There’s no such thing as an “organized person” or a “disorganized person.” But there are things you can do here and there to make your digital and real life a bit less chaotic.
What better time to talk about organization than back to school season? We are kicking off fall by sharing our grand unified theories for getting/being more organized. We also talked all about our all-time favorite, go-to strategies for staying on top of shit, both digitally and IRL.
This episode was produced by Rachel and Sally and edited by Lucas Nguyen. Our logo was designed by Amber Seger (@rocketorca). Our theme music is by Tiny Music. MJ Brodie transcribed this episode. Follow us on Twitter @OhILikeThatPod.
Things we talked about:
Rachel: Welcome to Oh I Like That, a podcast about things we like and occasionally things we don't. I'm Rachel Wilkerson Miller.
Sally: And I'm Sally Tamarkin.
Rachel: How's it going, Sally?
Sally: It's going well. I didn't think of anything I wanted to say. So, all I have to do here is tell you that. How are you, Rachel?
Rachel: I'm pretty good. What's the vibe with you this afternoon?
Sally: The vibe is post Yom Kippur clarity, which I have some of right now. It'll last me another 72 hours, and then Yom Kippur will come around next year and I'll be like, "Damn, I really have to do this. I only hung onto my clarity for like 72 hours last time." It's a cycle that's entering its 43rd year. But yeah, I really felt like I had a good, meaningful fast. And I think every year I get closer to finding the community and the resources that resonate with me.
Sally: I'm very, very picky because I'm not religious really. And I don't believe in God and I don't feel good about Zionism. And so that eliminates like 97% of the way a lot of American Jews relate to Judaism. Although by no means am I alone in those things, but it takes a little bit more legwork to find services that are meaningful. So, I'm getting closer. And I'm just going to add a little bit of service here.
Rachel: Ooh, okay.
Sally: Which I didn't tell you I was going to do, it just occurred to me. So, this is a product of a friend of mine not wanting to mess up how they sent their best wishes for Yom Kippur. They were just not sure how to express that. And I was talking about it with them a little bit, and I sent them a link that I had found on Google to an article. And this friend was like, "Yeah, but I also don't want to be the person that says the thing that only Jewish people say to each other. That feels really inauthentic to me." And I was like, "Okay." So, I just thought, here's some service for what you can say.
Sally: First thing you can do is just Google the holiday so you understand it. Whether it's for Yom Kippur or something else, because if you Google Yom Kippur, you'll see that it's a solemn holiday. Not sad, particularly, but... well, maybe sad, I don't know. It's solemn. It's a day of reflection. It's a day famously of atoning. So, it wouldn't be appropriate to be like, "Have a rocking Yom Kippur!" [Laughs] But also, if you don't feel comfortable using a traditional greeting in Hebrew that a Jewish person might say to another Jewish person, which I'm fine with, but some people don't want to do that. You can just say like, "I hope you have a meaningful fast. I hope you have an easy fast. I hope your Yom Kippur is a meaningful one." There's no stock phrase you have to memorize. It's more just about having a sense of what the holiday is and then tailoring it. And you can also be like, "I'm not sure exactly how to say this, but I've been thinking of you. I know it's Yom Kippur coming up. I hope it's a good one for you," or whatever. And I think it's always better to educate yourself. Take a guess and let the person tell you. Or you can ask. You can be like, "Hey, I really want to say this to you, but I don't know how." But I think either of those options are better than not saying anything, because I think it's nice. Maybe not. I don't speak for everyone who observes every single religion all over the world. But I think it can feel nice when your friends are kind of paying attention to your thing. Especially if you have a practice that feels somehow like it's considered out of step with cool mainstream, secular humanist life in America. It's nice when people recognize that as a thing. So I say, go for it. Sorry, that was a really long vibe check. I decided to throw some service in there, Rachel. What can I say?
Rachel: I think it's great. Okay. So I actually really appreciate this because I sort of went through this separately on my own yesterday when I realized, oh, you're offline today. I want to say something. And then I was like, I don't think there... I went through the like, is it okay for me to say sort of like the traditional greeting? And then I was like, probably I'm going to steer clear of that for now, just because I don't want to appropriate anything or just be too much. But then I Googled the holiday, I learned some things about it, I'm like, okay. I'm glad I didn't go with a happy holidays because that's not the right one for this. And so yeah, I feel validated that I did Google it. I mean, it was a bit awkward to be like, "How was your day of fasting and atonement?" But I did really want to know. And that is what you did yesterday as I found out when I looked into it. So I think that the service is appreciated.
Sally: Okay, good.
Rachel: Because I grew up going to Catholic school and only knowing Catholic people, so I feel a little out of my depth on this stuff and appreciate the service.
Sally: Okay, good. And I just want to say for the record, you're a success story, Rachel, because you Googled, you educated yourself, and you're an example of someone who checked in in a very appropriate way. And I was like, "Oh, that's cool. Rachel knows what I was up to and was checking in." And it wasn't weird from either direction. It was really nice. And so I appreciate that. I appreciate you. Man, Googling something and learning a little bit about it... oof. We've all got to get better at that.
Rachel: It solves a lot of problems. I should also mention that for you specifically, I also checked to see if there was a Bitmoji for the occasion. There was not, which--
Sally: I'm so upset about that.
