Last updated on December 15, 2016
I constantly get people that ask me “Noah, how do you stay organized?”
This is also one of my favorite questions to ask when I interview someone as it speaks volumes on how a person lives their life.
I must admit, my most productive and organized period in life was when I relied on my Treo 650. Most of you youngins have NO idea about dat life =)
Realize though, what works for me, may not work for you.
Everyone has their own way of staying organized:
I want to emphasize a few things before I show you my system.
1- No organizational system or software will fix you being a lazy ass. People buy millions of dollars of productivity books (they are always top 100 on Amazon), software, and coaching seminars, but at the end of the day YOU STILL HAVE TO DO WORK.
2- What works for me or Nev or Chad will not work for you. It’s up to you to figure out what gets you the maximum output.
Over the years in iterating on my own organization system, I’ve recognized a few things that have helped me maximize my output relative to time:
1- Stay humble so you aren’t too arrogant to try out something new.
2- Be open to recognizing what is actually working, so you can do more of that.
3- Ruthlessly kill any organization system that doesn’t actually help you.
That last one is the hardest of them all. Read it outloud again.
Ruthlessly kill any organization system that doesn’t actually help you.
It’s harder than it sounds. It’s the things you do daily, weekly or yearly that aren’t serving you but you still haven’t cut out of your life.
Now you should be in the right mindset Without further ado how I personally stay organized.
My life is based on Google Calendar. Almost everything I do is scheduled and planned ahead of time.
Here’s a picture of a typical week.
A few key things that help me stay productive:
1- I block out time for activities AHEAD of time. I do this on Sunday based on the things I want to get done for the week.
2- I put things on auto-repeating so it’s in my calendar. Notice handstand practice and gym life. E’ry day.
3- I use different colors for things cause colors are purdy.
4- I block out time on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for studying whatever I want and for an activity, because every time I do those I get great ideas and feel great.
5- I try to put things others are responsible for or I expect in calendar so I can get it out of my head and not have to remember it like “Brushy report” or doing Monday morning business operations.
6- One HUGE thing is on Sundays, I look at all the things in the upcoming week I DON’T want to do and remove them. Poof. Gone. It’s your life. One time. Remove anything religiously that does not help towards your main goals.
The second cornerstone of my organization system are my weekly check-ins.
I do this with anyone crucial to the Sumo company and with Adam Gilbert, which we do every Sunday.
For my Sunday check-ins, I HIGHLY recommend you get an accountability partner. Adam’s mine, don’t steal!
First thing I do is review the previous weeks categories. I email Adam on Sunday night and cc firstname.lastname@example.org. This will return my original email to my inbox on Sunday so I can do a recap of what I did or did not do. I’ll tell Adam what I did or didn’t do.
Then what I do is update for the upcoming week, a text doc that is in Dropbox called today.txt. It looks like this:
I break out my upcoming week in 3 categories: work, work-out (health) and personal. It’s up to you to determine what a great week looks like. Don’t add more than 3 to each category. I don’t buy into doing the hardest thing first. Sometimes you just need an easy win. Find what works for you but the main thing I do is not to list 500 things for the week. That’ll be overwhelming and likely not super meaningful in the results.
I’ll fill in the upcoming week and email that to Adam with the followup.cc.
Then I block out times for those activities in Google Calendar.
Okay, you are set for the week, but do you organize on a longer-term scale?
I break my organization into short, medium and long.
Short term – Anything done < 1 month
I use Remember The Milk for my basic check list. Why? Cause it’s stupid simple, I like having desktop, mobile, offline access and they were an early AppSumo partner. #loyalty There are literally 100s of To-do apps. Find the one that works for you.
I have a whiteboard on my wall, I use it for things I want to get done that week, grocery list, my main theme of the year (it’s Fierce) and letting my gf draw all over it. I like seeing themes and activities repeatedly. Helps me remember to get things done.
During the day, I use a moleskine. I have it next to my desk. My MOST productive days are when I list out 3 things I want to get done in the moleskine BEFORE I open my laptop. Once the computer opens up, the brain turns off. Seriously. Think about it. I’ll also list some stupid shit on there like go to gym or talk to someone I already have scheduled. I want to feel progress and the little wins make me feel goooooood.
The last thing on my short term stuff is using ScheduleOnce.com. Have you ever gone back-n-forth trying to coordinate a meeting? Read this article by Paul Graham about maker vs manager’s schedule. The key thing that’s stuck with me is if you are in sales, you take the mtgs you can, when you can. But otherwise you need to structure your time for minimizing distractions and getting shit done.
So if someone wants to meet, I send them my link and I only allow 15 minute blocks to chat on Tues and Thur and only in the afternoon. Mornings and super late nights are my sweet spot and I protect them.
Medium Term – 1 month to 1 year
In the beginning of the year I write out my bucket list for the year. Same 3 categories as above: work, work-out and personal. I’ll save that list and put it on a sticky so I ALWAYS see it daily when I open my laptop.
I use Stickies (free and built into Mac) to have my yearly goals visible every day. I also add positive affirmations like the Drake quote to them:
“I signed up for greatness. This comes with it.” [click to tweet]
Another medium system I use is Notes on my iPhone and make sure they are synced to gmail as such:
In here I’ll put rap lyrics for my music (yes!), business ideas from a lunch meeting, short term passcodes, my jokes list, new workout program ideas (Synthesis) and other more temporary thoughts I’ll transfer somewhere else or delete.
Another tool I’ve used for organizing is BetterSnapTool. Ever had a live chat with customer support but you want another screen open? BST makes it stupid easy for your to put 2 screens side by side. As well, makes it easy to make a window take up the whole screen just using your keyboard. Time saver!
I’ve gone back and forth but ultimately having 2 monitors makes me more productive. Imagine having 2 keyboards? It’s like that. Do it.
For anything I just want to brain dump I use Evernote.com. Some of my favorite use cases are my bank information (router / account #), people in cities so I can look up who to hang with when I travel, recipes, passport photo, license info, workouts and other non-critical brain dump info go in Evernote.
For writing articles, journaling and thinking through things are written in MacJournal. I break things out by journal categories. I have OkDork articles, Sumo related articles, book reports, documenting support, etc.
Many times I’ll go into Focused Editing mode which helps me not get distracted and finish the writing I blocked out time to do. For every article I write publicly I’ll take it from MJ and move it to a Google Doc for group editing.
So that’s how I help run AppSumo, SumoMe, and get my personal things done.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to you. Find the organization system that works for you.
Noah “tacos” Kagan
Ps. How do you stay organized? Leave a comment and I’ll send 2 people my favorite books on organization.