5 Ways to Optimize your Files, Email & Calendar to Increase Productivity and Organization

Ever struggle with keeping things organized? Don’t have enough hours in the day?

Yeah, don’t we all!

Well, here is a solution. Based on Sally McGhee’s book “Take Back Your Life”, I was able to pinpoint key practices I was doing that limited my productivity and left me highly unorganized.

Sally is a recognized innovator in productivity and change management. She created this book to help people take back their life using the Microsoft Outlook System and her organization tactics (which you do not have to use Outlook in order for her tips to be helpful.)

Now there were many things I could tell you but I want to highlight 5 things from this book that changed my life, productivity, and organization forever!

1. Limit Where You Take in Information 🤯

Think About it? Allllll the places that you collect information.

Don’t think you have that many? Here are a few you may not have thought about.

  • Sticky Notes
  • Pieces of paper in your car
  • Several different notebooks
  • Physical Calendars and Planners
  • Voicemail
  • Multiple emails

And the list can go on and on and on….

This is definitely limiting your productivity. You may be missing key important tasks because you are collecting information from too many sources.

In order to optimize your productivity, try to limit yourself to 5 collections points. Below are the ones I use to optimize now:

  1. Gmail
  2. Google Calendar
  3. A To-Do List Planner
  4. A Meetings Notebook
  5. Sticky Notes (I keep these in my meeting notebook to minimize losing them)

2. Clean Up Your Reference System 📖

Ok, first let’s start with what a reference system is….. A system you reference.

Ok, seriously? 😂

This is where you will keep all documents and information you may need to reference in the future.

Whether you have a folder on your computer or you are using Google Drive, it is important you have an organized reference folder.

Now my folder system in organized to run a business:

but for students, I recommend you have a folder tailored towards your classes, like this:

Notice how I limit it to 6 main folders. This is vital to avoid clutter and being unorganized. You can adjust this depending on how many core classes you are taking.

It is also important to keep a structure within each of these main folders. I recommend using the system below within each of the core class folders:

3. Don’t Use Email Folders!!! 📂📂📂

I know… it’s tempting. You create all these folders with labels like “Receipts”, “Discount Emails”, “Amazon”, “Bills”, etc.

I’ve definitely been there….

And yup, those were not even a ¼ of the amount of email folders I had… yikes! 😦

You sort all of the emails until your inbox is clear and all of your emails are sorted into these folders……..catching dust!

This causes you to store information you may not need and you won’t take action on them because it’s sitting in your email folder.

If you have an email that requires action (meaning you actually need to do something to complete it and put it out of your mind) then you need to record it into your to-do list and then delete the email once the task is complete.

If you have information in an email that you may need later, it needs to be added to your reference system which we developed in step 2.

Trust me, it’s way more satisfying to have a completely empty email than an empty inbox with packed email folders.

4. Title Your Emails With A Purpose 💻

Email inboxes can become an endless pit of information. 239 billion emails are sent on average a day!

So, when you send your email, use the subject box to your advantage.

The first thing people see is that email subject and you want to make sure it tells them what the email is about and if it requires action.

For example, an email subject line like this… “Test Scores” is way too vague and doesn’t really tell the person what the importance of the email is.

If you wanted the person to review the test scores in the email, then a better subject line would be “Review Algebra I Test Scores from 6/22/2020”

You will notice that I added 3 components to the Email Subject Line:

  1. An Action Word – To tell the person right away what they need to do with this email
  2. A Specific Subject/Topic – To specify the documents or information in the email
  3. A Date – To show when the information or topic took place

Adding these three things to your email subject line will cause all your emails to be more efficient for the person you are sending it to thus increasing the probability of quicker responses.

5. Switch to an Online Calendar Resource and Color Code 🌈

And the last tip I have for increasing productivity would be to color code that calendar and switch to an online resource like Google Calendar! You will always have your phone, laptop, Ipad, and whatever other electronic devices you use. But you will definitely forget that physical planner or agenda notebook.

For Students, I recommend the following color coding system:

Red – Tests/Exams/Quizzes and Project Due Dates

Blue– Assignment Due Dates

Green – Extracurricular Activities

Yellow – For your Study Schedule

This is the exact formula I teach my students enrolled in The Purpose of Prep! We create schedules for them to keep them accountable for assignments and keep up with due dates. Below is an example of a color-coded Google Calendar:

But this applies to students, business owners, employees, and all who don’t want to lose track of their life….. You have been warned.

I hope today’s post shows you a few takeaways from Sally McGhee’s book that you can use to increase your productivity and organize your life overall!

Now tell me, which tip are you going to try out first? Let me know in the blog comments!

If you want to take a read for yourself, click the photo below to be taken to her book listing on Amazon (This is an affiliate link, so by using my link I will get a commission and you will be supporting this blog! 😄🙌):

If you or a student you know needs help with creating a schedule, study skills, or organization, feel free to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation with me to talk about my Study Skills/Organization Tutoring sessions!

Here is the link to schedule

– Asia Small | CEO of The Purpose of Prep LLC