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My Personal Organization System for Productivity & Time Management

I constantly get people that ask me “Noah, how do you stay organized?”

This is also one of my favorite questions to ask when I interview someone as it speaks volumes on how a person lives their life.

Treo-650I must admit, my most productive and organized period in life was when I relied on my Treo 650. Most of you youngins have NO idea about dat life =)

Realize though, what works for me, may not work for you.

Everyone has their own way of staying organized:

  • My good buddy Neville writes 3 goals on a big piece of paper and then posts them online.
  • My business partner Chad doesn’t ever write down anything. Besides having a mind like the T-1000 (Terminator super computer), he just always remembers what to do. No f’ing clue how but he does it.
  • Anton, my good friend and biz buddy, used to use his moleskin on the daily but now uses a virtual list with Todoist.

I want to emphasize a few things before I show you my system.

1- No organizational system or software will fix you being a lazy ass. People buy millions of dollars of productivity books (they are always top 100 on Amazon), software, and coaching seminars, but at the end of the day YOU STILL HAVE TO DO WORK.

2- What works for me or Nev or Chad will not work for you. It’s up to you to figure out what gets you the maximum output.

Note: A favorite book about maximizing your output and engagement are Ultimate Sales Machine and Power of Full Engagement. Highly recommended.

Over the years in iterating on my own organization system, I’ve recognized a few things that have helped me maximize my output relative to time:

1- Stay humble so you aren’t too arrogant to try out something new.

2- Be open to recognizing what is actually working, so you can do more of that.

3- Ruthlessly kill any organization system that doesn’t actually help you.

That last one is the hardest of them all. Read it outloud again.

Ruthlessly kill any organization system that doesn’t actually help you.

It’s harder than it sounds. It’s the things you do daily, weekly or yearly that aren’t serving you but you still haven’t cut out of your life.

Now you should be in the right mindset Without further ado how I personally stay organized.

My life is based on Google Calendar. Almost everything I do is scheduled and planned ahead of time.

Here’s a picture of a typical week.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 10.45.53 AM

A few key things that help me stay productive:

1- I block out time for activities AHEAD of time. I do this on Sunday based on the things I want to get done for the week.

2- I put things on auto-repeating so it’s in my calendar. Notice handstand practice and gym life. E’ry day.

3- I use different colors for things cause colors are purdy.

4- I block out time on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for studying whatever I want and for an activity, because every time I do those I get great ideas and feel great.

5- I try to put things others are responsible for or I expect in calendar so I can get it out of my head and not have to remember it like “Brushy report” or doing Monday morning business operations.

6- One HUGE thing is on Sundays, I look at all the things in the upcoming week I DON’T want to do and remove them. Poof. Gone. It’s your life. One time. Remove anything religiously that does not help towards your main goals.

The second cornerstone of my organization system are my weekly check-ins.

I do this with anyone crucial to the Sumo company and with Adam Gilbert, which we do every Sunday.

For my Sunday check-ins, I HIGHLY recommend you get an accountability partner. Adam’s mine, don’t steal!

First thing I do is review the previous weeks categories. I email Adam on Sunday night and cc This will return my original email to my inbox on Sunday so I can do a recap of what I did or did not do. I’ll tell Adam what I did or didn’t do.

Then what I do is update for the upcoming week, a text doc that is in Dropbox called today.txt. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 10.55.34 AM

I break out my upcoming week in 3 categories: work, work-out (health) and personal. It’s up to you to determine what a great week looks like. Don’t add more than 3 to each category. I don’t buy into doing the hardest thing first. Sometimes you just need an easy win. Find what works for you but the main thing I do is not to list 500 things for the week. That’ll be overwhelming and likely not super meaningful in the results.

I’ll fill in the upcoming week and email that to Adam with the

Then I block out times for those activities in Google Calendar.

Okay, you are set for the week, but do you organize on a longer-term scale?

I break my organization into short, medium and long.
Short term – Anything done < 1 month

I use Remember The Milk for my basic check list. Why? Cause it’s stupid simple, I like having desktop, mobile, offline access and they were an early AppSumo partner. #loyalty There are literally 100s of To-do apps. Find the one that works for you.

I have a whiteboard on my wall, I use it for things I want to get done that week, grocery list, my main theme of the year (it’s Fierce) and letting my gf draw all over it. I like seeing themes and activities repeatedly. Helps me remember to get things done.

2016-03-09 11.02.31

During the day, I use a moleskine. I have it next to my desk. My MOST productive days are when I list out 3 things I want to get done in the moleskine BEFORE I open my laptop. Once the computer opens up, the brain turns off. Seriously. Think about it. I’ll also list some stupid shit on there like go to gym or talk to someone I already have scheduled. I want to feel progress and the little wins make me feel goooooood.

