The Career Girl's Toolkit: Planning & Organization

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Above all else: develop a tactical planning system that works for you.
I fucking love planning. I started with a ring-bound planner in high school to organize my college application materials, and then upgraded to a Filofax during college, when I literally designed, printed, and used my own inserts because nothing on the market suited my scheduling needs. I've lusted after Erin Condren planners (but the fonts are garbage, and I don't understand why their design team hasn't opted for more modern typography), Happy Planners (the teacher edition makes me want to be a teacher!), and the metallic Leuchtturm1917 bullet journals. Point is, I am super passionate and thoughtful about how tools like digital and paper planners can help us become productive, happy people. (As an aside, productivity doesn't look like cramming every second of my schedule with work! When I'm most efficient with my time, I'm able to take an entire hour for lunch, which I use to hide from people because I'm introverted, read my book, and Facetime my boyfriend -- all of which restores me enough to really power through the afternoon.) But whether you're a soccer mum who uses her planner as a scrapbook + carpool reminder or a scribbler with shitty handwriting, the most effective system is the one you've adapted to fit your priorities, your lifestyle, and your habits. But in case you're feeling lost, here are some tips from little old me and my psycho planning routine.

Digital Planners: OneNote "Bullet Journaling" 
I use OneNote to sort out pretty much my entire life because (1) the icons and flags are super useful, (2) it syncs with Outlook, and (3) I used a Surface Pro throughout college and hand wrote my notes. So it seemed pretty intuitive to bullet journal with OneNote for work, especially because my plans change so often that it doesn't make sense to commit to anything with pen and paper.
So here's a sample of my weekly layout, with my clients, sponsors, etc. redacted. I work for a creative agency, so I'm balancing multiple accounts/clients on a daily basis and need to make sure every billable minute is well-accounted for (hence the time allotted for each task).

Some tips on formatting and functionality:
1. To-Do List
Keep a running to-do list on the right with tasks that don't have static deadlines. This includes  personal action items and small projects that could use, but don't require, your attention. I like to reference this if my meetings/calls end early and I find myself with a spare pocket of time. Some of my fleeting ideas find their way there, too (like creative pitches, ways to improve office processes, etc.)

2. Color Coding
If you're client-facing, color code your action items and deliverables by account. This helps you visually assess how your time and resources are being allocated. You can also sort by category if you're corporate or by subject if you're a student. I sometimes highlight action items if I'm having a particularly hectic day and need to circle back later in the day. Any questions I have about a specific deliverable can also be noted underneath, flagged with a question mark.

3. OneNote Flags 
Utilize OneNote's flags! I use the checkbox for action items and deliverables, the meeting checkbox for client calls and internals, the phone icon for dial-in information (which is super useful to have on your schedule so you're not frantically searching through your emails), and the "favorite" (star) or "priority" (exclamation point) icons to highlight things that immediately need my attention. The flags are also really helpful when you're writing meeting minutes to highlight action items and key questions.

4. Cheat Sheet
Add a small "cheat sheet" box with important contact information. I have my account managers' and clients' contact information for each account. Just keep it streamlined to only the essentials to avoid information clutter. More detailed client notes can be housed in its respective "notebook."

Bonus: I create a OneNote notebook for each client with a one-sheeter as the first page detailing the client's background, the industry, social media/digital statistics, key contracted activities, etc. Something similar to a college syllabus, but for work.

5. Archive Your Planner
Rather than delete the previous week's tasks, I start a new page or new weekly spread every Friday afternoon (another tip: don't wait until Monday morning to get this together! You'll have a billion emails to check and feel too overwhelmed to plan things out strategically). This helps me migrate incomplete items to the next week, and reference how long recurring tasks generally take me. Make each new page of your planner a subpage of the most recent one, and collapse to avoid clutter in your notebook tab (I take this so seriously!). As for when the bulk of your planning should be done, I like to get recurring meetings set the previous Friday afternoon, and then schedule most of my daily tasks within the first hour of arriving in the office.

Bonus: When I open my email in the morning, I sort and flag each one before responding. Anything that needs to be followed up within the hour gets flagged accordingly. Each email is sorted into its respective folder (client, with appropriate subsections; internal; administrative; media, etc.) When everything is filed away, then I start responding and adding tasks to my planner. This prevents me from getting distracted by the first email I open because there may be something more urgent down the line. By seeing all of the asks and deliverables, I'm able to prioritize and better allocate billable time/resources.

Paper Planners
I don't have a paper planner at the moment, but I absolutely have planner lust. So here are a few on my radar. Many are pricey, but I'm a complete advocate for investing in something you enjoy looking at, because it incentivizes you (I hope) to actually use and work with it. Also including accessories because duh.
Rifle Paper Co. 2019 Bouquet 17-Month Planner
$34.00 "I Am Very Busy" Classic 13-Month Planner
$20.00 Planner Essentials Bundle
$32.00 (originally $38.00)

Day Designer 2018-19 Jungle Out There Academic Daily Planner

kikki.k Leather Personal Planner

kikki.k Daily Notes Planner Insert: Your Story

With great love,

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