How to Stay Organized
Updated: Dec 8, 2019
I am Miss Queen Organization, well at least that's what my family calls me. Seriously, if they need something organized it automatically becomes my job. And this doesn't just stay within my family. My boyfriend, my friends, even fellow photographers have asked me to help them get organized and stay organized. So after what feels like a million people asking me how the heck to stay organized, I decided it would be best to put a blog post up. That way I can stop sending the same text and emails, and I can also offer my help to others!
The reason I am so dang organized is because A) total type A, and I have OCD and B) I live a crazy life and would be so off track if I didn't. Seriously though the last four years I have been in college full time and running my business. Now as I graduate college I accepted a part-time job at a non-profit, and I am still running my business full time of course and life is not getting any less crazy. This just means that staying organized has and will always be a necessity for me. I would literally forget to do everything if I wasn't organized. I am able to function because things are organized. This is why I am Miss Queen Organization to those around me.
So here are 5 things I use to stay organized and swear they will help you stay organized.
1. My Planner
One thing I could literally not live without is my planner. I know what you are thinking, Abigail this is 2018 no one uses a planner, everyone has an app on their phone. Well guess what, I am going to bring planners back because they are superior in every way. Now I am not going to take the time to argue with anyone on why a physical planner is better, instead I am simply going to explain how mine helps me stay so dang organized. Before I start though I want to say this planner is literally my life. I told my mom the other day I would be more upset if someone stole my planner, then if someone stole my car. So that is how much I love my planner, and depend on it. Seriously if someone stole it I would probably curl up in a ball and cry, because I wouldn't even know what I had to do next week.
So the planner pictured below is a planner I purchased from Paper Source for 2018. I am super picky about my planners, and literally start planner shopping for the new year in May. I was feeling a little bummed last year as my favorite Office Depot planner was discontinued. I had used that planner style for 3 years of college, and was afraid I would never find anything that could top it. Until I went to Paper Source in Indy, and found this beauty. The main reason I love this planner is because it has the notes column, which I use as a To-Do list section. Everything I need to accomplish for the week goes into my notes section, and gets highlighted as it gets done! My To-Do list includes everything from calling my accountant, to editing sessions, to blogging sessions, to picking up a birthday gift. Literally if I have to do it that week it goes into the To-Do section and gets done. This list really helps me gage my week. I can look at this list and see everything I need to accomplish. For this reason I highly recommend a planner with a notes section where you can start your To-Do list!
Another thing I love about this planner is the vertical column set up. I know not everyone will love this but I do. When I was in college each class got a box on the day it took place. (See below) This way I never ran out of room to write stuff for that class. I also love the vertical set up because I feel it leaves so much space for your day, and I have never filled a full day. However when I used to use the horizontal layout I felt like there was never enough room in the box for everything I had to accomplish. Now this is really a preference and you find a horizontal layout works better then you, go for it! I just love how I can dedicate a box each day to something. For example I could put work in one, personal in another, school (if I was still in school) in another, and have the last box for anything else that needed to be addressed.
This planner is literally perfect for being organized. But I do have a few tips for how to use your planner effectively!
1. Go all in, write everything in your planner. Seriously I write if I have run errands, or if I am grabbing lunch with a friend.
2. Highlight things as you finish them. This is personally something I love because I love the sense of feeling accomplished and seeing all the purple in my planner just makes me feel so accomplished.
3. Make a To-Do list each week. This will help you lay out your week better, and be aware of the things you need to accomplish going into the week instead of realizing Saturday you still have a million things that need to be done.
4. Pick a planner that feels like you and can be customized as you see fit. Like I said I love the vertical layout because I can customize it how I want. I also love there is space in the front cover for photos, and a quote or two. I always put a few pictures on the inside of my planner to remind myself that there is a reason I do everything I do.
5. Commit to your planner, take the time to write everything in your planner, and check things off. It may seem daunting when you first get your planner but it is so beneficial as you go along. Literally for weddings I write something to do each week until I have to deliver the photos. For example if I shot a wedding on April 21st, the next week I would write ____ wedding previews, ____ wedding blog. The next week I would write edit 1/2 ____ wedding. The following week would be edit remaining half of ____ wedding, and also put together ____'s wedding gallery, and if they have an album to design I put that as well. The next week deliver ____'s wedding. It is a lot to write initially but it is so beneficial as the weeks go and I realize how much I need to get done each week.
Basically you need to be in a relationship with your planner. But once it is set up and you are used to using it, it is amazing, and life saving sometimes I swear. I will link my planner below, and will be purchasing the exact same planner for next year once it comes out!
2. Yellow Note Pro
This is an application that you can get on your computer, that basically give you sticky notes for your computer. I love sticky notes, but hate the clutter and the fact that I feel like I am throwing away money every time I only use a tiny part of a sticky note. This is where Yellow Note Pro comes in. It is sticky notes for your computer! Ahh, live saving. I use this application daily obviously as it is right on my desktop.
