How We Do It: Organizing Our Personal Lives

30 January 2018

Here we go: week four! Today’s topic is how we handle organization in our personal lives. This could cover a wide range of things, so I’m curious to see what angle Nancy is going to take! :)

To catch up any new gals: Nancy Ray and I are writing an eight-part series every Tuesday in January and February covering “how we do it” in eight different areas: the rhythms, habits, and routines that help us get things done and make the space and time for what matters most. You can read more of the backstory here.

I wanted to start by talking about social media. I promised I would share some of my boundaries in my first How We Do It post, and I’m following through, even though it makes me a little nervous! The reason I’m apprehensive to share is that, similar to my “no” list, even if I take great pains to emphasize that these are choices I have made solely for myself based on my own unique set of circumstances, it’s easy to infer that I somehow disapprove of different choices others make.

Friends, that’s not the case. I want to share because I think I have chosen a bit of a different path, and it’s one that works for me. I am well aware other people have other beliefs, needs, mission statements, and even callings surrounding social media that lead them to make different choices. But, if there’s something within the way I do things that might inspire one of you to think differently or make your own tweak, that’s worth it to me!

I have two Instagram accounts. I opened them at the same time, in 2012 when I began using the platform. One is public, and one is private. (I’m focusing on Instagram because my Twitter and Facebook use are pretty non-existent and Pinterest is just a handy storage spot for me, not somewhere I spend much time!)

The public one (snapshot above) has several thousand followers — mostly people I’ve never met. That is an important point, as most of what I’m going to say below is most pertinent if you, too, have an account followed by strangers (even kind ones!).

The private one has 59 followers, about half of whom are related to me (the rest I would consider my closest friends).

I follow 39 people on the private account (all friends and fam) and 50 on the public one (mostly friends and fam plus about 16 brands or people I don’t know).

Why am I sharing those numbers? My first boundary is that I don’t follow too many people, and I try hard not to follow people who make me feel less-than, covetous, or jealous. I mostly stick to following people who are already in my life and who inspire me!

I chose to have two accounts long before I had a child, so even though I know that’s why most people choose to split their accounts, that was not my primary motivation. (I like sharing a mix of work and home life with y’all!) My split was more about time and expectations.

A snapshot of my private account

During the work day, I’m signed into my public account, and when I leave work, I sign into my private one. Here’s the biggest difference between the two: there are probably 4-5 new posts per day to look at on my private one, as opposed to 20-30 on my public one. There’s just no draw to be checking constantly when at home, because I know there won’t be any new posts!

Similarly, when I post something on my private account say, on a Saturday afternoon, I can post it and go about my business without feeling a need to check back and monitor it to answer questions, gauge the reaction, etc., because there are so few followers (one reason I so strictly limit the number of folks who follow that account). There’s a different level of expectation with my public account. And that’s great — when I’m at work, I have the time to monitor posts and chat with folks, as that is part of my role’s responsibility.

Whew! You with me? :) Honestly, it kind of feels a bit trivial and silly to share all of that (especially since most of these guidelines are pertinent for those who have a public following of some size, and I know that’s not the case for everyone), but when I think about how much angst social media can cause us, perhaps it’s not. Any little tweak that can make it a more positive and less draining aspect of our lives is worth sharing, I hope!

Again, if we have different boundaries, PLEASE don’t feel the need to explain yourself to me!! You do you, girl! :) If you’re comfortable with where you’re at, that’s all that matters to me.

Okay, moving on! The main way I stay organized with all the things on a daily basis is – wait for it – the most old school and basic Word doc on my laptop! Ha! It’s divided into a few sections:

To Do Today: currently includes “make LL Bean return,” “buy LOVE stamps” (they’re so pretty and I want to stock up!), “order Super Bowl wings,” “buy baby shower gift for Jackie,” and more – there are 18 items on it at the moment
To Do Soon: things to do in the next few weeks
Later: things I don’t want to forget but that aren’t of immediate concern

On really busy weeks, I’ll sometimes split out the “to do today” section into “to do today,” “to do tomorrow,” “to do Thursday,” etc.

In addition, I use this same doc to keep track of all sorts of other things, like potential posts for EFM, Etsy orders on deck, and my passwords. (I know that’s not the safest, but it is what it is at the moment!)

I’ve written about my love for the iPhone Notes app before, and it’s still going strong! This incredibly simple and incredibly handy widget helps me seem more together than I am and be a more thoughtful person than I would be otherwise :) A few of my favorite lists: restaurants to try, books to read, books read in 2018, John gift ideas, our chore division, and the food preferences of our friends and family. I also love the Emily Ley tip of starting each list with three corresponding emojis to keep things neat and aesthetically pleasing.

