How I Stay Organized

A few readers have asked about my methods for staying organized as a freelance designer. Working from home can be difficult but here are some simple methods that I use. Overall, I try to keep it simple because the more difficult you make the solution, the harder it is to keep up.

 

 

No Such Thing as Too Many Calendars or Lists

I have used both Wunderlist and TeuxDeux for task management and love them both! UPDATE: I recently started using Todoist since I can add tasks directly from Gmail and really liking it so far! All three options are FREE and sync with your iphone! This is really a personal decision on how simple or complex you need your system to be.

iCal works best for my events and meeting. I really like that you can create multiple calendars, set alerts as messages or emails and it syncs right to my phone.

Last but not least, I’ll always have sketchpads and notebooks around. No matter how many lists and reminders I have scheduled on my computer, I still need to have written reminders, by my side, at all times… and I like the feeling of crossing items off. I also keep a separate paper calendar for blog post scheduling.

 

Staying Organized Drawers

 

Easy Access for Supplies

I love using pretty cups or jars to keep my clips, washi tape, pens and office supplies organized. It keeps my desk neat while I still have easy access to supplies.

 

 

Photos At Your Fingertips

I upload all of my photos to Flickr and organize them into Collections and Sets. I also use Flickr to host most of my blog photos. It is an easy way to keep backup copies of images and a great way to search through old photographs.

 

Inspiration Overload

Delicious comes in handy for bookmarking blog posts or articles that I find inspiring or want to remember. I add tags to organize them into categories and personalize each link with my comments. You can choose to keep your links private or share them.

Pinterest boards are a great way to keep track of visual inspiration and pretty things in one central location.

Feedly is where I keep track of all the blogs I follow. You can save posts to read later or add tags to organize them. It’s a great way to save your favorite blog content.

 

Staying Organized Binders

 

Files, Files, Files

On the Computer:

Folders, I use lots of them and color code like crazy. When clients hire me for a design job, it’s important to keep everything organized. If I need a file a few years from now, I will not have any trouble locating it.

Dropbox is a free service that is great for accessing your files from multiple computers and for sharing files. Anything you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website.

In real life:
I use a file cabinet and binders to store paper files. I have a basket that I drop everything in until I get to file it properly. I also use flat files for loose inspiration, reference materials, samples of work I have done and any artwork or larger files.

 

Staying Organized Time

 

Get Timekeeping and Billing Straight

Billings keeps me sane. I use it for timekeeping and invoicing. If I did not have a timer running I would never be able to keep track of how long I was spending on something. Once a job is complete, I just mark the tasks as done and send an invoice right from there! I really don’t know what I would have done if I never discovered this.

Rescuetime is my new favorite thing. It’s a personal analytics service that shows you how you spend your time and provides tools to help you be more productive. It runs securely in the background on your computer and mobile devices and then sends you weekly updates!

 

Sync It and Back It Up

It is important for calendars, contacts and files to be synced and backed up! Keep your really important files backed up on TWO separate drives or an online system, Dropbox can also be used for this. I use LaCie external hard drives and Mac’s Time Machine for my backups. I just plug in and don’t need to think about it again! UPDATE: I added Backblaze to backup system, it automatically backs up everything on your computer except your operating system, applications, and temporary files and store is securely online!

This is what works for me and hopefully it can be a starting point to help you discover some methods that work for you! Is there anything you think I left out or would like to hear more about? Just let me know in the comments below!

Top left image via Poketo all others are by me. Some affiliate links are used but these are all products  that I use and love!

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this. Much appreciated.

  2. serendipity_always says:

    Added this photo to their favorites

  3. I’m a huuuuuge proponent of to-do lists and calendars, too. And like you, I have them on the computer and on paper. There’s something great about the feeling of crossing off an item that you just can’t get when its digital. :-)

  4. Thanks for this post! I really, really need to invest in an external hard drive soon…among other organizational tools. This summer, I plan on organizing my whole life :) it’ll be quite crazy.

    • It is always a work in progress for me! The hard drive I linked to in the post is really good, so portable since it powers from your computer and doesn’t require an extra cord to be plugged in! My boyfriend as 3 of them :)

  5. Oh, I love this! I’ve been working on getting my files all organized, it’s tricky sometimes! I’m signing up for a Dropbox account right now–I’m always emailing things to myself to access on my laptop or vice versa. I knew there was a better way, but I’m lazy with USBs and I didn’t realize there was a free solution like Dropbox. =]

    Billings also seems pretty awesome. Does it work on PC’s? It says “no operating system” so I’m guessing so.. I typically just scribble down when I start and stop work on something, but sometimes I have to guess on my times because I get distracted or a client will call or something.

  6. I really need to upload all of my photos to an external site! One day I’m going to sit down and just organize all of my files and folders. At this point no one but me could navigate my macbook, so I’d like to get it to the point that everything was plain to see and all of the folders that I need aren’t hiding within different ones with no rhyme or reason. Also, I need to get an external hard drive, stat. Thanks for the motivation!

    • yes, please backup! It makes me so nervous when people tell me they don’t! If you have a Mac, TimeMachine is great. Dropbox is also great (you may need to purchase extra space if you plan to backup everything). There is a lot of helpful info on their site and forums for using.

Trackbacks

  1. […] What’s your setup like? Do you have an office, work from home? Do you work alone or with a team? What programs and hardware would you be unable to live without (or at least recommend)? I have an office in the finished attic of my apartment. I work alone but would like to share a studio with other creatives in the future! It is so easy to get distracted when you are home alone! Sometimes it’s hard to coordinate everything when working from home too, but I recently shared some methods on how I stay organized. […]

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