My Tips for Staying Organized

I know we all can relate to feeling like there just aren't enough hours in the day. We all have distractions and other priorities in our lives competing for our attention and some days you wonder how you are going to power through. Lots of coffee comes to mind. While coffee might get you going, it's not going to sustain you or help you weed through the chaos. What will help you handle it is getting organized and managing your time. 

Through the years I've been asked how I manage my time running SMT and working full-time? While the simple answer is that I don't sleep but there is a bit more work involved so I can be sure to get my sleep. I seem to always get a lot of questions revolving around this side hustle I call, SMT. Anything from what advice I would give someone wanted to start a blog, to how I manage my time, do I have any organization tips, what does SMT look like from "behind the scenes", to how do I fit all this in around daily life have been asked. These questions seem to have come up a lot more in the last couple of months. So I thought I would share all of that and what works for me in hopes that it might also help you. 

As I mentioned and what some people don't realize is that I do have a full-time day job. A typical 9-5 as most would call it. And with SMT, I have a full-time night/weekend job. SMT is my side hustle, my hobby, my baby, my business, and my life. Between both of those, I have to try to fit in all the other personal adulting life shopping, running errands, laundry, cleaning the house, being a mom to a fur baby, being a attentive wife, supportive friend, making time for family, taking time for me, working out, prepping & cooking meals, getting in proper training (shooting, self-defense), going to the shooting range, and all the stuff that creeps right on in that you can't plan for. Plus, making time to enjoy this life. It's a lot and I know many of you have to juggle the same full plate if not more. For me, it's exhausting and exciting all at the same time. 

In reality we can't do it all. All we can do is use the resources available to us to make things easier, more manageable, and less stressful so we can go out for that cocktail with our best friend. 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm insanely organized and structured when it comes to planning what I need to do or when working on projects. I can't function effectively and, more importantly, efficiently if I don't have a good starting plan/foundation. So for me, this is how I manage my life.

Plan My Month. I'm a visual person and need to see my month laid out on paper in front of me. I like to see the "big picture" so I know what I have coming down the pike. Towards the end of each month, I plan out the next month. From birthdays/anniversaries  to personal appointments, SMT content & commitments, and everything in between gets added to a monthly calendar. It's also color coded by pen color. Like I said, I'm visual. Seeing a monthly view like this helps me to see where my time is committed. Meaning, if I have a friend in town for an entire weekend, then I know that the weekend is probably not going to be a good time to work on SMT or go to the shooting range. This allows me to see where and how I need to fit my side hustle into the rest of my life. I also input my monthly schedule into my Google Calendar; since that provides me with digital reminders of upcoming appointments. 

Plan My Week. This is easy since my month has already been planned I already know what I have on tap for the week but then can add to it anything that might come up. My weekly schedule works in conjunction with my to-do list as I plan my to-do list for the week. My current planner is laid out where the left side is the weekly calendar view and the right side is a to-do list - so I can see how/where things need to fit in.

Write My To Do List. This seems so simple but it's highly effective in helping you to stay on track when you are trying to juggle multiple responsibilities. I jot down everything in my head and then edit from there. For me this list gets written at the beginning of the week. I set time aside at the beginning/end of the week to plan the upcoming week. I essentially have two lists. An SMT list and personal list. It's all the things I need/want to do that week for SMT and in my personal life. At the start of the week, I pick the top three priorities from each list and focus on those first. If something new comes up that is a priority then I edit and re-prioritize. Breaking down your list into smaller priorities will make less daunting and more manageable. If one of your priorities has some sub-tasks, then move those to a post-it and prioritize the sub-tasks as well focusing on the highest three that are a priority.

The above is what set's your foundation for tackling and managing your list and time. Find a planning system that works for you. It has taken me years, lots of money and planners later to find a system that works for me. I've tried all the planners (The Simplied Planner, Day Designer, Erin Condren Life Planner, Bullet Journal, etc.) and there was something about each one I didn't like or didn't work for me. You can spend days researching all the planners that claim to make you more productive and there are vlogs out there dedicated to reviewing them all. Trust me, I've watched 'em. My planner setup finally came together after I found  Kikki.K. I apologize now because they have the best stationary; you'll be hooked. Kikki.K makes so many great planner pads for monthly planning, weekly planning, and task lists - it's a great way to start figuring out a system that works for you. For most of last year, I used three pieces of paper pulled from various Kikki.k sets. At the end of last year, I happened to find a planner from a local place (Appointed Co.) that was exactly the method I was using but in one nice bound planner (I use their year task planner). I've been using that so far for 2018 and it's been awesome at keeping me on track. What's important is that you figure out a system that works for. But also don't get too bogged down if you don't find the right one, you may have to DIY one. When I first tried out bullet journaling, it was great but I got so disappointed that mine didn't look as pretty as the ones I've seen online. I mean some of these planners, not just bullet journals are works of art. I became too focused on trying to make it look pretty that I got sidetracked from it's actual purpose. Sometimes something simple is all you need. If you start simple and add what you need, you can come up with a system that is more effective for you.

