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My name is Madison and welcome to my blog! I'm sharing my life with you – from fun food finds to travel and everything in between! If you like Disney and dessert, you're going to love it here!

How I Stay Organized + Planner Inspiration

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hi guys! Every year, I usually do some type of post that showcases my planner and my "planning style" for the year, and it's usually around the start of the new school year. Even though I'm not in school, I still thought this would be a great time of year to give my planning and organization tips and discuss my new style of planning.

My main key {or major key, as DJ Khaled would say} in staying organized is to write everything down. This doesn't even have to mean putting pencil to paper, you can make lists on your phone or laptop. I always have my phone so that's the most practical method for me personally. It's just so important to get your ideas out and write down things you need to remember so they don't get lost inside your busy mind.

I'm going to talk about a few tools I use for planning, the first being my paper planner. I typically only write down things that are permanent and definite in my planner because of that perfectionist trait. I jot down my ideas, indefinite dates, and things I want to add to my planner in the Notes app on my phone. I also utilize my MacBook stickies for making to-do lists, noting ideas, and keeping track of emails I need to follow up with by a certain date.

Paper Planner

I wanted to start off by discussing how I use my planner. I use the Happy Planner Jan-Dec planner with a vertical layout and this is my second {or third?} year using it. I love how open it is which allows for more creativity and flexibility. Something I started doing within the past few months {and I'm SO SO glad I started this} is using the planner as more of a journal, planning stuff in advance where I could and then filling in any open space with other things I did throughout the day — even the tiniest, random details — and I've absolutely loved being able to look back on this. 

Some of the things I include on a single day's plans: a to-do checklist of 3-5 items that I want to accomplish that day, any online orders I've placed, my workouts, blog/social media stats every once in a while {particularly when I've reached a "milestone"}, posts published, reminders, anything I did that I don't do every day. I also try to do a weekly Netflix list somewhere across two squares so I can actually remember all the movies and shows I've watched long-term.

If I have open space, I will add quotes, small drawings, and sometimes stickers. I feel like the pages look sooo much better when they're full at the end of the week and I've had several occasions when I was trying to remember when I did something and it was so helpful that I was able to pinpoint the exact date in my planner. I highly recommend getting in the habit of writing down as much as possible. 

I use a lot of different colors to break things up and make my planner visually appealing {though, I still do a lot of my writing in a black pen}. I've mentioned my favorite pens a few times already so you know I genuinely love them and have been using them for years — I use both Paper Mate InkJoy ballpoint pens and Paper Mate Flair felt tip marker pens. They have lots of color variety, they're long-lasting, and neither of them bleed through the Happy Planner pages, plus they write great.

Now, I'm so excited to be sharing some of my planner layouts. I've been really hesitant to post photos of these because this is my real-life, everyday planner so obviously there is some personal stuff written and this is my natural handwriting, it's not at all staged for pictures, but I really wanted to share how I've made my planner my own, without spending money on accessories.

Now that you've seen my planner, you can probably guess that I don't write down many "maybe" things or general ideas in it. I try to keep my planner as definite and error-free as possible and, in order to do that, I keep lots of notes in my phone and on my MacBook stickies. I also duplicate a lot of my to-do lists and have them on my phone, in my planner, and on my MacBook screen so I'm more likely to get them done and can remember them anywhere I'm looking.

Digital Sticky Notes

I keep 2-3 different MacBook stickies open on my home screen at all times. I mainly type out to-do list items on these that I'll be doing on my laptop {making new graphics for Pinterest, updating posts, emails to send} but I typically don't have a timeline for these things so they can be on my sticky for weeks, and when I actually do them, I'll probably note it in my planner for that specific day. It's helpful for me to look at these lists every night when I'm on my laptop and decide which ones I want to prioritize over the next few days.

I also feel like keeping little notes on MacBook stickies really helps me come up with different ideas and be a little more creative, particularly with content that I'm producing. I get a lot of ideas when I'm working on my computer and looking through my blog, so I can quickly type anything that flashes through my mind for things to improve and topics to expand on. 

Notes app

My MacBook Stickies are basically nothing compared to my iPhone Notes app, though. I have my phone with me at all times so I have tons of lists within Notes that I pour ideas into and jot down information that needs to go into my planner. I can't express how helpful the Notes app is for keeping me organized and storing information that I can have with me at all times.

My main running lists that I keep in my Notes app are my blog post calendar {which I love because I can adjust this frequently as needed and write it in my planner once the post is scheduled and done}, what I've watched on Netflix that week {so I know how much room I'll need to move the list into my planner at the end of the week!}, blog post ideas, and ideas for Instagram captions {judge not lest you be judged}.

I also keep my Instagram hashtags within a note and a lot of other different random ideas and information in their own separate notes. For me, it's so helpful to have all of this information easily accessible in one place and I'm in the habit of adding any ideas that come to mind, so this really pays off when it comes time to write a blog post and I need a topic to start on.

Time Management and Creativity

Along with staying on top of everything you have to do and using lists, a big part of organization is having good time management skills. Sometimes I definitely feel like I have poor time management skills, but at the same time, I know I couldn't have made it through college successfully if that was the case, so I think you have to find a balance between staying ahead of the game and figuring out what you prefer to do last minute. For the most part, when you're faced with a big task that holds a lot of importance, you'll want to break it down into smaller tasks and start working in advance so you aren't struggling at the last minute.

Another time management skill I've found helpful is setting specific times for doing different activities so you can make sure there's a spot in your day for everything you want to get done. I've found that 4 pm is the perfect time for me to workout and I always respond to emails before I go to sleep at night. These might not be ideal times for everyone, but this is the time that I know I'll get it done.

The last key for time management is prioritizing. When you have a really busy week, you have to focus on deadlines and what's the most important to get done. Push back anything that isn't a priority right now and remember to start your day with the hardest task on your list.

Lastly, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I come up with ideas because I know I mentioned jotting down my ideas a lot in this post and any creative is going to relate to that. So when I'm coming up with blog post ideas, I typically focus on general topics and then get specific from that. For instance, when a holiday is approaching, I may sit down and say I want to write a recipe post and a craft post relating to this holiday and then I'll brainstorm different ideas under those categories. Speaking of holidays, I pull a lot of inspiration from holidays big and small {I'm looking at you, National Ice Cream day} to come up with related content because I know that's something that people might be searching and are likely to be interested in around that time.

My final tip for coming up with ideas is to use events and projects from your life to inspire your work. If you have a birthday coming up, use some of the DIYs and recipes you did for your party to create a how-to post. If you're in college right now, you can create Instagram posts that are helpful or relative to other college students to inspire them. It's a little bit easier when you're accomplishing two things at once.

Overall Thoughts

My overall advice for staying organized is that writing things down is the key. First, it helps you organize your thoughts, plan your day, and make reminders, but it also helps you to have dates and events documented in your planner so that if you never need to look back and remember when this order was placed or that appointment took place, you'll know exactly when that was. It's also super important to stay ahead of the game and not fall behind in any of your work or personal goals. When you're making to-do lists, you might find it helpful to duplicate these on paper and a digital device.

Remember, a little extra effort can easily make you the most organized person in the room. As the quote goes, go the extra mile, it's never crowded. It'll definitely pay off to find your system and make planning a habit in your daily life.

What are your keys for staying organized?