At the start of the year, Katy Munson asked several CTS bloggers for a church communications resolution for 2017. My resolution was to “resolve to make better use of my planning calendar. I wanted to start January by looking at the year to come and make an overall plan for how I'd budget my time and resources for 2017. My hope is that planning strategically and in advance will help me do more and better, without being stuck ‘putting out fires’ because I ran out of creativity, energy, or time at some point later in the year.” Six months into the year, I’ve assessed my workflow to see what has and hasn’t been working well for me.
What Worked Well
Wunderlist: An app for tasks and lists
I’m an enthusiastic advocate for this app. I’m sure that there are other apps like it that might suit others better, but Wunderlist is what works for me.
Wunderlist works well on my desktop and my tablet and my phone. I can add lists from whatever device I’m using. I spend a large part of my work day on a desktop. If I have to pause my work, turn to pick up a mobile device, then add something to a list app there, it just won’t get done. Instead, I open Wunderlist on my desktop at the start of my work day, every day, making it easy for me to add things that pop into my mind in the middle of other work. I’ve made a lot of use of the comments feature in each task to add links and details I might otherwise forget. I talked about the virtues of Wunderlist in a series of Facebook Live discussions for Concordia Technology Solution’s Communication Tool Championship.
Reminders to start early
In my job as Director of Communications for the Nebraska District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I have done daily photo posts for Lent and Advent and significant website development. This has often ended in a rush for me, as I’ve struggled to meet the daily post goal or the project deadline. This year, I was determined to prepare at least half of my daily photo posts well before Lent, and then work steadily on the rest of them before the end of March. I’m happy to say that scheduling this project worked well, and I’ve already scheduled my time for Advent. I was able to get more than half done in advance, giving me space and time to recharge my creativity and reconsider some of the images I wasn’t happy with before they were needed.
One good, old fashioned monthly paper calendar and a handful of colored pens
Technology is great, and many people are fine relying solely on things they type. But my memory and thought process is definitely connected to writing with pen and paper. I found that using just a Google or Outlook calendar does not work well for me. I purchased a basic 8.5 x 11 notebook calendar with a month view, and used different colors for different types of tasks. For example, staff meetings in purple, conference calls and webinars in orange, personal tasks like dentist appointments in blue, deadlines in red. I also had to give myself mental permission to make this calendar messy. The trend for attractive hand lettering and illustrated bullet journals is beautiful—but it is not my talent! Keeping the colors consistent has been really important for my organization.
Google & Outlook Calendars
My Google and Outlook calendars (for family and for work) are still incredibly valuable. I set up reminder notifications for repeat tasks and make sure that the people I live and work with can see when I’m available or busy. All of my travel gets noted and any appointments get noted here as well.
Why two calendar formats?
Clearly, two calendar formats is not something everyone will benefit from. For many, it will probably end up creating more confusion. The difference in my calendars is this: my paper calendar is for tasks (“send reminder to boss about…” or things that have a range of dates, like working on a newsletter draft), and my electronic calendars are for appointments, in/out of office meetings, and recurring events. Again, that might cause confusion for some people, but it seems to work really well for my brain.
What Did Not Work (Yet!)
Trying multiple apps with different angles of organization
I intend to try a few other apps like Trello or to use apps like Slack with more people. But my journey into having any success at organization is new, and I wasn’t able to get enough out of them for them to make a difference in my workflow. At least, not yet. Now that I have a basic organization structure, I plan to try Trello with planning for our District’s convention next year.
Slack is great, but only if you check it
I turn off the notification sounds with most of the apps I use, because I end up getting distracted by incoming notifications. It’s clear that for me, I need some kind of reminder to actually go to the app and see what is going on—but that reminder definitely cannot be sounds. There is nothing about Slack that makes it any harder to remember to use than any other app. It’s as easy to use as Facebook or any chat app. I just have to develop the discipline of actually opening the app or regularly looking at my list of notifications. This is a clear right-brain struggle for me and something I hope to get better at by the end of the year.
Paper calendar with month and week views
I’ve already extolled the benefits of a paper calendar for a brain like mine. But what was useless to me was spending extra money on a calendar that had both month and week views. I filled in both sections in the first few weeks of January with detailed plans, adding the important details to the weeks pages and main points to the month pages, but ended up only continuing on with the month view pages. With Wunderlist being so helpful with task management, I didn’t need or use that extra space on my paper calendar for detail. Instead of writing at length on my extended paper calendar, I have been creating new lists and filling in the details on Wunderlist.
Share What Works For You
I’ve shared a bit about the combination of things that have worked really well (or not at all) to help me improve my personal organization and workflow over the last six months. If you have recommendations for things that help you out, share with us in the comments below. And if you have a left-brained workflow you’d like to share with us, please add that too!