Rachel: I'm also shocked by it. I feel like that's not usually their move, but perhaps they also struggled with the, what should it say? I thought for sure Bitmoji would solve the problem for me, and it didn't, which is why I kind of had to make my own way. But maybe it's better to not be relying on Bitmoji to learn about other cultures. [Laughs]
Sally: [Laughs] But this is one of the only times that Bitmoji has failed us. I checked this morning and I put in some stock Yom Kippur phrases and I was like, "Well, maybe let me try something in Hebrew." And that was not a thing. So, maybe next year. But I agree, Bitmoji doesn't lend itself tonally to solemnity, and so that could be why.
Rachel: Yeah. That could be why. I think they maybe made the right choice to sit this one out, so.
Sally: Yeah. [Laughs].
Sally: What about your vibe, Rachel?
Rachel: My vibe today is productive, which is on theme for what we're going to talk about in this episode. But my personal national nightmare is coming to an end today because we've had all of these really annoying car problems. That makes it sound too complicated. A minor ding in the windshield has turned into a month-long saga because there's a glass shortage and we've had all these appointments get canceled last minute and the glass keeps showing up with a crack in it. It's just been such a headache. It's involved a lot of phone calls. And today at long last, the glass is finally getting taken care of. It's being replaced because it looks like it got hit by a rock, but it's on the inside of the windshield so they can't fix it. So it has to be replaced. And it's just been a huge ordeal and we're taking a road trip next week, so it has to be fixed soon. And I was really getting to a point where I was like, "Is this going to be done? Are we going to need to rent a car?" So, the car is off being fixed and I am so relieved about it. I'm so happy this is finally being taken care of.
Sally: I'm extremely happy for you. I feel like the process, that the journey that you've been on with this particular thing is a perfect example of, if someone hexes you, it's what you experience.
Sally: First of all, it's actually an extremely solvable, common problem where every step along the way, there's been a new bizarre difficulty. And it's just like, it seems like there's an otherworldly influence, you know?
Rachel: It feels that way. It's like a telenovela of minor, ridiculous updates. But I've also just been feeling like, I don't know. That has been really good, but also this week I've been trying to stay a little bit more on top of chores and packages and all these little things and I'm feeling good about it. I feel like going into the weekend feeling kind of together, which is a nice place to be.
Sally: I love that. I love feeling together. What are we talking about today?
Rachel: All right. Today, the main topic is organization and I guess productivity as a subset of that, because being organized can help you be more productive, but it doesn't have to be that. We're just talking about the ways that we stay organized, which to be clear is not in all aspects of our life. So, I thought maybe to kick things off, we can kind of talk about how we approach organization, how we think about it. And then after that, we're going to dive some of our best tips for being organized. So, Sally, what is your grand unified theory on organization if you have one?
Sally: Well, so I think that I used to have this idea that there were two kinds of people in this world, organized and disorganized. And now that I've gotten to know myself better, and I know that I am extremely organized in some ways and completely catastrophically disorganized in other ways has led me to the understanding that it's not really a binary thing. One thing I realized is that I think some people can have a block around certain things. There are certain things that, I'm very good at keeping organized, feels very second nature. Other things are so disorganized that it's disorganized to the point of, I have to talk about it in therapy. Like, I don't understand why I can't get this part of my life together. And that, to me, of all of the sort of mainstream narratives that we unpack and deconstruct throughout our lives, the binary of being an organized or disorganized person is probably one of the more minor narratives to deconstruct, but it is worth, I think, just thinking about. Like, if you're a person who wants to be more organized in some part of your life, but you've sort of decided that part of your identity is being disorganized, I think that can be a block to just trying out things that will help you be more organized. And I hesitate to ever say that there's one way of being that is objectively better than another way of being. Having said that, I think that it can be hard to be disorganized in a world that expects you to do things in a certain way, do things in a certain timeframe and so on. And so, this is me talking to me. Giving myself a pep talk about how I can actually get more organized if I want to. Rachel, what about you? Do you have any macro thoughts about the topic?
Rachel: Yeah. I think that you're so right that it's often something we think of as a binary, and it's something that we think of as innate. Like you are either a naturally organized person or you're not. I think people think that I'm naturally organized and I don't think that I am. I think that I'm trying really hard to compensate for the fact that that's not my nature and maybe it is. I don't know. But I think that as a kid, I had a really messy desk. I got yelled at by my teacher about it a couple of times. And that made me feel really awful and also made me feel disorganized. Like, I'm a disorganized person, that's who I am. And so, maybe all of this is trying to compensate for that. And I would have just like, who cares? I would have outgrown it. I was eight years old.
Rachel: But I also think the thing that's really funny is that I realized when I was at Buzzfeed, I'd been there like a year and somebody said something to me about being super organized, and I was like, "Oh, that's weird, I don't think of myself that way." But I was sort of projecting enough organization in some aspect of my life that people just applied it to everything else. And I think that's really true, that if you get 75% there, people just assume it's true and take you the remaining 25%, even though there are still aspects of my life... like, I'm looking at my room right now and I'm just like, "I am not organized. That's not true." But I think it's picking the things where you can excel at it and really doing that, even if it doesn't convince people you're organized, which isn't really the end goal, it helps you think of yourself as organized and capable. It also just makes your life better in a lot of ways. But I think once you realize you can organize some things and you have control over some of these things, it becomes easier to over time organize more things. You don't have to do everything all at once, and you probably can't and probably shouldn't. It's a lifelong project, being organized, I think. So, I think it's like, figure out what you can do and do that. And then maybe you'll get to the other stuff, and maybe you won't and that's fine.