2016-03-14 17.57.26

The last thing on my short term stuff is using Have you ever gone back-n-forth trying to coordinate a meeting? Read this article by Paul Graham about maker vs manager’s schedule. The key thing that’s stuck with me is if you are in sales, you take the mtgs you can, when you can. But otherwise you need to structure your time for minimizing distractions and getting shit done.

So if someone wants to meet, I send them my link and I only allow 15 minute blocks to chat on Tues and Thur and only in the afternoon. Mornings and super late nights are my sweet spot and I protect them.
Medium Term – 1 month to 1 year

In the beginning of the year I write out my bucket list for the year. Same 3 categories as above: work, work-out and personal. I’ll save that list and put it on a sticky so I ALWAYS see it daily when I open my laptop.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 11.08.54 AM

I use Stickies (free and built into Mac) to have my yearly goals visible every day. I also add positive affirmations like the Drake quote to them:

“I signed up for greatness. This comes with it.” [click to tweet]

Another medium system I use is Notes on my iPhone and make sure they are synced to gmail as such:

2016-03-10 09.26.46

In here I’ll put rap lyrics for my music (yes!), business ideas from a lunch meeting, short term passcodes, my jokes list, new workout program ideas (Synthesis) and other more temporary thoughts I’ll transfer somewhere else or delete.

Another tool I’ve used for organizing is BetterSnapTool. Ever had a live chat with customer support but you want another screen open? BST makes it stupid easy for your to put 2 screens side by side. As well, makes it easy to make a window take up the whole screen just using your keyboard. Time saver!

I’ve gone back and forth but ultimately having 2 monitors makes me more productive. Imagine having 2 keyboards? It’s like that. Do it.
Longer Term

For anything I just want to brain dump I use Some of my favorite use cases are my bank information (router / account #), people in cities so I can look up who to hang with when I travel, recipes, passport photo, license info, workouts and other non-critical brain dump info go in Evernote.

For writing articles, journaling and thinking through things are written in MacJournal. I break things out by journal categories. I have OkDork articles, Sumo related articles, book reports, documenting support, etc.

Many times I’ll go into Focused Editing mode which helps me not get distracted and finish the writing I blocked out time to do. For every article I write publicly I’ll take it from MJ and move it to a Google Doc for group editing.


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.19.49 AM

So that’s how I help run AppSumo, SumoMe, and get my personal things done.

At the end of the day, it all comes back to you. Find the organization system that works for you.

Stay organized,
Noah “tacos” Kagan

Ps. How do you stay organized? Leave a comment and I’ll send 2 people my favorite books on organization.

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135 responses to “My Personal Organization System for Productivity & Time Management”

February 2, 2021 at 2:14 pm

I don’t stay organized! That’s why I’m reading your article and determining what tips I should implement. Thank you!

Manda Hickey
April 15, 2020 at 8:53 am

I am still trying to get organised which is why I came looking for you. ?

March 21, 2019 at 3:40 pm

I can almost hear your literal voice, your writing truly gets the reader to know you without actually meeting you. I love your tips! Thanks for hitting that lazy point, many people don’t realize that. As a budding blogger I am inspired.

Chris O
September 21, 2018 at 9:43 pm

I Love it. This is great!

Lisa R.
April 20, 2018 at 6:19 pm

One thing I’ve done for almost 5 decades is keep an index card file with a card for everyone I interact with professionally. I date every entry, note whom (in the family) I’ve spoken to and a few words that cover what we spoke about. Very much hoping to receive any material on organization!! Thanks!

Stormy Knight
April 4, 2018 at 10:19 am

I ended up coming to the calendar method through close to the same route as you did. There is simply a limitation on how much can be accomplished in a day and the calendar method makes that abundantly clear. Thanks for the fine points you bring up. I will be fine tuning my system later today. 😉

March 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm

This is really helpful. I appreciate your candid insight. Thanks!

David Hestrin
December 22, 2017 at 6:13 am

I haven’t totally stayed organized, but I have some idea to continually become more and more organized. Decrease time spent doing things that matter less. Focus more on what matters. Not accumulate more stuff. Give things away. Set up a calendar. Take notes. Write to do lists and dream goals. Write down dreams in the morning and meditate.

cris chico
November 27, 2017 at 10:30 pm

I’m a big fan of the calendar … i like color coding all money making activities GREEN.. a week without lots of GREEN is a bad week

September 5, 2018 at 5:33 am

Cool thought

April 23, 2017 at 9:16 am

In all seriousness I don’t. I can’t. Been struggling with this for ages.
Tried it all. Reading it all. Using it all. Not using it all too..