I keep lists that I don’t update so often in Google Docs. Examples include our Christmas card address log, my spreadsheet of Christmas gifts for family and friends, our master packing list for trips, our camping packing list, and my list of favorite excerpts and quotes.

I’m still working on a better and more complete system for organizing our personal photos (a huge goal for this year!). I purchased Nancy’s guide and am on my way, but in the meantime, there is one thing we have down pat. Every January, I order 48 4×4 prints from Social Print Studio – our favorites from the past year. 24 go on the bulletin board in our kitchen, and the rest go into a dish on our coffee table with prints from the last five years. June LOVES looking through them, as do guests!

I’ll leave it there for today! It was hard to know just what to tackle in this post, so if there’s something you’re curious about, don’t hesitate to ask! And don’t forget to check out Nancy’s post here! Thanks for being so wonderful, friends.

Where we’ve been and what’s coming up:
Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
February 6: Work
February 13: Relationships
February 20: Spiritual Life
February 27: Kids

Affiliate links are used in this post!

18 Responses to “How We Do It: Organizing Our Personal Lives”

  1. Nichole W

    Having insight on how others view and manage their personal social media is so interesting to me, thank you for sharing that! And I am all about using the Notes app for everything. One of my favorites is the list of which sushi rolls we like at each restaurant, because we always seem to forget!

    Em

    I’m so glad Nichole! Another one of my favorite lists I didn’t mention above is “beauty products to try” – no more magazine tear-outs everywhere!

    Lauren

    Ahh never thought about that category! I remember reading a long time ago about how you used the notes app and I was all like omggg me too! I keep so many important lists in my app I make sure to back up my phone weekly as I couldn’t bear to lose any of it!

  2. This is such an awesome post, Em and I love your personal guidelines on using IG. This has been a learning curve for me over the last year (as you know). Learning to use it as both a tool for business and way to keep/share memories as been a process. I love your Word doc idea too. ‘Buy wings’ is my favorite thing on your list.

    Em

    My favorite part of the Super Bowl :)

  3. I absolutely love how you’ve balanced your instagram.. I follow so many friends from real life, online friends, brands, inspirational accounts, etc.. and even though that number is HIGH I’ve tried really hard to consistently curate and not follow people just because I feel like I should.. if that makes sense. But I still feel drained by it at times so I love that you’ve really created safeguards to prevent that from happening!

    Em

    Absolutely! I completely know the feeling that I “should” follow someone for various reasons… and most of the time, they’re great reasons, and they WOULD be an interesting person to follow! But I just know for me, to continue enjoying the platform, I really need to keep my lists small :)

  4. Wanda

    I’ve been loving reading your “How We Do It” series! Both you and Nancy have such great advice, and I think my favorite part is getting two perspectives on the same topics and being able to compare those with how I do things. Anyway, it is such a refreshing and interesting topic – thank you!

    Em

    I’m so glad, friend! And yes!! That’s my favorite part, too!

  5. Holly

    I rarely use Facebook, and don’t have either Facebook or Instagram on my phone. I have a 6 month old daughter and I’ve never posted her to social media in any way, pregnancy, birth or present because I always thought I didn’t need people to tell me how cute she is! I know and that’s all that should mattter! I’ve always asked myself, who are these people posting for? And why? I’ve never sought validation from social media and really don’t see the draw. I pray by the time she’s older, we’ve learned to live in a society that has learned to handle social media more responsibly, instead of like a drug.

    Em

    It sounds like you have a system that works for you, Holly – so awesome!! I can’t speak for everyone, but I think many people share glimpses of their children and parenting journeys because motherhood can be pretty lonely for a lot of people, and it can help to share along the way, both for the share-er and the audience. But of course, I think it can go too far, too.

  6. I love this explanation Em, and it makes so much sense! Great way to keep things private but still be engaging and at the right times x

  7. Kelly Strawberry

    Interesting that you and Nancy went two different directions with this post. Both were very well done and so insightful. :)

    Em

    I’m glad to hear it! Honestly, I think I prefer Nancy’s take on this week’s topic – there were just SO many directions I could have gone, it was a bit paralyzing! I think next week is going to be extra good, though :)

  8. What you said about not following a ton of people really spoke to me, and for the last two days I have “trimmed” down my Instagram following list from 1,200 to 700! And I keep finding more that I’m not actually all that keen to follow either. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Ash

    I have been LOVING this weekly series from you and Nancy! I have had a lot of fun looking at how I manage these various areas of my life and taking a few of your ideas and implementing them. I am sad to know that we only have a few more weeks of them!

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