Organization inspiration


Strong candidate for the most over-used word in Blogworld, if you ask me.

It gets tossed around so much that its meaning has been diluted.  I tend to avoid it unless I am being snarky.  (Like….well, here.)

But sometimes, it’s the only term that genuinely applies.  Like when you come across someone who consistently does something ten times better than anyone you’ve ever met, and who shares it in a helpful, encouraging and totally non-boasty way.

When I found Sarah’s blog a few months ago, I was initially a bit tongue-tied about how to describe her gorgeous to-do lists, her pretty paper planners, her unreal ability to multitask and prioritize and get more done in a single day than I do in a month.

As I continued to get to know her (online, and also in person, as she’s down the road in Durham!) I eventually conceded and attributed that maligned I-word.  Inspirational.

But I meant in the most literal – and therefore most meaningful – way.  Here is someone who is really good at something and I can learn from her.  She is a doctor and has a massive amount of information and action to synthesize in to a daily plan.  She rocks it.  Meanwhile, me?  I am a somewhat lazy freelancer and halfhearted job-seeker who could really be doing so much more with my life if I put a shred of effort in to actually organizing my time.

So I watched.  And attempted to learn.  And then I bought a planner.

(A beautiful $28 planner with luscious thick paper and a pretty textured teal cover.  Because, as with any new activity, overspending on equipment = motivation!  Right?)

I’ve tried things like Google Calendar and Outlook in the past – they’ve never really worked for me.  I think I need the tactile sensation of writing something down and then crossing it off when it’s completed.  And Sarah’s blog has reinforced the appeal of this idea.

As a pretty laid-back person who tends to fly by the seat of her (wrinkled and cat-hair-covered yoga) pants, committing to this level of scheduling is a pretty big deal for me.  Over the last year, as I’ve been working odd jobs and attempting to make it outside the corporate world, of course I’ve become accustomed to writing lists and notes for myself.  But to have it all in one place – and have a single place to sketch out each day’s framework – is definitely new to me.

I’ll let ya know how it works out!

Until then, I’ll be – let me consult my schedule – oh yes, 10 PM is wine and blogging time. With a side of Twitter and a heaping dose of Unproductive Facebook Stalking.

Check that one off the list!

Today’s EAT: This muffin pan in my drawer.  I have owned it for almost four years and I think I’ve made cupcakes…twice?  And muffins…never?

However, I’m always recruiting it as a vessel for strange savory concoctions that turn out to be pretty consistently delicious.

Tonight, I was working with a small hunk of leftover steak the the hubs brought back for me in a doggy bag from a Fancy Business Dinner.

Add: a quarter of an onion (sliced and caramelized), an egg (beaten with a bit of milk) and a handful of grated Manchego cheese (that needed to be used up anyway).  I just sliced the steak in to thin, bite-sized strips and then divided the steak and onion pieces between two muffin-pan cups.  Poured the egg over, topped with cheese, baked for 15 minutes at 375* and had an instant fancy meal!

Okay, so maybe steak and eggs isn’t fancy, but it’s better than cold leftover steak.  And I’m always amazed my muffin pan’s ability to turn random ingredients in to cute little dinner packages.

(And if you’re not a steak eater, I could also see a dish like this being excellent with earthy mushrooms!)

Today’s DRINK: The folks who work at my local Total Wine & More are ridiculously friendly and helpful people.  I always make a point to swing by and pick up a bottle or two when I’m in the area, and I usually just let them tell me what to purchase, lest I be overwhelmed by the extensive selection (and thus spend all afternoon in there – no room for that on the daily schedule!)

When I stopped by a couple of days ago and expressed a desire for a $10-or-under red, the salesguy pointed me to this Gumdale Shiraz:

Total Wine buys much of their stock stuff direct from wineries, and that is how they tend to describe their wares.

When he said that this Shiraz was from “the same people who make Yellowtail,” I was ready to storm out the door in an insulted huff.

But I am glad he convinced me to give it a chance in spite of its seemingly dubious origins.  Like the Yellowcrap, it’s an extremely mild-mannered and drinkable wine.  But the Gumdale definitely swaps the fake-sweet taste of that other stuff for a fairly interesting sip: in this Shiraz, you’ll get a little dried cherry, a little nutmeg, and a fairly strong licorice flavor (but in a good way).  For a $7 bottle, I’m pretty impressed.  It’s complex enough to serve to people who like wine and mellow enough to please those who really don’t.  Nice work, Yellowtail people.

Today’s RUN:  Tuesday is speed day, but today wasn’t particularly speedy.  I set out to do 800 repeats, only to find the track closed.  I attempted to improvise with six 3-4 minute pickups.  Overall I managed seven miles, and although I got some turnover going during the pickups, it didn’t really wear me out like a track workout would have.  Meh.

