“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” — Benjamin Franklin
There is something weirdly satisfying about being organised. There is definitely something quite magical about having your washing done, knowing what’s for dinner that week and understanding exactly what you need to do that week in order for it to be successful.
But becoming organised is a habit to be cultivated. It’s perhaps born from an innate need to feel like you know what’s going on in the day. After the 17th time of starting dinner and realising you’re missing a key ingredient and now need to run out to the shops, you start to feel like adding a little organisation to your life wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
And quite frankly organisation is a time saver. Knowing where everything is in the house, being aware of what needs to be done today and not having to go to the shops every other day to pick up missing ingredients means you’ve got more time to do what you want. So how do you become more organised, well there are a few things I’ve learnt that might be helpful.
#1 Put things back where you found them
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” — Arthur Ashe
The great thing about organisation is it takes away any uncertainty. As humans, we tend to hate uncertainty because it’s something we can’t control. Being organised takes away part of that uncertainty and gives us a whole load of control back. How many hours have you wasted looking for something that is lost because you’ve put it back in the wrong place? I know I’ve done this a million times over.
You leave your phone somewhere, leave your card somewhere or leave an important document somewhere. And now you need that thing and you can’t for the life of you remember where you’ve left it. It’s a complete waste of time and you know it’s totally your fault. Instead, get into the habit of putting things back exactly where you found them. Everything in your house and life will have a natural place. Wherever is the first place you’d look for that item, is probably the place it belongs to.
Do your future self a favour and put it back where you found it.
#2 Create a system that works for you
“A good system shortens the road to the goal.” — Orison Swett Marden
If there is anything I’ve learnt in the last year that has changed my life the most it’s the power of systems. It’s the power of knowing what time I need to get up in order to complete the things I want to in the day. It’s about consistently staying true to a system that works for you.
A system can be whatever you want it to be. It could be committing to yourself that you will get up at 5 am every day and write for an hour and a half whether you want to or not. It could be saying to yourself that every day at 6 pm you will go for a long run whatever the weather. The system is something that you commit to day in and day out. If you want your system to work well the first thing you need to do is understand when you are most energised and most likely to follow through on the commitment you’ve made. For me, that is bright and early but that’s because I’m a morning person.
Create a system that you can commit to and work on following through on that commitment every single day.
#3 Declutter your mental and physical space
“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.” — Eleanor Brownn
Clutter is wasted space. Now clutter could be mental or physical and either way, it’s taking up space that could be better used. Clutter your physical space is easy to identify. Look around your house and identify anything that you haven’t used in years. It could be old golf clubs, endless pots and pans or a closet full of stuff you never wear. Clutter is the stuff that you don’t use that sits in your house collecting dust. For this stuff it’s easy. Get out some charity bags and some bin bags and start rummaging through this stuff. What you tend to find is that there is a lot of good stuff that you’ve just never used. Whether it be a jumper that you thought you’d definitely wear and you never did or some gadget that was on offer and you never ended up using it. That stuff definitely doesn’t need chucking, it can go to someone else to get their usage out of it.
For mental clutter though, that’s a little bit more difficult but the same principles apply. It’s about identifying which thoughts are adding value and which ones are just taking up thinking space. If you find yourself constantly thinking about things that you have absolutely no control over, consider allocating a certain time to think about those things and no more time. You might not be able to rid yourself of the negative thoughts in the same way as you did with the physical stuff but what you can do is to try and time-box the thought patterns.
Aim to declutter by asking the question ‘does this bring me joy or does this bring me value?’ If the answer is no, get rid of it.
#4 Add deadlines to your life where applicable
“Have a time and place for everything, and do everything in its time and place, and you will not only accomplish more, but have far more leisure than those who are always hurrying “ — Tryon Edwards
Sometimes organisation is born out of a need to get organised because you have an important deadline coming up. Remember at school how you sprang into action the minute you realised you had an exam coming up. All of a sudden you were colour-coding your timetable and making a plan that would optimise your studying.
Sometimes you need a kick to spring into action and that kick can come in the form of deadlines. You can, of course, create deadlines for yourself and this is where the magic of organisation comes into its own. Once that deadline is set (providing it’s a realistic one) you spring into action. All of a sudden you’ve got time booked out to work on x, y and z, you find yourself flying through your to-do list and you actually start to feel like you are working on your dreams.
That’s the beauty of setting deadlines, when done right they push you into doing.
#5 Priorise the important tasks for the day
“Once you have a clear picture of your priorities — that is your values, goals and high leverage activities, organize around them.” — Stephen Covey
We all know there are the things that need to get done in the day and there are the things that really need to get done in the day. Sometimes, if you’re not feeling particularly organised, you’ll avoid the to-do list altogether or you’ll start writing things on to your to-do list that really do not need to be there. This is perhaps worse than the absence of a to-do list because you end up completing tasks that do not need to be completed.
Instead, get clear on your priorities. In order to do that, work backwards from what you want to achieve. If you’ve got a house renovation project on your hands, first decide what are the critical things you need to get done. Do you need to sort your kitchen out first because it’s a mess and that’s the room you spend the most time in? Or do you have dogs that need a nice back garden to pee all over, maybe that’s your priority? It doesn’t matter what the priority is, it’s just that you outline it and commit to it.
I’ve just got into the habit of writing down a list of things that need to happen every week and then highlighting which ones I’ll do today. That seems to work for me.
The final words of wisdom?
“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” — A. A. Milne
Mastering organisation really is about having more time. More time to do the stuff you want to do and less time thinking about the stuff that wastes your time. We have plenty of time to achieve our dreams if we allocate the right amount of time towards it. Start by putting things back where they belong, but bigger than that create systems that work for you and you can commit to. Spend some time decluttering and getting clear on your prioritises and use deadlines as the kick you need to push yourself into action.