By Rachel Rosenthal Strisik, JD
Let’s face it. Life is hectic. We all wish there were ways around it but there are things we can control and others we can’t. We can’t control a lot of the chaos that surrounds our everyday life but we can control the space where we live and work. Most often, our physical clutter leads to mental clutter; being disorganized within your physical space makes it harder to focus, make decisions and think clearly. Getting your space organized can help solve these problems and can result in keeping distractions to a minimum and being able to focus on the task at hand.
Organizing your time is also important in helping to alleviate the stress of having many things on your to-do list. Whether you have a difficult time staying on task, remembering what you need to get done or following through and completing tasks, a little organization can go a long way. Here are a few things you can do today to help organize your thoughts and your space so you can cross things off your to-do list and have a more efficient and productive day.
Banish distractions. Start with where you work, whether it’s your desk at work, your home office or the area of your home where paper ends up (most people’s hardest item to organize is paper). Collect all the distractions from surfaces and designate a drawer or closet shelf for these items until you are ready for them. By keeping things that aren’t being worked on out of sight, it is easy to keep them out of mind. You should also set up an area for your current project that only contains what you need to complete it. Only keep out on your desk what you are working on and let go of the rest of the distractions for now.
Get rid of distractions in other areas as well. If you find yourself distracted in your bedroom and unable to fall asleep or relax, collect the things that are bothering you and put them in an area where you will not be constantly looking at them. You could make space for them in your closet, or use an under-bed storage container. The point is to take the physical clutter out and then when you do have time, tackle organizing it and moving it back into the space.
Write everything down. Keep a pen and pad with you at all times, or use a note-taking app on your phone. When something pops into your head, write it down right away. Getting things out of your head and onto "paper” means you can clear up that space in your mind for other things instead of worrying about remembering what you need to do. Write down tasks both big and small, everything from sending an email to picking up bread at the store should be written down. Once it is out of your mind, you can relax knowing you won’t forget about it whether you tackle it immediately or at a later time.
Plan your day in advance. Every night, plan and review your schedule for the next day. Keep time increments small so you can stick to what you need to do. Include everything on this timeline including when you will wake up, when you will eat, appointments you must keep, tasks you need to do and phone calls you need to make. Make appointments with yourself and stick to them as you would a meeting or doctor’s appointment. Start by organizing your day in 30-minute increments; as you get used to this new way of scheduling, you can use shorter or longer increments based on what works best for you. Emergencies and unplanned activities you didn’t plan for will inevitably come up throughout the day. Be flexible with yourself and allow for uncontrollable, unplanned things to happen. For every task on your daily schedule, give yourself more time than you think you will need. Start by padding every 30 minutes with an extra 5-10 minutes, but, since each of us is different, keep track of how much time you need.
Break up larger projects into manageable periods of time. Think about how long you are able to focus on various tasks such as writing reports, cooking dinner or reading. Once you determine how long a certain task takes, break it up on your daily schedule into time periods you can handle. If you can focus on the task for 30 minutes at a time but it will take two hours, divide the time you will be working into four time slots and schedule them separately throughout your daily schedule. Projects and tasks become more manageable in smaller chunks. For instance, if you want to organize your desk area, set a timer for 15 minutes and start with one desk drawer. Once the timer goes off, decide whether you still have stamina left to finish the drawer or if it is time to stop and come back to the drawer at a later point.
To get and stay organized with both your time and space, try implementing one of these tips every few days until you are using all of them routinely. Start small and when the benefits of being organized begin to appear naturally in your life, you will be more likely to want to and be able to incorporate more tips. All of the above tips are great on their own but together, they will make an even bigger difference in keeping you on task and focused. Happy organizing!
Rachel Rosenthal Strisik, JD, is a professional organizer who empowers clients to live more organized, productive lives. She specializes in organization, closet design and organized moves. She’s been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Lucky Magazine, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, NBC4, and the Huffington Post among others. Learn more: www.rachel-company.com.