The Best Organization Tool for a Disorganized Person

I love workflowy.  I’ve used every day for years.  I think if everyone used it, the world would be a more productive, happier place.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 1.20.20 PMIf you haven’t tried it, it’s basically Gmail for your to do lists.

Remember when you had to put your emails in folders so you could find them?  I really tried to keep organized folders because it because it was so painful when I had to search for an email.  Some people seem to take great joy in organizing things, but I am not one of them.  Foldering emails was my least favorite thing so I did it only in spastic fits of frustration.  I would name the folders awful things like “MSFT – Misc” or “Legal BS” that made sense to me in the moment, but never made sense again.

Then gmail came along with essentially unlimited storage and awesome search and I never had to worry about categorizing emails again.  It was so powerful that if I wanted to remember something I would email it to myself and add a bunch of keyword tags to help me find it in the future.  This made my life so much better.

When I started my company, I tried organizational tools and processes in the same haphazard way that I organized my email.  I would keep track of performance reviews in google docs or word docs in my dropbox.  I would try to track engineering todos in Jira.  I tried a million tools to keep myself focused and none of them worked.  I reverted to using a physical notebook.

But workflowy is like a notebook that’s always with you and more importantly, that you can search.  This is so powerful because even when you change your processes you can still find everything you wrote down.  In my 1:1s with employees sometimes we talk about urgent things and sometimes we talk about their career goals.  Sometimes we talk about their comp and sometimes we talk about their organizational concerns.  There’s no single good way to organize everything, because often I don’t know in advance what my employees are going to care about.  I write everything down in my workflowy in the haphazard, disorganized way that it comes at me.  I rarely refactor my notes and yet I can still find everything that someone has said to me.  With my longer tenured employees we can reflect on what their goals were in 2012 and how they’ve evolved.  I can pull up every conversation we’ve had about compensation when I do a comp review.  Most importantly, I don’t have to ask people the same questions multiple times.

I scribble notes in my workflowy about ideas I have for my blog and ideas I have for our conference and things I want to accomplish.  I write down things I want to say to customers the next time I see them and things I want to say to my mom.  Then I purge these thoughts from my mind until I see this person.  It’s amazing how freeing this feels.

I love workflowy because it doesn’t tell me how to organize things or do things but it’s made me so much more organized and effective.