Like most New Year’s resolutions, the vow to “get organized” probably falls by the wayside and ends up at the bottom of one of those piles you’ve been staring at for months. Good intentions do not actions make. “Where do I start?” you ask. Well, let’s start at the beginning.
There are three basic principles of organizing.
If you understand them and if you follow them, they can unclutter your life — not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. The actions that underlie these principals can make you more efficient and dependable, and can free you to do whatever you wish — read a good book, enjoy your family, exercise, play.
Time Management Principle #1: Set Goals
Most people plan their vacations more carefully then they do their lives. Start the organizing process by taking time to think about what is important to you, i.e., what you want to achieve and experience. Goals give purpose and direction to life.
There are two types of goals, short term and long term. To be most effective, both types should include a statement of quantity (how much) and a completion date or deadline. Saying “someday” doesn’t cut it. A goal has a beginning and an end.
Don’t just think about your goals. Write them down and include a plan of action for achieving them.
Examples of short-term goals:
- Call my mother-in-law by the end of next week. (Now that could be a long-term goal as well, depending on your relationship with your mother-in-law!)
- Clean out my desk, one drawer at a time, and have it done by the end of the month. One drawer per week.
- Stop using the snooze alarm tomorrow!
Examples of long-term goals:
- Start an exercise program three days per week before the end of the year.
- Start a savings plan for my child’s education before the beginning of the school year. First, find an advisor.
- It’s time to socialize again at home. Have an open house to repay friends for their hospitality. Do it by (month).
Make sure that you keep all of your goals in one place. That could be a spiral pad, a notebook or a planner. Just know where to go to write them down when they come to you. Don’t rely on memory. Seeing them in writing is believing.
Time Management Principle #2: Prioritize
Effective management is putting first things first, day by day, moment by moment. So start with a plan. Not surprisingly, this can be done most effectively using some type of commercial planner. Find a size that suits your lifestyle. Many people hurry out to buy the biggest (not necessarily the best) planner they can find. It doesn’t have to accommodate the universe! It has to fit your style and your needs. Even a pocket size notepad will do. And if you don’t make lists, a monthly visual calendar might be perfect.
From your master list of goals and “to-do” items, decide at the end of each day which items are priorities for the next day. A priority is a must do rather than a want to do. (By the way, make sure that you don’t let other people’s priorities fill up your planner.)
Do not transfer more than six priority actions from your master list to your daily list. You will never get through more than that and your day will end in frustration. What you want at the end of the day is to celebrate success.
Scheduling is an important part of setting your priorities. If you are trying to complete a big project, create a timeline. Be relentless in following it.
Once you’ve made a decision to go forward, do not procrastinate. This requires self-discipline. If your are a morning person, schedule demanding or unpleasant priorities first on your calendar, and then enjoy the rest of the day. Do not seek perfection. Do each task promptly even if it only hits 50 percent of your target.
Time Management Principle #3: Form Good Habits
The American Heritage dictionary defines habit as “a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.” Somewhere I heard that a new behavior must be repeated for 21 consecutive days before it becomes a habit. That sounds about right to me. Give yourself time to make it happen. It takes self-discipline (there’s that word again) and willpower to break deeply imbedded habitual tendencies that are not productive, but in the long run good habits will position you for a higher percentage of wins and successes.
Examples of good habits:
- Plan to do recurring tasks at the same time each day or week. (Return phone calls at 11:00 a.m. - before lunch. Wash and change sheets and towels every Thursday.)
- Break up projects into small parts and approach one at a time.
- Keep focused with a journal and/or day planner.
- Deposit car keys/purse in the same place whenever putting them down at home or office.
Examples of bad habits:
- Opening your mail and leaving it in piles. (Paper should flow to its final destination.)
- Not protecting your scheduled time. (No one else will.)
- Ignoring new projects or opportunities because you are bogged down in low-priority activities or busywork.
Dorothy Lehmkuhl, author of Organizing for the Creative Person, says that if you want to succeed, three “powers” must come from within you:
- Desire to change.
- Believe that the rewards will be worth the efforts.
- Decide to persevere until you succeed.
When I hear people complain about the negative things happening in their lives, I’m reminded that almost everything we have, almost everything that we do, is a byproduct of the choices that we make. Want to make a better life? Make better choices. Get organized.
About the Author
Sally Allen, a certified professional organizer, is CEO and owner of A Place for Everything©. Since founding her company in 1997, Sally has helped individuals and companies throughout the U.S. effectively arrange space and efficiently manage time. A recognized expert in the field, Sally learned her organizing skills while employed by Marriott International Hotels and Resorts, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee, the 1996 Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and through moving her family 19 times.
Phone: (303) 526-5367 Email:
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