Paper Organization, KonMari Style

After I graduated college and got a job in 2006, I got a two drawer filing cabinet for my apartment, determined to make sense of the piles of papers I had thrown into a hall closet to be dealt with at an undefined future date.

I read books about getting organized, my favorite of which was Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. I labored over what the right categories would be for all my personal papers.

I’m sure I got rid of a lot, but I still held on to plenty of papers unnecessarily. I was confused and uninformed. I didn’t know what was essential and what wasn’t essential. I held on to things because I thought I was supposed to. Out of fear that if I got rid of them that there would be regrets and consequences. continue…

Weekly Meal Planning Progress & Cauliflower Taco Shells

Last week my healthy weekly meal plan came crashing down on Wednesday evening. Overcome by work-related tasks, I succumbed to the ease of ordering quesadilla explosion salads at Chili’s after a long afternoon of task-mastering at the Starbucks conveniently located in the same plaza as Chili’s.

After that, I lost my low-carb cooking momentum, and proceeded to order in pizza on Thursday, Chinese on Friday, and calzones on Saturday. Ugh.

What Didn’t Work

I recognize that I had a choice. I was the one who chose to order in when I could have chosen to make the zucchini lasagna, shrimp cauliflower stir fry, or almond flour pizza. However, I believe that the short term consequences to my physical health aside, I made the right choice for my mental sanity. So that’s something. continue…

How to Use Evernote to Plan Weekly Meals & A Healthier Bread Recipe

It’s Sunday. The day of planning meals for the rest of the week. I know some people do Meal Planning Mondays. I have tried that in the past, but by Monday night the last thing I want to do is spend hours cooking. So Sundays it is.

Using Evernote to Plan Meals

A few weeks ago I got back into working on a menu plan in Evernote that works for me. This has been a work in progress for over a year. My goal is to have meals thought out a season (three months) at a time. Right now, I am working on getting down one week at a time.

We are always experimenting with making everyday meals that we like into their healthier (which usually means lower carb) versions. Cauliflower is the low carb secret weapon. I love mashed cauliflower, and last week made a shrimp cauliflower fried rice that was really good. Couldn’t even taste the cauliflower.

My goal is to have about 10 healthy recipes that we like and are relatively easy to make to rotate throughout a month. While I am still figuring out what those recipes are, I have decided to think and plan smaller until I have a better grip on what I am doing.

My fiancé, Michael, and I have a shared Evernote notebook called “Culinary – Food” that contains tons of recipes and a note entitled “Menu”. Click here for a sample of the menu I have created in Evernote for the current week. Below I describe in more detail my rationale for organizing my weekly menu this way by column.

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Blogust Schedule at a Glance

Since I have committed myself to 30 more consecutive days of posting, I figured today would be a good time to plan out my posts for the month. I have been wanting to do this ever since I started blogging but never got a grip on the organization of my thoughts more than a few days in advance.

Themed Days

I have always liked the idea of posting based on specific themes on certain days of the week. This is how I came up with the idea for Meditation Mondays. Here is the general idea for my posting schedule during Blogust: continue…

How I Set Goals for Summer: Seasonal Review

The summer seasonal review will round out my first year of doing seasonal reviews. I have really enjoyed the process of reviewing my goals roughly every three months, corresponding with the changing seasons. I feel much more in touch with my goals than I did with the concept of New Year’s resolutions, and I don’t feel overwhelmed by a too frequent review such as weekly or monthly.

As with each of my seasonal reviews, I will be reviewing my affirmations by my core value categories. If you are interested in establishing your own core values (highly recommended!) I would suggest Tina Su’s Discover You Now ebook. There is an exercise in this book that led me to establishing my own core values. This was the first step in defining what my goals are, because I had to figure out my major life categories before determining specific goals.

I only write affirmations at this point. I write about 3 to 5 in each core value category, and I read through them immediately when I wake up in the morning most days. I quickly scroll through them on the Evernote app on my phone. Any actionable steps related to achieving something in one of my core value categories go on my reminders or rituals lists. If you want to read more about my use of affirmations, click here.

