Organize Your Life
Does it seem like there aren't enough hours in the day, or dollars in the bank? Is your car usually running on empty, and your trash can full? You’re suffering from a common affliction of being too busy — you have no time to spare, and no time to unwind. The good news is that there’s a cure: organization! Follow these simple steps below, and you’ll be enjoying regular bouts of relaxation and peace of mind.
Organizing Yourself Mentally
- Determine the cause of your lack of organization. Why do you feel cluttered? For some people, busy schedules get in the way, making organization difficult. For others, simply lack of motivation or know-how is the culprit. To start organizing your life, you need to acknowledge the cause and make a decision to change it.
- Consider what needs to be organized. Although it’s easy to say “everything,” chances are there are specific areas in your life that have more clutter than others. Where are you the most disorganized? Consider your skills in making plans, cleaning house, or running errands. Which of these is the most stressful for you to accomplish? Remember to consider your work life, friendships, and general thought processes as well.
- If you do think that everything in your life needs to be organized choose one thing to focus on. Than move on to another thing.
- Fill out a calendar. If you have a busy schedule (or even if you don’t!) purchase or make a solid calendar and place it somewhere you will see it on a regular basis. This could be near your keys, on the fridge or in your home office. Take a few minutes to fill out the entire calendar with important dates and events coming up.
- Avoid filling out common activities that will clutter your calendar, but things that you have firm plans to actually do. This could include classes, your work schedule, doctors appointments, and major events such as weddings and funerals.
- Review your filled-out calendar and look at your typical weekly schedule. When are your breaks? Do you have short periods of time between events that you can use to your benefit? When are you busiest?
- Get a good planner. The step up from the calendar is the handheld planner; an ultra organised list of daily activities. Although the thought of a planner may seem silly, it is consistently used by organised people. Whenever you create plans for an event, are assigned a project for work or school, or need to keep track of tasks and errands, mark them in your planner.
- Try color-coding your planner to organize it even further. Use a single color to mark like events (such as homework or trips to the store) and some colors to mark important events (like using red to show something that must be done on time).
- Carry your planner with you everywhere. It does you no good to have a planner but then leave it at home or laying under a pile of things. In order to stay organised, keep it in your purse, your car, on your desk, somewhere that you will remember to grab it.
- Create a to-do list. Sure, a to-do list sounds oddly similar to using a planner to schedule your days. However, think of your to-do list as breaking down your day into even smaller, more manageable pieces. Don’t list major, vague projects (such as clean the house or workout more). Give yourself some clear direction with short, easy tasks (like clean the kitchen, scrub the toilets, and run one mile).
- Add little check boxes next to each task, even if it seems silly. Ticking off the boxes as you work through your day will give you a visual reminder of your hard work, and leave you feeling fulfilled and proud of your work.
- Keep your to-do list someplace you will see it often, to remind you of the tasks you have to accomplish. You may even consider keeping it in your planner.
- Finish the biggest projects on your to do list before getting to smaller ones. For example, finish “scrub the fridge” before “sort the mail” to give you momentum and make yourself more productive.
- Stop procrastinating. Possibly the toughest item on the list, procrastinating is a major detriment to organizing your life. Instead of putting things off, get them done immediately. Force yourself to get things done without waiting to finish them. If it can be done in two minutes or less, always do it right away while breaking down larger tasks into smaller pieces to make them manageable.
- Set a timer for fifteen minutes and work like crazy during that time. Don’t get distracted, take any breaks, or stop for any reason but an emergency during the time your timer is going. Then, allow yourself to stop working on your tasks when the timer goes off. Likely though, you will continue working because you finally managed to make headway on a project you've been avoiding.
- Remove your distractions, whatever they are. Often it is the internet, your phone, sleep, or even a good book. No matter what distracts you, set a period of time where you work on projects without them.
- Start your day out right. When you wake up, eat a good breakfast, shower or wash your face, get dressed, and put on your shoes. Do all the things you would do, every single day, as if you were going in to work at the office. This will change your mental perspective; by getting ready and making yourself presentable to the world, you have set yourself up for success. You’ll have more confidence because you’ll know that you are prepared for anything, and you will therefore be more direct about getting work accomplished and being organised about it.
- Write everything down. Whenever you have an important thought, remember something you don’t want to forget, or are reminded of something to do, write it down. This can be done in your planner or in another generalized notebook that you keep with you. Writing down your errant thoughts will not only remove them from your mind (and thus declutter your conscience), but also place them in a place that you can return back to later without forgetting.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you find that your time is short and schedule is full, consider dropping less important things from your daily plans. Is that coffee date with your friend really necessary today? How about your plans to work on your work assignment outside of your work hours? If you are doing too many things at once, you will feel unorganized and anxiety-prone. Cancel plans when necessary to give your head a little more thinking space.
- Learn to delegate projects to others. If you know you have to go grocery shopping but are much too busy to consider the idea, ask a family member or close friend to run the errand for you. As long as you aren't putting off major tasks or giving things that are important for you personally to do to others, delegating can be healthy.
- Don’t agree to everything you are asked to do if you know you don’t have time for it. Your friends won’t hate you, your boss won’t think you slack, and your significant other will understand if you need your free time to get some personal work and organisation done.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. If you only feel that you've completed a task when it is “perfect,” you will be leaving a lot of tasks unfinished to clutter up your life. On a similar note, if you wait to start tasks until you’re in the “perfect” decluttering mindset, you will be waiting a very long time.
- Don’t put off projects any longer, and know when a project is adequately finished and can be left alone. When you reach a point where it is “good enough,” settle for less and move on to your next item.
