stacks of colorful post-it notes

Organizing with Post-its

I’d like to share my system of organizing tasks and deadlines. It involves a physical calendar and a lot of Post-it notes.

I’m a paper person. I’m not a luddite, and I’m all for “going green” to avoid waste, but I actually enjoy writing and reading on paper. I don’t want another task that requires checking a device, especially not multiple times per day. I use a paper weekly planner for my personal life,* and I needed a system for my writing and editing business. Here’s what I eventually came up with.

calendar covered with post-it notesI hung a calendar near my desk. (I picked from the dozen or so free calendars my parents get from wildlife and veterans organizations; I went for nice photos but also large squares.) Each time I have a new task to do, whether it is an assignment or simply something I want to look into, I write it on a Post-it note and stick it to the calendar, like this:

  • Items with a deadline go on the date of the deadline
  • Items I’d like to do soon go in the borders of the current month
  • Items I’d like to do in the near future go on an upcoming month
  • Items that must be done in a certain month go on that month
  • Items for someday go on the wall near the calendar

When I finish a task, I move the note to the top page of the calendar. (I’m working on color-coding the tasks. I just have so many colors of Post-it!) (UPDATE: I now use pink for writing and editing, blue for education, and yellow for business and marketing.)

This system works for me because I can move the notes around if dates change, if I don’t accomplish something when expected, and when I finish a task. I hate a messy calendar; the Post-its enable me to keep it neat. I like the “reward” of moving a note to the finished pile, and often push to finish a bunch of items toward the end of the month. Then I flip to the new month and leave them behind. Sometimes, when I get overwhelmed, I’ll postpone an item, moving it a month or two ahead and then easily forgetting about it. As an added bonus, I also use the calendar to write down the tasks I work on each day, which makes me feel good.

*Several years ago, I decided to look for a more sustainable planner—recyclable and made from recycled materials. I stumbled upon Little Otsu, a company in Portland, Oregon. In addition to being sustainably produced, their planners are designed by independent artists, and they are a small company I feel good about. The planners are actually cheaper than what I was getting at my big office supply store. They are not dated, so you have to spend some time filling in the dates when the planner arrives; I actually kind of love doing this each year.