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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!

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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