Please help me organize my entire life.
October 2, 2012 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Launching a freelance career, starting a training program and planning a wedding. Please help me get organized before my life spins out of control.

So I have a lot on my plate at the moment. I've gone freelance and have one client that requires 40 hrs/wk of work and one client that requires a few hours a month. I am starting a training program that will require 10 hrs/wk of study. OH and YAY, I'm getting married next year and have a wedding to plan.

I work from home, in a small studio apartment, which faces a massive construction site. I've always had problems staying focused during the day, and the unbelievable noise and activity outside is making the problem worse. Noise canceling headphones help, but only somewhat. I'm trying to get a proper workspace situation set up, because at the moment I'm just working at my dining room table. And because I just moved in, there are still lots of things to be done around the apartment, which makes it doubly hard for me to focus on my school/work/wedding planning when there's so many things around the place that need to be done. I keep jumping from task to task without anything ever really getting completed. I barely ever leave my house, yet I feel like nothing ever gets done.

I'm really struggling and feeling very overwhelmed. My partner is supportive, but he works a stressful full-time job and juggles multiple priorities too.

My biggest problems:
- Keeping up with and prioritizing my long list of to-dos
- Dealing with long blocks of unstructured time
- Staying focused during the day

Tasks I have:
- Studying & completing assignments
- Writing & research
- Finishing the organization of the apartment
- Wedding planning

The hardware tools I have to work with:
- Laptop PC
- iPad
- iPhone

The software tools I'm using:
- Remember the Milk (though I basically haven't found it any more useful than keeping a list on a piece of paper - maybe I'm missing something?)
- Excel spreadsheets for tracking my freelance invoicing / spending

Other things I have:
- A nice lady who cleans my apartment once a week

What I'm asking for:
- Any tools, websites, apps or other software that helps me stay organized with tasks
- Suggestions for how to plan my days to the best advantage
- Basically any other advice on how to juggle multiple massive time-sucking priorities.
posted by ladybird to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
With respect to getting your freelance work/studying done, can you get out of your house to work for a bit? A coffee shop, a library, or the lobby of a hotel that offers free wifi? This would remove distractions like must unpack box or must hang photos, as well as the construction noise, and allow you to focus on work and nothing else for a set amount of time.

In terms of to-do lists, I sympathize. I manage a handful of different projects at work, some of which have a number of sub-projects, and I've tried RTM, Do, Teuxdeux, Google tasks, and a couple of other digital task managers, with little success. The best thing I've done for my work-related mental health is to do a brain dump of everything that's on my mind, either by throwing everything in a doc or by writing out each task on sticky notes. I then start to prioritize by days. What needs to get done today? What can wait until tomorrow? Sometimes I go through the rest of the week/month, but sometimes I stop there—even figuring out what I hope to accomplish in 24 hours gives me a place to start, and I know the rest of the tasks are written down somewhere so I won't forget them.
posted by rebekah at 8:44 AM on October 2, 2012

Where are you? Can you not find a construction-free coworking space or something?

As someone who works at home, I find two things useful. One, no domestic stuff between 9 and 5, which eliminates "Picture hanging! At noon! For three hours!" Two, I discovered that if you have lists but no deadlines, it doesn't matter what order you do things in, just be doing something.

So like, I have tasks A, B and C. I really should do C but it sucks. I used to sit there and go "C must do C hate C procrastinate internet MeFi must do C procrastinate internet MeFi..." Now instead I sit there and say "C must do C hate C. Do A or B." Getting something done to completion is so much better than doing nothing and feeling crappy about it.

Also, timers. It's a tactic for ADD but it really helps: you must work uninterrupted for 20 minutes at a stretch until the timer dings.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:24 PM on October 2, 2012

for awhile resist the temptation to use fancy software. make your self an excel spreadsheet with the following columns:
project, location, task description, when it needs to be done (today, tomorrow, this week, next week, future), and stakeholders.

keep it simple to figure out what works best for you

using excel 's filter function will allow you to sort and hide items.
posted by jander03 at 11:57 AM on April 28, 2013

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