3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

  3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos During a virtual meeting with my team, my laptop was running loud and slow. While I struggled to share my screen over the noise of my fan, one of my virtual assistants suggested I might have too many tabs open. “Who ME????” Yes, ME. Whether Read More

 

3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

Beige desk with phone, laptop, planner. 3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

During a virtual meeting with my team, my laptop was running loud and slow. While I struggled to share my screen over the noise of my fan, one of my virtual assistants suggested I might have too many tabs open. “Who ME????” Yes, ME.

Whether or not you faithfully use a digital or paper planner, you might have some unrecorded and tasks lurking in hidden places. Here are three unexpected places to look for your important to-dos and tips for managing them.

Browsers

Although I am a professional organizer and help people organize their digital lives, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with tab-mania myself. A single project might require opening up multiple tabs to access programs, do some research, and keep up with email and virtual meetings. As I move through tasks, those tabs multiply and often don’t get closed in a timely manner.

On this occasion, so many tabs were open in my browser that I couldn’t even make out the favicons, those tiny branding images on browser tabs. In fact, a click of the drop-down arrow at the end of the row showed even more tabs open.

As soon as we finished our meeting, I started clicking and closing tabs. I also found myself writing in my planner. One tab reminded me I needed to finish some research. Another prompted an idea for a yet-to-be-written blog post. And yet another was a PDF of an online receipt I needed to save. Those tabs were important to-dos! Anything that took just a few minutes ago, I took care of immediately.

Perhaps neglected open tabs in your browser are unrecorded tasks for your to-do list. Like a tactful Apple store employee once told me, “Just like you need rest, so does your laptop. Turn it off at night.”

So I challenge you: Every night for a week, close all your tabs. That’s right, all of them. You can “pin” those you use daily (right-click on the tab) so they open when you restart your computer, or bookmark them so you don’t need to search. Either way, you will save time. Wait, did you catch the word, restart? Yes, shut that baby down for the night.

TIPS:
  • If you are not already doing so on a regular basis, pick one day a week to check for and run program updates, clear out cookies and caches (see the settings for your browser).
  • Check your device’s trash or recycle bin for items that can be permanently deleted. Until you do, items still take up space.
  • Check your device’s battery life and available storage. I can’t cover directions for all types here, but you can find them by searching for “how to check battery health/available storage on _____.”

Your browser is just one place your important to-do’s might be hiding. Here are two more places:

Voicemails

Occasionally my voicemail is full and I have to clear it out. Every single message is something I need to do. The car repair shop now has a part that I’ve been waiting on, so I need to schedule a an appointment. My mother sang “Happy Birthday” on another message and I want to save it to my cloud storage. Another message reminds a prescription is ready for pickup. That’s an errand to the pharmacy. All of these are tasks that need to go on my list of important to-dos.

TIPS:
  • If your phone had to be reset and you lost your voicemails, are there any you would be sad about losing? Download happy-memory messages you want to save to cloud storage. I am so happy I downloaded voicemails of my parents serenading me with “Happy Birthday” together. Since my father passed away, it is a comforting memento.
  • Check your voicemail greeting. You may wish to say something different or rerecord using a better microphone.
  • When you delete messages, they might still exist in a deleted folder. Empty the deleted folder to make room on your device.

Scraps of paper

If you frequently write on sticky notes, scraps of paper, and/or notepads, then you might be  a “paper planner” person. As much as I love technology for its efficiency, I use Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner to keep track of my important to-dos. I love the feel of pen-to-paper and checking things off with a flourish. Clicking and swiping on a to-do app just doesn’t give me the same satisfaction, no matter how nice the interface is.

Sometimes I catch myself writing on sticky notes or notepads when on calls or webinars. I make a point of checking for these hidden to-dos on my desk at least weekly, putting them in the right spot in my planner. Often I make these temporary notes because I’m not quite sure when or if I am going to tackle them. The solution for this is a “grasscatcher list,” a master list of to-dos that aren’t urgent but shouldn’t be forgotten. Mine is in the back of my quarterly planner and I do a serious list sweep monthly and quarterly to weed that list down. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system refers to this as a “Someday Maybe” list. 

