Lasting organization requires a delicate balance of trial and error; what works for one person may not work for you. The tabbed, color-coordinated binder your co-worker swears by? If it strikes you as cluttered and cumbersome, that's okay! You just have to play around with different ways of upping productivity until something sticks. Our favorite around here is the Brain Dump. It's a good add-on to existing organizational routines, too, which is probably why we took to it so quickly. Without further ado....
Grab a notebook (ideally one dedicated to your daily brain dump) or an app like Evernote, and list out every thought, concern, and arbitrary task that needs to get done; every person you keep forgetting to reach back out to; everything from your most mundane must-do's to that vital long-term task you've been putting off.
Dump. It. All.
Not only does this exercise result in an almost instant sense of relief, it'll also make the process of getting your general shit together feel a lot more feasible.
After you get everything on paper (or screen), it's time to strategically review the list and categorize the contents of your dump.
Pencil it in
Identify anything of high priority that isn't already on that day's agenda. Find time for it today and immediately add it to your planner (or phone; or cluster of Post-It Notes; or whatever other system you've been using to 'adult' on a daily basis all this time).
Example: That bag of clothes in your car that need to be returned before tomorrow? Yep...you're doing that today.
Plan it out
For less urgent matters, schedule them in the days, weeks or months ahead, depending on an appropriate timeline for each.
Longer-Term Example: 'Taxes' were one of the things on your brain dump, but it's June. It's probably a little early to toss it onto a specific date in the planner, but you can still take organized steps to address the larger issue, like picking a few days over the course of several months to review receipts and related materials in preparation. Even if a particular task remains open ended, taking charge of it in smaller ways can help avoid needless stress.
Shorter-Term Example: Your niece's birthday is coming up and you keep meaning to track down the perfect present to send. Add 'Order B-Day Gift' to your planner one day this week. Now it's not just a thought rattling around randomly in your head; it's actually got a visual deadline and it's incorporated into your more structured schedule.
Get it done
Anything on the dump list that will take less than 2 minutes to deal with, do it in this moment.
Example: RSVP'ing to that destination wedding invite that's been sitting on your counter (and pestering your inner to-do list) is as simple as drafting an email or clicking on the couple's website. Fight the urge to convince yourself that it's more complicated than that. Chances are, it's not.
Essentially, you can take some sort of action toward any of the tasks, concerns or upcoming commitments your Brain Dump reveals. Pencil it in, plan it out or get it done...then smile proudly at how damn responsible you're becoming.
Let us know if you end up trying this out, and how it goes!