(I also went to Pilates class this morning.  Look at me and my core work go! Soon enough I’ll be able to sit up unassisted at my desk while plugging away at the multitude of items on my daily agenda!)

Today’s QUESTIONHow do you organize your life – on paper, electronically, in your head, not at all? And also: has another blogger ever inspired you – truly inspired you – to change something meaningful about your life? Shout out here!

35 responses to “Organization inspiration

  1. I actually find the concept of organization TERRIFYING. Anytime I’ve attempted to keep things organized in a planner or something I’ve gotten frustrated within hours and just stopped bothering. I just don’t *get* how it works. And I don’t want to try and find out. TOO SCARY. Scarier than being Snooki’s bikini waxer.

    On the other hand, you MAKE ME WANT TO BE BETTER AT MS PAINT. No, seriously. You do.

  2. heidi @ runaroundaroo

    When I had a hectic life (school, work, life, running, etc) I lived, ate and breathed when my planner told me to. It was my life line to sanity! I still have one but it is pretty lame compared to my busy days… Obviously I recommend planners!

  3. lifeisbeachykeen

    I am currently trying to schedule my google calendar. I synced it with my iPhone yesteday so we shall see how this goes. I keep eyeing those pretty planners at the store but I’m to afraid to commit to such a thing.

  4. Through college my paper planner was attached to my hip by necessity. I think you’ll like it! These days my life is more routine, so I just keep my 9-5 calendar at work, personal notes in my phone and the husband and I have a white board calendar in the kitchen that lays out the month.

    I want to give a shout out to all the blogs I read (including this one thank you Shelby!) for helping me learn and inspiring me to be a better blogger on my fledgling site. Sounds cheesy, but I’ve definitely learned that a blog can’t exist in a vaccum, and interacting with other blogs is one the best things.

  5. PLANNER POWER!!! i am excited to follow on how this works out (i think you’ll love it)

    this is the nicest most flattering post ever. thank you!

    off to save lives (or uhhh . . . go to the lab and isolate RNA from a bunch of mouse livers. you know.)

  6. I put a weekly plan on my refrigerator of things that need to get done. It’s informal, but it works. I can’t schedule what I’m doing at exact times. I just like targets or objectives.

  7. I also love the act of writing things down as opposed to typing them. I use Google Calendar, but I don’t love it. I’ve actually been thinking about getting a paper planner again. You may have INSPIRED me. 🙂

  8. I’m a huge fan of the lists! Oprah recommends adding things that you’re already done, just so you can cross them off. I would recommend breaking things down into smaller steps so you have more to cross off when you accomplish the little things. For instance, instead of “Run Errands” I’d write, go to Target, go to Pet Store etc. Much more satisfying! Good luck!

    • I must admit that I have done this…not adding things that I did, like, yesterday, but starting off a to-do list with something I just did so I could cross it off immediately. Haha, glad to know I’m not the only crazy one!

  9. Eh, I mostly just manage my 8-5 calendar. Someday maybe I’ll get a smart phone, I dream of it being an awesome organizational tool. It could have my grocery list, to-do lists, calendar…I thought I lost my phone yesterday and was getting all psyched up to go buy an iPhone…I found it. 😦

    I feel like most of the blogs I read inspire me in some way, that is probably why I bother to read them. Then again, maybe I’m using the cheapened version of inspire there… It sounded nice, don’t judge.

    • Haha, no judging here! It’s not cheapened as long as it’s genuine! 🙂

      I have attempted to kill or lose my stupid 4-year-old Blackberry several times in order to create an excuse to buy a new phone. The damn thing just refuses to die!

  10. I make lists and then I lose them. Or spill beer on them.

    I love the MSPaint job of you. The last time I did partook in a certain illicit psychedelic hallucinogen (about 12 years ago), I looked exactly like that.

  11. That planner looks awesome… I am obsessed with paper and pen products, and love myself a good planner. My fiance thinks it’s weird, since we both also use Google Calendar. But the way I see it, when it’s written down on paper with ink, it’s more meaningful!

  12. Sarah @ the shu box is how I found you! I agree that she’s totally awesome. You also inspire me: to drink more wine and to make better use of Paint. And I’m not throwing that word around!

  13. Good luck with your new venture and let us know how it goes.
    I’m totally a pen and paper girl. I used to have a notebook but I recently bought a Filofax and I’m loving it. Although, sometimes I use the planning and writing of to-do lists as another way to procrastinate. I write in my to-do list that I have to write a to-do list and writing up my to-do list can take up to an hour!

    Inspirational bloggers: Sarah from Shu box-she’s my star and Gala Darling from

  14. you said “yellowtail” and i went “ullgh!!” just so you know.

    and i haven’t had my breakfast yet, so my brain isn’t functioning enough to say anything productive. YAY WINE.

