W O R K / L I F E

W O R K / L I F E - student project

I have been a full-time freelancer for twelve years. I also have two young children. And we are about to begin a major renovation of our home, which will require us to move out for 3-4 months. This class came to me at a perfect time.  Rather than just choose one area of my life to apply new systems, I have chosen to dive right in and tackle them all. They're all intertwined, despite any effort to keep work separate from the day-to-day. My goal isn't necessarily to be more productive, but to alleviate the physical and mental clutter associated with all of the tasks I manage each day. I am very efficient with my time. I am also a hot mess.


After signing up for Todoist, I began creating several projects—the largest being the renovation and the many steps that will have to be taken to clean, pack, and move beforehand... and to track financing, construction schedules, and finishes to choose. It was a great relief just to put everything down, rather than try to keep track of things in my mind or on miscellaneous sheets of paper strewn around the office.

Next, I set up our household chores—I have yet to divvy up any tasks, but have organized them by those that are completed daily/weekly/monthly/occasionally so that I can have a better schedule associated with cleaning/maintaining the house.

I have also added projects for my client work, divided by each client project. Because I am often working on several projects for one client at any given time, I chose to be specific to each, rather than have everything separated just by client. Also, so much more efficient than the paper notes I was making on my desk each morning.

This first part of the course is probably my biggest success. In the past, i have tried to keep track of tasks, but I was often dealing with tasks much like calendar events. For some reason, I never thought to separate my to-do list from my calendar schedule. And I am also a huge note creator, stacker, and general mess maker. Having everything electronically is just so much more efficient.


W O R K / L I F E - image 1 - student project


I have already been utilizing Google Calendar to keep track of events, but I have now created different calendars for client meetings, travel, misc. home/health appointments, and one devoted only to my children's schedules. And then shared everything by my work calendar with my husband. We are often calling each other to figure out what we're doing in a month's time and whether it's ok for a work trip to be scheduled at that time... having shared calendars should make planning much simpler.


This is another area of organization that has eluded me. I take a lot of notes. And own a lot of notebooks. But there is no rhyme or reason to how I take notes other than which notebook is readily available and has sufficient blank pages for the task at hand.  I also tend to have at least twenty windows open in Safari at any given time, with the hope that I will come back to some of the pages to either read an article or find inspiration. I gave up on bookmarks a long time ago. I signed up for Evernote ten years ago, but abandoned it, as I just wasn't consistent in using it. I opened it up again and am now using it to keep track of all of the articles I want to read, sites I want to revisit, and general inspiration. I have divided it up into the following blocks so far: Business Development, Continuing Education, Design Inspiration, Home Renovation, Kids. It's helping me keep track of products/looks I like for our home renovation, as well as creating bookmarks of dozens of potential summer camps to keep my kids busy once school is over. And now I only have five windows open in Safari.


For my email, I have been using Gmail since beginning as a freelancer. I have always been good about labeling/archiving client projects and business purchases, but not so good about labeling/archiving all of the miscellaneous crap that finds its way into my inbox. I have been able to whittle my inbox down to less than 50 messages—I realize that "Inbox Zero" is the goal for some, but I do like to keep some of my active project emails (labeled) in my inbox for very easy retrieval, especially on my phone. I also created an old client archive for all of the clients that I haven't worked with in the last year. My goal is to purge correspondence if a client has been inactive for three years.


D I G I T A L  F I L E S
This is one area that I didn't really tackle. I have been keeping track of client projects for over a decade and have a system that works for me. I have one large folder—Freelance—and then everything is divided by client. Inside each client folder is either the name of the project or the year and then project, as I work with some clients on a weekly basis. I am also very specific about the names of my files, including the date and draft number. This comes in handy when searching for something that I created in, say, May 2015 for a specific client that had twelve different revisions.


P H Y S I C A L  F I L E S
This class inspired me to purge even more files, shredding piles and piles of financial statements from the mid-2000s. They all exist online. I didn't even know I was keeping them. While I have so much more to do, my desk is now clean and the files I actually need to use are organized.


Amber Haynes
art director | graphic designer