Doesn’t it all come down to those goals. And so how can you get organised if you can’t commit to goals? You can’t…
You can try and stick to it – but you’ll always be doubting and, distracting yourself. I guess accountability would be nice…

(Thanks for your shares mate.
Still appreciate em, even when they drive me nuts)

March 2, 2020 at 11:28 am

hey! ii’m the same and finally am seeking help from an “executive functioning” coach.

they help people who’s brains may be challenged with adult ADHD, dyslexia, ex function disorder… these could be issues within depression or possibly on their own and cause depression.

anyway not to label myself or others but knowing there is such a thing as a compromised executive function, which I didn’t even know what that was ha ha Ha… helps me to see that there are specific challenges of why I could never get systems in place

now I can get help after living all my life with this. I definitely outgrew the title “lazy“… as i struggled wondering why i have so many hopes and goals but can not get shit together.

Yuko Elvers
March 9, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Mehr davon bitte

Christiaan Oosterveen
January 2, 2017 at 6:29 am

I do a weekly review where I just ask myself one question: Did I live my life on my own terms? How much fun did I have?
Every week I schedule at least one action or daily habit for: Finance, Business, Health, Friends&Family, Romance, Contribution to community, Personal environment and Personal Development.

Next to this I am scaling my Accountability App big time! Love to support other people by achieving their goals. Growth is the best thing nature has created and I love to facilitate this!

Olga Convey
December 26, 2016 at 12:48 am

Terrific wisdom, Noah. Thank you for sharing. My tools to productivity: 1) open each email just once. Either reply to it, right away. Or delete it. I reserve a right to save few email for a later follow up if they require more thought or additional research, but only reserve this for 5-10% of incoming emails. I place them in a special folder and go though all of them at the end of the week. 2) Serb only 3-4 goals per day. Any more and I feel like a failure if I don’t finish them. 3) Save morning time for more creative tasks. That is when my brain works the best. 4) Do reserve few hours a week for learning and reading. Thinking of development as part of a job helps allocate time for it. 5) Finally, at the end of each week, perform sober self reflection of what worked and what needs improvement next week. This helps me do things differently (and often better) next time.

Mansal Denton
September 20, 2016 at 7:39 am

Love the system. I use a little notecard instead of a moleskin, but similar concept. I used to use a whiteboard, but it got difficult to take with me etc. Now I have an index card and literally take it with me everywhere. Fierce, boyo!

Will Robins
August 3, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Time of Your Life by Anthony Robbins. Check it out during your daily learning. Worth it 1,00,000 times over. It is a bit long (wish he would reformat and condense) but it is one of the best “fix your stinking thinking” listen/reads ever. Productivity is not being busy. You want Maximum Effect for Minimum Dose. That doesn’t mean minimum effort, it means 1 task that exceeds all other task. Check it out and let me know what you think.

July 27, 2016 at 5:08 am

I work on 3 projects a quarter. The last week of a quarter I decide what I will work on the next quarter. It’s OK, to generate new ideas, to do a brain dump in a Google Doc, even spend an hour or two doing research, but no actual WORK.

russell hamilton
April 21, 2016 at 11:58 am

Excellent reading

Three things:
1. You are correct. “You can’t be a lazy Fuck”
2. I use a full sheet of paper to note main goals and a few stupid to do items. bring mom diapers and flowers
3. I use an online organizer.
Adding-become proficient at google calendar
email accountability partner

Joel Le Gendre
April 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Excellent post Noah, this was really encouraging and enlightening to me right in this very moment and season of life. Also a breath of fresh air that you were able to break it down to simple ideas and gave your own personal examples and descriptions to illustrate the real.

Bobby Huang
April 4, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Ohhh That Bribe – Great system, the calendar implementation requires discipline of making the calendar our boss, which I’m 90% there!

How I Finally Am Organized:

I create systems and implement them, I tweak them and make them into a habit. I take great ideas (like yours) and put them into my system.

Here is the system:

The goal of the system is to reduce burden of remembering things, and assigning times and prioritizing things in advance (similar to Noah).

Use Fantastical 2 because it shows me a calendar of my “Tasks” in reminders.

Use Siri and Reminders to track all of my To-Dos that are short notice and easily create reminders without having to type and while driving.

Set a time or location based reminders so I know what to do and when.

I set recurring reminders for stuff like working out, planning out emails, house tasks,

Using Rocket Fuel / Traction, I plan out my business in 10 year, 3 year, 1 year, quarterly and weekly.

Every week I have a level 10 meeting with key players for business #s and what needs to happen to reach our goals and what held us back and what we could do better. My week/month/quarter are all determined in these meetings and based upon laid out goals from my project management methodology.

I use GTD for in Trello for bigger project implementation & LogFrame to plan out projects (Strategic Project Management Made Simple).

To implement everything and make sure business happens. I do my “The One Thing” every morning from 6am to 10am.

Four hours of focused everyday, a big RED X when I complete it. It’s all about habits and systems and making things work!

eli white
March 23, 2016 at 9:22 pm

hey there,

i took the challenge and scratched up a whole article in response… though its posted it on my blog as i have a load of pics & demos

check it out here

hope you consider me for the prizes xx

many thanks

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