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The Easiest Way to Finally Get Organized

The Easiest Way to Finally Get Organized
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Feeling organized still remains the elusive dream for many and it makes sense. I know I never took time management 101 when I was in school. When you leave school and you take on the ever-growing amount of responsibilities, getting organized isn’t a choice anymore. It is essential if you want to actually enjoy your life to the fullest.  How do you know where to start when you are feeling so overwhelmed? And how do you even know what you are doing wrong?

You could try to identify what you need to work on, especially your time thieves. If you feel like you are always putting out fires, perhaps you should brush up on your prioritization skills. If you often feel stressed and overwhelmed, you might need to implement some system or structure to guide you. However, there is an easier way to finally get organized.

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Time management tools are not like cookie cutters though; you need to adjust them to suit your needs. What works for your colleague might not work for you. The extent that you can plan your days will largely be influenced by the type of work you do, of course, if your work is more structured, it is easier.

Here is what works for me.

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Step 1: Put it all down

Number one is always getting clear on everything you have to do. So start by writing down all your tasks on a To-Do list. You must separate all your tasks into one-off tasks, routine tasks, projects, long term tasks, etc

If you read my article on why To-Do lists don’t work and how to change that, you will know that you also need to estimate the time needed in your list and to sequence and prioritize too. Working effectively from this list is key.

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Remember to break your tasks down into manageable steps and then prioritize them.

Step 2: Get your calendar out

With your To-Do list in one hand and your calendar in the other, you are going to plan the next week, weeks, or month ahead. I like to plan the month ahead but do what works best for you.

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  1. First put in your routine tasks that you have on your list. These are all the tasks that you often do and block this time off in your calendar. Lunch breaks and coffee breaks should be scheduled in your calendar and don’t forget to batch your tasks where possible, for example; schedule times to check your email in the day, make your phone calls, etc. It also helps if you categorize your tasks by color.
  2. Block off hours in the day, preferably 1 to 2 hours at a time throughout the day, working around your routine tasks. Looking at your To-Do list, select the priority tasks and include them in the various blocked off hours in the week. Your schedule will now include your routine tasks and the other important tasks coming up.
  • You must leave at least an hour a day free on your schedule for unforeseen crises, etc.
  • Create a balance and flow in your schedule that you feel comfortable with. Your schedule must be realistic and ensure you estimated your timing well, prioritized tasks and left time open in your schedule.

Step 3: Reinforce your schedule

  1. Identify obstacles. Think about the obstacles or challenges that might come up for you when you attempt to implement this new structure. You know what will be difficult and what will be easier for you. Whatever your obstacles are, you need to identify them.
  2. Overcome obstacles. Plan how you are going to overcome your obstacles so you are prepared with tools to move forward. Remind yourself of the benefits of what you are doing when you lose a little motivation, be the voice that champions you on when you need it.

Imagine ending the day feeling that you accomplished everything you wanted to. How much would it mean to you to feel less stressed and overwhelmed?  Most of the energy needed to make this change is needed at the beginning. Getting organized isn’t difficult, having the commitment and dedication to make the change is the hardest for most. If you can do that, getting organized will be a breeze.

To your success!

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More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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