I've tried using digital planners and apps but they don't work for me. However, as I mentioned I do use my Google Calendar and specifically use the WidgetCal app for iPhone since I can see my entire month. It's helpful because let's be real, I can't be lugging around my planner everywhere (even though I want too). I also use my Notes app; to organize thoughts or anything that I need to remind myself of when I don't have access to my planner.

Once you've laid out your plan and found a system that works for you, it's time to start executing. Sometimes this can be the hardest thing. We have so many distractions that it's easy to get sidetracked. It happens to me a lot. I'll just open my phone and check Instagram then 15 minutes later I've gone down the InstaStory rabbit hole. Doesn't make for a very productive day. So the best way I've found to get around this is to time block.

Time Block Your List. What I mean by time block your list is to take that first priority and dedicate a certain amount of time to getting it done. There are more official "rules" to what timeblocking actually is but this is how I use it. This doesn't mean you have to time block 4 hours; do it in smaller increments. Depending on what I'm working on, I'll give myself 30 minutes then I will take a 5 minute break. You can invest in specific timeblocking timers but the alarm on your phone works just as well. That's what I use. However, I put my phone in airplane mode for that time so I don't get interrupted or distracted by incoming text messages or notifications. Timeblocking like this also helps you to see how much time you need to plan for something in the future. For instance, I know that it can take me up to an hour to edit photos for a blog post. So it makes scheduling that task easier because I know I need to allow myself that much time to complete the task. Also, knowing how long certain tasks take you (especially if they are recurring) means you can fit them into your schedule better. Maybe you are more productive before 8 am or you have time during your lunch hour to knock this off your list. This will help you manage your time so you're working smarter, not harder.

Touching real quick on the blogging piece of SMT and for those that always want some advice on starting a blog. The one thing I tell everyone is that you get what you put in. Whether it's just a hobby or you are trying to make it into something, it's all about how much time and commitment you are willing to devote to it. I am not exaggerating when I say I live and breath SMT. All day, every day and I love it. As soon as I get home from work, I put on my hoodie and get on my laptop to work on my SMT to do list. But for me, I was all in from the day one. I want to inspire women to be self-reliant and I'm willing to do what I need to do to make that happen. I have big goals for this space so without the planning I mentioned above, it would be chaos. I do my best at planning content ahead time and do what I can to get all the aspects of a post taken care of and scheduled in advanced. It doesn't always happen as smoothly as I would like but if I wasn't organized it wouldn't happen at all. Without the organization and planning it means I'm scrambling last minute and I definitely don't have time for that. Things might seem glamorous on the outside looking in from an Instagram photo but it's a lot of work. I'm grateful to have a supportive husband that believes in me, the mission, and does a lot behind the scenes such as taking my outfit photos. As much as I love SMT, I also love having a social life and it's important to make time for that.

So whether it's a side hustle, your main hustle, or your general life here are few things that you also need to keep in mind when juggling it all. It's what I've learned to help keep me sane. 

Make Time for Personal Relationships. It's easy to get lost in the zone of what you are focused on but you have to remember the people in your life. Your spouse or partner is probably going to be your biggest supporter so it's important to make sure that you are giving them what they need as well. This goes for family and friendships too. These are the people in your life that help you "get away" from the daily routine. It's an opportunity to blow of some steam and chill. Don't let your personal relationships suffer because you are "too busy". I strongly believe that no one is ever too busy, it's just a matter of priority,

Get Some Rest. With so much on our plates and the need for more hours, it seems simple to just steal those hours from sleep. However, it's not practical nor is it healthy. I used to stay up super late but nowadays I have set a hard stop for 11 pm. I aim for at least 6 hours a night; if I can get in longer then I definitely do it. I love to sleep. For me, on 6 hours I'm still productive without feeling like I'm struggling. Maybe you need more, maybe you need less but figure out what your sweet spot is and be firm on sticking to it. Your body and mind need that time to rest, recover, and recharge. You're no good to yourself, your family, your friends, your job, or your side hustle if you are sick.

Give Electronics A Break. We are so tied our phones nowadays. Everything we do can almost be done with an app or requires some type of input about our lives. Whether it's meal time or coffee time, turn on the do not disturb by turning off the electronics. Use this time for actual face-to-face connections with your family, spouse, or friends. For me, I'm in front of some type of electronic screen for 14+ hours a day. So turning off the electronics and sitting quietly to read an actual paper book is a great way to ease into my self-care or bedtime routine. 

Make Time for Self-Care. I've come to value this more and more as I get older. For me self-care might include sleeping in longer, vegging out on the couch for a few hours, meditating, yoga, or reading. The point of self-care is to nourish your mind and body in a holistic way. This is the time to focus on your well being, making yourself healthier, feeling better, and giving back to your body and mind. This is the time to meet your own needs; not the needs of everyone or everything around you. Think about creating a daily or weekly self-care routine. It can be as easy as taking 30 minutes out of your day to nourish yourself. 

With exceedingly busy schedules, it can seem like doing any of the four items above is counterproductive to getting sh*t done but it all comes back to being able to be effective and efficient with your time and life. Don't let yourself feel guilty for taking the time you need so that the following day you can crush everything. Don't get me wrong, things aren't easy, I get super overwhelmed but that's when I realize that I might need more rest or more self-care. It's a give and take but if you find a way that works for you to balance it all (because I know you can) you'll be able to hit your goals.