TIPS:
  • If you must write on a scrap of paper in a pinch, add the date. This will give you some frame of reference for what the note was about, if it is still relevant or even needed, when you come across it.
  • Before phone calls and meetings, determine the best place to record notes. I prefer paper planners with a two-page daily spread that includes a notes page for this reason. For client consultations, I have an intake form ready. The same goes for virtual coffees. I love using forms and creating them for my clients!
  • Use traditional phone message pads with a carbon copy feature to record voicemails and take calls. Fill in all the prompts for information. This can clear up half of your random note clutter!

Summary

Open browser tabs, voicemails, and scraps of paper are just a few of the unexpected places to look for your important to-dos. This digital and paper clutter can be prompts for tasks and they can pile up if not dealt with. Take care of them immediately or record in your planning system. Better yet, if not needed, delegate or discard.

Three things to do on a regular basis (think daily, every other day, or at least weekly):
  • Check your browser for open tabs and close them. If you need to access certain sites regularly, pin them or bookmark them.
  • Check your voicemail and clean it out, or at least add them to your to-do list and delete messages as you take care of them.
  • Corral loose notes and record them where they will be most useful.

With all your browser tabs closed, your voicemails cleared, and random notes recorded, you will get a good night’s sleep, and so will your laptop.

So, how many tabs are open on your device as you read this?

Need help with organizing your digital life? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Virtual Organizing: Nonjudgmental Help From a Distance

Do you finally have time to get organized but don’t know where to start? Need guidance but are practicing social distancing? Well, get ready to Zen Your Den® or Zen Your Biz because Virtual Organizing is here! One afternoon while helping a client organize her closet, I blacked out once and fell off a shelf Read More

The Last Filing System You’ll Ever Need

A Filing System for Paper Management Note: This post on filing systems contains affiliate links. If you purchase those items through my links I may earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Most people need some sort of filing system to use for paper management, even if Read More

A Filing System for Paper Management

Note: This post on filing systems contains affiliate links. If you purchase those items through my links I may earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link.

Most people need some sort of filing system to use for paper management, even if they prefer to go digital whenever possible. But what about insurance policies, warranties, and user manuals, certificates, passports, and health records, to name a few? You’ll want a place to easily file these things so they don’t turn into clutter. Ready to set up or redo a paper filing system? Here are some decisions to make before you purchase supplies.

Folders or just hanging folders?

Unless you want double work labeling, only hanging folders are needed. Plain manilla folders are very useful, however, during an initial sort of all your paper. Scribble temporary file names with a pencil and erase later for reuse.

Value/cheap or quality hanging files?

How annoying is it to have a hanging file fall apart (the metal piece separates from the file) or the hooks on the end of the files fall off the rails? Double annoying! Go ahead and buy the default dark green or brown files, but please, please, invest in reinforced versions like this one. Better yet, buy the Surehook brand, and not only will your hanging files stay in one piece, but they’ll also stay on the rails. The hooks are longer! You will thank me in a few years, or at least you won’t have regrets!

Solid color hanging files or multi?

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B002HI9RKM&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=zenyourden05 20Having all hanging files the same color makes filing easier and is probably a little cheaper. Just make sure you choose a color you won’t mind looking at for years! If you thrive on color for different categories, then these Surehook folders in mixed boxes of red, blue, green, orange, and yellow will work well. AND they work very well with the filing system I recommend.

ir?t=zenyourden05 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B002HI9RKM

File tab in front or back?

Should the hanging file tab be attached to the front of the file or the back? While we’re at it, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was that dress on the internet blue and black, or white and gold? Either way, you’re right. My preference is to put file tabs on the front of the folder so I can grab them and drop papers in behind. But I have many clients who prefer tabs to be placed on the back of the folder so they can grab the file and place papers in front of it. Just pick one method and stick with it.

Left-align, center-align, right-align, or stagger file tabs?

