In Search of the Ultimate Organizer

I can dream, can’t I?

All I want is one system, one place where I can organize my entire life, from the personal to the business to the lifetime goals, and have it mesh seamlessly with everyone else’s systems. Oh, and it should be fun to use, combining both the joy of a notebook with the pleasure of a well-tuned interface as well as the non-intrusive and intuitive ability to both take on new tasks and remind me of old ones without disrupting my day.

It would be nice if it was free, too.

If you’re waiting for me to wave my virtual hands in a flourish and say “…and here is is!” I’m going to disappoint you. Because what I’m finding is: yes, that is all too much to ask for.

I talked about the various planners and such that I’ve been trying out, and everything is either good or “not quite right.” For example, I did enjoy the Momentum planner…except that the layout was not really aesthetically pleasing, and printing out loose papers and having them on a clipboard just isn’t conducive to a mobile lifestyle.

Here’s an aside: ask any organizational consultant, they’ll tell you that aesthetic is important. The system you use needs to speak to your own personal sense of what feels right, because otherwise you’ll be reluctant to use it. The idea behind making something attractive is not a feature, it’s an essential element to making it work.

The Security of Situational Awareness

I’ve been doing a lot of pondering about the trope of the Lone Hero, Bucking the System and Overcoming All. I’m feeling, more and more, that this is a very destructive model of the Hero, at least in my life, and I find myself looking more and more for ensemble pieces, stories of teams of diverse people who come together because they are greater as a whole than as parts.

That’s a thought for a future blog post. But it applies to the search for an organizer, too! Rather than looking for One System to Rule Them All, perhaps it is possible to create a team of tools – things that work together, each with a particular advantage – that will give me the organization that I desire.

That desire, incidentally, is for a feeling of security. The idea that things aren’t slipping through the cracks, that I’m aware of what needs to be done and when — that’s essential to my own line of work, because no one is going to do that for me. That’s part of being self-employed, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. I can decide that this afternoon is going to be a Librarians marathon with chocolate custard on the couch, and no one can say otherwise!

But when the vendors for the event aren’t invoiced, and the tweets for the podcast client aren’t written, and the new video conferencing software isn’t configured for the meeting…then I pay the price.

With great freedom comes great responsibility.

Luckily, it also comes with nifty little organizational toys to play with.

The Current Combination

Here’s what I’m working with right now. It’s a rough system, it’s not perfect by any means, but it feels like I’m on the right track. It is basically three things that interlock but serve different purposes:

Asana

This is a freemium project management tool. It’s similar to another very useful app known as Trello, and I honestly can’t remember why we’re using this one instead of the other. However, it is what I use for projects that involve other people, because it’s got excellent shareability. Since I do multiple event plans with different teams of people, it is useful when I need to see what tasks need to be coordinated with others.

Omnifocus

Ah, Omnigroup…they are very much like the person in your life who keeps popping up, being a friend (or lover) for a while, and then disappearing. Or, in some cases, being given up because they’ve become too high-maintenance.

Omnifocus is their Getting-Things-Done organizer, and I’ve tried it a few times, each time deciding it was too much trouble to continue using. I opened it on a whim a little more than a week ago, to see how the latest update had changed things…and started to really, really like it.

Maybe we just weren’t at a point in our lives before where it would work? I dunno, but the interface, the calendar, everything feels much more workable now. I’m probably going to shell out the exorbitant ($40) fee when the trial runs out, because it’s working well for managing my own projects – the ones that don’t involve other people. It also interfaces with Asana, so there is some easy cooperation there.

About the only thing I find annoying is that I haven’t yet figured out how to set a “start” time for tasks – only a “due” time. But that’s ok, because that’s where we get to the final member of the team:

Baron Fig Notebook

In the end, it is pen and paper. It’s using a variation of Mike Rohde’s Daily Plan Bar and bullet journaling and Getting Sh*t Done that completes the cycle of feeling like I’m on top of my day. Baron Fig notebooks just feel the best in my hand, and so that’s what I choose to use. Don’t get me started on pens; that’s a whole other rabbit hole down which this blog post does not have to go.

So here’s how this team works together, on a daily basis:

  1. Check Asana. I have collaborative boards with several projects, so I can see easily where they have completed parts of projects, where I fit into the process, and where they may have added new tasks that I need to complete. This is the overview of where things are now, or sitrep or status report depending on your preferred terminology. An added bonus is a Zapier script that takes any new item added to my Asana and turns it into a task in my Omnifocus.
  2. Check Omnifocus. I know, this seems like a redundancy, right? Except it’s not, because Asana was looking at how my tasks fit in with other people; Omnifocus is helping me see how my tasks fit in with me. I can put goofy personal things in there, I can have “maybe-someday” ideas, and it’s just different enough to give me a better perspective and generate my personal to-do list. It also integrates with Siri, which makes the whole “ubiquitous capture” idea simple as it’s ever been. “Add ‘check on the scheduled presenters’ to Omnifocus” and it’s done.
    I also have to say that the new update includes a calendar integration that really appeals in the main window. This is what I use to figure out what has to happen today.
  3. Bullet Journall. The final step is to create my Daily Plan Bar with pen and paper, make a quick task list, with space for notes, a bit of gratitude journaling, and also a battle cry for the day (today’s is “Legatum non gloriae” – Legacy, not glory). This is the book I open at meetings, or when I’m needing to do some sketchnoting. It’s also what I use to go back and look at my days, kind of like a logbook.

So there you have my current progress in the Quest for Organization. Is it too much? Possibly. It’s not perfect yet, but it feels like it’s getting closer to what I need to get the things I need set and together.

Questions? Suggestions? I’d love to hear them…

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One response to “In Search of the Ultimate Organizer”

  1. AmandaT says :

    Zapier can integrate the two https://zapier.com/apps/asana/integrations/omnifocus if that interests you…

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