Sally: Okay. So now that we have kind of our macro thoughts on the table, Rachel, do you want to start us off here?
Rachel: Yeah, I would love to. So, the stuff we're going to talk about today is kind of a wide range of organizing tips. So, my commitment to organizing my email is a big chunk of it. And then I'm also going to talk about Slack a little bit. And then, Sally doesn't have the one definitive thing that she lives and dies by, but it has a bunch of smaller and maybe more achievable tips. So we'll give you a good range of things to try out. So the first thing that I'm going to talk about is how I keep my Gmail organized, which is a system I'm incredibly proud of and maybe I suggested we do this episode so that I could spread the gospel of filters and labels to a wider audience. But there are so many tools built into Gmail to make this easier, and I just feel like no one's using them. So, this is my starting point. I keep my Gmail open all day when I'm working, and I have my personal email and then my work email, both of which are through Gmail, and I hate having lots of unread emails. So, if I see that I have a new email, I'm going to pause what I'm doing and go look at it. With some exceptions. Sometimes if I need to really work I'll close those tabs out. But for the most part, I'm pausing to look at it. So a bunch of newer unread emails is a huge distraction. It's going to keep interrupting my day, and so many of the emails are not worth it. Particularly at work, I'm sure you remember getting tons and tons of press releases that are just like, "Have you ever seen anything I've ever written in my life? Why are you sending me this?" And so, to get distracted by that multiple times a day is a huge problem. So, I started setting up a bunch of filters and labels and have a system which I'm going to explain in a minute that has almost entirely solved this problem for me. I am rarely getting interrupted. I still get PR emails, but basically, PR people get one chance to email me and then never get through again. So, I've nearly solved this problem for myself.
Sally: What you were saying about PR emails. So, these are emails from people who you don't know. These are people whose job it is to publicize a thing, and they email you. Sometimes it just says dear comma, because they haven't put your name in there, or it has someone else's name, and they want you to cover their product as a journalist. And 98% of the press releases I get are nothing I would ever in a million years or lifetimes ever cover.
Sally: So, the way that I dealt with this, then I think this will reveal a lot about my personality when it comes to organizing, is I basically just set up a really aggressive filter so that basically, if I don't know who you are or haven't corresponded with you, I never see your email. Now, this became a problem in every job I've had because people who had never emailed me before, but say worked in the same company, [laughs] would email me and I just wouldn't get it over and over and over. And I knew that, but I continued to use that system because for me, I was like, it's really important that I get organized in this one way. Of course, it made me extremely disorganized in other ways, because people who I worked with would be like, "I've emailed you four times. Why aren't you replying?" So, I say that as a, just, that's the on ramp to the organizational system that you're about to share, which, not only would it have solved my problem, I think it also would not have created the problem that might -- right. Okay. So, tell us all about it, Rachel.
Rachel: Actually, it's funny because I think PR emails are kind of the way that I first discovered this system. I started doing it for PR emails and then it was so successful. I was like, I bet I could apply this to other things. And that was true. So, I'm going to start with a sort of basic explanation of how you can set this up in Gmail. So, when you're reading a specific email, got it open, there's three little dots that appear above it. There's a bunch of icons, you can mark it as spam, you can trash it, whatever. There's three little dots for more, and you want to go to that and click 'filter messages like these', and that brings up a window. And it sort of is creating a form for you to decide how you want to receive these emails in the future. So for example, every time I would get a press release that I didn't want, I would click 'filter emails like these'. And sometimes it'll be sort of pre-filled out, so it'll have the from filled out or the to filled out, whatever. It doesn't really matter because you can fill it in yourself, but it's with the press emails, it'll usually have the from filled out. So it will be from, like, Sally or Hot Topics PR or whatever. Hot Topics Comms, I don't know. And so I would just go to that. I would say 'filter messages like these'. Anything from this PR person, so you'll fill that out in the first screen, from that person, and then click 'create filter'. That will take you to a bunch of options of what you want to be done to this email. So for PR, I would always choose, 'skip the inbox', which means that you don't see it; 'mark as read', so you never get a notification; and then I do 'apply the label'. This is where you can create your own labels. So I have a label with just 'PR pitches'. So everything gets filed away to 'PR pitches', but they remain in Gmail somewhere.
Sally: So smart.
Rachel: So if once a week I want to go to that and just browse and see if there's anything good in there, or if I've accidentally applied this to somebody who I work with or whatever, or Gmail thinks that I meant that, I can go check that those emails aren't lost forever. So I can go check once a week, once a month and then just delete everything from it. Again, you never know. There might be the one gem, so it's not totally hiding them, but it means that I don't get interrupted. And so again, I have to do this every time a new PR person emails me, which is frequently, but then I go and I see, okay, this email inbox has 2000 messages in it. So that's a lot of messages that I didn't see the first time around, especially because PR people are usually following up with you repeatedly. And so you don't see those anymore, they're just gone forever. So that was sort of my entryway into, oh, I can control what emails I see. And then I was like, I'm going to apply this to everything that I do. And it grew from there.
Sally: Yeah. I just want to say for, if you're listening, you don't have a visual of this, but maybe we can blur some things out and 'gram some stuff, just because your inbox and your folders... in my notes, I wrote down "a sight to behold" because it looks not only really, really, really organized, but also very aesthetically pleasing. So I hope you're going to also talk about that aspect of getting organized.
