The Forgetful Person's Guide to Staying Organized at Work
At some point in our lives, we have to just accept who we are. For me, I’ve had to come to terms that I actually love binge-watching terrible reality TV, I will always want applesauce on my mac n’ cheese (trust me, it’s delicious), and most importantly, I’m forgetful.
I forget names pretty much immediately after I meet people. I forget where I parked my car. I forget what groceries I was supposed to pick up when I get to the store. I forget what I supposed to do after that really important meeting.
In pretty much any setting, being forgetful sucks — but at work, it can have disastrous consequences. Being forgetful makes you look like you’re careless or just not good at your job, which spells bad news for growth opportunities you.
Luckily, I’ve learned to compensate for my forgetful nature. Below are the five tools I use every single day to stay on top of projects, get back to people in a timely manner, and maintain my sanity. Hopefully, if you’re a forgetful person, they can help you, too.
1) Gmail’s Multiple Inboxes
This one is a must if you use Gmail and manage a fairly complex inbox. Mine usually has emails that require all different types of responses — some need a reply, others contain information for pieces I’m editing, others are fodder for pieces I’m writing, and others are things I actually need to do. Without any sort of organization, it’s entirely too easy to forget that I got an email that fell into one of those buckets.
I use a Gmail Labs tool called “Multiple Inboxes” and Gmail labels to stay organized. These allow me to figure out what to do just by looking at my inbox — and make important chains easy to access. Just look at how beautiful it is:
Basically, any time I apply certain labels to emails such as “Needs Response” or “To Write,” these conversations get routed into the buckets on the right of my inbox. Any time I want to remove them from that section, I just remove the label.
To make sure I don’t forget about any emails, I just label them as soon as they come in, and then the Multiple Inboxes feature routes them to the right sections. I’ve conditioned myself to use this method so I can stay on top of pretty much any email that comes in my inbox.
Want to set this up for your own email? Here’s how:
(Note: You need to not have Gmail’s Promotions/etc. tabs to make this work.)
1) Create labels for each of the sections you’d like to have. (If you want to get extra organized, you can color-code them.)
2) Click the gear icon in the top right-hand corner of your inbox, then select ‘Settings.’
3) Then, select ‘Labs’ in the top navigation.
4) In the search box, type ‘Multiple Inboxes.’ When it comes up, click ‘Enable’ then ‘Save Changes.’
5) Your page will refresh, so you’ll have to re-navigate back to your settings. This time, you’ll see ‘Multiple Inboxes’ in your top navigation. Click it.
6) Here, you’ll set which labels you want to appear in your inboxes and in which order.
Under ‘Search Query,’ use the format “is:your-label-here”. Your queries should be all lower-case and use dashes in place of spaces.
Then, you can put the name of the Panel. Usually, that’s the same name as your label.
Next, choose how many conversations you want in each bucket and where you’d like it to appear in your window. Mine (pictured above) is the right side of the inbox.
7) Click ‘Save Changes,’ and voila! Multiple inboxes. Now, just make sure you’re labeling conversations as they come into your inbox and pruning ones from the buckets that no longer need to be there.
2) Checker Plus for Gmail Extension
When I’m editing or writing or just really focused on a project, it’s really easy to miss emails coming into my inbox. Most of the time, it’s fine for me to be a few hours behind — if people need more immediate responses, they can walk over to my desk or give me a ring.
But sometimes, that very important and very timely email comes through — and I better not miss it.
My solution? A Chrome extension called Checker Plus for Gmail. It’s a little icon that sits in my browser that sends popup notifications when I receive a new email. Bonus: I can click on the icon at any time to see which emails are in my inbox and read those emails, all without leaving my extension. It’s seriously the best Gmail notification extension I’ve found.
I use Evernote to organize pretty much any creative or random task I need to do. My to-do list for the day. A random blog post idea to write. Interviews I’ve conducted that need to be turned into blog posts. Random HTML code I need to use in any post I edit. Ideas to bring up in our next Content Team meeting. Heck, even full blog posts themselves go in there.
Evernote’s basically a notebook you can use in the cloud — which means you can use it on your work computer, your home computer, your phone, your tablet, or even that random computer at a hotel on vacation. And it’s the perfect solution for those of us who tend to have a random idea, then lose it, purely because we didn’t jot it down. Evernote can let you “jot” ideas down anytime you have them, and access them on any device.
4) Browser Bookmarks
Besides having email-related or creative tasks to do every day, I also have incredibly repetitive tasks to do. For example, I need to check out the backend of HubSpot blog approximately a bagillion times a day to make sure posts are properly scheduled and monitor the performance of recently published content — and of course, I can never remember the direct URL to enter. To avoid going a roundabout way every time I need to check on the status of a blog post, I just bookmark the URL in my browser.
I do this with any site I visit on a regular basis — sites like Facebook, Twitter, our company wiki, and Pandora. I also created some folders to help organize specific types of tasks I do. You can see below that I have ones specific for the blog — I’ve bookmarked our goal tracking documents, our stock photo site, and even our beloved style guide.
This way, any time I need any of these links, I don’t have to remember what URL to type in or go hunting for the URL in my email somewhere — the essential links I need to visit every day are all right within my browser.
Pretty much all of these other tools are proactive — I take extra precaution to get organized so that I don’t inadvertently forget something — but even with the best organization, some things still fall through the cracks.
Lucky for us forgetful ones, there are still some tools out there that can help you when that happens — they’re a backup plan of sorts.
One of my favorite backup tools is CopyClip — a clipboard manager. CopyClip is a Mac-only download, but there are other PC-friendly options. It remembers the past 80 (yes, 80) things I’ve copied, and I can access and paste any of those 80 items at any time.
So if I’m jumping between editing a post, writing an email, and IMing with a coworker, I don’t have to worry about remembering to paste the last thing I copied before moving on to copying something else — I just copy what I need at the time I need it, then check through my manager later if I need the link. It’s an absolutely essential safety net for my forgetfulness.
Are you forgetful? What tools do you use to stay on top of your workload?