Of note, my life has gone through a few dramatic (good) changes over the past few weeks and months, with a recent household move and engagement! These are all exciting changes, but have also caused my many lists to explode and call for the creation of a few new lists. I am still working on catching up to everything, as I have fallen out of some of my routines while we figure out where to put everything in the house and now where to have a wedding. I hope to stay on track with my personal goals while remaining flexible with the many upcoming changes.  continue…

How to Use Evernote to Organize Your Taxes

I am no tax expert. When I think about doing taxes, I always remember the episode of Roseanne where they have an overflowing shoebox full of receipts on tax day. Or the free Dunkin Donuts at the post office at midnight on April 15th when I was a kid. Apparently there are rewards for waiting until the last minute!

I am still waiting around until the last minute to figure out what I am going to do, despite my best intentions to be more on top of things.  I would like to think I am not the only one still operating this way, so on the chance that I am not alone in this, I figured I would share the system I started this year (ok, a few days ago) in an effort to get organized. continue…

Moving Series: How to Use Evernote to Coordinate a Move

Evernote has come to be my constant planning and idea capturing companion. When it came to all the little things that add up to the one big thing that is a household move, I immediately turned to my friend Evernote to help me manage it all.

A move is not just one day that happens and then goes away nicely. There are weeks and possibly months of planning and preparations leading up to the big day, and then more weeks and possibly months to follow filled with remaining transition-type tasks and activities.

I have written a lot previously about my hipster and how the Evernote app serves as my one single planner in life. For the move, I am using my reminders and rituals notebooks to keep track of tasks I want to make sure get done. My boyfriend Michael and I also have a few shared notebooks which are helpful for storing information we both want to be able to access.

Today I will go through each of my current Evernote notebooks that contain information related to the move, and how they are being used. continue…

Spring Seasonal Review: How I Planned Out My Goals for Spring

I am so excited that my long-awaited spring seasonal review is finally here! The seasonal review is my new system of goal-setting and reviewing that I came up with this year, in which I review the goals I set for the previous season, and look forward to changes I would like to make in the upcoming three months. This is my alternative to setting annual New Year’s resolutions. If you would like to read more about my thought process behind my seasonal review, click here. continue…

Email Miniseries: Reducing the Clutter

To wrap up the Email Miniseries, I would like to focus on the concept of excess items in an email inbox as clutter, and ideas to minimize the clutter. Think of your email inbox as a messy (or very messy, depending on the number of emails in the inbox) room or garage.

Close your eyes and picture a garage that is a total disaster area. How does it make you feel? Now, take that same garage and imagine it perfectly cleaned out and organized. Perhaps there is an item or two that has just been in use out of place, but otherwise, everything is in order. It is your dream garage.

Now think of your email inbox. How does it make you feel? Before I started clearing my email inbox to empty, I always felt like I was missing something, or emails that didn’t make me feel particularly good would subtly haunt me while they sat there. I never felt in control. It was very unsettling.

If you feel completely overwhelmed by an email inbox, there is an answer. continue…

Email Miniseries: There is a Better Way

The problem of email overload is multifaceted and extremely varied between and within individuals. A person with a full-time job probably faces different email challenges from even a part-time employee, and the nature of a person’s work will also factor into the equation of how much email is delivered to them on average in a day. The majority of us also have to deal with managing personal email accounts, which come with a whole separate set of challenges than those of the workplace. Although there are still some people who don’t have a personal email account (who I am starting to think are actually the smart ones), it is pretty uncommon, and probably looked at as being a little weird. Well, whoever said being weird was wrong?

Take Leo Babauta, for example. This man is one of my heroes. He went from being out shape, in debt, and a slave to his job, to being this zen guru who runs everyday, lives debt free, and creates his own work, running amazing, successful blogs with millions of followers of his thoughts on the simple way of life. He writes about simple email in his book The Power of Less. He is now to the point where he doesn’t even have an email account, but he still makes it in this world. Funny, huh?

I am not planning on giving up my email accounts anytime soon (although I am not convinced that would be the worst thing in the world), but I have come up with my own plan to manage the constant stream of thoughts and ideas that are delivered to me on a daily basis. continue…

Hipster Series: Wrap Up

To wrap up the Hipster Series, I figured I would go through the remaining types of information I am using my hipster to record. Here is a look at how my hipster notebook stack is set up in Evernote:

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 In my Hipster: An Overview post, I listed the other categories of information I am tracking in my hipster, and explained how I use the “-Blank” notebook as a designated place to record incoming bits of information that I am not sure what to do with at the moment. Having this notebook actually helped me to determine an extra category that I decided to add to my hipster. continue…

Hipster Series: Affirmations

I find writing affirmations to be easier than writing goals. I first learned about writing affirmations from the same book that introduced me to writing goals, Jack Canfield’s How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.

