Stellar Chariot

By Arun Neelakandan

How I Keep Organised

You’re a busy person. You’ve got things to do. How do you manage all this?

Well, let me share with you my approach. Maybe it might be helpful to you. I’d also like to hear how you operate — so leave a comment below or tweet me your thoughts!

I find that there’s too much stuff going on. So I’ve adopted the attitude that if it’s not important, then it won’t be in the forefront of my brain. But how do you tell what is actually important? Pretty much anything you’re ready to respond with ‘HELL YEAH!’ — as popularised by the venerable Derek Sivers.

Anyway, this is my current set up:

Google Calendar

I keep myself organised mainly through Google Calendar. Any event or reminder should theoretically end up as an event on Google Calendar (and most do).

In the past I’ve kept a diary, but I didn’t always have it handy when I needed it. Plus I’d forget to do things if I didn’t diligently keep abreast with my affairs.

Because I have my smartphone (currently a Samsung Google Nexus S) more often than my diary, it’s easy to record events and todos before they vanish into the ether and return to the fore at the most dreadfully inapt time — like a pack of clowns pouring out of a tiny red automobile in the midst of a funeral.

It doesn’t have to be Google Calendar, it could be any of the alternative calendars around. I picked Google Calendar because of its integration with Gmail and also the apps available on iOS, Android and other OSs.

And since I have such a woeful memory, I’ve also specified that the default reminders pester me several times before the event itself. This way, it’s assuredly difficult for me to forget something.

Google Calendar Reminders

I do all this because I once forgot about a team meeting I organised as team leader. Egg on my chocolate face.

And since I have such a woeful memory, I’ve also specified that the default reminders pester me several times before the event itself. This way, it’s assuredly difficult for me to forget something.

Google Calendar Reminders

You might also be looking at my previous comment of “if it’s not important, then it won’t be in the forefront of my brain” and wonder “then why all these reminders?” Well, it’s because they are important and I’m forgetful!

And since I have such a woeful memory, I’ve also specified that the default reminders pester me several times before the event itself. This way, it’s assuredly difficult for me to forget something.

Google Calendar Reminders

Email

My email serves as my repository of things to do.

I label my emails: ‘Todo’, ‘Follow Up’ and ‘Complete’

  • Todo items get labelled as such. These are things I need to do (as the name implies).
  • Follow Up items are things that need to be looked at later (but without a specific time). I glance through this list every so often.
  • Complete are todo items that I’ve completed. It’s not strictly needed because I archive completed items, but it can help when reviewing things you’ve done recently.

Incidentally, I find the drag-and-drop to label feature of Gmail super convenient.

I’ve tried todo list and Getting Things Done (GTD) tools like Astrid and Wunderlist and while they’re gorgeous, I found the effort needed to turn emails into todo items too much — especially since most of my todo items are contained within emails.

To create todos, I simply email myself. I’ve set up a filter so that any email that begins with ‘TODO’ in the subject automatically gets labelled with ‘Todo’.

Having said all this, I will admit I’m much more relaxed when it comes to my personal inbox — I’m stricter when it comes to my work inbox.

Other Email Tips

This applies mainly to Gmail, but can be generalised to other/regular email providers:

  • Ruthlessly automate with filters (I quite like the ‘Archive’/skip inbox feature so I can refer to things I may be interested in if needed without cluttering my inbox)
  • Enable and learn keyboard shortcuts: Gmail keyboard shortcuts
  • Explore the plugin ecosystem (e.g. Thunderbird add-ons, Gmail Labs features). I’ve enabled a few Gmail Labs features including ‘Undo Send’, which queues messages to be sent after hitting ‘Send’, so that you can ‘undo’ your email.
  • Tweak your settings to your needs
  • Unsubscribe from useless mailing lists
  • Use search to find things!
  • Label your emails appropriately

Writing on Yourself

Another reminder approach I’ve taken (and still sporadically take), is to draw or write on myself as way of reminding myself. A simple shape like a triangle on the back of your hand serves as a good reminder when you’re washing your hands or looking at your phone. Sometimes I draw on my forearm or elsewhere to prevent the ink from washing off quickly.

The 'Remembrall' method of drawing on your hands as a reminder.
The ‘Remembrall’ method of drawing on your hands as a reminder.
Writing on your forehand to prevent it washing off so quickly.
Writing on your forehand to prevent it washing off so quickly.

Evernote

Apart from that, I also use Evernote to record notes and thoughts. Anything from observations to a photo of the menu at the local fish-and-chip shop. I love how everything is kept in sync across my devices.


So there you have it. A quick run-down of my getting-things-done approach.

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