It’s hard to stay organized when you have lots of projects on the go. Here are five tips to help you organize your brain and your digital life.
1. Keep your files organized
If you’re anything like me, you both download many attachments and create piles of files. But how do you make sure you can find them again when you need them?
All my show folders, organized
For me the trick is files nested inside each other and numbered. The master file for work, in my case, is called “contracts” which is followed by folders for each theatre season. Each season has every show I’ve worked on that season, numbered so that they stay in the order I did them rather than alphabetically. Inside each show’s folder are folders for schedules, breakdowns, set, rehearsal reports, props, etc. When I need to find a piece of information from a show in 2009, you can bet I know where to find it. This archival type system has proven extra useful in the case of Re:Union which is being remounted to tour this year. When an email attachment comes for a show, I save it directly to the show’s folder (which I create the day I say yes to the project) and I never have to worry about hunting through a giant downloads folder to find things. As a bonus, it keeps my desktop really clear. Job hunting contains nested folders for resumes and headshots. Invoices has nested folders for each calendar year. My goal is always to be able to find what I’m looking for as quickly as possible.
2. Keep your Inbox managed
There is nothing I find more frustrating when I sit down to work than having to sort through piles of emails to find the information I need or figure out what action needs to be taken. My solution? Keep my inbox as close to empty as possible. I do this by keeping a well organized folder system so that as soon as something is dealt with I can file it away. This allows me to quickly find the email for reference later, but helps me know that the only things in my inbox are the things I have not yet dealt with. It’s my own version of Inbox Zero. His system didn’t quite work for me, but it is what inspired me to this system.
Sorting emails: Current & Not Current
My email filing system for work is broken down to “Current” and “Not Current” and then I have folders for each show (tours get a nested folder for each city). When a show wraps, it gets moved from “Current” to “Not Current” which allows me to reference them as necessary without having them filling my inbox. Within the “Not Current” section I have folders for companies if I’ve worked with them more than once, just to limit the number of folders I look at in a glance. (I similarly have a “Friends” folder with nested folders for my friends by name.) This system has proven invaluable with shows that have later gone on to tour or been remounted in any capacity – I have all the original conversations about why we did things the way we did.
At this moment my inbox has nine emails in it. I’ve read all of them, but have not yet responded or taken the necessary action to consider them dealt with. But nine is completely manageable. I might even deal with all of them today. Pro Tip: spend 20 minutes unsubscribing from mailing lists you don’t care about (the kind that stores put you on or theatre companies that send 12 emails a week). The 20 minutes now will save you much more than that in time spent deleting emails later.Legally any “newsletter” type email has to have an unsubscribe button at the bottom, so it should be easy to do.
3. Keep an Up-to-date Calendar
When I was in Toronto last month I made plans to get together with a friend. I wrote it on one calendar, but failed to input it into my digital calendar. The day to get together came and I completely forgot that I had a plan because when I checked my daily calendar it wasn’t there. Thankfully my friend texted me to confirm plans and I was able to still go (I hadn’t booked something else at that time, thank goodness!). I’m a big fan of iCal, but that’s because it syncs so easily between my computer and my iPhone (and my iPhone is my lifeline for work), but there are lots of different calendar options.
Balancing rehearsals, a social life, and travel requires a detailed calendar
I have set up a series of different “calendars,” each with a different colour, and I use them for different purposes which allows me to see at a glance when I’m working and when I’m socializing in a given week. Take the extra 15 or 20 minutes to set up more than one type of calendar and colour code them – it’s totally worth it in the long run.
The important thing isn’t what type of calendar you use (you may even prefer a handwritten agenda). The important thing is plugging everything into it and then referring to it and being consistent about your method.
4. Multiplatform Syncing
Dropbox. SugarSync. iCloud. Google Drive. GoodSync. There are dozens of options for making sure that your files are available to you on multiple devices.
I have been using Dropbox for about four years now and I love it. I originally installed it because I was in a situation where I sometimes worked at home on my laptop, but other times I was expected in the office on a company computer and emailing files back and forth to myself was getting old and I just wanted to have the most up-to-date file in both places. Cue DropBox (or any other good sync software). I now have immediate access to every file saved in my DropBox folder (which is almost everything on my computer – I have a Pro account) from my laptop, iPhone, iPad, work computer or through the website to download from a computer I’m not installed on. This is huge for me. It means I have access to my files from anywhere. Out for drinks with a colleague who asks to see the set design for the current show? No problem. I’ve got it right here on my phone. What about my resume? Yup. It’s also right here. And there’s a handy “email file” option right in the app.
5. Use an RSS Reader
If you read any blogs or news, grab yourself an RSS feed reader. Google Reader is dead, but www.feedly.com is a great replacement (and there are other options too). Basically, every time a blog or news site that you follow posts something new, this reader holds that info for you to read without you having to remember to visit each individual site. I currently subscribe to 351 sites. Imagine if I had to remember to visit each of them on a daily basis? And some of them only post once a month, but if I had to physically hunt each day to find out when there was new info, it would add hours to my week.
Categories of subscriptions
Instead, I go to one place and it shows me all the new content, organized by categories of my design (though I often select to view all with the most recent first).Pro Tip: “J” automatically jumps to the next article and “K” jumps back to the one before. I often just skim headlines, only reading a handful of articles a day (guaranteed to be read in full: the newest GirlsWithSlingshots comic, any reviews in the Georgia Straight, and posts by blogs in the “Friends” category). I also use my RSS feeds to search for jobs for me. For example, anything posted on Craigslist in Vancouver or Toronto that uses the word “theatre” in the description will come to my reader in addition to anything posted by the Alliance of Arts & Culture or the CITT job board. I no longer have to search these things out, they come to me.