Lives of the organised: Colin Ellis gets technical about organisation

Being organised is as natural as breathing… to a very small group of people that the rest of society usually envies. How do they manage two jobs, a family and a volunteer position on the kids’ school board? How do they keep their desk so clean? Work Style probes three super organised people to find out just how they do it. Colin Ellis was the first to spill his secrets to staying organised. 

Project management consultant Colin Ellis leads a super organised life.

Digital Post-its through OneNote and the Google suite are Colin Ellis’ organisation weapons of choice. As a self-employed project management consultant, he swears by the level of connectivity that technology provides his business. “Everything that I do is held in Google Drive,” Colin says. “Because of the nature of my work, I need to get [access] to [my files] wherever I am.”

Colin’s consultancy practice often requires him to work at clients’ offices, than his own. He regularly travels around his hometown, Melbourne, and interstate to help businesses improve their project management systems. When he is in Melbourne, he admits finding more inspiration to work effectively at coffee shops than at his quiet home office. So having the flexibility to access his work, calendars and to-do lists anywhere, anytime and on any device is very important to him.

He considers his Samsung Note, Microsoft tablet and laptop to be his most important business assets. With these, he writes ideas and reminders in his Samsung Note, prioritises all his tasks in OneNote and manages his calendar in Google across all three devices. Colin also links his Gmail with email management tool Boomerang to keep on top of the never-ending email stream. Bookmarking app Pocket allows him to save articles and papers to read at a more convenient time. “I make sure I have the same apps across all my [devices] – that way I can be as organised as possible.”

He believes being super organised is an absolutely necessary skill to be successful in the project management industry, “It’s not acceptable in my profession to not know where you are [at]. You have to maintain that focus throughout the week.”

And his workweek technically starts on a Sunday. It’s the time he dedicates each week to prioritise work tasks for the week ahead, working out how his work schedule fits in with his family’s needs. He also uses Sundays to write articles for his website or one of many online magazines to which he contributes, like CIO magazine.

But the most important part of his Sunday routine is sitting with his wife to work through their family’s schedules for the week, so he can be at the important events. “My wife and I use a shared Google calendar so that we keep track [of our] work and family commitments.” Colin finds this helps him to keep his family as his number one priority, while allowing his family to keep track of his demanding work commitments (including interstate travel). “Then everyone knows where I am, including me.”

By the time he rises at 5.30am on a Monday, Colin knows exactly what his week will look like and he’s ready to work. “I get up early in the morning to do some work before the children are up. Then I have brekky with them before I start my [official] work day.”

Colin says one of the most inefficient processes businesses still follow is being bound to paper. “I can’t believe that tablets have been mainstream for at least four or five years and people [within businesses] still write copious notes in notebooks.” He believes training employees to do everything with technology – in favour of using pen and paper to take notes before transposing everything to a computer or tablet – could reduce so many business inefficiencies. “Businesses should invest [more] in tech.”