Rachel: Yes, definitely. So, when you set up a new label, it will typically just be gray on gray, which is very ugly and not very fun. A thing that has helped me is to color. Gmail lets you choose the color, and I've just leaned into that. Choosing different colors, again, because I want to at a glance be able to see these are the things that are the most important. You can put emojis in there, which make it more fun to look at. So I recommend doing stuff like that. So you can set up whatever labels that you want. Also, you can have labels without filters, so you can just label things a specific way if that's helpful for you and I do that in some cases. But if there's a certain type of email that you're getting a lot, I think that setting up some kind of auto filter even to just automatically apply the label is really helpful. Because with PR it was like, I want it marked as read, I want it hidden away from me. I actually don't want that for some emails. Some I do want to see. I want them to be unread so that I don't miss them. So for those, I'm just going to maybe say, okay, any email with this subject line, apply the label 'home/packages'. And that's like, okay, I just want to see when we have a new package sent to us. And so I don't want that archived or marked away, but I do want the label applied to it so it looks nicer in my inbox and I can kind of just take care of it as I see fit. The other thing that I've done is, you can get super granular. You can create labels for whatever reason you want. So you can create them as sort of task signifiers. So I handle a bunch of freelancer paperwork through my role at Vice, and it generates a ton of emails. So, we send out a contract. When the freelancer signs it, I get an email. When it goes to somebody else who signs it again to execute it, I get an email. But when the freelancer signs it, I don't actually need to see that, it doesn't really mean anything. I don't need it until it's been fully executed. So, I have a filter set up so that with the specific subject line that the contract email is like, "So-and-so has signed this thing." When I get that subject line, it marks it as read and applies 'freelancers/contracts' or whatever the label is. Great. I know it came in, I don't need to take any action. When the other email subject line comes through that's like, "This is now signed and filed", it still applies the label, but it doesn't mark it as read. So then it's like, okay, now I'm going to make sure that I see this because I need to take action. And then from there, I have additional little labels that are set up. Basically I can put a red exclamation point on things that I need to. If I have an invoice that needs to be filed, I put on 'invoice red exclamation point'. And once I've submitted that and it's taken care of, I change it to 'invoice green check mark'. So it's like, okay, now this has become a really helpful workflow, a labeling system. Gmail doesn't really have that capability built in, you have to set it up for yourself, but it's so helpful. When I look at my inbox and I see, okay, red exclamation point, I'm going to address that. And it's a way to do that without having to keep everything unread, which for me, I simply can't have a bunch of unread emails. I would lose it. So, it's become a really helpful workflow system. For me, it's really important to stay organized when people are needing to get paid. That's the most important part of my job. And so, this kind of grew out of, "Oh, how can I hack the Gmail inbox to make sure people are getting paid on time and I'm not missing anything?" It works great for that. But now I do it for everything. Like, I get a ton of newsletters. I love them. I don't need all of them to be showing as an unread email, but I apply the label newsletters, and then I can just go check that list later and be like, "Okay, great. I have a bunch of newsletters I want to read, but I'm not getting essentially pinged and interrupted thirty times a day for these newsletters, which can wait until I have time to read them.
Sally: This is totally aspirational for me, because I think there are people who might hear that and be like, "Well, this isn't for me because I don't really mind having a lot of unread emails." I am listening to you and being like, I relate, because I also don't like having a lot of unread emails. But I deal with them as I get them, which I know for a fact is not a good strategy for me. It interrupts my workflow, it makes me have to focus on things that I don't want to focus on, or it makes me break my focus to deal with some unimportant email or whatever. This is the system that I need to implement. And the thing about this system that's great is that, of course it's ongoing in the sense that if you have a new workflow in your life, you have to create a label for it or whatever. But it's really what it is is on the front end you set a bunch of things up and then everything just flows from there. And I think that sometimes for me, when I think about it, I'm like, "Man, I'd love to be more organized in this specific way, but it's just so much work to do it." But it's actually on balance, I think much, much, much less work. And even if it was actually more work or the same amount of work, it's much better for my ability to focus and think, so it would be worth it to... anyway. You know?
Rachel: Yeah. I think that's right. I also think, I didn't do all of this at the same time. Actually, I think after I really figured this all out for my work email, I had the thought of, "Oh, I think I could apply this to my personal email." And I think I just did it with the emails that our building sends because we were getting a bunch of packages and then it's also we get, "your rent is due" and this other bill and all these little things were coming in. And it was like, most of this is not that important. What if I kind of applied this to just that? And even if I had stopped there, it would have been like, great, we're done. And I don't actually have auto filters set up for everything. So, you can see in the screenshot I sent you, I think there might be one that's labeled for the podcast. That wasn't an auto one, that was one I just applied after I read it because it looks nice to have everything labeled, but you don't have to have everything labeled. You could just apply this to your freelance gigs or your kids' school emails or bills and things like that, and just do it that way. And I think if you just do it as they come in, if I get a new email and I'm like, "Oh, I didn't really need this and now I'm realizing I'm going to get a bunch of these because I have joined some new thing and I'm going to be getting these emails," I'll just set the filter up then. But you don't have to. If you sat down and did it for everything, it would probably take you less than an hour. But I feel like if you want to just set it up as you go, that's also perfectly fine. And each new thing you add will ultimately kind of chip away at this bigger problem.
Sally: Right, right right.
