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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 September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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