Not only does it seem easier to me to write affirmations, but it also seems easier to go through them. The reason affirmations make me feel so warm and fuzzy is because they use the concept of “acting as if”. While I generally start my goals with the statement “I intend to…” I start my affirmations with “I am…”, implying that I have already achieved whatever great dream I am thinking about in the moment. No matter how unrealistic the dream, affirming it with a statement that it is already happening automatically makes it feel not so impossible. continue…

Hipster Series: Turning Goals into Dreams into Reality

“All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

I have read a lot of books that talk about how to write and achieve goals. I have kept goals on 3 x 5 index cards and on 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper in a 3-ring binder. Once again, one of the biggest limiting factors for me has been having a portable list of goals.

A 3-ring binder is just not practical for me to carry around everywhere I go. A small stack of 3 x 5 index cards can be handy, but what if you have 15 goals and then an additional 15 affirmations to carry around? I always liked the idea of giving each goal its own 3 x 5 card or notebook-sized sheet of paper. I liked the space that giving a goal its own sheet of paper creates. I didn’t want to just cram all my goals onto one or a few sheets of paper. I wanted them to be able to breathe. continue…

Hipster Series: Other Categories of Rituals

“Forget all the reasons why it won’t work and believe the one reason why it will.” – unknown

Just as there is a flow of stuff in our lives, there is a flow of tasks. Many tasks change hands multiple times, and while they do not require our constant attention, they often need to remain within our peripheral awareness while they are in someone else’s hands. Within my rituals lists, I am keeping track of a few additional types of information that I wanted to keep up with on a regular basis but didn’t want to have to go looking for in another separate list. continue…

Daily Planner in Your Pocket: The Hipster

Planners have been an obsession of mine for quite some time. My first “hipster” was given to me as a birthday present a few years ago. The idea of a hipster is that you can completely customize a compact collection of information that you want to carry around with you at all times without the organizational limitations and expense of buying a planner.

I personally still like to call my system my “hipster” even though I have now transitioned to a digital platform, mostly because I think the name is cute and cool. Anyone could create their own homemade planning system and call it whatever they want. The point is to create something that you want to use, because that increases the likelihood that it will serve the purpose it intended: to make your life more simple, efficient, and peaceful.

Originally, my hipster was paper-based and had many categories. At the time that I first started using it, I did not yet have an iPhone. I had previously been using a Franklin-Covey planner system, and although I loved my planner and lived by it, my life felt extremely chaotic. Don’t get me wrong, my hipster wasn’t responsible for removing the chaos from my life, I did that after extensive personal reflection and carefully planned out choices, but the hipster now plays an even more effective role in my life now that I feel more connected to the categories it contains and the types of information I allow to get recorded in that place. continue…

Evernote Organization

I took some time to go through my Evernote files and pare my categories down to the most basic and broad. I am proud to say that I am currently down to 4 notebook stacks. I didn’t take a before picture, but I believe I used to have closer to 10 stacks.

When I first started using Evernote, there were 2 levels of organization available: notebooks and notes. A notebook is a collection of notes. It bothered me that there were only 2 levels at first, because I really like to group similar items together and felt like I needed one more level of categorization. If I am thinking about my blog, I don’t want to have to scroll through items related to my job. I keep them separate. Now, with the ability to create stacks, I can happily group my information into small number of broad categories, and then group like sub-categories of information within each stack. continue…

Procrastinators Annonymous

Right now I have a notebook in my Evernote called “Post Drafts” with 120 notes. This is where I have been keeping ideas for blog posts for over a year. As I am writing this, I am up to 121 notes.

I set out to participate in Blogust around the beginning of this month, with the goal of posting to this blog each day throughout the month of August. I have missed about 5 or 6 days, although I posted a quote as a placeholder for each day that I missed and will be going back and posting to those days before the end of August.

