How I keep it together

The titanic sinking in an infomercial


I decided I want to openly reflect on how I organize my day to day because I think it could be helpful for people who are asking themselves how to do that. It's not a question I intentionally set out to answer when I started the routines that I use to keep track of my life and accomplish goals. However, these practices have lead me down a path that keep me focused and self aware so that I'm in tune with myself, my needs and where I'm going in life.

So how did I get there?

The daily log

Zim wiki daily log

I started keeping a daily log on December 17th, 2014. I originally started it because I was in college and I was bored at home over the winter. I was curious about learning the Python programming language and I thought a good project would be to create my own note-taking software to help me in school. Then I quickly realized it would be a lot of work and decided instead to just find an open source project that someone already started (also written in Python) that would let me take notes more effectively than a bunch of scattered word docs all over My Documents like the rest of people in class. Fun fact, I still have those notes laying around too, even if I hardly reference them. At the time though, I found the software you see in the screenshot to be very useful for school too.

Starting the habit of remembering to log my day was difficult, but not impossible the more I stuck with it. I was also inspired by a Life Pro-Tip I heard a while back on Reddit about keeping notes of all the happy moments in a year, putting them in a jar and opening the jar one New Years to remember the year. So instead of just the happy memories I decided to log the mundane and bad ones too. It's kinda fun to reflect back on and helps avoid the memory rot our brains are prone to when it comes to remembering certain details.

From there I also had another idea...

My to-do list

Zim wiki to-do list

Being on my own in college meant I had a new level of independence to be free with, but also live up to. In order to keep things straight I started to keep a to-do list, which I figured would go very well with the daily log. The nice thing about that combination is that you can set your goals and confirm with yourself whether you did them or not by simply reading the log. Over the years I've learned how to combine the two to recalibrate my life if I start to notice that I'm not getting done what I need to.

Is this an unrealistic goal?

Do I just need to define it better so it's more clear what to do?

When the hell did I last get a hair cut again?

Questions like these and more are easier to answer if you have a running log of your life to double check if you're not even able to keep track of what you ate last for breakfast.

Both of these habits helped build into each other so I could maintain a routine that I wouldn't just simply stop doing one day from forgetting to do it. I also made sure that they were both simple enough to keep me doing them. The daily log is a mostly logistical thing for me, but I occassionally engage in more emotionally detailed reflections that I save in LibreOffice docs to go back to once and a while if I want, because that can be helpful for yourself too.

The main thing though, is organizing what you need to do in your life so that you don't forget to do it.

Getting Things Done

No, that's not accidentally capitalized while the others aren't. Getting Things Done is an actual method some weird business lookin' boy from the year 2001 wrote for getting shit done. The software I use, Zim wiki includes an abridged explanation of how to integrate it into your workflow through the software, but anyway I'm gonna give you an even simpler run-down.

Basically, at some point I realized that my previous methods of keeping track of my to-do list were insufficient so I decided to investigate some more. The way I've adapted Getting Things Done is pretty simple. You don't even need to use the software I do to really implement this into your life, or any of these tips for that matter. You can work it into your life how makes the most sense to you. Creativity is the spice of life and all that.

The flow

The first thing you do is identify a task. Can it be done in less than 5 minutes? Then do it! Seriously, stuff like hanging up your clothes, putting a new toilet paper roll on the holder or loading and unloading a dishwasher are stuff that will vastly improve your quality of life without building up into a huge 30 minute mess down the line. So you'll be much better off for just doing them if you have the time. Sometimes we don't though, which is when you go to the next step.

INBOX and to-do list

Zim wiki Inbox

I write it down in my INBOX (as seen above) and if I can't think about it at the time then I just come back to it later. When I can take the time to process it (which I have a little reminder to do located at the top of the page so it shows up in Zim wiki's to-do list feature), I'll decide if it's something I genuinely want to put time into or discard. If it's a big project, I'll start to give it it's own space on a page of it's own under the Projects folder, otherwise you can just throw it on your everyday to-do or chores list.

A chores list is something I look at frequently to remind myself what tasks I have to keep up with routinely (weekly, monthly, etc).

My to-do list is full of single, line item things that I need to take care of that might be related by subject matter but are independent stuff to do one time, probably at a certain date. Maybe I just have to pay a particular bill instead of one that is recurring for example or I should remember to call up a friend.


Zim wiki Project list: Automotive

The Projects folder is where I take what is turning into a huge section of it's own list of related tasks all about one subject or on-going project in my life in the to-do list. My Automotive to-do list for example includes the entire maintenance schedule for my car, problems and repairs as they come up and anything related to my car, because that's how much is going on with it. That way I can make sure I'm up to date on the thing it needs taken care of routinely while keeping track of the small things that come up along the way like any rust spots.


The last thing on the side panel you may see is the "SomeDay" folder. It's a place where I put anything I think of that isn't a task that's been formulated in concrete terms of when, what or how to do it. Maybe I would like to learn a thing, write an article or process an idea I'm having in a way more in-depth than my inbox. Or maybe something from the inbox is growing into a larger idea. I honestly haven't found myself using it that much, but it's a recommendation from the Getting Things Done method and I've been using it to just keep track of whims and dreams I have that I don't quite want to give up on yet but don't have any idea about what to do logistically for it.


So if you've made it this far you're clearly interested in trying to get your life together. I have found the above practices extremely fruitful when it comes to keeping it together for myself. Like I said, this turned out to be the product of what was more or less an accident and me wanting to nerd out on taking notes about myself because I was in college at the time and found those skills highly useful to transfer into my daily life. Unlike everyone else who went to college and "didn't learn anything useful", I found the mindset of being a self-directed studious individual has allowed me to optimize the way I spend my time so less of it is spent on shit that I've let get way out of control. Instead of letting my mind get scared of being bored and instantly type in into my web browser, I try to direct my energies into this, certian times more successfully than others.

I see the memes of people who don't like to plan their life because they want it to be spontaneous or whatever, but actually having my shit all laid out in an easy to keep track of way has allowed me to have the ability to use my free time in the ways I truly want to, instead of dealing with unexpected consequences from letting one area of my life go to shit. It's not to say I don't run into ruts, roadblocks or stressful situations. These routines just allow me to deal with them more effectively.

There's certainly an element of luck and privilege as with anything in life as to why I've been able to keep my shit together. But I also found these skills useful and fundamental to my life as an adult so that I can be self-aware and on top of my shit. So take it for what you will, but I hope you may find my reflections useful. If you haven't, well my blog helps me process my life too so in the end it's all good anyway lol.

If anything you can at least see where I got the inspiration from for my website's CSS style.