to keep me on track with my various tasks.
It’s very simple. Open the app and set an amount of time that you need to concentrate for. A tree will then begin to grow and flourish under your care and concentration. If you break your concentration and stop the timer, the tree will die. Harsh but effective for a tree hugger like me.
5) iPhone Notes
By now you’re saying, “Julianna, this is all very nice but I really just need help completing the list of random tasks that I procrastinate on every day.” Patience, there is beauty to using all the essentials cohesively.
Most days I have a list of random one-time errands and tasks that I need to complete in addition to my habits from the DONE app. I write these tasks on a Notes page on my iPhone. When I complete a task, I select it and apply the line-through effect. Yes, line-throughs are big for me.
Once you have habits formed with the DONE app, you don’t have to write something like “go to the gym” on your Notes page. You already have the morning routine habit formed of going to the gym at 9 AM every day.
Basically, I use my “Notes tasks” between my habit items. For me this is my chunk of time in the late morning to afternoon that I save to get work done. Or on days that I’m working out the house during the day, I save my free late hours to complete miscellaneous tasks. It all balances out.
Turns out it’s nice to let the machines do a little thinking for you. I’ve been saving my brain power and memory for the my more important tasks and creative projects. If this whole system seems like too much to you, at the very least I recommend utilizing Google Calendars. It’s worth it and will seriously change your life.