Rachel: And I also think that even if you are somebody who doesn't mind having a lot of unread emails, you can still do this because you don't have to mark things as read. It's more just like, do you want to be able to look at your email inbox at a glance and have a better sense of what's in there? Because if you have a lot of unread emails, it's a little bit harder. When everything is bolded, it's hard to see the things that you really need to see. And so, making sure that you're just adding a label to the stuff that's really important that you don't want to miss can also just go a long way.
Sally: Are you familiar with Marie Kondo's way of folding things?
Sally: Okay. Have you ever done that?
Sally: Okay. Do you know the feeling you get when you look in a drawer and everything is folded the Marie Kondo way?
Rachel: I do.
Sally: It's the combination of feeling like you just got a great night of sleep, your cell phone battery is full, your car tank is full of gas, and your water bottle is full. It's like, you feel good, you feel safe, you feel enlivened. And that is the feeling I'm getting when I look at these screenshots of yours, because it's not just that it's really organized. It is also so aesthetically pleasing, with the colors and the different emojis and stuff like that. And it's a very similar thing with the Marie Kondo folding thing, which is that you look in your drawer and you see all the stuff that is important enough to you to have. And seeing it displayed in this really nice, beautiful way that also saves a lot of space just makes you kind of feel pleasure. And that's the same feeling I'm having looking at these screenshots. So I don't know. I'm just saying, I think you're onto something.
Rachel: Thank you. I think that's right. And I think also once you get to a critical mass of setting something like this up, once you've organized one of your drawers, you're like, "What if I do another one?" Or when you put things back in, you want those to match the rest of it. And I think once I got to a certain point, I was like, "Oh, I just want to have all of my stuff labeled because it's noticeable now when something isn't labeled."
Rachel: Because some of my labels are like, 'friends' and it's just my emails from my friends. Do those need a label? No, but it looks nice and it makes the whole thing look cohesive. So again, you don't have to go that far, but I think that it just makes my email inbox look nicer. And when it's something that again, I'm going to be looking at multiple times a day and have open multiple times a day, it's so nice to just have it look a way that feels aesthetically pleasing and really soothing, and also gives you that feeling of accomplishment like, "Oh, I organized something," which is worth its weight in gold.
Sally: It so is, yeah. Just that feeling alone is everything.
Rachel: Okay. So my other tip is also similarly about digital organizing. And this is about getting your Slack organized, which if you don't use Slack for work or for any friend groups or anything like that, it's not as applicable. But a lot of people do use Slack so I think that these are good, helpful tips to know. So, the first thing I want to mention is Slack bots, which are really good for basic kind of housekeeping stuff. I remember one time Millie Tran, who we used to work with and who is an all around inspiring person and very organized as well, said: "Don't do anything yourself that you can get a bot to do for you." And I think about that a lot. And so I started using Slack bots for a bunch of different things when I was managing people. So you can set up a Slack bot for recurring reminders. So, for a while, I needed the people on my team to look at the editorial calendar at the end of each day, make sure it was up to date. So I just set up a Slack bot that would do an @here in our channel every day at 4:00 PM so I didn't have to be the one saying it. And it's nice to just kind of outsource that so you don't feel like you're constantly reminding people to do things. You can also do it for a morning check in, you can tell Slack to ask "what's everybody working on today" in this specific channel at this specific time and people just know to respond there. But you can also do specific one-off reminders. So you can tell the Slack bot, "Remind me to send this thing to Sally when she's back online tomorrow" so I'm not Slacking you at a weird hour, whatever the case may be. So, just little things like that are really helpful. You can also do a bunch of integrations with Google Calendar. So, for a while, my team had an out of office and appointments calendar. This is back at Buzzfeed, and Slack would automatically pull it in in the morning. So it would be like, here's what everyone's got going on today. So if somebody was working from home or had an appointment at 2:00, it just told us in the morning. Again, so easy, and it just was kind of a one-time setup that was like, "Hey guys, make sure you're putting your stuff on this calendar. And then we're going to be told this every single day." So I think doing that kind of upfront work to just make it hands-off is great and highly recommend it. And then the other thing I want to recommend is Slacking yourself. So, you can just DM with yourself on Slack, which I feel like not everyone necessarily knows about. So I use that for little reminders or if I build a post in our CMS, but it's not totally done yet and I need to go back to it late and I just want to have an easy reference to the link, I'll just Slack it to myself. If I have an idea for a story at a random time, I'll Slack it to myself. And then when I need to go into a pitch meeting, I'm like, "What was I thinking?" And I'm like, "Oh my God. I had all these ideas. Incredible." So just using that as kind of a repository. And I find that it's better than emailing yourself a bunch of little things, which I don't know, that has never really worked for me. But just having them in Slack is super helpful.
Sally: I love that. A lot of these tips also, I think can be used with Discord, which a lot of people also use, especially in any sort of geeky hobby, you probably use Discord. Slack has way more functionality for this than Discord does, but Discord can do some of these. And I say that just to say whatever messaging app you're using, there are probably some integrations and functions that you can use to keep things more organized.
