Consolidating Your “Gathering Points”

About a year ago, I had to take an online course for work, so I chose one about organizing your life/your home/your workspace because I’m obsessed with that kind of thing. One of the main tips for organizing is to consolidate your “gathering points,” which are those areas (not necessarily physical areas) where you dump all your stuff.

So your desk at home might be a gathering point, in addition to your desk at work, your car, your day planner, your shopping list, the to-do list app on your phone, and so on. (There was way more to the course than that, but the thing about the gathering points was what stuck in my mind.)

I use a lot of notebooks/planners/to-do lists, and I haven’t yet managed to consolidate them in a way that works for me. So I have three main “gathering points”: my planner for work; my planner for home, writing, and personal stuff; and my general notebook/journal in which I write whatever I want whenever I want. Some very smart people I work with have consolidated their work and home planners into one, and some other very smart people I know on the Internet have consolidated everything into one.

I’m not sure I would want to use just one notebook for everything because ironically, even though all my stuff would be in one place, it would still get lost. I have the worst handwriting in the galaxy, so it doesn’t lend itself well to glancing at a page and immediately seeing what’s there. I have to squint at it and wonder whether that squiggle is an “m” or an “n.” The easy solution to this problem would be to do away with notebooks altogether and keep everything in MS Outlook or some other software. But I’m attached to notebooks and pens and paper, so that’s not an option.

For a while, I was putting everything in my journal, and to organize it, I would use little symbols to denote whether each item was a to-do, a story idea, a blog idea, a general thought, and so on (sort of like bullet journaling, but less refined). That got too complicated after awhile, so I gave it up and went back to using my three notebooks/planners. As much as I would like to consolidate all my paper gathering points, I don’t think I could do it all in a single notebook. Combining my work and home planners would be easy, but I think I would always need a separate space for all the other random stuff my brain likes to throw at me.

How do you consolidate your stuff (or do you)?

14 thoughts on “Consolidating Your “Gathering Points”

  1. I keep most of my notes and stuff online, either in google calendars or Evernote – places that sync to any device as long as I’m signed in. (Phone, work computer, home computer.) I have a small notebook in my purse but I’ve stopped using it in favor of Evernote, which is a lot more legible. Also, I label and organize the crap out of everything. I have multiple Evernote notebooks set up, and the number of folders and sub-folders and sub-sub-folders on all my computers and emails is outta control. In a helpful way. I try to set things up so if someone has to go in and find files for me it’s all very straightforward. That way if I forget where I’ve put things it’s not a big deal.

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    1. I try to do that, too. At work I have all my folders set up so that if something happens to me and someone has to take over my work, they’re not left in the dark by a disorganized system. Should probably work on doing that at home, too. 🙂 I have heard very good things about Evernote, but I have yet to try it.

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  2. Organization is my downfall. I’m not messy but I’m really spacey when it comes to organizing files, notebooks and paperwork. I find it even harder to organize files in the cloud vs files on my computer. But once I sit still long enough to go through everything, I know I can get through it! No matter what, I create a goal list every season to keep me focused. That helps a little. 🙂

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    1. I try to rely on the cloud as little as possible (even though technically everything is on a cloud somewhere… all my blog posts, all my credit card info… kinda scary). But you’re right–if you set aside a block of time to organize, that can really help!

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  3. Funny you should mention this, Maggie. I’ve just finished an entire box of color filing folders. I’m a very visual person so now I have a colored folder for the bills for the Italian I am working on for blogs, courses I am teaching, promotions I am working on, reviews I am working on… The folders are nice since I can sort the papers and put on top what I want to remember to do when I get back to it a week or two later… That’s the trick – keeping up the train of thought I’ve started to finish it!

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  4. I was going to write a simple response, then realized it became so long it might as well be its own blog post, so I wrote that instead (with a link back to this post).

    The idea of how we keep things organized is an interesting concept, and its one that has many solutions. It’s fascinating to see how many different methods people use.

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  5. Let’s see, I have my to do list app, my story notebook, my kitchen calendar (that doesn’t always coincide with my Outlook/Google calendar), OneNote for copy/paste research, a personal journal I keep on the computer, a scratchpad on my desk for quick notes, and of course, this latest craze of bullet journaling is driving my “let’s try that!” itch crazy!

    But I have to control my obsession with stationary and notebooks and planners, or else I’d spend the entire day organizing, while getting nothing done in the meantime. So much for lists, then! I did learn of (but have yet to actually do it… wait, let me write it down before I forget!) spending a decent session on the first day of every month organizing plans and goals for the month in advance.

    Ah, so tl;dr: I compartmentalize my life.

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    1. The “planning and organizing” thing is so appealing to me that I, too, get way too involved in it! So I’ve tried to limit my time to just a few minutes at the end of each week to plan the next week. It’s worked out pretty well (and I’m not wasting too much time).

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      1. Once a week sounds like a dream! Given my circumstances, I can’t structure everything that far in advance. But I’m glad you found a method that works!

        I had this itch to find an awesome notebook to start a bullet journal, and I had to give myself a mental smack. Procrastination, how addictive it is.

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        1. Every now and then, I get the urge to try bullet journaling. It seems so nice and organized, but I know deep down that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. Too many little details, and my existing system works well enough!

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          1. But the ability to keep everything all in one notebook! Jokes aside, I look at some of these pinterest photos of peoples’ bullet journals and it’s like, well, if I was sitting high school listening to a lecture, I could doodle like that in forty minutes, too. But I don’t have that kind of convenience anymore.

            I’m going to give it a trial run for next week, see how it goes. I figure that besides all the logging, I can use it as a story notes/ideas notebook as well. Nothing more satisfying than a notebook full of text!

            Your system is actually pretty close to the gist of bullet journaling, apart from the daily logs. Like your post said, our minds all operate differently!

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