The Organized Diaries: Sara Neely

Sara is the Editor of Study on Style, the fashion editor at Poppy Magazine, and a freelance stylist and consultant.  Sara was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and was amazingly candid and open.  Take a peek inside Sara’s day-to-day world …

Take us through a busy day in the life of a Blogger/Editor/Stylist/Business Woman.

I have so many different jobs- some that pay, some that don’t- some that are similar, others that are completely unrelated- some that have daily deadlines, others with monthly deadlines. I’m not just a Blogger, I’m also the Fashion Editor of Poppy Magazine, a Freelance Writer and Stylist, and a Web Consultant. The common denominator of all my jobs is that I work entirely from home- an aspect that requires extra focus and structure. I’ve had to become creative and more of an entrepreneur in the last few years because I have agoraphobia (a fear of crowds that often leaves me housebound.) I divide my work up for each month as far in advance as possible so I’m aware of my monthly deadlines and can plan an even daily workload. I always start my day with jobs with deadlines for other people; in other words, my blog is always the last thing I work on. I also try to start my day or week with jobs that pay, primarily my Freelance and Consulting work, just in case something unexpected happens later in the week. Then I fill in my day with jobs with eminent deadlines. I try to cook dinner for my fiancé before he gets home (I’m not the best cook!) and spend some time with him before I work on my blog. He also works a second job from home consulting, so, sadly, we usually pass out side-by-side with our laptops.

What’s your go-to day-to-day planner of choice? Are you a pen-to-paper kind of girl or is it all technology for you

I spend a little too much time organizing my life! I practically have to schedule time for scheduling! I use both pen-and-paper and technology; I have a day planner and monthly calendar so I can look at my schedule short-term and long-term. I also keep a to-do list in a Word document of my weekly tasks. To keep track of my tasks when I’m on the go I have Orchestra, an app on my iPhone, that syncs with my computer. Of course, I never actually leave the house without my planner!

What one tech accessory can you not live without?

There is no way I could accomplish any of my work without my laptop. It’s not the best laptop- it is affectionately referred to as “the craptop”- but it gets the job done. It may overheat, shut down, and need to be completely wiped and have Windows re-installed like every other month, but I’ve learned to back everything up on Dropbox, and a new laptop is not in the budget right now!

Is your organization more OCD or organized chaos?

My organization is entirely OCD- literally. I’ve had OCD (or CDO as some  people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder joke… because it’s in alphabetical order) since I was about 3-years-old, but was officially diagnosed when I was 13. Everything I own is color-coded, alphabetized, arranged by height, etc. I know people often refer to being organized as having OCD, but actually having OCD is extremely destructive. I have to plan extra time into my schedule because OCD often preoccupies more of my time than I can control. I try to avoid writing anything out on paper because I’ll write and re-write until everything looks perfect (an ideal which is actually unattainable.) Believe it or not, I never edit anything I write or type. I know that sounds crazy and ridiculous, but if I start editing my work, I’ll have an extremely hard time making myself stop once I notice once I’m doing. The problem is, once I starting doing something off-task like editing or cleaning a space before I begin working, I sort of zone out and may not notice for 5 or 6 hours. Like I said, having OCD is extremely destructive, and I often end up working late into the night (or all night) to try to make up for lost time and meet my deadlines.

How do you get and/or stay inspired?

It’s really easy for me to get inspired; thanks to Pinterest, I’m pretty sure I’ll never experience writer’s block or an inspirational drought. If I’m feeling really down or unfocused, I turn to other creative outlets like music for inspiration. I love to listen to music but I also play 5 instruments (piano, guitar, violin, viola, cello.) If I wasn’t so into fashion and writing (and didn’t have agoraphobia) I would definitely be a singer/musician. Another way I like to get inspired is by looking at a topic like fashion in a different context. For example, I’m in the process of planning my wedding for September 2013 right now, and looking at fashion and decor with my wedding in mind has completely re-inspired me!

How do you organize and keep all of your inspiration?

I’m obsessed with Pinterest! It’s such a great platform for organizing inspiration. I also keep a folder on my computer where I save inspirational photos; I’ve been doing this for years before I had a Pinterest account, so all of my images are organized into sub-folders almost like boards on Pinterest. I love to cut images out of magazines and make collages… I have a lot of fashion-themed collages!

Where do you get your best work done?

I get my best work done sitting in bed, but my fiancé, Jason, constantly yells at me for working in bed. He’s convinced that it’s impossible to work in bed and stay awake, but I’ve been doing it for years. I always did my homework in bed in school and college, so it feels uncomfortable and awkward for me to sit at a desk. I recently converted our 3rd bedroom into a home office, but it’s hard for me to get work done there because it’s also the room where everything “extra” ended up. Thanks to OCD, I have a hard time working in an environment where something as small as knowing that, behind it’s doors, the closet is a mess; “out of sight, out of mind” definitely does not apply for me!

Any advice for fellow creative ladies trying to achieve the balance between work, blogging, and reaching their goals?

The best advice I have is extremely ironic considering I have a perfectionist personality type that’s never satisfied. First of all, it’s important to actually have goals- long-term and short-term goals. You should have a clear point of view on what you blog about and why you blog. Defining your niche will keep you on topic; having focus will make it easier to come up with ideas for posts. Knowing why you blog is also important: do you blog for fun, are you trying to supplement income from another job, or are you trying to blog full time? Once you determine why you blog, you have to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. When you look at the statistics of bloggers that actually make a living from their blogs and the number of bloggers that exist, you have to face the facts: the odds of living solely off your blog aren’t good. Don’t stress yourself out over an expectation that isn’t realistic. My second piece of advice helps me get through everyday: learn to grade yourself on a curve. You can’t give 100% everyday; there will be days where  you’re tired, don’t get enough to eat, are stressed out from work, or all of the above… and more. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t post 7 days a week. You should always put your health, relationships, and sanity first.

[To learn more about The Organized Diaries Series – a look inside the organized (or not always so organized!) lives of our favorite creative types – bloggers, designers, event planners, artists, chefs, social media gurus, and beyond – check out the original post.]



    • Lexi

      I totally agree! And I loved that she shared so much about herself and her own struggles.

  1. I’ve learned that there’s no shame in being OCD. The bottom line is, if you meet me or work with me in any capacity, you’re probably going to find out… I’d rather get rid of the elephant in the room myself! OCD is so much more than being extremely organized. I have hundreds of stories of hilarious things I’ve done that I would never guess had to do with my OCD. One great example is that I get restless and move my furniture around all the time in the middle of the night. My fiance always wakes up before I do and gets so mad when he trips over the couch or something!

    What has helped me the most is figuring out how I can live productively and happily with what I have, educate others about OCD (we feel trivialized because it’s a common synonym for “extremely organized”… not even remotely true), and laugh at myself. It’s not like my OCD is going anywhere anyway!

  2. Excellent post. I also have OCD, but for little things like the way my laptop homescreen is setup, or what color highlighters I use in my planner. Sometimes I wish I had OCD for cleaning. My place would look a lot better.

Leave a Comment