  15. At work, I tell other people “I LIVE BY OUTLOOK” but it’s b/c I don’t have an assistant and so I am just delegating my scheduling. In life, other than my training calendar, I don’t plan for shit. I don’t have kids and am certainly not saving the world, so what’s the point? I shop for food when there’s none left, I take the car in if it breaks. What on earth are all of you other people making lists of?

    • For me, it’s about forcing myself to stop wasting so much time! So I need to schedule blocks of time to do job searching/applications, work on current projects, find new projects, etc. If I don’t, I end up playing on the internet all day. (Like….right now. Haha.)

      • Well, job searching is kind of your job, so it makes sense to schedule it. I’m more wondering about the trips to Target and soup kitchens and more what I consider personal to-dos.

  16. I need a paper calender and organizer also. Google calender just doesn’t work for me. In fact, you’ve reminded me that I did not get a 2011 one yet.

  17. I love lists and planning (probably too much!). At work I use outlook, at home I use google calendar or icalendar, and for running I use an excel spreadsheet. All this coupled with handwritten lists, and I am happy as a clam…

  18. I use a notebook for to-do lists and google calendar for my every day appointments and events. It works 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, I wake up late, don’t have time to shower, and get behind in blogging.

    +1 to AR’s comment about your inspirational MS paint skillz.

  19. I use a planner, but I still want Sarah to organize my life. However, I want you to make me steak and egg muffins!

  20. Having a planner has been pretty central to my productivity, mostly because if I don’t write things down, I’ll just forget. There’s something about writing it down (or typing it out, in some cases), that kicks up my mental processes…

    A lot of bloggers inspire me as humorous writers: You, AR, Washington Ran Here, Cheaper Than Therapy (and probably several other extremely obvious ones I will want to smack myself for forgetting) always manage to either impress me with clever witticisms or flat-out make me laugh.

  21. Lists, lists, lists, lists, lists. I have a small 5 X7 notebook in my work bag at all times.

    As for inspiration, ever since I starting following all you fun runner bloggers (Runners Kitchen, Meals for Miles, Angry Runner, Washington, Cheaper than Therapy…), I’ve been motivated to get back in the game. Its totally what I needed to remind myself that running used to be fun for me.
    Several years ago, I promised myself that I would do another marathon before my next milestone birthday. I’m back up to a decent base now and…….. just registered for the Green Bay Marathon this week. You’ve all helped to get me back on the treadmill/outside on the pavement and I feel better than I have in a long time.

    Plus, my work is meh right now, so it is fun to look forward to all the bloggers updates each day!

  22. I use Google calendars. It’s fantastic for me. I can check it at work, on my phone…easy!

  23. I make written lists and electronic lists and keep my iCal up-to-date (not that I have much going on).

    You inspire me! You really do. 🙂 You inspire to run (even it’s just for an hour), create better blog entries (one day I may get there) and to write better (I’ll never get there!).

  24. At work we have a special scheduling software that makes life so easy. I wish I could co-opt it for my regular life. Otherwise I use Google Calendar/Tasks but with like a ridiculous amount of obsessive organization that truly gets in the way of actually starting any tasks. Um, and I have a schedule that I created in Excel for studying for this pain-in-my-tuchas exam that I need to take as soon as humanly possible. But I keep redoing it because I never actually study. Fail.

    Snarky running blogs (you know who you are) inspire me to be faster, drunker, and meaner. Or to at least put those things on my color-coded task list.

  25. I *have* to have a paper planner. I tried the Google & iPhone planners, but they just dont work for me. I like to write stuff down

  26. No I need to physically write it down. Pen on paper. Otherwise it will not happen…also the promise of crossing it off for a job well done sometimes is the only thing that motivates me to actually do it.

  27. Holy balls, muffins with egg, cheese and steak? I am in love.

    I cant do online organization. I need an actual planner to write stuff down in and anytime I rsvp for anything online, must write it down and I have a habit of writing down my workouts in the planner as well. I don’t use the word inspirational that much, I think it gets thrown around too easily and for me, it takes something or someone major to be inspirational to me.

    PS-Love the Saved by the Bell pic lmao

  28. I absolutely LOVE the idea of planners, and I often buy them, use them enthusiastically for a few weeks, and then they fall by the wayside. But, I’m trying AGAIN to use one, in part because my partner and I are suddenly busier than we used to be and it does help me stay on top of things.
    Another way that we stay organized as a household/couple – we have a monthly family meeting and keep an agenda of items. I’m really not an anal person in real life (I swear), but a few years ago, we desperately needed to keep better track of finances and that was a good way to do it.

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