- If you have certain projects that you can’t seem to perfect, try taking a break from them and come back after you've finished a few other smaller tasks. You will accomplish more in the same amount of time, rather than getting bored and wasting time on a single unperfected task.
Organizing Your Home and Office Life
- Find a place for everything. If your house is unorganized, you probably don’t have designated places for all your things. Instead of resigning items to a certain room or area, keep track of a very specific location for everything in your home.
- Don’t simply leave something on your nightstand, create a space specifically for that item. Do the same for everything in your home so that things aren’t left lying around without a place to live.
- Keep something like a basket or small stand near the front door where you can place things you need to deal with when you have more time. This might include your mail, items from the store, or things from school and work.
- Declutter space by space. Choose a day during the week on which you have most (or all) of your time free. Then, choose a single area in your life that is unorganized and needs to be cleaned up. This could be rooms in your house, your car, or your office at work. Then work only on throwing out unnecessary items that are taking up space in that section of your life.
- Get organizational storage containers, folders, and boxes to help your place stay organised. You can buy items designated for organized storage from many department and furniture stores, or you can make your own using things like cups, shoe boxes, and dishes. Make these organizational pieces a bit more attractive with a coat of paint or a covering of fabric.
- Consider the last time you used the items you are sorting through. If it has been many months or years since you last needed it, consider throwing it out.
- Get rid of things you don’t need. Although you might assume that you “need” everything you own, an disorganized house is probably likely to have some items you don’t. Sort through the things that constantly give you clutter and determine how useful it is to you. If you haven’t used it in a long time, don’t use it frequently, don’t like it anymore, or don’t need it, get rid of it.
- Keep your emotions separate from the items you are sorting. Sure, your great aunt may have given you that porcelain knickknack, but do you truly want or need it? Make steps to throw these things out, and don’t feel like a bad person for doing so.
- Separate things you get rid of into piles such as trash, donations, and things to sell. Then, process each pile accordingly.
- Hold a garage or yard sale to make some money on the things you are throwing out. Large items, such as furniture or electronics, can be listed on online selling sites like eBay or Craigslist so that you don’t have to host a large event in order to make your money.
- Don’t bring in more unnecessary items. Don’t defeat the process of organising your life by bringing in new things that you don’t need. One major reason you might do this is bargain shopping. Avoid big sales or bargains, as these will lead to you buy things that you don’t really need or want simply because you don’t want to pass up the good deal.
- When you’re shopping, ask yourself where in your home that piece will go. Do you have a specific location for it, where it can stay permanently?
- When you go to the store, keep a list of the things you are looking for. Then, as you search for items do not stray from your list. You will come back with only what you need, rather than what you thought you needed.
- Consider the money you save by avoiding that sale. Although you may be making a bargain purchase, you are still spending money on something you might not need.
- Put things back right away. Everyone does it - takes out a pen from the drawer, writes a note, and then leaves it on the counter. Instead of placing things where it’s most convenient, take an extra moment to return them to their correct places.
- If the task you are considering takes less than two minutes, just do it right away. Getting it done will leave your house organised and give you less to do later.
- If there are several things laying around in the same area, take a few minutes to put them all back. This will keep the unruly pile from growing larger and more difficult to deal with.
- Divvy up your chores. How many times has your house become unorganised because you put off cleaning it up? Although this is tied to procrastination, you can make your list of things to clean and organise more manageable by presenting yourself with smaller tasks. Choose a single item - such as dusting - and give yourself a specific time and day to do it. If you do this with all your chores, your space will always be clean without you having to spend several consecutive hours working on it.
- Label everything. Do you have boxes or drawers full of mystery items, long lost from your memory? Well get out your handy label maker (or use a classic marker) and label everything you have. Keep like things in the same place, in order to make the labeling process go a bit smoother.
Organizing Your Days
- Prioritise your life. Think of 5 things that you want to be big things in your life, such as studying, exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, working, sleep etc..
- Make a chart. List all the days in the month ahead down the page and across the top put the 5 things that you want your days to be split up into.
- Decide what your aims are. Whether you aim to do 30 minutes of exercise every day or a whole hour. Put that above each one.
- Tick them off. Reward yourself with the pleasure of ticking something when you achieved your goal.
- Reward yourself. Say to yourself if I get 100 boxes ticked then 'I will go out to the cinema with all my friends'.
- Allow thoughts to come and pass; do not dwell on them, as they may return to you in time.
- Listen to music—classical, trance, tribal drums, thunderstorms... the idea is to allow yourself to become relaxed and allow a clear mind to allow you to focus on what is important.
- Separating tasks into "like" lists can help, too. All your business stuff on one list, all your stuff for a particular hobby on another.
- Prioritise. This will help you. Chose the projects that count first then go to another one.
- Don't try to multi-task. Pick one thing, do it until it's done, and check it off your list. Otherwise, you'll continue having lots of little things that are seeing little bits of progress and no completion, and you'll get discouraged. It's a vicious cycle.
- Don't be too organized! Life should not be perfectly planned out! Leave somethings to chance! For example, if your going for dinner with your parents, don't plan out your meal or visit, if you do plan everything out your nice times with family will be a totally scripted thing. But this isn't an excuse to not be organized. Be organized but let some things go.
- Thinking about doing the things on your lists is not the same as doing the things on your list. If you get mired in thinking about what all there is to do, you won't actually do it—you'll be exhausted from all the thinking. Try the 15 minute chunk tip from above.
- Stay Organized With a Routine
- Be Organized
- Keep a Calendar
- Organize Your Locker
- Organize Your Personal Planner
- Prioritize a Schedule for Optimal Time Management
- Organize Your Notice Board
- Organize Your Schedule
- Organize Your School Life
- Organize Your Free Time With Your Family
Sources and Citations