How To Stay Organised For The Naturally Scatterbrained

January 8, 2016

the messiest wall everIt’s that time of year when everybody is trying to better themselves and fill every minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run. I’m past the point of trying to implicate massive changes into the way I work; I have a really flawed working mechanism but I’m used to it! I work freelance and juggle a lot of projects on a daily basis. I often get comments like “How do you fit it all in? You must be so organised” which is ridiculous as the inside of my brain is CHAOS.

I’m naturally a very scattered person; I’m that annoying type who has to make a big mess to produce anything. Picture the kid in school who has to pull all the paints out of the box to make the exact shade they want, spills half the paint on themselves and then forgets to tidy up after. That’s me! Over the years I’ve found a few ways to keep organised and I thought I’d share them below.

computer laptop apple girl working career tapeparade blog blogging

Explain To Others What Is Going On

For me: this is step one of doing ANYTHING. After years of living at home with my Mum “tidying” away (read: destroying) whatever I was working on, these days I’ve learnt that the very first thing I need to do is tell somebody else that I’m doing it. This ranges from “I’m writing a daily plan for the next month and I’ve put you in the first box of each day” to “Don’t touch the box of insects on the table” to “the lights need to be re-glittered in twelve step stages in the car”. Expressing your intention to another living person (or in e-mail or whatever) makes it a bit more real and also helps you keep yourself accountable with whatever task you’re doing. Also, those are genuinely all things I’ve said in the last 24 hours.

Last-Minute Task Lists

This is a big one for me, I’ll reach midweek and tasks seem to piling up out of nowhere. The physical process of writing down a list of what I need to do is a really useful thing to do just before I go to bed.

Carry Something Extra

I constantly have piles of music, clothes, props or whatever that need to go somewhere in my car, bags for the charity shop and packages to post. I’ve made it my rule that every time I leave the house I have to take something either to the car/post office/charity shop or whatever. This means I avoid having to run a load of “moving stuff around” errands at the weekends because I’ve worked it into the week.

Use Lists Wisely

KEEP YOUR LISTS IN THE SAME PLACE. Don’t have a reminders list on your Reminders app, a list in your notes, a list in 3 separate notebooks, a list on your whiteboard. Keep all your lists in the same place! I learned this the hard way after years of frantically running from app to app.

Stop Using Paper

This is my big resolution for this year. I’m a sucker for stationary and there was a point this summer where I had about 18 notebooks on the go – one separate for each project. This is crazy! It’s much to have a couple of saved documents, and save physically writing stuff down for other things (i.e. daily lists as mentioned above). Try and digitise as many documents as you can – it’s better for the environment, more efficient management-wise and you don’t have to lug a library around wherever you go. There’s nothing like calmly using the search box on your computer as opposed to tearing your room apart and rifling through half the stock of Paperchase for one specific detail.

Don’t Touch It Twice

This is something I’ve been training myself to do. Don’t read a message and then respond to it later basically – either read the e-mail and reply, or don’t check it then. I’m the worst for a middle of the night message check and then marking stuff as unread or having to favourite tweets to deal with later. It’s just a really poor use of time!

So there we go! Nothing that breaks the mould but a few things I’ve learned along the way. I’m thinking about sharing a couple more posts on time and project management, working from home and being freelance – so watch this space if you think that sounds good!


18 comments so far.

18 responses to “How To Stay Organised For The Naturally Scatterbrained”

  1. permanentprocrastination says:

    I’m pretty bad with the touch it twice thing! Check an email, flag it and plan to come back. Never come back! Whoops!
    Tegan xx – Permanent Procrastination

  2. Rantasalot says:

    Very same problems, I like stationary, notebooks… have to obey your advice :-).

  3. Excellent, I’ll try it. I’m addicted to planners and writing everything down, then never reading it again and forgetting most of the stuff 😀

  4. “Don’t touch it twice” is a great one. I have to admit I do this a lot and then end up replying to someone days later. Oops!

    Erin |

  5. These are all stellar tips! Especially the habit of making lists before sleep. As a counselor I tell my clients this all the time, particularly those who have anxiety! The act of writing down any tasks that are overdue or pending for the next day allows the mind to relax and prepare for a peaceful sleep. Kudos on a fantastic approach!

  6. winnie says:

    Ah i know what you mean about notebooks – I actually have lots of notebooks but I don’t use them as much as I should as I tend to write everything in my phone! I like your tips – they’re super useful! Happy New Year Laila!

  7. Laura Haley says:

    Don’t touch it twice is a perfect tip, I am so guilty of this. This post could’ve been written for me, so many useful tips in there. I am guilty of having two bags of stuff in my car for weeks to go to the tip, which I then drive past at least three times a week going somewhere else, but I don’t take the bags because I’ll be throwing more stuff out at some point. And then I get cross because my car is messy or I can’t give someone a lift because my back seat is full. I will get better at this stuff!


  8. kim says:

    Love your Saturday journal! And your sailor moon jewelry so fun!

  9. kim says:

    Great suggestions 🙂
    I’ve been trying to be more deliberate and get things done when I first come in contact with them and doing better about keeping up with lists thanks for the inspiration!

  10. Sally Burr says:

    I enjoyed your post about getting organised! The whiteboard idea with dates on is very inspiring. I might try myself. Yes, I do agree about apps. I get in a real muddle and even though I work in tech I find you can’t beat a handwritten list. Thanks! This post was a really good read.

    Best wishes,


  11. Sam says:

    I’m a nightmare for “Don’t touch it twice” I always forget to go back and reply.

    I’m a total scatterbrain too, I’ve been eyeing up lots of notebooks lately – but I have to say you are right! I should steer away from buying them really. Especially as I have a tendency to open a notebook and just write on any blank page I find, rather than using them in order, so I can never find what I’ve written down anyway! Haha xx

  12. I really love the Wunderlist app for keeping me on track for needs to get done. I have a list from every month and then jot down all the Things To Do, To Buy and Plans – then I just tick them off throughout the month. I also have a more never ending list, which is all the bits and bobs that just need to get done in the week or so.

    I used to do my blog planning also on my computer, but this year I bought a calendar and have been using that ever since. It is surprisingly good, I have little post its that I write the blog post idea on and then I’m free to move them about the calendar as I please. It doesn’t mess up the calendar with crossing things out – which was always why I hate a calendar for blog planning, my ideas change too much.

    I do like the don’t touch it twice idea. I think I’m going to give that a go!

  13. sez2244blog says:

    I really enjoy reading your content,especially this organization post,I’m really new to blogging so tips and advice on keeping more organized will help so so much thanks x

  14. minim says:

    Totally with you on most of these, except that I’ve returned to paper’s loving embrace in the past couple of years. But I’m only allowed one notebook – which contains EVERYTHING – plus my diary. This is actually working out quite well with the PhD stuff because once a week (when my scanner co-operates), I scan in everything I’ve added to the notebook, optimise the images and add them to Evernote where I tag them with the key topics so I can search them later. It’s a bit of a faff (plus definitely double-handling) but does mean that I’m re-reading or at least skimming those notes soon after they’ve been written so they stick better in my mind as well as being comprehensible for the tagging! That’s also the point where I check over anything from the notes that missed getting into my (terrifying yet neatly GTDed) Remember The Milk to-do lists at the time. Am all over the telling others/accountability thing though – can’t get anything done if I’m not accountable to someone else in some way…

  15. […] for more tips and tricks for working? Try this “staying organised” post on for […]

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