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The Easiest Way to Finally Get Organized

The Easiest Way to Finally Get Organized

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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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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