Organizing Your To-Dos

Someone had once asked me about how I organize my to-dos and keep them in check (see what I did there?), and I thought it would be useful if I also shared my thoughts with you all, whether you are a techie or more old-fashioned!

For the technologically-inclined folks out there, there are a plethora of options available for you to take advantage of. Some of the (free!) smart phone applications I’ve test driven include:

  1. Handle
  2. Wunderlist
  3. Any.Do
  4. Todoist
  5. Reminders (Native to iOS)

Why to-do apps make me happy:

  • You can take your lists everywhere with you
  • Your lists can sync across your devices
  • Editing and rearranging tasks is easy — no white out or erasing necessary!
  • Scheduling reminders for specific tasks is super easy

Some perceivable drawbacks, however, would include:

  • Potential crashing or other technological difficulties
  • Some apps can get a bit complicated
  • There is no tangible joy of being able to physically cross of a completed item on your list (Or am I the only one who experiences this?)

If you’re like me and are more of a hand-written list kind of person, I would suggest putting all of your to-dos in one (preferably bound) notebook. That way, you can take your notebook with you everywhere you go, instead of having to keep track of loose Post-Its or random pieces of scrap paper.

To prevent having a huge master list of all of your tasks, it might help to categorize your to-dos. You can separate them according to person (i.e. Mom, Dad, Me) or functional area (i.e. School, Work, Home, Personal). Or, you can sort tasks according to when you want to have them done by. I sort my tasks by date, because that makes the most sense to me.

Why hand-written to-do lists make me happy:

  • Writing down a task gets it out of your mind, but also solidifies it in your memory
  • You don’t have to worry about technological difficulties
  • It is more appropriate in a professional setting
  • You can achieve the ultimate personalization: your organizational system can be as simple or as complicated as you want

Drawbacks for hand-written lists may include:

  • Less portable
  • Can’t schedule reminders for time sensitive tasks

For my personal to-dos (and academic to-dos while I was still in school), I use a combination of apps and hand-written lists: I write down tasks into my planner according to the date I want them done by, but if the task is time-sensitive, I will input a reminder for that to-do into my phone the week before. If I don’t finish a task by the end of the week that I had written on my planner, then the task gets rolled over to the following week.

Because I am very date-oriented, I combine my to-do list with my daily planner. I purchased these super cute planner pages from iHeartOrganizing’s Etsy store, and I absolutely love them! They’re a digital download, and so you would need to print these pages out on your own. I still love it though, because I’m not restricted to the traditional planners where I cannot add or replace pages wherever I want.

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For larger projects or way-in-the-distant-future tasks, I write those down on a separate page that I reference a couple times a month. If I think I will have the chance to complete one of those items, then I will write it in the perspective week.

Once in a while, I like to try new productivity/to-do list apps that come out, but in the end I always come back to my trusty planner. What you ultimately end up doing is up to you and your personal preferences!

How do you organize your to-do lists?

Now that you have a great to-do list, how can you ensure that every item gets crossed off? Stay tuned!

Making Tough Decisions

I know it’s been a while since my last post. Apologies! I’ve been out and about on dental school interviews throughout California as well as in New York and Michigan. Acceptances went out last December, and the dust is finally settling because I’ve made a decision to accept an offer from UOP (aka the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry)!

Choosing a dental school was not an easy task, as there were many factors that needed to be taken into consideration. I was debating between attending UOP or UCSF (aka the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry).

UOP vs. UCSF2I was eventually able to come to a decision and would like to share my thought process with you in hopes that it may be useful in tackling your future tough decisions.

How I Did It

I created a simple decision matrix using Google Spreadsheets to examine several factors I felt were important to me in choosing a dental school. I always use this method when I’m trying to make as rational of a decision as possible, and nothing is more objective than data!

I’ve attached a copy of my decision matrix below for you all:

UOP vs. UCSF

Unlike a pros and cons list, I find that decision matrices allow me to weigh each contributing factor individually based on their level of importance to me.

You can find a Google Template of my decision matrix here. Or, if you’d prefer a downloadable version, you can access that here.

Here’s how I used the matrix to help me make my decision!

Step 1: List the factors that are important to you in making your decision.

For simplicity’s sake, I generally try to limit these to the 10 most important factors.

Step 2: List out your options.

You will be weighing your factors from Step 1 against your options. Since I was debating between two schools, I listed those two in their individual columns. You can definitely have more than two options!

Step 3: Weigh each factor according to their importance to you. This number will be listed in the “Maximum Points” column.

The curriculum and my gut feeling during my interview experience were the two most important factors to me in terms of choosing a dental school, with proximity to loved ones coming in a close second. This is why I ranked the former two factors as a 10 and the latter ones as an 8.

Step 4: Rate each factor in relation to your options.

For example, since the overall cost of attendance at UCSF is slightly less than the overall cost of attendance at UOP, I gave UCSF a total of 8 points out of 8. UOP, being the more expensive and therefore less favorable option with respect to that factor, received a score of 7.

