I’m almost a year into being full-time self-employed and in that time I’ve learned a lot of things through trial and error (mostly error!). Something that I think I’ve got the hang of now is organising all of the projects that I have going at once. I currently have six projects that I’m actively working on, not including teaching, and several more waiting to be started. That’s quite a lot to keep track of!
The problem is that, when it comes to things like to-do lists, I’m the kind of person who can easily make a mountain out of a molehill (a phrase which here means I think everything will take much longer than it will in reality, panic that I won’t have enough time, and then hide in a cocoon of procrastination and denial). So I’ve had to find a way of motivating myself to get started on a task instead of spending hours playing The Sims…
I’ve tried a few things. When I was doing my masters, a bullet journal was very helpful because I could keep all of my university notes and tasks in one section and my work notes and tasks in another. I could plan what I would work on each day and tick it off as I did so. However, at university I only ever had three projects at the most to work on which fit quite nicely into a little notebook. With more than four projects, the to-do list can start looking cluttered, which leads to me making mountains…many, many mountains…
After trying a few different things, I’ve settled on something that seems to be working:
On my desk (which is also my piano because small flats are great…), I have a chalk board. I’ve transferred what used to be the layout of my bullet journal onto it, with a space for current projects so I can see what I’m working towards, a space for shorter term tasks and a space for smaller to-dos (which on a bad day can be tiny things like ‘Answer one email’ or ‘Tidy desk’ just to get me started). This helps me be more organised and realistic about what I need to get done, which in turn makes me more productive (no more Sims when I’m supposed to be working!). I also like it because it’s visible all the time. For some people that might be stressful – they might want to hide away their work so they can’t see it every time they walk through the living room – but for me it helps to keep the molehills as molehills.
We all know the feeling of having too much to do. This is a fairly simple idea, but maybe it will help somebody else to find the thing that works for them. And if you have any other suggestions for organising tasks or just want to share your system, I’d love to hear it!
P.S. Can you tell I’ve been watching A Series of Unfortunate Events…?