How to Organize Your Life with 1 Sheet of Paper

By: Ryan Black | Associate Chair, School of Media

October 26, 2017

Being organized is the key to success in the creative and applied arts. We work on teams, and on complex projects with many moving parts. I keep a piece of paper in my right front pocket titled, “Things I get to do!” This simple sheet of 8.5 x 11 has helped keep album production on track, performances and shows come to fruition, business deals get done, and recordings get broadcast. It works for me and maybe it will work for you!   

Ryan Black The Sheet Method

The Sheet is a sheet of paper tucked in my pocket each day.

I write on it all of the small tasks that I need to get done. Not necessarily done today, but done at some point in the near future, day, week or month. The title, “Things I get to do!” puts quite a different spin on the dozens of tasks, distractions, emails, phone calls, patch window, get ink for printer, set up Looper in Ableton Live, mixing of tracks, writing out lead sheets for my band, holiday gift ideas, (yes, these are all on the current sheet) that slowly fill up The Sheet each week.

The Sheet Method serves two primary purposes:

First, it allows me to write down distractions, so that they do not pull attention away from the tasks at hand. This means that phone calls that can be made while grabbing lunch, or sitting in traffic, aren’t made while I should be mixing or hanging out with family. Things like that.

Secondly, it means that things that need to get done, get done. When it’s written down the task is not floating around in my head, to be forgotten or shoved around when another more inflated, muscular, testosterone player comes over to the bench. It’s still there, maybe at the end of the bench, but not forgotten.

If things don’t need to be on the list, they don’t make it onto next week’s list. “Clean house for Thanksgiving,” is not on the list for the 2nd week of December, even if it didn’t get completed.

The Sheet Method uses one little piece of paper, but has huge impact on my life, giving direction and motivation to every day while helping clarify priorities, hone the long-term vision and complete projects that make every day worth the effort.  

Ryan Black is the Assistant Program Chair of The School of Media at The Illinois Institute of Art—Schaumburg. He is a composer, audio engineer, musician, and teacher, and co-founder of REB Records, a small record label committed to making a difference through creative work. Visit his website at to learn more about his process in engineering and production, which encompasses everything from full orchestra to pop production, songwriting, and performing.

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By: Ryan Black | Associate Chair, School of Media

October 26, 2017

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