I’m an author. It’s been almost five years since I haven’t had a book project on the go—either in research, writing, editing, publishing or marketing.
I also maintain two blogs, one more than the other I admit.
I also have several art/craft projects on the go at once. I’ve come to acknowledge over the past couple years that that’s how I create best. Example: I’ve had a half-finished painting laying on my office floor for a month. I’ll get back to it eventually.
I also have a 9-5 job as a graphic designer that keeps me pretty busy during the week—a generally stressful job that involves being detail-oriented with lots of remembering and scheduling.
I’ve finally found happiness when it comes to life organization.
So, how do I keep it all straight?
I tried the physical planner thing. I really did. I tried putting everything into my one Filofax but… it just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like lugging it around with me everywhere.
However! My Filofax remains open on my desk at all times. I still use this planner for dates—birthdays, weddings, family dinners, weekend trips, grocery day, mortgage payments, medical appointments, etc. And if I book something while I’m at work, I write it down on my wall calendar, take a picture of that little note with my phone and email that picture to myself. That way, I can check my email at home and add the date to my planner. Easy.
If you’re a list addict like me, you’ll probably enjoy Airtable. It’s a website and an app (iOS, macOS, Android and Windows) that allows you to build lists of anything your heart desires with highly customizable categories. Every designer I know hates Excel, including me, but another designer actually recommended this app to me because it lets you make databases of ANYTHING—but they actually look really good.
You can even use emojis in your records and give each database its own colorful icon, which is especially great for visual thinkers.
I’m thankful for the range of app availability. I have Airtable on my phone, my iPad and I use the desktop website. I need to have it everywhere. I use Airtable for everything listable:
I currently have 11 databases:
- To Do List — I have separate lists for General To Do’s and one for House Renos, sorted by priority
- Media — TV shows I’m currently watching, want to watch soon and what season I’m on, Movies I want to watch and then one for Books I want to read next
- Writing Sessions — every time I work on my current book project, I write down my current word count, what time I’m starting, what time I stopped and how many words I wrote during that session
- Gift Ideas — gift ideas for my family as well as my Wish List (gift ideas or things I’d like to save up for)
- Lazy Historian Blog — an editorial calendar as well as blogs I intend to pitch guest posts to
- Book Sales — book sales broken down by quarter, divided by book
- Book Reviewers — bloggers I intend to contact about my next book (name, website, contact info, etc)
- My Books — my published books as well as my next few books I plan to publish
- Creative Projects — my other stuff I’m making or want to make, divided by category (embroidery, woodworking, sewing, paper crafts and painting)
- Pupper — a list of things we need to get or prepare before getting a wee doggo
- Novel Planning — a pre-made template I just added to play around with novel planning in Airtable
Airtable offers paid plans but it’s free up to 1,200 records and 2GB of attachment storage (you can add images to records). I’m currently up to 330 records so I should be good for a while. Airtable has a bunch of sample templates to get you started.
It’s also good for inventories of items. Example: the guy who recommended I try the app uses it to catalogue his vinyl record collection.
…Have I mentioned how much I love Airtable?
Evernote has been around the block for a long time, and for good reason. It’s pretty great. I use my upgraded Evernote account on my iPad, iMac and iPhone (only on two devices with a regular account) and I use it for… basically everything else I can’t put into an Airtable list. Evernote’s lists aren’t nearly as pretty but for things with images and more text, Evernote is the way to go.
In Evernote, I have notebooks for (but not limited to):
- 2017 Journal — a note for every month
- Blogging — blog posts for this and my author blog
- Fiction — book ideas and snippets
- Lazy Historian — blog posts ideas and articles for inspiration
- 2017 Taxes — Great for storing email confirmations for donations
- Recipes to Try — but probably won’t because cooking is not my strong suit but the food looked good on Pinterest
- Shit I Should Do — everything from WordPress plugins to try to free online college programs
- Quebec — I recently took a trip to Montreal and Quebec City and stored all of our reservation and itinerary stuff in there
- Travel — this stack includes separate notebooks, one for each trip I want to take; I clip links and articles and images and organize what things I’d like to see and where
Things I love about Evernote:
- a wide range of apps
- the ability to add images, drawings, documents, audio memos as well as text, all in one single note
- you can combine notebooks to make a “stack” of related material
- you can email stuff to your Evernote account
- the Evernote browser extension is great for saving websites and images quickly and easily
It’s a more chaotic system than spreadsheets but for a lot of my creative stuff, it works pretty well. I do wish the look of the notebooks could be given their own color to separate them easier but no app is perfect.
What would I do without Siri?
iPhones and Android phones have the ability to let the user on the go to take a voice memo to remind them to do something at another time. This is my favorite thing about Siri. She reminds me to take the garbage out, to take my medication, to make appointments, to call someone, everything.
The combination of physical calendars, Siri and two apps help me keep myself from descending into madness. Hurray for organization!
What do you use to keep your life, family and projects organized?
Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.