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Am I a Failure For Drink Napkin Stationery?

Essential advice from a productivity coach

Quick! Give me that napkin; I have an idea!

You are hereby excused from napkin-stationery shaming. In fact, I consider you brilliant for having a pen nearby and capturing your thoughts when they happen.

Grab them when they happen

But unless your musings and reminders are transferred to a task list, project folder, or a reminder on your calendar, they're probably piled up into a disorganized mess of jottings. That's OK if it works for you, but you're reading this because it's not working well enough.

Your thoughts may be captured on paper, but they're useless beyond that.

"Help! I need a system!"

There are lots of ways to solve the quest for the best way to organize your thoughts, tasks, and appointments.

"Is Daytimer better than Planner Pad? What about digital versions like Evernote, Trello, or Things? How about a plain notebook? What's the BEST way to track what I need to do?!"

Sorry, I can't give you a perfect answer. There isn't one.

The BEST system is the one (or two) methods you'll use regularly.

But I can offer tips that help you find what works.

I know you'd like to just click and buy a paper or electronic system and suddenly be organized. But there are things you'll need to consider.

It's easy to fall prey to buying yet another "perfect system guaranteed to organize your life in one place and turn you into a productivity powerhouse."

Admittedly, it is convenient to have all your essential information in all paper or all digital systems, but it's not required. It's quality, not quantity, that works. Otherwise, it's just more clutter.

Think of it this way, you don't need 11 different styles of cookware to make soup. In fact, too many kitchen gadgets are confusing.

Choosing which of the 11 pots in your overstuffed cabinets will make the soup taste better is distracts from your purpose. The quantity of cookware is not producing what you want: soup. You are.

Too much of anything distracts from the main ingredients to create savory dishes: planning, high-quality ingredients, and most importantly—the time to cook. (Read more about decluttering here.)

If you're investigating digital systems to buy, ask what your productive friends use, what they like about it, and how they would improve it. What do you use at work? Is it workable for your personal use?

Capturing the essentials

The advantage of pre-designed electronic planner systems is the lists are easily edited, and the essential four information types are integrated.

Digital or paper, simple is best.

Whatever your system is, it must have a place for four types of information: appointments, tasks, supports, and ideas.

Appointments are activities allotted to a specific time, usually with other people. Appointments require a dated calendar.