One of the questions I’m often asked is “How do you do it all?”
I never know how to answer because all I can think of is the ways I’m failing:
The laundry that sits unfolded.
The takeout we eat because executing marketing strategy is easy but sticking to meal planning is hard.
The times I’m not as present as I’d like to be.
The dust bunny colony that lives under my couch.
The number of times I lose my keys in a week.
The constant push and pull of work and family life.
The number of times I misplace my phone in a day.
The things I want to do and don’t have time for.
So, the reality is that I’m not doing it all.
I’d like to do it all. Some days I even get close, but I’ve found if I zoom through my life “doing it all” and ticking off all those boxes I’m supposed to tick off – at some point I lose myself and become too caught up in living that perfect expectation of my life – and, for me, that’s not much better than being a giant hot mess all the time.
So, here are some things that help me keep my messy, but generally happy, life in order:
Basic Notebook (aka My Brain)
I prefer Wired by Top Flight because I like thicker paper and a strong notebook that will hold together. I bought a cute one from Barnes and Noble that I loved the look of, but it pretty much tries to fall apart every time I use it.
My notebook is my brain. It sounds funny, but it is 100% true. I’ve been using this method since high school and it works for me.
Anything I need to remember or want to learn more about goes in my notebook so I can find it later. Of course, the irony is that once I’ve written it down, I can usually remember it – but my brain (the one in my head) is a busy place, so my paper brain helps keep things from getting lost.
Work Planning Notebook
This is new for me this year, and I’ll likely keep it going because it is handy. All of my work planning and ideas go in this notebook. When I scheduled out 12 months of blog posts, freebies, and emails to my list? I did it in this notebook. Teasing out new pricing and new offers? Yup. In this notebook. It is nice to have everything in one place instead of scattered across my other notebook.
A basic paper calendar. I’ve used the Uncalendar for years, but since I’ve started using a bullet journal I’m not using the Uncalendar planning pages – so I’ll likely switch to a plain, undated month-at-a-time calendar once this one is used up – it will be slightly less expensive and use less paper.
My brain and digital calendars are like oil & water and no amount of emulsification is going to make my brain and a digital calendar work together.
I use my paper calendar to get an overview of my month. Some things are always on my calendar – the day we volunteer at the cat shelter, gym days, and my kids’ D&D game nights, for example. Appointments, client meetings, work commitments, days out with friends, and adventure days (road trips to cool places) are added in as they are scheduled.
Does this mean I carry my calendar everywhere? Sometimes. It also means I can legitimately say “Let me check my calendar and get back to you” instead of overscheduling myself.
I’m kind of new to the whole bullet journal system. It works for me because the set up is a prettier version of what I’ve been doing in basic notebook for years – which means it was easy to adapt.
If you’ve never heard of a bullet journal, you can go here to learn the basics.
I opted not to learn the shorthand and to stick with what works for me.
If you’re familiar with the gorgeous bullet journals – I hate to disappoint you, but mine is not pretty. It is functional and I like to dress with up with washi tape (I may have developed a slight washi tape obsession doing this) and pretty pens (I already had the pretty pen obsession), but at the heart – it is a place for my brain to organize things.
I do love looking at artistic bullet journals before going back to my plain one and drawing a sad lonely flower in the margin…
That is the paper side of how I keep it all together.
What about the digital side? After all, I’m a digital marketing person….
Apps on My Phone
Mile IQ to track mileage.
Pandora for music – I have a Sara Bareilles channel and a Presuntos Implicados channel for working, a Pistol Annie’s channel for when I’m cooking, and a Meghan Trainor channel for hula hooping.
Waze because I have no sense of direction. At all.
DramaFever because I love Korean dramas.
WTForecast for snarky weather updates.
Social media apps – yeah, all of them. No shame here.
iMovie, Spark Video, and FilmoraGo for making videos on my phone – Although I prefer the desktop version of Filmora for videos because the screen is bigger.
WordSwag, Spark Post, Canva, and Rhonna for image creation – I prefer desktop Canva, but the mobile version works for quick edits. Spark Post is a nice alternative to Canva (and fewer people use it, so it is a little more unique). WordSwag is great for quick text-based graphics, and I need to spend more time with Rhonna.
Snapseed, VSCO, and eight others for photo editing – I need to spend more time with them, because I usually default to a filter, and these give you far more control.
MOB Nation – an app to find mom-owned businesses near you. I know where most of the ones near me are, but it is nice to know where they are when I travel. #theresaMOBforthat
Skyview Lite – Have you ever been outside at night and wondered what that star was or if that bright star was a planet? This app tells you what is where in the night sky.
Audible – The kids and I are working through Harry Potter right now and loving it. I’m trying to get my podcasts under control, so I haven’t downloaded any books for me to listen to yet.
Podcasts – So many podcasts, so little time.
AllTrails – For finding nearby hiking options and planning adventure days
Chinook Book – Local (Portland) coupon book supporting local businesses.
Instacart – Sometimes I don’t have time to go grocery shopping but, as it turns out, we still need to eat. This solves that problem.
Pokemon Go, Words with Friends, Splendor, Trivia Crack, and Block Hexa – I have a lot of games on my phone – most of them are for my kid (or clients’ kids as needed). The ones I listed are the ones I play with varying degrees of regularity. The kids and I play Pokemon Go together (ok, I play it solo, too), so that’s the most frequently played game.
I also screen shot or take pictures a ton of things I want to be able to remember later. I tried Evernote at one point to organize things but, for me, the simpler the better is what works.
I'm not ever going to be someone who says "We have to get away from tech and then we'll be happy," but I am someone who enjoys going places where there is no cell phone service (as long as I'm not on a deadline!) and doing the whole appreciating nature thing. Forests, mountains, lakes, and places that smell fresh, crisp, and clear are where I like to recharge.
So that’s the way I keep things together – I work with my brain and do things I know work. If digital calendars and storage work for you, then my method probably won’t (and that’s cool, too!)
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.