Halfway through the first month of the new year, I find myself pulling my hair out and trying to cope with a million different things between different aspects of my different lives – personal, business, creative, and comedy. The record-breaking snowfall in Portland (we’ve been declared in a state of emergency twice in two months!) delaying supplies deliveries for my business, impeding my ability to do many of the things on my task lists, and being the cause of several canceled shows hasn’t helped.
Backtrack to a couple of months ago to when Marvelous Empire finally started picking up in sales and then rollercoastered into a a full-blown consumer explosion in December. I had multiple sales coming in every day, but not the resources to keep up with them. I ran out of supplies, couldn’t make trips to my print shop or the post office due to inclement weather, and despite everything working out in the end, it felt like a month of pure madness.
I decided that I needed a plan. I needed to account for everything – my personal time, my creative and writing time, my business time. And my finances. This was something I had been putting off my entire adult life. I didn’t use a checkbook or money managing app; it felt like too much. Growing up impoverished left me feeling a twinge of discomfort any time finances were ever brought up or handled. I lived my life mostly making mental notes and reconciling those with my bank account. But now that I had income coming in from multiple sources and more expenses than I could mentally manage, it was time for a change.
For the first time in my 28 years, I decided to get organized with a handful of mostly-free organizational tools.
Wunderlist is my number one go-to organization tool. I can’t think of any features I would want that it doesn’t already come with. The app is so easy to use, and the web-based portal syncs with it immediately. I love the fact that it utilizes folders, task lists, and sub-task lists within the tasks themselves, which is my favorite feature. The due date and reminders features are great, and I love that there is a section dedicated to the present day and a separate section with an overall snapshot of the week. I believe you can even share task lists and assign tasks to others.
As a person who loves making lists and the accomplished feeling of checking items off as completed, this app has helped me get my shit in order when it comes to organizing my daily life. The best part of this super useful tool is that it’s totally free.
Or any calendar, really. This feels like a no-brainer. I often cross-post a lot of events and to-dos between Google Calendar and Wunderlist in an explicit effort to make sure that I don’t miss anything. I use this calendar pretty evenly between upcoming social events and when I’ll be able to find time to squeeze everything from Wunderlist into.
My favorite features of Google Calendar are the sub-calendars you can add and hide, and the color-coding options. My calendar looks like a rainbow of badass organization when all of the calendars are turned on.
You Need a Budget
I’ve been doing financial tracking and management in my daily work life outside of my personal life for years, which is maybe the reason I’ve avoided getting my shit together with it until now.
I was hesitant to use YNAB because I was reluctant to choose a budget management software makes you pay yearly for it. Now that I’m on board, though, the ease of use is worth it to me.
Much like Wunderlist, I love that the app syncs immediately to the online portal. Immediate data reflection is so important to me. My mother has been tracking finances for years and saves all of her receipts until she gets home at the end of the day where she would spend hours reconciling into a spreadsheet. When she explained her method to me, it totally put me off of budget tracking. YNAB is so easy to use, and has helped me plan out my business growth and expenses for the next two years.
Social Media and Blogging Content Calendar
A must-have for anyone whose online presence is more than merely casual.
I created this calendar to help with my online presence, and though I haven’t stuck rigidly to its direction, it has helped me gain a lot more exposure. I researched the best times to post on social media and when to schedule blog posts, and though there is a lot of different available data out there, these are the times that have worked best for me.
Etsy Finances Tracking Log
This has been one of the most useful tools I have ever created for myself. As I mentioned before, I’ve spent years managing finances and budgets in my daily work life, so when my shop started to take off, it was amazing to be able to plug in skills I had learned from my work life to apply it to my own personal business life.
This tracking log features a tab to list all of your sales data, which you can easily copy and paste after downloading from your shop on Etsy, as well as a profit and loss tab, and a yearly tracker emphasizing revenue, profit and expenses on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.
Note that this tracker doesn’t have to just be for Etsy sales! If you’re savvy with Excel, you should be able to navigate altering cells for your needs.
Some tips and tricks on organizing:
- Make sure your lists are where you can see them. Out of sight, out of mind is a real thing! I’ve set my internet browser to open all of these organization tools in different tabs each time I click Chrome open. Don’t hide the things you need to do!
- Keep your computer organized! If your desktop is cluttered, if you have random items in random folders and no method to organization, your computer becomes more of an obstacle to wade through than what it’s supposed to be: your workspace.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. When to-do lists get longer and longer with more menial tasks, it can leave one with a feeling of being over-burdened. Are the tasks you’re assigning to yourself absolutely crucial to your success? Ask yourself how spending time on what you’re doing is going to benefit you. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.
- Make lists for fun things. Your organizing doesn’t have to be centered on work, work, work. I love making lists of creative things I want to try or pursue. Silly things as simple as making lists of movies I’d like to see or shows I want to watch have helped remind me me of things I want to do in my spare time.
How do you stay organized? Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked well for you?