You can play with the numbers and change your factors if needed, but try to limit yourself to a maximum of 3 changes–otherwise you’re only making it harder to come to a decision!

Step 5: Sum up the scores for each option.

This is easily done by utilizing the SUM function.

Step 6: Logically make your choice based upon the total score. This will be your final answer.

I used the MAX and nested IF functions to automatically let me know which option’s score was higher, UOP or UCSF. After plugging in all of my numbers, UOP turned out to be my final answer!

Of course, just because the matrix spits out an answer does not mean that you have to stick with it. The matrix is simply meant to be used as a tool to assist with the decision making process. I’ve been using this method for years and it has always worked for me!

I hope these tips were helpful in organizing your thoughts when it comes to making those tough choices! How do you tackle making big decisions?

10 Steps to a Happy Space

Tackling an organizing project may not be the easiest thing to do, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. My personal approach to combating this distressing feeling is to take a deep breath and take a few baby steps–10 to be exact. Below, I’ve listed the 10 baby steps I follow every time I clean a space. I hope they help you as much as they have helped me!

1. Determine it’s purpose.
Determining the function of a space can be difficult and does not always happen immediately. If you’re not sure what you want to do with the space, take a couple of days to think about it. Go about your life as you normally would and allow your daily routine to tell you what the function should be. If you constantly keep your keys on your bedroom vanity when you wish you could leave them closer to the door, then maybe it’s time to clear off the side table in the foyer and create a new home for your keys. Once you establish the function of a particular area, it will make it easier to categorize the things that do and don’t belong.

1Source: IHeartOrganizing

2. Start fresh.
Doing this allows you to reevaluate the things that you truly need in that space. It also helps you see everything that you had stuffed in there (“There’s my bracelet! What are you doing, hanging out with the paper clips and thumbtacks?”).

3. Find inspiration.
Like many of you, I love Pinterest for its endless supply of ideas. A simple search can bring up so many results and may even give you an idea you hadn’t even considered! It may also show you how others have chosen to approach a project similar to your current undertaking. Whatever you choose to take inspiration from, however, don’t get lost in the creative flurry: your project is ultimately about you and what you like. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine!

4. Let it go. (cue sing songy voice)
Admit it: we have all been guilty of this at some point. You hold onto those rusted pots and pans because you feel it might come in handy some day. Or you’re keeping the broken vacuum because someone will get around to fixing it eventually. Or even that hideous sweater you got as a gift that you’ll never be caught dead wearing but can’t give away because it was from your best friend.

My rule of thumb? If I haven’t used it for over two years or if I’ve forgotten I even had it, then maybe it’s time to say goodbye. You don’t always have to toss them in the trash; donating your items will give them the opportunity to be loved and appreciated to their full potential. Alternatively, you can sell them for some extra cash, and who doesn’t like that?

5. Group similar things together.
If you’ve ever taken a course in organic chemistry, then you know that in terms of molecules, “like attracts like”. This concept also applies to cleaning and organizing. Putting things that belong together in the same area will help maximize the overall functionality of the space. Categorizing items according to size and color can also help as well–especially in terms of aesthetics.

Source: Arianna Belle

6. Secure some storage.
Storage is not always necessary and can cost quite a lot, but sometimes, having containers can make it easy to keep things neat and in one place. Before you run out to grab some pretty boxes, be sure to do a sweep of your living space for any unused containers that can be repurposed for your current project. Sometimes, a quick wiping down and a label is all it takes! If you don’t have and cannot recreate the storage you are looking for, then go ahead and treat yourself to a quick trip to your favorite store for some new boxes! (My favorite places to find storage are Target, Ross, and IKEA. I also love The Container Store, but it isn’t always friendly with my college budget. It is, however, still a great place for inspiration!)

7. Label everything.
This is especially important if you are not the only person using a space. Labeling things will tell your roommates or family members what goes where without you having to constantly remind them. Even if it’s just you, labeling can help you remember where items belong. I find that the best labels are uniform in appearance with a personal flourish.

2Source: Arianna Belle

8. Add the finishing touch.
I don’t know about you, but seeing a bright and happy pattern always manages to make me grin from ear to ear. Others enjoy seeing family photos, sentimental items, or decorative trinkets on display. Regardless of the specific item, incorporating these things that make your day into your living spaces will allow you to enjoy them more–and hopefully keep them cleaner longer!

9. Maintain your system.
This is perhaps one of the most important steps in keeping a space clean. If you stop eating healthily and in moderation after successfully finishing a weight-loss program, what are the odds that you will maintain that figure you worked so hard for? The same goes for maintaining a clean space. Make sure you don’t fall back into your old habits by following the rules you had established before.
If your keys now have a new home, be sure to place them there. Once you start making exceptions to your rules, it will only be a matter of time before your beautifully organized space reverts to its unruly state.

10. Enjoy your new happy space.
Go ahead, open that drawer and smile. You deserve it!