How To Be Organized - Advice For The Unorganized

A hot topic on the list of many New Year’s Resolutions is to get organized.  I can identify with this because all of my life it has been a struggle for me to keep chaos at bay.  I would get hyper-organized for a very short spell and then fall off the wagon a few weeks later with mountains of messy piles of stuff everywhere.  I would find myself late for meetings often because I couldn't find my keys or something to wear.

I know some people who always seem to have it together.  They are always on time, neat and prepared.  They may not be the best at what they do but because their lives are in order they seem to get the attention of bosses for raises and people generally think of them as being reliable.  I have always envied those guys.  How are they able to achieve order consistently?

Recently, it dawned on me that perhaps there might be a way for me to be reformed.  I began a thorough search on YouTube, Google, and Twitter to find out how to adopt better organization skills.  It was through 6 months of research and practice that I discovered that being more organized is a trait that can be learned!

Part 1: The Mindset

Think Differently
I learned that organized people and unorganized people think differently.  Let’s think about our perception of the organized person in-depth.  The organized person is ready for opportunities, on time, productive, and quite successful at the things that he or she pursues.  Most of us have many of these qualities but not all.  To the organized person, success is the goal and they are always finding ways to streamline the process so it becomes second nature.

Identify Your Main Goals
Your main goals could be anything from getting good grades in school to starting your own business.  Whatever it may be, you will need this goal to motivate you and keep you on track.  You have to truly want this goal badly.  If it is a goal that you really don’t care about, you’ll find plenty of excuses to goof off.  Organized people have goals that they want desperately.  This gives them the drive to persevere through unpleasant tasks in order to achieve their goals.

Take some time to figure out what you really want in life.  What if you could do anything or go anywhere?  What would that be?  Being organized is actually being more self-aware and being in touch with your innermost desires.  And then going for it!

Know What You Have
You’ve seen those organized people with labels on everything.  Well they are not insane.  They have identified all of their belongings so that they can find them when they need them.  Remember the keys I mentioned?  Organized people are not demolishing their homes looking for their keys five minutes past the time they were supposed to leave for work.  They know what clothes fit them so they are not ripping apart the entire closet to find something to wear that fits.  It is usually these small things that trip us up.

You’ll want to go through every item you own and ask yourself if it is essential to your life right now in fulfilling your goals.  What do you truly need and what can you do without?  Identify the people, activities, tools, and resources you need to achieve your goals.  Make sure that they are easily accessible and you know how to reach them any time you want them.  This is what I have heard organized people refer to as a “system”, which is this process of how and where things will be kept as said in the old adage, “There is a place for everything and everything has a place.”  Design organizing systems for your most used resources.

Purging consists of giving something away, donating, recycling, trashing, putting something in storage until you need it again, or putting projects on a back burner.  You’ll want to purge or eliminate any distractions or obstacles that are in the way of your goals.  This could be any extraneous tools you don’t need, clutter in your space, clothes taking up room in your closet that don’t fit, and even negative people that don’t support you.

Create a Stop Doing List or Not To Do List.  Think about all of the routines that no longer serve your goals.  What are the common distractions you face daily or weekly?  What things drain your energy but get you nowhere?   Is something not working quite the way that you like that is practical to remove or put on the back burner?  Are there things that you are doing that could be done by someone else for a small fee?  Stop doing those things.

Say “No”
There will be many distractions set up by people who love and care about you as well.  It is important that you stand your ground if it is a needless disruption.  Don’t be afraid to say, “No”.  Think of it this way; saying “No” to something that distracts you from your goal is saying “Yes” to your success.

Keep It Simple
You’ll want to think carefully about new projects, items into your home, and responsibilities.  Is your plate already full of things to do?  Will it help you to achieve your present goals?  Remember that less is more.  I learned this from reading about minimalists who are organized by default.  If you have less to organize, the easier it will be to achieve goals.  It’s a stress-free way to become more organized without trying.

Part 2: Action!

Keep Rituals
If you get anything from this article, I hope this will be the game-changer for you.  It has certainly helped me on my journey to becoming more organized.  I discovered that the most important element to make a person more organized is the daily rituals they perform.  We all have rituals, but organized people usually perform rituals that unorganized people don’t want to do.  Here are some rituals I’ve picked up from some organized people:

Once a week, they rewrite their To-Do List and main goals to plan the week ahead.  I typically do this on Sunday.

o They begin getting ready for each day, the night before.  They lay out their clothing and all of the tools they will need for the day.
o They get up an hour or two before they have to go to work or school to plan the day.  They may even begin tackling their hardest task of the day.  Trust me when I say every time I do this I feel more energized all day long.
o They spend 10 to 15 minutes a day tidying up and putting things in their designated areas.  They stay on track of time using a timer.  I was amazed when I first tried this.  Now, it takes me about 3 minutes clean up each day, than taking all of the weekend as it did before.

Advice For The To-Do List

Make The List
Create a to-do list that is as long as you want based on the things you will need to do or the steps you need to take to achieve your main goals.  What are they?  Write it all down on paper.  Break it down into as many small goals as possible.  Be sure to put the date on it.  In fact, date everything.  You’ll be able to keep track of your progress.

From that list prioritize the most powerful tasks by number.  The most powerful tasks are not maintenance tasks that keep you afloat.  Isolate the tasks that would elevate you and put you at the next level.  They are the most effectual.

Keep It Short And Sweet
Choose only the top 5 tasks to work on at any given time to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.  Feeling overwhelmed leads to avoidance which is the source of procrastination. Break down the goals into small realistic segments you can achieve easily every day.

Use A Calendar
Organized people seem to be friends with time and I believe that is because they are very intimate with their calendars.  Project what date you’d like to get things done.  And try to get things done ahead of schedule so that you have time to decompress before the next event.

General Tips For Getting Things Done
o Do not multitask if you aren't good at it.  Instead do one thing at a time but do it effectively, efficiently and excellently, thus giving the illusion that you are multitasking.

o Concentrate on doing things more effectively than efficiently.  The perfect achievement is to have both of them but prefer to get things done right once so you don’t waste time doing them over again.

o Look for shortcuts or ways of outsourcing mundane tasks that you don’t have time for.  Are there any apps and gadgets that could ease the task?

o Visualize how happy you will be when you achieve your goals.  Use that vision to keep you motivated.  How awesome and proud will you feel?  Never lose sight of this.

o Organized people understand the power of now.  Do the job or task at hand now.  Doing it later only begins the pile up of things to do.  Get it done now and relax later.

Whenever you complete a task, be sure to arrange to treat yourself to something special.  It could be a coffee, a cookie, a glass of wine at the end of the day.

My final tip that I learned from organized people is to be patient.  Organization is always going to be a work in progress.  In order to master it, one must continue to work hard on it until it becomes natural.  The organizing systems you create may fall apart and frustrate you.  Just remember that change is good.  Change is an opportunity for you to grow stronger skills.  Be creative, improvise or ask for some advice.  There are plenty of resources on the internet for you so don’t worry.

Some of the people that I researched were:
o Andrew Mellon
o Julie Morgenstern
o Peter Walsh
o Brian Tracy
o David Allen (Inventor of the GTD map)

Here are some resources on YouTube that I used:

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