Thursday, August 26, 2010

Get Organized

 I’ve never been convinced that “organization skills” can be taught; those who are organized can become better organized, and for those whose natural inclination is chaos — disorganization — you can offer guidelines, suggestions, and recommendations and, if you’re lucky, some may penetrate and get used, but in the end, I think, disorganization tends to win out because of the habitual penchant toward disarray.  I have no evidence of this, just an observation based on teaching organization skills for 30 years.

I wonder whether those whose lives — at least behind the scenes — tend to be messy and haphazard might be encouraged to make changes if they knew the benefits of getting organized.  The key to remember is, “Organized minds make successful people.”  At Life, Maria Gracia, in an essay entitled, “10 Little-Known Benefits of Getting Organized,” lists ones that I have discovered in my life as well.  The first one is that becoming organized will give you more time to relax.  When things are in their proper places, you can find them quickly, but you must remember to put them back for the next time.  Remembering to put them back is difficult, especially for procrastinators who will always claim, “I’ll do that later.”  Just that little act — remembering to put them back — is likely to be a key to lowering blood pressure and stress. 

Another benefit is that getting organized will give you more time to do other things.  I am often asked, “How do you get so much accomplished?”  The simple answer is organization.  I always wish I could be more organized, but if you are a workaholic, the pay off is clearly in the bottom line — quantity.  Quality occurs in how you go about getting the results.  More time to do other things includes more time for yourself, loved ones, family, and friends. 

For me, Gracia’s fourth benefit is especially important: feeling good about your environment.  Often, just before beginning a new writing project, I will clean up my entire study and try to get rid of all the excessive and unnecessary pages or manuscripts.  My problem is clutter, it is true, but what is most important is that I know where things are when I need them. 

Professional improvement and being a role model do not concern me as much as Gracia’s final, tenth, benefit: “You'll achieve more. When you're disorganized, there are always barriers that keep you from reaching your goals.  But organized people find ways to eliminate tasks that aren't necessary and to streamline those that are taking too much time. This leaves plenty of time to work on achieving all of those goals on your list.” 

It may be that none of these are sufficiently enticing, or it may be that even though they are, you may still wonder how you — personally — can get organized.   My suggestions are incredibly easy and, for me, successful.  Often, the primary problem boils down to one thing: you!  You are likely to be your own worst enemy.  There are four overall characteristics that will guide you in following each of the suggestions: 1) commitment, 2) self-discipline, 3) eliminate procrastination, and 4) ignore distractions.  If just a little push is necessary to start the process, then here is that push. 

My first suggestion is to begin using a planner.  This is more important for those who have a lot of appointments or for those whose days are so varied that it is difficult to keep track of the schedule.  You can do this the old-fashioned way with a pocket-sized notepad, or use a PDA, Blackberry or palm Pilot.  With a PDA, if you back it up at least once a week, and back up your computer at least once a month, you will always have a copy of your address book, calendar, and task list. 

Closely related to using a planner is the “to-do-list.”  I like daily lists, then those items not completed are simply carried over to the next list.  When very busy, it helps to free your mind so you can concentrate on what you’re doing right now: you just don’t have to think or worry that you might forget to do something.  PDAs hold lists, prioritize items, and assign each a due date. 

Making a “to-do-list” is also useful for combining similar activities.  For example, I have a list for everything I want to do when I get in the car to run errands.  Order on this list is important for saving time.  Completeness is important for finishing everything in a single trip.  You can get organized in much the same way by doing things at the same time: making your phone calls, paying your bills, and getting your e-mails answered. 

Another simple suggestion is to organize your work space.  The space I work in is extremely important.  Give everything you use and need a separate, convenient, and clearly designated space.  Everything I need is at my fingertips — paper, dictionary, thesaurus, pens, pencils, markers, scissors, rulers, tape, stapler, a clock, telephone, and supporting books and documents.  What is unnecessary is thrown out.  Examine how you use your space and design it to be efficient and convenient. 

Related to space concerns is the aphorism, “A place for everything and everything in its place” to which I just referred.  Find a specific place for your keys, cell phone and charging station, checks (if you use them) and bills.  I also have a place for my wallet, daily journal, dark glasses, pen, single blade knife, lip balm, and change.  When leaving the house no time is spent looking for essentials. 

Another simple suggestion for getting organized is multi-tasking.   Technology has assisted.  Organize your study, a drawer or cabinet, or do dishes while talking on the phone.  Fold clothes or towels while watching television.  Listen to books-on-tape while driving

Realize that making these changes overnight — as small as some of them are —  is almost impossible.  Change cannot take place that quickly.  Disorganization is as much a habit as getting organized, once it is accomplished.  Make little changes, starting for example, with one small area of your life or living area — papers, computer files, clothes, linen closet, kitchen, mail, children’s room.  When successful there, move on to another area.  Now, reward yourself for the completion of each goal you set — a night at a favorite restaurant, a movie, or a relaxing walk in the park.  Getting organized may be tough, but the rewards make it worthwhile; it is an important area for self-improvement. 


At WebMD, there are at least 16 tips on how to get organized in the essay there, “How to get organized—Finally!”—an essay by Hara Estroff Marano reprinted from Psychology Today.  Just enter “Get organized” into the Google search window, and you will get nearly 20 million hits. 

At WikiHow, there is so much information in the essay, “How to be organized,” that just reading it or clicking on the additional resources icons will keep you busy for a day or two.  This is an excellent website. 

There are 13 suggestions in the essay, “How to get organized,” at the website.  I have discovered—as I’m sure you know already—that organizing skills at home or at work, carry over nicely into all other areas of your life; thus, putting these ideas into practice will assist you in a wide variety of areas. 


Copyright August, 2010, by And Then Some Publishing, LLC.

1 comment:

  1. Maximillion Ryan IIIAugust 26, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Lists. Lists. Lists. If it isn't on a list for me, it simply doesn't get done!


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