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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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!