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How I Stay Organized in my Writing and Work

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The Curious Cat Blog is all about writing, for writers, by a writer.


How I Stay Organized in my Writing and Work

Carina Sitkus

A year or so ago, I wrote about how I make time to write, even if it's just jotting down disjointed thoughts as they come to me,  but I’ve never shared the ins and outs of how I stay organized. Organization is important for anyone, but I think it's especially important for writers who freelance for multiple clients and/or work full-time on top of having a writing career. 

Personally, I like to keep my work tasks somewhat separate from my personal creative/ life tasks. My system is also primarily digital. A couple of months ago I completely shattered my phone, which made me go completely cold turkey from digital for, oh, about a week or so, when I tried bullet journaling my work and personal life. Long story short, it didn’t work for me. I still use paper sometimes, but I personally find my digital method to be so much more long as it's backed up. ;) 


At work, I primarily use the Tasks tool in Outlook to organize my action items. It’s my home base. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, on my to-do list is scheduled as a task with a due date. When a task is complete, I clear the flag so it disappears. My calendar is reserved for actual meetings with people. At my previous job I used my calendar as a to-do list, but it cluttered up my calendar and made it hard for others to find free chunks of time to schedule meetings with me. So then I starting using Trello for my to-do lists, which worked well, but now that I have Outlook, I no longer use it.

Something I really love about the Tasks feature in Outlook is you can flag emails to appear as tasks (designated by an envelope icon). I like to keep my inbox fairly empty, so this is super helpful. Instead of letting emails sit, I flag them for a day when I know I’ll have the chance to take action, and I always keep an email marked unread unless I’ve had the chance to take action or schedule it as a task.

Sometimes I’ll refer to my Tasks and handwrite a to-do list for my desk that includes JUST the items I’ll complete that day (including my work and personal tasks). Even though everything is already on my digital list, I like having the smaller list right in front of me. I usually throw this list away at the end of the day or by the end of the week, making sure everything I still need to do gets added to the master task list on my computer so I can view it from wherever I am (even if I’m at home).

Email folders

To organize my email, I make different folders for big projects, which makes searching through my archives a lot easier. There is such thing as too much here--too many folders, too many tasks, too many things to look through, and it defeats the purpose and makes things harder to find, making you less efficient. I routinely skim the folders and remove things I no longer need to refer to so it stays streamlined.


I use the Notes feature in Outlook for notes for my one-on-one meetings with my boss, things I regularly reference, or notes for ongoing projects that aren’t emails. But again, if I have an action item, I schedule it as a task. I never bury to-do lists in the notes. Notes are purely there for reference, and I delete them when I no longer use them.

*some details are whited out to protect names

*some details are whited out to protect names

I routinely also go through the documents on my computer and delete anything I no longer need for my records or portfolio. I used to keep everything and use about 1% of it, so now I have a good eye for what I know I’ll use… and what I won’t. Programs like CCleaner can also help you search for documents that haven’t been modified for years… a good indication that you probably don’t need them anymore.





For my personal life, I rely on the notes app in my iPhone (that’s backed up to the cloud) and my Google calendar.


Because my phone is synced with my work stuff, I have the option of viewing either my work notes or my personal notes. I love keeping the two separate but being able to view both sets of notes from the same device if I want to.

These are the categories of notes I use in my personal life (currently):

  • Long term action (where I put things I need to do that are too long-term or big picture to add to my calendar)
  • To buy (things I need to buy at the groceries)
  • Writing ideas/brain dump (where I record things that pop up in my brain)
  • 2016 goals (my goals for the year)
  • 2015 goals (purely for reference)
  • 2015 highlights (purely for reference… a list of good things that happened to me throughout the year)
  • 2014 highlights (ditto)
  • TV shows to watch
  • Movies to watch

Books get added to my Goodreads, if you’re wondering. I refer to my long-term action list frequently and schedule what I can to my personal Google calendar (unlike at work, I don’t care about cluttering up my personal calendar with tasks because no one sees it but me). Once it’s there, I delete it from my list. I get email alerts as things pop up, so I never miss anything. For example, when I needed to schedule a vet appointment for the real life Curious Cat, I wrote it in my long-term list. Once I called for the appointment, I added it to my calendar and deleted it off my list. Right now on my list I have, “plan next CCP writing meet-up.” Once I pick a day when I want to sit down and do the planning, I’ll add it to my calendar. The only exception is sometimes on the weekends when I’ll write a list of things to do in my long-term action notepad that I know I’ll do (and delete) all in that weekend. In that case, I don’t bother adding it to my calendar and I just do them.

*some details are whited out to protect sensitive details and names

*some details are whited out to protect sensitive details and names

The most important thing I’ll say here is the less you can have on a list and the more you can schedule on a calendar, the better. Lists tend to grow long and take longer and longer to get through, which can seriously hamper your motivation. I try to routinely take things off of my lists and add them to my calendar so I actually do them.

Usually, writing ideas are born on the Notes app on my phone. If it’s an idea for a blog post or a story idea that I know I won’t get to right away, I add it to a longer Google doc that I created just for writing ideas. Again, my lists are there purely for reference if I need some inspiration. When I know I want to write something, I schedule it on my calendar so I don’t forget.

The only paper record I keep is my daily log that I try to update every night, or at least on the weekends. It’s pretty much just a few sentences about what I did that day. I like to refer to it to track productivity, spot patterns, and record personal thoughts/emotions that aren’t necessarily fodder for writing, but are still important to me.

I also have a system for organizing my drafts and portfolio of published pieces, but I don’t want to make this post too overwhelming. Next time.

What about you? How do you keep your work, writing, and life organized? What more do you want to know about my system?

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