Music and Words

July 13, 2010

Organization is Annoying

Filed under: Words — melomania @ 8:49 pm

I tend to be a little obsessed with being organized. My mother will tell you that I’m actually obsessed with ways of getting organized and not with staying organized (as evidenced by how often I was told to clean my room as a child). I’m also a little obsessed with office supplies – pens, post-its, notebooks, etc. Let me tell you, back-to-school shopping was my absolute favorite time of the year.

I’ve struggled to find a good way to keep track of a to-do list for years now. When I was in high school, I used a planner. At least, I did for a few months at the beginning of every semester. For a while I wrote all my homework assignments on the back of my hand. By the time I graduated high school, I was doing what most other people were doing – grab someone walking by and ask them if we had homework in [insert class here]. It was a small school, so that worked.

When I got to college, I alternated back and forth between keeping a planner and storing all my homework assignments in one program or another on my laptop. Of course, the problem with putting everything on a computer is that the computer has to be out of your bag and turned on to use it. Profs who threw out homework assignments at the very end of the period caused some problems.

I got through college ok, and now don’t have any homework to do anymore.

(By the way, that right there is the best part of graduating. Sometimes I find myself missing classes and free time and lunches with friends, and then I remember – once I get home from work, I DON’T HAVE TO THINK ANYMORE! It’s wonderful.)

My to-do list isn’t filled with assignments anymore, it’s filled with work-related things. Or reminders to take out the trash. (I forget that a lot. Speaking of things I forget, I should go get the mail.) Basically, there are two main ways I can go about keeping a to-do list: analog and digital.

Analog (paper and pen)

Pros: I can organize my stuff however I want. I can scribble stuff down without waiting for something to sync or load. I can create drawings and arrows to form my own shorthand. No spellcheck. (My iPhone is making me crazy with the way it doesn’t understand that ppwk is simply short for paperwork.)

Cons: A notebook stays in my purse/bag until I take it out, and honestly, that’s a lot of hassle for me. I have to pull it out and open it up, and I don’t have a very good memory. By the time I’ve done all that, I may have forgotten why I pulled the thing out to begin with. Of course, the pen is separate, and also in my bag, which means I have to find it. You see, girl pants are not designed for utility. Most of the pants I wear to work don’t even have a back pocket, and the front pockets are so short they’re almost useless. My jeans are ok, but I don’t wear them to work. Also, I’m left-handed, so a lot of notebooks just aren’t all that comfortable for me to use.

Digital (web app or phone)

Pros: Can sync lists across different places without carrying an actual notebook around with me. (This is a major bonus.) I type faster than I write, and my handwriting isn’t very good. I can set up recurring events which will remind me to take out the trash, give the dog her heartworm medication, and pay bills. My phone is always usually in my pocket, so it’s easy for me to pull out and use quickly.

Cons: I have to wait for stuff to load on my phone or a web page, which means there’s still a chance I might forget what I was doing in the first place. The physical act of crossing something off a list is very satisfying, and I miss that. My current system doesn’t really allow me to separate work and home items very well. I really don’t need to see my reminders to take out the trash while I’m trying to figure out what else I need to do before I can leave work for the day.

Current Needs

I need a to-do list that I use for work-related items. This doesn’t need to come home with me as I never take work home, but it does need to be transported between two different desks and computers. In the morning, I don’t work in my office. I move there about halfway through the day.

I need something for “home”-related items. This includes pretty much everything I don’t do at work – errands, reminders, notes to self, etc. This needs to come with me everywhere. I think of things I need to remember at the most random times.

Finally, I need a way to keep shopping lists, preferably organized by location because my grocery list is different from my Target list. I’ve had a running list of groceries going through my head for days now, and when I sat down to write it out, I could only remember four things. Trust me, there should be more on that list.

There’s probably no perfect solution to my organization issues, especially since I can’t usually stick to any one system long enough to truly make it a habit. My horrible memory doesn’t exactly help the situation.

(Actually, in my defense, the problem isn’t so much a horrible memory, as it is too many things going on at once. You trying getting stuff done while answering the phone to make schedule changes all morning. This is why I get more done later in the week – the phone doesn’t ring as much.)

Maybe paper really is the best option. It’s completely customizable, after all! I can make it do whatever I want! For someone who regularly carries around an iPhone and an iPad, that seems a little counter-intuitive.

And hey, it’s a fantastic excuse to go out and buy a new notebook.

Oh, and I need to go get the mail.


  1. I tried th paper method for awhile. I liked it in some ways, but I didn’t like rewriting things once I got more stuff checked off. I’m too OCD to just have everything spread across multiple pages where most things are checked off and some aren’t.

    But my biggest problem is that I don’t put enough stuff on the list. So then I don’t look at the list, or if I do it’s always the same on the list. I tend not to put the stuff on there that I need to do within the next few days.

    I totally understand what you mean about being obsessed with getting organized, but not actually being organized. I also totally understand the obsession with school supplies. I’ve been there. I think I’ve mostly translated both of these to the digital realm, and it’s become an obsession with tools that help you get organized, none of which ever help me get organized.

    I own at least five full on todo apps, and several others that are more flexible (like OmniOutline and Notebook). I’m sure I could show you a variety of software solutions, but if you’re like me they may never work.

    Comment by fitzage — July 13, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  2. I’m 100% in touch with your problem. I have evolved into using several systems, none perfect.

    For instance, for groceries or items that come from a grocery like store, we keep a pad in the kitchen with a pencil attached to it. When I run low on something, I write it down. But if I’m in the middle of cooking and run low, I sometimes can’t stop to write it down. Then I run out, and am upset at the fact that it needed to be on the list when I run low, not out. Plus (my) Karen is notorious for not adding things to the list until we’re out (and it’s too late). This system rates an 8 out of 10.

    When I get busy at the office, I write down stuff I have to do on the whiteboard on the wall across from my desk. Folks have come to learn that if there’s a to do list on my wall, I’m getting overwhelmed. I carry a small notebook wherever I go and have a running list of stuff to do that crops up in meetings. But I don’t take it absolutly everywhere, so hallway conversation commitments get lost. Outlook’s To Do list is usueless, though you can add reminders, so I use it for about 40 items a year, mostly very long lead things (ie; submit this application to the government on this date). Yes, there is personal satisfaction in striking stuff off a list. Erasing a whiteboard has that satisfaction, as does striking out a line on a list. Deleting soemthing electronically doesn’t.

    I had a Palm Pilot a few years back (probably before you were born. Yes, I’m an old guy). I learned from it that a pocket device, no matter how small and efficient, couldn’t do it all. Hence my distaste for Blackberrys, and how I’m not convinced an iPhone solution is the final one (but I suspect it’s better than some alternatives).

    I have paper lists of things I should do but don’t want to (fix tile grouting in the bathroom, replace deck boards). This list is depressing. I lose it whenever I can.

    There is a business opportunity hiding in here for a creative, industrious young person like yourself. Call me if you want financial backing.

    Comment by Derek Ryder — July 16, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: