Let’s face it: life is hectic. We might wish we could get around it, but sometimes life gets messy. We can’t control much of the chaos that surrounds our everyday lives, but we can control – at least partially – the space where we live and work. Most often, our physical clutter leads to mental clutter; being disorganized within your physical space makes it harder to focus, make decisions, and think clearly.
Organizing your space can keep distractions to a minimum and give you the mental space to focus on the bigger things in life. Organizing your time is important in helping to alleviate the stress of having many things on your to-do list. Whether you have a difficult time staying on task, remembering what you need to get done ,or following through and completing tasks, a little organization can go a long way.
Here are a few things you can do today to help organize your thoughts and your space so you can cross things off your to-do list and have a more efficient and productive day.
Start with where you work, whether it’s your desk at work, your home office or the area of your home where paper ends up (most people’s hardest item to organize is paper). Collect all of the distractions from surfaces and designate a drawer or closet shelf for these items until you are ready for them. By keeping things that aren’t being worked on out of sight, it is easy to keep them out of mind. You should also set up an area for your current project that contains only the materials you need to complete it.
Get rid of distractions in other areas as well. If you find yourself distracted in your bedroom and unable to fall asleep or relax, collect the things that are bothering you and put them in an area where you will not be constantly looking at them. You could make space for them in your closet, or use an under-bed storage container. The point is to take the physical clutter out and then when you do have time, tackle organizing it and moving it back into the space or getting rid of it.
Write everything down.
Keep a pen and pad with you at all times or use a note-taking app on your phone. When something pops into your head, write it down (or dictate it) right away. Getting things out of your head and onto “paper” means that you can clear up space in your mind for things in the present instead of worrying about remembering what you need to do later. Write down tasks both big and small, everything from sending an email to picking up bread at the store. Once it is out of your mind, you can relax knowing you won’t forget about it whether you tackle it immediately or at a later time. To take it one step further, block out a time in your calendar to decide how you would like to proceed with that idea or task.
Plan your day in advance.
Every night, plan and review your schedule for the next day. Keep time increments small so that you can stick to what you need to do. Include everything on this timeline from when you will wake up and when you will eat, to appointments you must keep and tasks you need to do to phone calls you need to make. Make appointments with yourself and stick to them as you would a meeting or doctor’s appointment.
Start by organizing your day in 30-minute increments; as you get used to this new way of scheduling, you can use shorter or longer increments based upon what works best for you. Emergencies and unplanned activities that you didn’t plan for will inevitably come up throughout the day. Be flexible with yourself and allow for uncontrollable, unplanned things to happen. For every task on your daily schedule, give yourself more time than you think you will need. Start by padding every 30 minutes with an extra 5-10 minutes and keep track of how much time you need so that you can adjust as you go.
Break up larger projects into manageable periods of time.
Projects and tasks become more manageable in smaller chunks.Think about how long you are able to focus on various tasks such as writing reports, cooking dinner or reading. Once you determine how long a certain task takes, break it up on your daily schedule into time periods you can handle. If you can focus on the task for 30 minutes at a time but it will take two hours, divide the time you will be working into four time slots and schedule them separately throughout your daily schedule. For instance, if you want to organize your desk area, set a timer for 15 minutes and start with one desk drawer. Once the timer goes off, decide whether you still have stamina left to finish the drawer or if it is time to stop and come back to the drawer at a later point.
To get and stay organized with both your time and space, try implementing one of these tips every few days until you are using all of them routinely. Start small. The benefits of being organized will begin to appear naturally in your life and the easier it will become to stay organized. All of the above tips are great on their own but together, they will make an even bigger difference in keeping you on task and focused. Happy organizing!
Rachel Rosenthal Strisik, JD, is a professional organizer who empowers clients to live more organized, productive lives. She specializes in organization, closet design and organized moves. She’s been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Lucky Magazine, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, NBC4, and the Huffington Post among others. Learn more: www.rachel-company.com.