I’ve always liked the look of staggered tabs. But here’s the thing about that layout: it slows me down. My eyes dart from left to right and back again when looking for a file. And when I add a new file, I have to reorder a few tabs around it so the order makes sense to me. And it bugs me when, if I am using a five-tab system, the first four tabs in a group are related, but the fifth one isn’t. It just looks wrong to me. Confusing? Yes. Nitpicky? Well, maybe…

I now recommend that all tabs be left-aligned, with an optional category tab placed on the far right of the folder that starts a new category or group of files. Our eyes naturally look to the left first anyway. No more eyes darting all over the files; just a quick scan from front to back with the prompt of a category tab if needed. This system works well with drawers or carts where files are stored front to back. But if files are stored sideways in lateral file cabinets, then align the tabs so they are at the front of the drawer, whether left or right-aligned. If you access files in this type of drawer while facing right, then your tabs need to be right-aligned, and vice versa.

Place papers in the file with the top of the papers pointing to the left or right?

This may seem like a small detail, but if you don’t want to spend your time shuffling papers around so they all point the same direction, you need a system.

Do you have a file nearby? Stop what you are doing and pull the papers out. Which hand did you use? If you used your right hand, then put papers in files with the top of the pages pointing to the left. If you used your left hand to pull the papers out, then it makes sense to put the papers in with the tops pointing to the right. But wait, are these your personal files, or do these files need to be accessed by others as well? If the latter, you may need to have papers pointing to the left. Why? Because right-handers rule the world. I know this because I was born left-handed, learned how to write with my left hand, and then was made to switch so I would conform (my teachers meant well!). Although I’ve been writing with my right hand for decades, my tendency would still be to grab papers with my left hand. But I am in the minority and most of my clients would prefer their papers point to the left. Once you’ve decided this, explain your preference to anyone else who accesses these files.

I’m getting dizzy, are you? On to more concrete options!

Drawer, tub, crate, or rolling cart?

First, are you an Innie or an Outie? If you prefer things to be in drawers or closets – out of view so they aren’t visual distractions – then you may be an Innie. If you need things out in plain view for visual inspiration and also because out-of-site means out-of-mind to you, then you may be an Outie. Take this tendency into consideration along with how and where you use your files.

Elfa rolling file cart with Freedom Filer Filing SystemDo you want to keep your files tucked out of sight and in one room only? If you promise to open them frequently to file things and purge as needed, then fill your drawers with files. If you aren’t so sure those things will happen, then consider using drawers for archived files like tax returns, reference material, or supplies.

Do your files need to leave the premises? Consider tubs or crates that fit in your trunk. Do you like to work at your kitchen table or sofa? Consider a rolling file cart that you can roll out of sight later.

Do you hate filing and/or have ADD or ADHD? Consider an “open” filing system such as a file cart, crate, or tub minus the lid. Removing extra steps to filing (open door to the office, pull the drawer out…) simplifies filing.

I use drawers for supplies, reference material, and archived files like tax returns. I use this rolling cart from The Container Store for all my frequently accessed files (monthly statements, policies, ID’s, warranties, etc) and a step rack for active files (prospects, business cards for follow-up, receipts to log). The step rack should be within reach of your workspace.

Labeling systems

A good system will make it easy to file and retrieve items. A great system will be evergreen – you won’t need to update file labels if you move, use different utility companies, or have a significant life change. The filing system I recommend and use with nearly all my clients is Freedom Filer.

This is a color-coded labeling system (a pack of labels) for home filing with add-ons for:

  • Self-employed
  • Business
  • Employees
  • Customers and Jobs
  • Vendors

The Home 1/5 tab version is ideal for most people. The 1/3 system is more detailed, so compare them both if you aren’t sure. There are enough labels to make separate health and ID files for a family of four, with plenty of blank labels. You can purchase add-ons if needed, although most people don’t need them.

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B00F5VUJIC&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=zenyourden05 20ir?t=zenyourden05 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B00F5VUJIC

You will need 60-80 hanging files and tabs to create a complete filing system with this kit. If you want to use colored hanging files that match Freedom Filer’s labels, then these Surehook files are perfect. Yellow is not one of the system’s label colors, but you can use those for archived tax files and warranty files.

Ready to get started? Order a filing kit directly from FreedomFiler using my discount link.   While there, check out all their different products including the Elfa rolling cart that I recommend to all my clients. This is a $10 discount from The Container Store.

Need help with this project? I am happy to help you create your last filing system ever! Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, or life and productivity coaching! I’d love to help you get organized so you can live the life you desire.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO