Back to December: Three Organizational Tools

by Jenn (eating bender) on December 2, 2011

How did we get to December again?

On this day last year I was posting the first recap of my honeymoon. I suppose our trip does seem like a faraway dream, which helps justify the fact that we are now only a few weeks from a new winter season, two major holidays and, ultimately, needing to remember to write in “2012” rather than “2011.”

It’s time to start thinking about resolutions, and what we hope to achieve in the new year. While those specifics will be saved for a post on December 31, I thought I’d share today three of the supplies in my “arsenal of organizational tools.”

Disclaimer: This post will confirm I am a nerd. But you knew that already.

Every year, I tell myself that these tools are what will help keep me on track and focused, so I don’t lose my mind trying to keep all the details inside my head. For 2012, I’m hoping to add in a couple of new ones along the way that will help even more.

Tool #1: Paper Planner

I am a bit old fashioned in many areas of life, which is ironic since I run a digital company. The paper planner is one such area. Perhaps it’s because I grew up relying on these to keep track of homework assignments. More likely, it’s because writing something down makes it seem more tangible than typing it on a computer or into a phone.

For 2012, I cheated on my BlueSky planner from Target (shh, don’t tell – it doesn’t know yet).

I took to Twitter to ask for recommendations, and received a couple replies touting the Erin Condren Life Planner. After scouring the Internet for review videos – the planner has a $50 price tag, so it would not be an impulse buy – I decided it was amazing, but not worth the cost.

Fortunately, on that very same day I came across a half-price coupon on Plum District, and because it was Halloween weekend (yes, I ordered my 2012 planner in October), the coupon site had a special for an extra 30% off. The planner suddenly went from $50 to $17.50.

Going once, going twice…sold!

The planner has tabs for every month, plus a week-by-week calendar that breaks down each day into “morning,” “day,” and “night” events. It also has plenty of room for notes, goal setting, workouts and personal information, plus a pouch in the very back for coupons, etc.

Nobody told me to say any of this – I just think it’s a beautiful and elegant way to keep things organized! I’ll keep my eye out for another half-price coupon, but for now you can get 10% off any order right now by entering “2011OFF” into the promo code.

2012 Update: My goal is to use the paper planner as normal, but to also begin incorporating my computer and phone, as well. The majority of people we meet with for business rely on technology and want to create calendar appointments online. I think it’s time I embraced it – if anything, it will give me another way to remember everything going on.

Tool #2: Clean Inbox

I wish I had a screen shot of the ugliness that I allow to go on in my inbox. On Wednesday, it all came to a boiling point when I had 3,500 unread emails and 4,900 emails in all (including read emails).

How do I let this go on, and why do I do it to myself?

Now, keep in mind that the majority of this email is pure junk. On Wednesday night I went through and pressed “delete” on groups of chain mails from various clothing stores, online coupons and random organizations I don’t even remember subscribing to. By the time I was done, I had only 50 emails left from real people, many of which were already responded to and should have been sorted.

If I deleted junk email as soon as it came in (or better yet, unsubscribed) and sorted important emails into the folders, labels and multiple inboxes in Gmail, I’d be much less stressed. Papa Bender sent me this article on zen habits this morning, and you better believe avoiding email clutter was on that list.


2012 Update: Stick to my goal of having a squeaky clean inbox by the end of every week. I know myself, and I know that when there are a lot of meetings or I have a long day, the last thing I want is to go through and reach inbox zero at midnight. But I do think making a goal for the end of each week is much more manageable, and if I can be better about making a decision on an email as soon as it comes in, deleting junk immediately and unsubscribing when necessary, I will feel a lot less overwhelmed every time I turn on the computer!

Tool #3: Exercise – Even If It’s Just A Little – Every Day

I personally love working from home. The ability to create my own schedule is a huge perk, but I also think I am more productive when it is just me and my “office,” with no distractions. (Of course, this doesn’t mean I like being completely anti-social. Though I am an introvert, I try to get out of the house multiple times each work week for meetings or networking events.)

That said, on days where I do not leave the apartment, I am not moving. Sure, I walk from bedroom to kitchen, from kitchen to desk, and repeat the cycle. But unless I make an effort to go to the gym, go outside for a walk, etc. I am essentially immobile.

It’s very easy to take that for granted and tell myself it’s OK if I don’t exercise.

It’s very easy to become the person in this post from The Oatmeal (a hilarious blog).


The irony is, working out and exercise in general makes me feel more organized. It allows me to clear my head and I always end a sweat session feeling awesome and motivated. This feeling is crucial, and yet I let it go by the wayside even though I have the freedom to schedule it into any part of my day.

2012 Update: Set out my workout clothes in my bedroom every night. When I wake up in the morning, I want them to be the first thing I see. I used to love exercising in the mornings so that I set the tone for the entire day, and would like to bring that concept back. Not all of my workouts have to be intense, but I want to make a personal promise to get moving in some fashion every day. I truly believe it will make me more organized in mind and productive in performance.


I’m looking forward to setting specific goals for next year, but in the meantime I feel as though getting myself prepared to be organized is even more important. I’d love to hear what tips and strategies you use to keep yourself on track!


1 Liz @ Southern Charm December 2, 2011 at 11:27 am

My calendar is my best friend EVER. I have to write things down and don’t forget things when I do so!

2 Jenn (eating bender) December 4, 2011 at 10:59 am

Agreed! If I don’t write it down, there is a high probability that is “does not exist” until it’s too late. Hate that feeling, which is exactly why my calendar is my best friend, too! :)

3 Megan (Braise The Roof) December 2, 2011 at 11:49 am

Inbox sorting seriously stresses me out. Actually, I’m much better with my work Outlook account, but my personal account is sort of a mess. Oh, well. :)

4 Jenn (eating bender) December 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

I reached the max space in Gmail and had to spend $5 to buy more. Sad. 😉

5 Kristie December 2, 2011 at 11:56 am

That is the planner I dream about owning. I’ll definitely be on the alert for any discounts to it!

6 Jenn (eating bender) December 4, 2011 at 10:58 am

Darn! I should have emailed you about it! I will definitely be on the lookout, too!

7 Susan December 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Ahh…the planner, so beautiful. :) haha. (I’m laughing at my nerdiness, but you know I’m serious with the “beautiful” comment.)

8 Jenn (eating bender) December 4, 2011 at 10:58 am

I know you’re serious. It’s a work of art! :)

9 Elise December 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

i think sabrina did a post on this way back when and i remember thinking it was helpful. obvs i dont work from home but it stuck w me so maybe chcek her archives?

10 Jenn (eating bender) December 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

Awesome – thanks, Elise! I will definitely have to check that out.

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