Rachel: Yeah, I agree. The other thing I do is I have a pretty specific way of organizing my Slack sidebar, which might be a little difficult to explain without being able to show it. But I think the most important things are that you can star certain conversations and rooms and you can mute certain rooms, and then you can organize your sidebar so that it keeps the starred things at the top. So you'll see, you can mute and unstar channels, like if you're in a reality TV discussion room or something that's more fun. I usually mute rooms like that because I don't need to get interrupted for every single thing. They'll still show up in my sidebar when there's a new message there, but they kind of just go to a different section and they're not bolded. So it's not like "this needs your attention immediately," it's "you can click over there if you want to." But for my stuff, my team rooms, the DMs with the people I talk to the most, those are all starred. They're right there. And just, I don't know. When I see a Slack sidebar that just has every single message anyone's ever received that's in their sidebar. I'm just like, "Oh my God. It doesn't have to be this way." [Laughs] You can curate it.
Sally: I know. It's so stressful. I've been thinking about that. They're really helpful ways of staying organized without doing anything. And I do have to say, reminding people about looking at an editorial lineup or updating something without you specifically being the person doing it. As a manager, that really does make a huge difference.
Rachel: It's so nice. And it just makes you not feel like you're in that position everyday of having to nag everybody. It's like, no, a bot is going to do this, and it's no longer making it seem like me, the person who's constantly bugging you to do this thing. I think it feels better for everyone.
Rachel: That way to have this sort of third-party automatic thing happening. So, highly recommend using Slack bots to your advantage. And you can do it for fun things too. We did it in one of the rooms I was in at Buzzfeed, one of our teams, we had every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 5:30, it was a show and tell bot.
Sally: Yeah. I remember that.
Rachel: Now it's fun time. We're going to do show and tell and people will just share little funny stories, or what they're doing later, or if you have a question like an icebreaker question, ask the group just to get to know people. And it was so fun and effective and we had so much fun. So I think just using them for fun things too, that's a nice little surprise. Like, "Oh, it's time to do the fun thing now" is a good reminder.
Sally: So fun, yeah. You can set up a Slack bot to remind yourself to take a break or stand up or go get water. All that stuff.
Rachel: Yeah. Anything that we'd use. I talk a lot about using my phone alarms for things like this, but you can also put things on your calendar, have calendar integrations with Slack, or you can just set up a Slack bot that's like, "it's time to eat lunch. It's time to drink some water."
Sally: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Totally.
Rachel: All right. Those are my big ones. I could go on, but I feel like these are the ones that give me the most bang for my buck in my everyday life. So, I'm going to kick it to you. What have you got to share?
Sally: Okay. So, I have some things that are comparatively less bang for the buck. And I don't know if the bang is less or the buck is less, but these are kind of a low-touch organizing things that I do. The one I'm proudest of, Rachel, is when I make a list for the grocery store, I write it based on where things are in the store. So instead of just a list of everything I need, I put... I always go to this one Trader Joe's, and I know that all of a certain kind of produce is in one place. And so that all goes in one place together and so on. Now, I remember one of my friends growing up, his dad had on their refrigerator, hHe had typed out a schematic of all of the aisles at Stop & Shop, and what was in each aisle. And I remember thinking at the time, "Whoa, this is really overkill for grocery shopping." But it's actually brilliant. Now, I don't have something that's that sophisticated, I just sort of group things together. But his was, things were grouped together, but also their placement on the page represented their placement in the store, which is some really next level shit.
Sally: Yeah. But this is just basically grouping things by where they are. And then I guess actually, if I think about it, my grocery list is a little bit, I know that when I walk into Trader Joe's, the first place I go is the produce just based on where the front door is. And so the first thing on my list is the produce. So I guess I do that a little bit, and I guess I am now the adult who I thought was really extra as a child.
Rachel: This is so aspirational to me. I've always wanted to do this and just have never done it. I also just feel like, why aren't grocery stores as a little free promotional thing creating, accustomed to the store, you could just get a notepad that is set up this way for you and/or a map of the store where you can put your list on it. Why are they not making this easier for ourselves? Because I think the reason I don't do it is because I panic and think I'm not going to remember where anything actually is in the store, which is probably not true. But that is my kind of unfounded fear that keeps me from just jumping in and doing this.
Sally: Totally. I mean, the one thing it does, I will say, is it does kind of take away your spontaneity a little bit. So, if you have any emergent ideas in the grocery store and that's how you shop, maybe this isn't the best for that. But yeah, it's great. I think it really cuts down on how annoying it is to grocery shop and to have to go all the way back to the other end of the store because you forgot you needed this thing.
Rachel: Yeah. That's so good. Okay. I haven't been doing a ton of grocery shopping lately, my girlfriend usually does it, but I'm going to start thinking about making this part of my life.
Sally: I love it. Okay, so that's one thing. And then, another thing I recently got was this -- it's called a visual thinking journal and it's called Grids and Guides. And I don't know if you can see Rachel, if I hold it up, you can see.
Rachel: Okay, yeah, yeah.
