office suppliesStaying on task each day is a challenge for most people. Some struggle with project management, while others just can’t stay organized. Either way, there’s always room to simplify and streamline work and life.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend money on costly self-help systems or learn a complex electronic calendaring system. One of the best tools for productivity are trusty Post-It Notes. Sticky notes – that’s right – can be a powerful device for making your days more fruitful, breaking down complex tasks into more manageable pieces, and streamlining organization in your life or at the office.

  1. Simplify Your To-Do Lists

To-do lists can quickly become cumbersome, growing into unmanageable pages-long credos. Using Post-It Notes, you can downsize those long lists and make them more actionable. Author Mark Forster highlighted the strategy in his book “Do It Tomorrow.” When you jot a list down on a piece of paper, or use a digital app, the list, according to Forster, is an “open” list, meaning items can be added to it. This creates a problem – it diminishes your sense of accomplishment. Progress seems unattainable.

With a sticky note, there’s not enough room to add new to-dos; it’s a “closed” list. Each day, create a pared-down list of items that you need to accomplish. The most critical tasks should be at the top, followed by less critical items in descending order. The key is to make each list feasible – don’t pack the Post-It with dozens of tiny scribbled to-dos. When a new task comes up throughout the day, add that to a reserved sticky note for tomorrow, or to your master list. In turn, your daily lists will become more manageable, you’ll feel like you’re making progress, and items won’t stack up uncontrollably.

  1. Streamline Multitasking

Here’s the next step to take maximizing your list-making potential. Create a new Post-It Note for every project you have on your plate. Write the project title at the top, and then jot down the various tasks that need to be completed to finish that task. Then, on your handy daily list (mentioned above) you can add various steps from each of your projects. In no time, your multitasking skills will be off the charts.

  1. Visualize Your Organization

You’ve probably heard of Pinterest, the insanely popular social bookmarking tool, and it’s a great tool for organizing cool stuff you find online. Post-It Notes make work wonderfully easy for organizing offline ideas, wants, tasks, etc.

Like Pinterest, create boards in a notebook or on sheets of paper that relate to important things in your life, i.e. Family, Home, Friends, Hobbies, and Work. Then, you can create “pins” for each board using Post-It Notes. You can add whatever you like, including upcoming events, reminders, ideas, or tasks. Ultimately, you’ll be able to quickly visualize important ideas and tasks related to various areas of your life.

  1. Map Your Progress

With Post It Notes, you can easily map the project lifecycle for dozens of tasks.  On a whiteboard or a sheet of paper, add columns in the workflow process. For a writer, the columns might say “ideas,” “in research,” “in writing,” “in editing,” and “published.” For each task, a Post-It Note would be created, which, for the writer, would be the title of each article. Then, as each article moves through the process, the Post-It Note would move to the various columns, until ultimately, the sticky note arrives in the “published” column.

This mapping technique is widely used in industry, including by major corporations like Toyota. It’s based on a Japanese project management philosophy called Kanban, and it can be used across an entire organization to organize and optimize workflow. But it can quickly be adapted for just about any area of your life that needs organizing: a job search, wedding planning, weekly household chores, etc.

Getting organized and maximizing productivity is a challenge for anyone. Remember, you eat an elephant one bite at a time, and organizing projects is the same way. Break down the processes of the complex tasks and organize them into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Matthew Davis is an associate of Stik2It, a custom Post-It Note design company.