12 Months Organized a Quarter at a Time

Read about my cousin Janna's great system for staying on top of projects all year long.

January is National Get Organized month….but I’ll bet you have something that needs to be taken care of every month of the year. By splitting the year into quarters, you can rest assured that you will make every monthly deadline and do it with ease.

For the past 15 years I have made the bulk of my living as a photostylist and producer for catalogs, magazines and advertising campaigns. So come January I’m actually thinking April, May and June. By Valentine’s Day I’ll be gearing up for July and summer-themed shoots. Come spring, I’m working on the holidays and spend most of my summer thinking ‘Winter Wonderland’ and by fall, it’s spring colors and ideas that cover my desk. The sheer nature of the business requires not only lots of organization and coordination, it requires me to think at least 3 or 6 months or even a whole year ahead!

So, years ago I started to organize not only my work calendar this way but also my personal one. By thinking ahead to what needs to be done at least three months ahead assures me that I will be prepared.

Starting in January I’m thinking about the second quarter of the year, April, May and June. The big item for all of us is taxes! So, right after I’ve wrapped and stowed the last of the ornaments, I’m up to the office with that April 15 deadline at the top of my “to do” list.

Here’s how I begin to organize my year:  I start with the givens and put them at the top of my monthly list. Next, I add things that I want to accomplish by the end of every month, along with family obligations, vacations etc. And, like you I have my daily schedule. As a freelancer, it changes a lot so being flexible and prioritizing is key.

For example:


January = April EASTER (4th), TAXES (15th)

  • Organize, file and prepare for tax season
  • Plus:
  • Organize linen closet
  • Clean out clothes closet
  • Look for gifts for April birthdays (2)

February = May MOTHER’S DAY(9th), MEMORIAL DAY (31st)

  • Find Mother’s Day gifts (3)
  • Plus:
  • Valentine’s Day dinner
  • President’s Day Weekend
  • Clean and organize kitchen pantry
  • Buy May birthday cards/gifts (2)

March = June FATHER’S DAY (20th)

  • Find Father’s Day gift
  • Plus:
  • Spring cleaning/ kitchen
  • Buy June birthday gifts and cards (3)



  • Plus:
  • 3 family birthdays (buy gifts)
  • Clean and reorganize garage
  • Garden clean-up


  • Make reservations
  • Plus:
  • 1 birthday (look for gift)
  • Pick up daughter from college
  • Plant containers and window boxes


  • Make reservations/buy tickets
  • Plus:
  • 2 birthdays (buy gifts)
  • Garden!

You get the picture by now I’m sure. I’ll also add these items to accomplish monthly to my third and fourth quarters;

July: Think about back to school

August: Decide on and organize holiday make ahead gifts

September: Garden clean-up, organize shed

October: Organize for the upcoming holidays

November: Finish holiday shopping, work on cards


  • Week 1: Assemble “quick gifts”
  • Week 2: Mail gifts and cards
  • Weeks 3 – 4: Sit back, relax and enjoy

All too soon another year will be gone. If you adapt a quarterly calendar system and organize month-to-month by this time next year none of your “to-do” list will be undone.