If you missed the first article in this series, Juggling All the Plates Part 1: Organization, please read it here.
To briefly recap, you have too many tasks and responsibilities and you look like a chicken without its head running around trying to get everything accomplished in a timely manner, yeah? Yeah, me, too.
The first thing we’re going to tackle is your schedule and your calendar. I use a paper planner and an e-calendar with Outlook.
I only use Outlook because people at City Hall have to schedule meetings with me, and they need to know when I’m available. I don’t think anyone else besides the director uses it at the library. Which kinda sucks because I’m constantly updating it and no one really pays attention to it.
Briefly, though, color-coding is your friend! Here are my categories:
Make categories that work for you. I work the evening shift on Thursdays, so I have to let City Hall know I’m not available for morning meetings on Thursdays, so that is always pink. Desk assignments are red. Professional development and webinars are yellow and so on.
Think of it like when you were in school. Did you assign a color to each class? Like red binder/spiral/folder was for math, blue was for science, green was for history/social studies? Think of it like that.
Here’s what my schedule looks like. I like being able to see at a glance when I have different meetings, Desk assignments, etc.
Now, my paper calendar is where the library tasks and responsibilities are laid out:
There is some duplication between what I write here and what is in my Outlook calendar, but more than just meetings, Desk schedules, etc., I write in reminders to myself. These reminders run the gamut from when to change different displays to a note about a post-summer project I put there months ago that I didn’t want to forget about.
My library isn’t open on Sundays, so I use the Sunday box to write in tasks that get “scheduled” months in advance, like which weeding list to pull that quarter or a reminder to start working on a partnership newsletter article that was set up to start with the new school year.
For those recurring tasks that you have to do, type up a mini chart or checklist and tape it in your planner. You can see I’ve done that, above, with which collections I order during each third of the month. Again, that color coding is super helpful for those of us who are visual people!
I use this paper calendar to then create my weekly to-do list. I like to use a legal pad for this because it’s big enough for everything to be on one page without flipping back and forth. Here is last week’s list:
On the left, I write down tasks I need to work on. On the right, I use my paper calendar to write out each scheduled task that needs to happen. As I accomplish something, I mark through it.
I always spend the last 15 minutes of the week preparing my list for the upcoming week. Knowing what’s coming is really important for me as an autistic person, so this is a step I never skip. Here’s this coming week’s list:
Items that didn’t get finished last week, get moved to this week’s list. Sometimes This is super demoralizing (I really like marking things off a to-do list). For example, the CSET Branding item has been on my list since late last summer when I was given the lead for that team. We are *this close* to being finished, but lack of communication between people at City Hall is preventing me from being able to cross it off.
There are lots of organizational strategies out there if my system doesn’t work for you. Adjust and/or combine different strategies until you find a system that works for you.
If organization doesn’t come naturally to you, find an accountability coworker where y’all can both try different strategies and then discuss how trial one went at the end of the month. Of, if you really are a lone wolf at work, try a sticker chart where you reward yourself with something you actually enjoy, like a venti instead of your usual tall at Starbucks, a lazy trip to Target, renting a movie at Redbox that’s not available on Netflix or Prime, etc.
Once you get your schedules and to-do list in order and a system in place, you’ll be less chicken-without-a-heading-running-around and more cool-as-a-cucumber, I promise.
Next time in this series: “Part 3: Keeping up-to-date with everything and making sure everything is done in a timely manner.”