I keep at least two sticky notes on my desktop at all times with things for me to remember. As you can see I currently have four. I use these sticky notes for many different things, but currently they have very distinct purposes. My first big note is to keep track of which of my couples are to receive anniversary photos, and if they are scheduled. My next big sticky note is for 2019 wedding dates. I have my ones that are booked, (I can't put these in my planner yet as I only have up till 2018 in my planner. Once I have a 2019 planner this note will disappear) and I have the dates that are possible. Either I met with the client and are waiting to hear back or I have a meeting scheduled with that client. I personally like to keep a sticky note on my screen with possible dates because it is super easy to edit. I used to literally take a sticky note and put it on a monthly calendar if the date was in discussion, but it was such a pain to take them off and on, and keep up with them so in comes Yellow Note Pro! My third note, which is normally a big note but I only like to have two big ones at a time, is where I am in editing. I am in the middle of culling Alex and Colten's session therefore I have the photo number I am on. The others are sessions I need to cull, or sessions that are done culling and now need edited. The last note I have is for a few things I need to do for my business. Normally these would be things I would write on my To-Do list, but I was tired of moving these things each week as they got put to the back burner because they aren't pressing tasks.
I personally like to keep two sticky notes as it is less overwhelming and clutter filled on my desktop, but I currently need 4 so here I am. These sticky notes have a ton of use so here is a few things I have used them for!
-Editing Steps (Pictured)
- Keeping track of booked dates, and potential dates (pictured)
- To-Do lists (Pictured)
- Making a list of homework given in class
- Packing list
- Christmas gift list (I wrote who I was buying for and filled it in as I bought for them)
- Things I need to add to my planner when I get home
- Random thoughts that I need to remember later, such as Oh I need to call the doctor, or I need to remember to add gatorade to the grocery list
- Grocery list
- Homework for the week (obviously this used to be in my planner, but I also loved having a weekly list on my desktop for many reasons. I used to look at this list when I was in class and work on assignments. I know not paying attention, but I was always on top of my homework)
3. Minimal Emails
This is something that seriously stresses me out. If you are someone who has hundreds of unread emails, just know that bothers me. How can you deal with that clutter? Part of staying on top of owning a business and managing it is organizing my emails to be effective, and answering them asap. So that is why keeping your email clutter free is so important. I keep track of three emails so keeping them cleared out and down to the necessities is important.
To better explain, I have folders for my emails to go in. The following are my work folders I sort my emails into after they have been answered. These are the ones that get answered or need held on to. Everything else goes straight to the trash.
- 2018 brides
- 2019 brides
- Subscriptions (This is where I put anything I pay for, aka my adobe, Instagram planning, etc)
- Important/Need Later (This is where I keep emails containing passwords to sites I use)
My school email folders are the following. Obviously I am no longer in classes so this is a mock email set up. I do suggest making a folder for each class. You can either name them out or for example Critical Reading is X401. So my inboxes sometimes went by class number if it was more memorable, or if I had several English classes like I normally did.
- Native American Lit
- Children's Lit
- Critical Reading
- Other Important (This is kinda a random section in my inbox. For example when they started sending graduation emails they were put in here, or homecoming dates, and so on.
My personal email folders are the following.
- Important (Passwords for things end up here, as well as other important information)
- Abbey Stuff (I honestly save the most random stuff in here that I think I will eventually come back to. I usually go through it once or twice a year. I just looked and it is literally filled with Buzzfeed articles, a video from 2011 of one of my guy friends, a few funny memes, and a few of those inspirational funny emails people used to send before Facebook was popular. So basically just a folder for me to put stupid stuff I want to look at later and laugh at. Like the fact in 2011 I sent MYSELF a picture of MYSELF saying I no like this picture. Oh 14 year old Abbey... To clarify I do have a few important things in here, I did spend a day at Vera Bradley working on some product shots that were in their emails and I saved all those. But mostly just random stuff I want to look back on)
- Ps I Made This (I love their emails and always wanted to come back to them so I saved all of them in a folder for when I needed a craft for girls night)
- Stuff I May Need Later (I have no idea why I have this folder as it literally has the exact same stuff as the Important folder. Guess I like trying to find emails.)
Can I just say I love binders? So the binder system I use may not work for others, but it is amazing for me. If you are anti-binder skip this section.
So basically I have had binders for two different reasons and those are work and school. My work binders (yes, plural) are set up totally different then my school binder was. Keeping in mind I am no longer in school so school binders are not a thing in my life. But they were so beneficial to me I could not resist sharing them with everyone.
My school binder is the simpler of the two, as I only have one binder for school while I have a million (okay, 5) for work. My school binder consists of a 2inch, sometimes 3 if I was taking 18 credit hours, binder set up with a tab for every class. For example if I took Children's Lit, Critical Reading, Educational Psychology, Native American Literature, and Math 153, each one received a tab in my binder. Then behind each tab I would put whatever important information I needed regarding the class. Normally it consisted of a combination of the following things
- Syllabus (ALWAYS include the syllabus)
- Print outs of our reading. (My one teacher made us read a lot of articles throughout the semester and then would reference them randomly so you had to have access to them at all times.