A Procrastinator’s Confessions

Why oh why do we procrastinate? Maybe I shouldn’t say “we” because I am sure not everyone procrastinates, and even those of us who do procrastinate are probably really good at getting certain things done quickly. That is, certain things we either actually enjoy doing or have figured out how to do with confidence. Despite all the good advice and information I have read about getting things done and not procrastinating, I still manage to do it. continue…

Planning Projects – Part 1

Now that I have my to-do lists (which I now call my reminders lists) under control, I feel like I can really get into getting my life organized the way I have always wanted to. I have read so many books about getting organized and improving productivity, and while I liked many of the ideas they described, I never felt “with it” enough to even begin to follow their advice.

Getting organized takes a lot of time, not to mention the difficult decisions the process forces. When I was buried by a mountain of tasks, it seemed totally impossible to make progress on getting organized. How could I dedicate 4 hours to organizing some files on my computer when I had a good, oh, say, infinite amount of hours of tasks nagging at me? continue…

Getting A Hold of the Clutter

“If your life seems a mess, it is because it is a reflection of your thoughts.” – Doreen Virtue

Right now, one of my goals is to organize my Evernote account, and other file folders on the computer that are not in their final home. Several years ago, I started digitizing almost all of the paper in my life. It was a very long process.

Just deciding what to keep and what to throw away can be paralyzing at first. Once I started trusting myself and my ability to decide more, it still took a very long time scanning in page after page after page of what I decided to keep. I have spent many hours with the scanner set up on the bed, scanning in anything I felt the need to keep, while watching a movie. I guess maybe it was actually kind of fun now that I think back on it! continue…

Clearing Out the Queues of Our Lives

“The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace.” – fortune cookie

I have read (or at least partially read) plenty of books on productivity, usually out of desperation for a miracle. I can’t stand the plethora of stuff that comes into my life piling up, but in recent years I have often felt powerless to even make a dent in the growing list of tasks requiring my attention.

For the past few years, I have felt like I was on the cusp of realizing my dream of having my life under control, but it was just out of reach for so long. Actually, there have been many days where I have felt absolutely buried, unable to deal with even the simple tasks as there was such a large list of big, overwhelming tasks and projects requiring my attention.

We Are Not Alone

I can’t be the only one who feels this way. But sometimes I do feel alone in my crushing to-do list mode. I look around at other people, and sometimes it seems like they all have it all together. I am sure this isn’t true, and maybe it couldn’t be farther from the truth, but it is easy to feel isolated. continue…

Simplifying Incoming Paper

“Find the elegance in the chaos, and simplify to the extent possible.” – Tim Ferriss

I was always a paper and pen diehard. I couldn’t imagine reading documents online, and wouldn’t dare dream of letting go of my paper to-do lists. I started to reconsider when I was introduced to Evernote. Evernote is like a digital filing cabinet – but better. You can save not only documents, but also notes, ideas, pictures – basically everything – in an organized and easily retrievable fashion.

I did resist going completely paperless at first. continue…

The Seasons of Our Lives

As I mentioned the other day, lately I have been thinking of my life more in seasons.

There are sooo many things we do that are recurrent: brushing our teeth, showering, replacing mascara, washing the sheets, making plans for Christmas, buying birthday gifts, buying toilet paper…and on, and on, and on. I have started a list of such recurrent activities and right now, I am up to 92 items (just for my personal life).

In some ways that sounds like a lot, but in others it doesn’t even scratch the surface. This list actually doesn’t include things that are so automatic as taking a shower everyday, but I did put things like “floss” and “take vitamins”, because these are daily activities that I have struggled with getting into a solid daily habit of doing.

As with my goals and affirmations, I have created a notebook in Evernote to contain these items – one item per note. This has been one of those (crazy?) personal productivity ideas of mine for several years now, which I couldn’t quite hack because I never felt connected to the list. continue…

Gaining Momentum Towards a Goal

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” – fortune cookie

Today is day 2 of me posting to this blog…hooray!

I have posted and deleted my posts more times than I can count – so I have decided to just move forward and continue to write until it is actually good enough to share. But I am not worried about not being good enough. Well, the worrying thoughts do come to my mind, but I am taking back my control over them. continue…