As I approach the end of maternity leave and my return to work, one thing has caught my obsession – organizing myself! It’s a common coping mechanism of mine to get obsessive about organization systems before a big transition – and this is quite the transition. Like, if I only had the right tool I could ward off sadness at leaving my precious baby for 9 of his 12 waking hours a day and could ensure that I never have work spillover into my personal life while I also magically stay on top of everything my job demands.
Needless to say, this coping strategy is limited. It won’t touch my sadness, of course, and may only minimally help achieve the holy grail of work-life balance (I hear God – or maybe it’s myself – laughing in my head).
Putting these facts aside, another challenge with my quest for better organization systems is that I often do not follow through on the tools I’ve tediously created and compiled – like when I come back from vacation and only glance passingly at the detailed “MUST DO NOW” list I carefully put together before taking off. And, further on the subject of challenges, I also know that even the best tools in the world won’t work if I don’t use them or use them correctly. Ultimately, it’s all about being clear headed (and on this last front, I do not have high hopes for myself in the near term).
Putting all that aside, I am still heartily pursuing this quest because I hold hope for something that works a little bit better and also just love a good to do system. And perhaps the scope of my leave will give me enough of a blank slate to start afresh with newer and better ways. So with that, here’s where I am at in my search for a new system to organize my life:
My goals/criteria is as follows:
- A simple, online interface that’s easy to add to do items to it
- Accessible by both iPhone and computer
- Offers a birds eye view of all the projects and tasks at once
- Ability to sort by projects and due date
- Reminder/alert functions; and
- Ideally have some sort of task share option.
I *think* I want a system that can encompass both work and home – because the times when I really need to get organized, I need to juggle picking up groceries, scheduling a doctor’s appointment and finishing a work project at the same moment. I mean, how many personal to do items are only doable during “work” hours? And how many evenings after Baby O goes to bed will I be squeezing in both emails to family, a blog post and catching up on pressing work items I didn’t get done by the end of the day? (This was a struggle pre-baby, after all). At the same time, I also really want to be able to separate the two so when I am solidly in one mode or the other I can look at the universe of my personal life without the anxiety of seeing all my outstanding work items, and vice versa.
Here are the systems I’ve used or am considering….
- Google docs. This is essentially my system now. The wife and I have several master lists I update regularly and it works decently well. Where it fails is in offering me alerts or being accessible by phone – so it really is only good for big projects and not the daily juggle.
- ToDoist. Opposite of Google docs, this has worked for me for super specific steps but not tracking bigger projects.
- Evernote. I’ve liked this for keeping track of ideas, like a digital scrap bok or filing system. But I’ve never quite grasped its functionality as a to do list tool. Though very smart and well functioning people I know use it for task lists quite a lot so I’m interested in giving it another go.
- Asana. I know various people who swear by this for team work but it seems possibly like too much function for my individual brain. Like having a universal remote when all you want is to flip the channels. But again, I’m exploring…
- Google calendar and tasks. The calendar is of course baseline (though I’ll spare the internet my boring diatribes on calendar sharing issues between home, work and wife) but does not offer project tracking or general list-making. Not to mention, recurring calendar appointments get easily overlooked when I’m trying to schedule things in my day. And the google task function is way too simplistic for my needs – like having a remote for my 1995 cable box when I need something that will get me between On Demand, my Smart TV, and the channel line-up.
Already going through this list of different possible systems has sent a wave of calm across my anxious brain! Denial isn’t the worst strategy, after all. I will try to keep this universe (of my 9 or so readers) abreast of what I discover. Though it’s just as likely as with times past I will abandon this search once I’m back in the thick of work and make do with my google docs, hand written notes, and middle-of-the-night post-it scribbles of something I forgot about.
In the meantime, dear internet, what secrets, tips and tools do you swear by? And what coping strategies do you employ when facing a big change or a difficult milestone?