- Notes (This one is a sometimes because towards the end of my college career I realized I was too OCD to take notes effectively in class because I was too busy worrying how they looked. Therefore I switched to taking notes on my laptop and then would sometimes print them before the test. Just depended on if I planned on actually studying or not.)
- Any tests or quizzes I received back that would be useful to study for finals (Towards the end of college I was taking mostly english classes and the finals were always papers so this was a rarity)
- Rubrics for any and all assignments for the semester
My work binders are a little different and will be definitely for my photographer friends out there. I keep around 7-10 binders at a time for work but only 5 are used on a regular basis. The following are my binders and their set up.
- Contract Binder. This is where I have multiple binders because I sort my contracts by years. I have 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 contract binders. These binders is where I put my contracts from my clients each year. I know most photographers are either digital with this process or throw old ones out, but I prefer physical copies and plan on keeping my contracts for 5 years at least, especially my wedding ones. I actually had to reinforce one of my wedding contracts from 2016 the other day. They lost their usb (this was pre-online galleries for me) and called and wanted another one. However I have a line in my contract that says if you loose your usb there is a fee. This is no longer in my contract as I am online galleries now, but if I hadn't kept this contract I would of had to send them their photos for free. I also have been in business since 2014, but did initially used contracts until I realized how beneficial they are.
- Wedding Workflow Binder. This binder is probably the most used binder I have. This binder has a sheet for every couple and the processes/steps/things I do for each one. It starts all the way from sending their booking gift to delivering their wedding gallery. Everything I do is on these sheets, and it guarantees that I do not miss a single step. Before setting up this binder I would find that I forgot to get their questionnaire, or a vendor list, or forgot to send a thank you note to the referral stuff. Little stuff that wasn't a huge deal, but definitely easier to have a list and make sure I get everything done every time.
- Blog Schedule Binder. In this binder I have my blog schedule. It is a monthly calendar with things written on it to blog. Rather it be a wedding, or a family shoot, or a organization post. This helps me lay out my blogging each month so I don't end up setting down and having to write 5 blog posts at once. I will be honest when I get busy this is the first binder I neglect...
- Post Schedule Binder. Every similar to the blog schedule, except it is the post schedule. Sometimes I do 4 sessions a day and I need to figure what days to do previews for who, and do I have space to post previews of this shoot I did for myself and so on. This is just the OCD and organization coming out in me, and most people would probably skip this binder but it really helps me lay things out.
-Bridal Magazine Binder. This binder is the least used because it simply is just there to hold a printed loose leaf copy of my most current bridal magazine. This binder is important because it is the one I take to meetings with my brides when we are discussing their timeline or what family formals they want. However it is only used when a bride wants to sit down and meet to discuss these things instead of doing it over email or the phone. Therefore this binder makes its way out only a few times a year, and when I am updating my bridal magazine and have changed pages.
5. To Do Lists
I know I expressed how much I love my planner because of the To-Do list spot but I wanted to talk about how beneficial a To-Do list is to me and my business and my life!
Most people try to keep their To-Do list short, but I am not most people. I really want to make sure I have everything on my list. My To-Do list includes everything from calling my accountant, to editing sessions, to blogging sessions, to picking up a birthday gift. Literally if I have to do it that week it goes into the To-Do section and gets done. Nothing is too big or too small for the To-Do list. To me having a visual of what I need to do this week really helps me gage my week, and my schedule. I can look at this list and see everything I need to accomplish this week and figure out what days I want to do what. For example say I have to pick up a birthday gift, run to the bank, call the accountant, and blog a wedding. I would then look at my week. So say I am super busy Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, well that obviously means I shouldn't do those extra things those days. So then I can see that Wednesday is the best day for me to get a birthday gift and run to the bank, and while I am doing that I can call the accountant. Then Friday is free so I can totally do that blog post, or maybe I'm only busy during the day Tuesday so I can do it Tuesday night. To be honest things get done because I have a To-Do list. If I didn't make one I would literally forget to do things all the time.
Those are my 5 things I use to stay super organized so my busy life doesn't get the best of me and I hope they can help you as much as they help me!
Links to items listed above or pictured below:
Pens: https://www.papersource.com/item/Black-LePen/028617430102.html (Black is what I use the most, but they come in literally 900 colors)
pping&adgroup=SC_Seasonal&LID=700000001170770pgs&network=g&device=c&location=9016318&gclid=CjwKCAjwt5DXBRAtEiwAa3vyEnwgmdOVVaKcJlApD6TjGlsqsuycrO3QXCCxYThlkP9wkzsv3uVhRoCQOoQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds (Mine if from Hobby Lobby, but I couldn't find it on their site so here is a similar one. I did go to Hobby Lobby the other day and they still have them and they have a few with different expressions so I know they are still carrying them in the store. I do own the one from target that I linked, it holds my makeup brushes in my bathroom.)
Stationary and Business Cards: Zazzle.com
Bookmarks/Tassels: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BerrySweetPlans?ref=l2-shop-info-name (I did just link the shop on Etsy because she has these in a few colors and wanted to give you all the options)
Computer: Macbook Pro 15 inch