I’ve spent an enormous amount of time trying to optimize the organization of my life – both personal and professional. From basic to-do lists like TuexDuex to complex ones like Omnifocus, I’ve tried them all. I’ve even tried to force Evernote into being a task management tool (which its definitely not).

The key with all of this is finding what works best for YOU. What I’ve learned about myself over the years is that if I have too many systems/apps to check to manage myself, eventually only the “must checks” are going to be used. Having separate systems for everything, even though that’s likely the best way to utilize the best tools for each job, just doesn’t work for me.

So, through the help of a friend who also obsesses over this kind of thing, I’ve landed on a way to use email to manage most of my life. I essentially live in the inbox, using email to manage not only my communication but also my tasks and reminders. It’s been working great for several months.

The other thing that I can’t do without is my calendar. I think of my calendar the way that Ron Burgundy thinks about the teleprompter: “Ron Burgundy will read anything that is put on that teleprompter.”

That’s me with the calendar. If I get to 2pm and my calendar says, “Rename Dragon Army to Lizard Navy”, I’d be ordering new business cards by 3pm.

I also color code my calendar entries based on categories of my time, such as “personal” or a few different types of work activity. I do this to make sure I’m using my time effectively, giving me the chance to look at a week and see if I’m over-committing to a certain category.

For instance, in the example below (sorry, I had to blur out the actual events), you’ll see several items that are a pink-ish color. That represents “doing good”. When I work with a non-profit, go to a board meeting, or do work on Advice For Good or Match Atlanta, those calendar items are colored pink. I can then look across a week and see if I’m doing too much – or too little – to help others.


So, between email and my calendar, I can effectively manage the many things I have going on and prioritize against categories of effort. What do you use to accomplish this?