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Staying Organized: 8 Tips for Daily Sanity

Staying Organized: 8 Tips for Daily Sanity

    Staying organized is not for sissies! Unlike getting organized it requires a commitment to DAILY ACTION to maintain the order you created when you got organized. That means, you must do the same actions day after day after day after day after day . . . in order to avoid the trauma of having to reorganize chaos all over again!

    So what? What’s the big deal? All you have to do every day is pick up things, put them away, throw them away or give them away. That’s the simple answer for how to stay organized. No big deal!

    The actions you must take are not difficult. In fact, they are pretty easy once you have established an initial order. But, they are boring and repetitive. For those folks who are creative, fun-loving and who crave variety and stimulation, the repetitive actions required to stay organized can seem deadly. But, they must be done if you want to stay organized and have a peaceful life free of chaos.

    Here are 8 steps to learn how to STAY ORGANIZED:

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    1. Watch your behavior to identify actions that contribute to the problem of being disorganized and commit to changing problem behaviors.

    Common problem behaviors include: dropping, plopping (choosing couch potato mode before taking care of business), avoiding and procrastinating.
    2. Identify specific places in your schedule for daily organizing activities.

    Work and school schedules create a structure around which to arrange routine organizing tasks. For example, there is usually a small window in the morning before leaving for the day that can be used for loading the dishwasher, putting in a load of wash, and cleaning up breakfast dishes. And, there is a window in the evening upon returning home where mail can be processed, voice mail checked, etc. There is also another window before bedtime for a final pickup of clothes and other items used during the day. People who are retired or self-employed sometimes have difficulty staying organized because they don’t have the structure provided by work and school schedules. It is even more important for them to consciously commit to specific times for getting routine maintenance chores done.

    3. Incorporate the most important organizing tasks into routines.

    Routines create a structure within which specific activities can happen. Repeating routines over and over again will make actions automatic rather than dreaded daily events. A morning routine might include getting up, showering, hanging up wet towels, getting dressed, eating breakfast, cleaning up after breakfast, checking email, leaving for work/school. An evening routine might include putting away any items you bring into the house (groceries, shopping bags, etc.), processing mail, checking voice mail, making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, helping children with homework and cleaning up afterwards.

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    4. Reward yourself for changed behavior.

    Commit to a new organizing behavior that you know will help you stay organized. Then repeat the behavior 21 days in a row. It takes repeating a new behavior 21 days in a row before it becomes a habit. Beware, you will resist new behaviors. You may have to start over again several times if you find yourself sliding back into old messy habits. When you reach the 21st day, reward yourself with something you enjoy, a special meal or purchase. Use email, TV or a phone call to a friend as a reward for finishing your evening chores.

    5. Be willing to pay to get help if you haven’t been successful in your efforts to stay organized by a certain date.

    Professional organizers and professional coaches can provide the structure necessary to hold you accountable to your goals to stay organized. (Admit it; you’d pay for help if you couldn’t get your car to start.

    6. Hire others to do the things you hate the most and/or have the hardest time doing.

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    Consider paying for a cleaning service, a professional organizer, a person to pay your bills, a lawn service or a person to do your laundry/ironing. I pay to have my bills paid because I hate doing it, I’m prone to math errors and I want it done right. I also pay to have my house cleaned every two weeks. Again, I hate cleaning. And, it always gets done better than I’d do it. Having someone clean my house also gives me a deadline to pick up my house so I can get the most out of the cleaning!

    7. Make staying organized a family commitment.

    Invite family members to participate in the process of maintaining an organized, comfortable place to live. If you have a husband or wife, start with him/her. It is always easier to encourage children to participate if you and your spouse both consider staying organized a priority. Teach children early that picking up after themselves and participating in on-going organizing efforts is not optional; it is essential to having a rewarding, comfortable life.

    It should be introduced to them as a normal part of life as soon as they are capable of throwing toys into open tubs. Be sure to reward them with praise for their on-going efforts even though they are expected to do them. Never use getting or staying organized as a punishment. And, remember, they will be watching what you do. You are a model for behaviors they need to learn like cleaning up after themselves and regularly getting rid of things they no longer love or use.

    8. Have realistic expectations for the level of organization you can maintain.

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    It is fairly common for women to believe that they should keep a perfectly organized and clean house, even though they may work outside the home and/or have several children running around. That is an old standard that probably has NEVER been attainable without regular outside help. If you have children, especially under the age of 10, cut yourself some slack and shoot for relative order. As long as you keep picking up daily, regularly get rid of stuff, and you have all family members doing their part in the process, you probably can function without any major organizing challenges.

    As your life changes, so too will the level of intensity of your daily organizing efforts. Efforts should intensify when raising children and become less intense when children leave home (if you haven’t replaced the obligations as a parent with other commitments). When you reach retirement, initially, you will have much more time to get organized and stay organized. But, you will also lose the structure provided by a work schedule. Resist the urge to drop helpful routines at retirement. Those who do find their homes in chaos and wonder what happened!

    You will be rewarded for your daily organizing efforts with the ability to think clearly and accomplish your goals more easily, improved relationships and greater peace of mind. A few minutes every day is not a great price to pay for an improved life!

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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