By Jiji Lee

How to Get Organized: Essentials for Productivity


Tools and schedules to get your life in order.

We’ve all had those scatterbrained moments. 

We forget to pick up the dry cleaning before the store closes. We forget to respond to work emails and miss deadlines. Or we show up late to pick up the kids or our loved ones.

In these moments, it’s so easy to blame ourselves and our feeble memory. If only we could add more memory to our brains!

Lucky for us, we don’t have to be blessed with superhero brains to improve our organizational skills. In fact, you should never depend on your memory to do all your work for you.

Instead, you should “delegate” your organizational work and rely on a combination of tools and systems to help you be more organized. 

Below, we’ll take a look at the tools and systems that can help you keep track of your personal and professional life, and have you start organizing your days like a champ. No extra memory or superpowers needed.

Tools to help you get organized:

Planner. You’ll want a central hub for organizing and tracking your goals, progress, and work for the year. 

Google calendar. You can sync this up with your planner so that you have a digital back-up for remembering your tasks and deadlines. 

Dashboard Pad. This is an essential tool for staying on top of multiple projects and managing different work streams, priorities, timelines, and tasks. 

Today Organizer Notepad. A notepad can help you manage your daily to-do lists while also giving you the satisfaction of crossing things off your list every day.

Pens/Highlighter. Colorful pens can give you a visual way of distinguishing information and emphasizing important details. 

Folder/Binder. Keep your essential documents organized in pretty binders that make your desk a nicer place to be.

Systems to get organized

Here are the systems and strategies you can use in tandem with your tools to help you get organized and work like a pro. 

Do routine check-ins

Make sure to do regular check-ins with your work and your goals, so that you’re always aware of the bigger picture, and you know exactly what you’re working towards.

This exercise offers you a bird’s eye view of your year and helps manage expectations, so that you’re not caught off guard by deadlines and commitments later on.

Whether you’re working towards one big goal or juggling multiple assignments with different timelines, spending time upfront will have a huge pay off further down the line.

Here’s how you can conduct regular check-ins throughout the year.

Quarterly check-ins

Do a quarterly review so that you can assess if you are where you need to be in terms of your goals or project milestones. Do you need to change your strategy? Take a class to gain a new skill? Adjust deadlines? This will help you stay organized on all of your projects. 

Review your goals: Three months is a good amount of time to study your work patterns, measure progress on your goals, and examine the granular details. What’s working so far? What needs to be changed? What patterns are emerging? 

Take action: Use the information from your quarterly review to see what needs to be modified or incorporated in the upcoming months. 

Maybe your quarterly review is indicating that you tend to reach peak productivity levels in the afternoon, rather than in the morning. After drawing this conclusion, you can adjust your schedule in the next month and perform your most important tasks in the afternoon, so that you can take advantage of your peak energy hours.

Organize your schedule: During the quarterly review, you can also enter key dates and reminders in your planner or digital calendar. Record everything from work deadlines to back-to-school dates to the expiration date of your driver’s licenses and passports. Trust us, your future self will thank you for being so organized!

Monthly check-ins

At the beginning of the month, make a comprehensive list of everything you have to do over the next few weeks so that you can stay organized and focused. 

Review your goals and projects: Check in with your goals and big projects. How did you do last month? What do you need to do this month to help you feel closer to your goals and stay organized? Refer to your quarterly review so that you can work in alignment with your quarterly goals as well as apply the lessons learned from the previous quarter. 

Take action: Afterwards, take a look at your Dashboard Pad. What are your Focus Areas for this month? Make sure to actually schedule in your tasks, personal and professional. Whether it’s getting up early to go for a run or doing a brainstorming session on a project, create this event in your planner or calendar. When we write things down, we are signaling to ourselves that this task or event is meaningful, which makes it easier for us to honor this commitment when it arises. Taking these actions now, ensures that you are more likely to complete them in the future.

Organize your schedule: Study your calendar and take note of upcoming deadlines or meetings or other key dates. Create a notification for yourself: maybe it’s a post-it on your desk or a phone alert. It doesn’t matter what form the notification takes as long as it’s something that will remind you to take action. 

Weekly check-ins

Conduct a weekly planning session on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings to prepare yourself for the week ahead. 

Review your goals: Take a look at your monthly goals. What are 1-2 things you can do this week to ensure that you meet your benchmarks? Review your to-do list from the previous week and take note of what you accomplished, what you didn’t get around to doing, and what needs to be done for the upcoming week

Take action: Create a new to-do list for the upcoming week and highlight your priorities. Include the pending items from the previous week and any tasks that have come up since then. Be sure to include 1-2 tasks related to your monthly goal so that you can move closer to the direction of your goals.  

This list can include everything from personal errands, like picking up dry cleaning or meeting up with a friend, to professional tasks like meetings and brainstorming sessions. Note what’s important and urgent and make sure to prioritize those tasks.

Organize your schedule: Take note of important deadlines that week. Record them down in your planner and/or Google calendar. 

As you can see, the key to being organized isn’t about having an elephantine memory or a monk-like discipline. Instead, have your essential tools and systems in place, so that you can use them to do the heavy lifting for you.