Sally: One page like that, it has grids, but then there's also dots. And then there are some pages that have triangles and kind of weird shapes. And it's basically meant for, if you want to write down your thoughts in a way that is not just linear or narrative, but you sort of want to capture ideas and how you write them down physically in space is important to that. And then also, lots of lines, if you want to have things be straight and stuff. And it's really interesting because I'm looking at all of the things I'm going to talk about. They're all kind of about visual thinking, even though I do not think of myself as a visual thinker at all. So, I don't know what to make of that. But I will say that with some things that I'm working on, particularly with writing and editing where I'm thinking a lot about how something flows and what the structure is of something, having one long doc where it's just like, everything is in there from top to bottom, it makes it hard for me after a certain point to think through what I'm doing. I want to move things around, but everything is in this long list. And once you scroll down, you can no longer see what's above. And I find that with this visual thinking journal, it really helps me organize my thoughts and be able to move things around in space in a way that keeps my brain organized. And I kind of wish I had discovered this earlier in my career, because I think I would've had a lot easier time editing longer pieces if I had. I mean, sometimes I want to print something out and cut a document into paragraphs so I can just move them around, and it helps you do that kind of a thing. So that's kind of a way I keep my thoughts organized. And then related is, I don't know if you're familiar. I used the word flip-chart and you were like, "What's flip-chart?" Because I think basically it's like, if you facilitate workshops, you know what a flip-chart is. But basically, it's a huge notepad. Big notepads, sits on an easel. Sometimes when I need to think things through in a different way, again, it's the visual thinking journal, but on a much, much bigger space. And that just really frees my brain up. And it's so superior to, for me, sitting there, staring at a doc and being like, "Why can't I organize my thoughts? This is in English and I speak English fluently, and my job is to work with words. Why can't I figure this out?" And just to realize that sometimes your brain needs to be organized in a different way. And the elite level version of this is putting post-its on the giant post-it, and that's how you organize things and you move things around. So, that's another thing that keeps my brain organized. I think the thing that is most important for me to keep organized and also hardest to organize isn't external to me, it's in my mind, because things can just get a little bit chaotic in there. And so these are all ways that I sort of keep my shit together and make it so that I'm able to actually think things through. But I do have one other thing I do that is kind of an external thing, which is that my iPhone used to be a place of just complete chaos with apps everywhere, and I would find it really stressful. But recently, well, not that recently, but sometime in the last few updates of the operating system, they made it possible to put apps into different folders to categorize them, and to also move them onto different screens and stuff like that. And my phone, there's nothing on my home screen except for the camera and the settings. And then everything else is in folders elsewhere. And it's nice to look at something that's not cluttered. And then, the other thing that I do, which, I think it's the fastest way to open an app, but maybe it just is for the way I use the phone, but I search for the app as opposed to finding it and finding the folder it's in. Is that what you do, Rachel?
Rachel: I do a mix of both. I have more on my home screen and I have muscle memory for those things. Even within folders, I'm just like, Google drive is in this folder, it's two strokes away. So, for the things that are the 20 apps I use the most, I don't, but everything else I search for. And I feel like it's another tip that, a recent update now it's easier to search, too. Two swipes and then you're there. But even before, I found it much... it was really helpful. Like, an app I rarely use and I don't even know if I still have it? I'm searching for it.
Sally: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That's what I do. And that has definitely made me feel less... I just remember early on when there was kind of a period of time where there were way, way, way more apps, but it was before you could really organize them, it was before there were folders. I would feel increasingly stressed out looking at my phone. And now it's like they've just given us a way to make things stay organized, stay clean. And I think that a lot of what we've talked about with organization today is just visually things looking like there's a system. And I think that is kind of the bottom line for me, at least with a lot of... The system of organization doesn't even have to be that deep. On my iPhone it's just like, there's a folder for things related to groceries. There's a folder for things related to banking. it's not the deepest system, but it's just enough to make it so that things are usable and I don't start breathing rapidly when I look at my phone.
Rachel: [Laughs] I think that's right. I think the visual aspect of this is important. And I think it does do a lot, but I think also with anything on your computer or your phone, the visual is the thing in a lot of ways. So it's really helpful to be able to see at a glance, when I'm looking at my email, I'm looking at it. So, I want to be able to tell at a glance that it's organized and you kind of have to put that stuff in place yourself.
Sally: Hundred percent. I think that kind of does it for what we wanted to talk about, but we should ask listeners: if you have any organizational tips, hacks, pro tips, things you do, whether they're having to do with your phone or your computer or your office or your home, anywhere, your car, whatever. Your bag, that's another one. You should totally let us know your tips. You can write in at email@example.com.
Rachel: I would love to actually -- as we talked about this, I was like, we can do a whole other episode on this, because I'm remembering more things that I'm realizing have been helpful that I recommend, or things I don't even realize that I'm doing that are really useful. I'm going to send you a screenshot of my Google calendar later.
Sally: Oh, shit.
Rachel: If you want to see an aesthetically pleasing thing.
Sally: That's going to rock my world. I can't wait.
Rachel: I think the secret to all of this is you can put emojis in a lot more places than you think you can. And it really brightens things up. Also, I was reminded as we were sitting here about the system we have in place for doing our show notes or the table of contents in Google Docs, which I feel like it took a little while for you to master it, and now you understand why it's so special, and that's another one then.
Sally: Yeah. Let me tell you, learning how to do that, it reminded me of trying to teach my grandpa how to use a mouse. He had never used a computer before and he was just looking at the mouse and he was just like, I don't conceptually even understand the relationship that this object has to what I'm looking at on the screen. And that's how I felt with putting the headings in to make chapters in the Google doc. I couldn't, I was like, "I don't understand the relationship between the things I click on and it being done." It took me so long. It was episode 19.
Sally: But now I get it. It's amazing. It's also really simple. I think I had a mental block, but yeah. I mean, there are those little sneaky things that I think we do and kind of don't even realize.
Rachel: Yeah. Well, we should definitely do more of this. In the meantime, definitely send us your tips, your suggestions, and we'd love to hear them. We'll maybe do a second episode and feature just some people's tips in as a kickoff.
Sally: We absolutely should do that.
Rachel: All right, Sally. Do you have a nice thing to end on today?
Sally: I do. I just want to mention, I've been rewatching The Good Place. Which, when I first watched it, I really liked the first season, and then for the rest of it, I was like, "Eh, whatever, it's cute." I really lost interest. I didn't even watch the fourth season but I'm revisiting it, and it feels very relevant for the pandemic. And the reason is that what the show is about without really spoiling anything, is really about what it means to be a good person. And the show grapples with this in lots of different ways, sometimes in a more serious way, other times in a light funny way. But one of the phrases that comes up again and again is the idea of what we owe to each other. And it kind of becomes a guiding light for the characters in the show to sort of, in a given situation, what should I do? Think about what we owe to each other and that kind of guides you. And that has felt incredibly profound to me during the pandemic in a way that it just didn't resonate in the same way before. When I think about people getting together, there's a huge gaming convention going on right now. It's indoors. They are requiring masks, but not requiring vaccinations. And it's like, if you're trying to figure out, should I go? Is that the right thing to do? You can sort of think about, what do I owe to other people? And for me, one thing I owe to other people is to not be part of spreading the pandemic. And I also owe it to people who are more vulnerable to serious cases of COVID, to do my part to make this end as quickly as possible. That is a thing I owe to others. And that has felt really profound. Not even just in terms of figuring out what should I do? But like, Rachel, you and I think over the last year and a half have had a lot of conversations about what is it okay to do? What is it not okay to do? And not just in terms of our own safety, but what is unethical? What should people feel embarrassed and ashamed of doing? Stuff like that. And part of that comes from, for me, a place of intense anger for people being selfish. But it also comes from a place of wanting to really understand in a meaningful way what are we supposed to do? What is the right thing? And for me, I've really been thinking about how much of it comes down to what we owe to each other. That has just been kind of ringing in my ears a lot. And so my nice thing to end on is just the concept of what we owe to each other.
Rachel: I think that's great. I think that you're so right, that that is a thing that's been coming up again and again in the pandemic, or it's not coming up enough in the pandemic, and it's not really the focus of how we're thinking about things. But as you and I often say to each other, we live in a society, why are people behaving this way? Why are we acting like it doesn't matter what we do, that our actions don't have consequences? And I think that's a really helpful framework when making lots of different decisions. What do we owe each other? And to me, the answer is quite a bit. But it's really hard to do that sometimes, particularly in a system that's not built for that. The system in the US anyway is just like, we owe each other nothing, everyone out for themselves. And so it can be really hard and it falls on the individual to make those decisions. And it sucks, but it's also like, well, what other choice do we have? You can't do it all the time, you can't do it perfectly, but I do think it's a good guiding light to try to do it as much as possible.
Sally: Exactly. Yeah, absolutely. So, Rachel, what is your nice thing to end on?
Rachel: My nice thing to end on is Lil Nas X who dropped a new video this morning as we were discussing a little bit. Because I woke up and saw that and was like, "Well, this is amazing." This could have also been my vibe check. The vibe is Lil Nas X. It's this new video. It's got two themes, one is gay football, and the other is Brokeback Mountain. And it's a great song. I love him, I think he's so great. He's so young and fun and gay and black unapologetically. And there's so much joy in everything he does, and I'm just so excited that there's a new video out, and it looks great.
Sally: You texted me and you're like, if you can watch this before we record, I'm going to talk about it. And I watched it, and then we had an effusive conversation back and forth because it's so fucking good. I would diminish it by trying to describe with my words how good it is on so many levels. So we'll link to it in the show notes.
Rachel: We'll also link to a really great New York Times magazine profile of Lil Nas X. It was written at the beginning of the summer by Jasmine Hughes, which if you're not really familiar with him is a really good introduction to who he is, what he's about, how he became famous, why his music matters. And it's also very effusive. It was on the cover of the magazine that weekend, and I think "Hot Boy Summer" was the headline on the cover. And I just feel that's the spirit of this piece, that's the spirit of his music. And even though the Hot Girl and Hot Boy Summer is a) now ending and b) kind of was cut short, I think that he still brings that joy and that sense of excitement. And just being young and hot, I think there's just something fun about watching somebody be like, "Yeah. Look at me. I'm young and I'm hot. And I'm going to live my best life." That is just really energizing and exciting to see.
Sally: Yeah. His sense of self is, speaking of things that are aspirational.
Rachel: [Laughs] Yeah.
Sally: Jesus Christ. I mean, definitely watch the video. The profile -- I usually don't like celebrity profiles because I find them to be usually really weirdly fawning, and also someone is always like, "She's petite." They're describing their physicality in a weird objectifying way, and they don't really offer anything. And I think this profile offers everything. It's so good. It's the opposite of every bad profile. You really get a sense of him as a person and as a celebrity. And it's just really good. It's really worth reading.
Rachel: Amazing. Well, I think that does it for us today.
Sally: It does do it. Thank you for listening to this episode of Oh I Like That. Please rate us and review us wherever you listen to podcasts.
Rachel: You can follow us on Twitter @ohilikethatpod or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow the two of us on Twitter. I'm @the_rewm and Sally is @sallyt.
Sally: Oh I Like That is produced by Rachel and Sally and edited by Lucas. Amber Seger, who is @rocketorca on social media, designed our logo.