Getting organized is a great way to cut back on stress, manage your time, and just generally feel better about the way you live your life. It has physical, mental, and even spiritual (if you’re into that) benefits that actually require very little effort to achieve. Organizing your life might seem daunting, but once you get started, you’ll understand why it’s so important and be glad you followed through.
Follow this handy guide for tips on organizing your living space, your work space, and your schedule. You can also check out this course for advice on setting priorities and following a manageable routine. Get organized now!
Organize Your Living Space
The first step to getting organized is de-cluttering your life… literally! Take inventory of your physical living space, and figure out what’s taking up unnecessary room and what you absolutely need.
Start in the area where you spend most of your time. For instance, if it’s your office, prioritize this space over others. Go through the entire room with a garbage bag, throwing away absolutely everything that’s disposable and unnecessary. After, clear out everything from your desk and re-evaluate what goes where.
- Put stuff where it belongs
We all get lazy sometimes, and set down important documents or supplies where they don’t belong. Sort out your belongings, then consider investing in organizational appliances to keep things tidy, and promote an environment of organization and accessibility. If it’s that much of a hassle to put things where they belong, you can alter your work space to make it less of an effort to do so.
For instance – if you have a habit of dumping books on your desk, move your bookshelf to where it’s less of a problem to just set them back where they belong. This is what I mean by “accessibility.” Make it easy for you to maintain an organized environment, and you’ll have no excuse to keep it that way.
- Organize your entire living space
After you’ve finished de-cluttering your first space, revel in how neat and organized everything is! You’re probably feeling pretty accomplished by now. Use that energy to clean up other rooms in the house, and do some research on how to optimize the various living spaces in your residence.
Invest in things like filing cabinets, or at least filing folders, miniature bookshelves, desk organizers where you can put pens, paper, and supplies like paper clips, staples, etc. These are things that are very easy to be misplaced, or placed in areas that will give you a headache looking at when you’re home from work and just want a nice, clean space to come back to.
This is even worse if you work from home – you can’t afford to have your work space be a mess. This actually affects productivity.
Learn more about how to keep your home a clean, inspiring, and comfortable place to live stress-free in this course on feng shui basics, or this overview on keeping your home and office organized on a budget.
Organize Your Time
Organizing your time is a little harder than organizing a physical space. Something like an office or a living room is tangible. Time is much, much harder to track, especially when you’re a busy person whose day is filled to the brim with responsibilities, projects, work, all made up of smaller tasks that can slip right by due to procrastination and stress… which are all, by the way, products of unmanaged time.
Methods for managing time vary from person to person. If you’re a college student, managing your time – as demonstrated in this college survival course – will be much different than if you’re an entrepreneur trying to manage his or her time – as demonstrated in this course.
Most of these methods stick to the same basic practices, however, which are made up of the following:
- Keep to-do lists
In fact, keep multiple to-do lists. Keep track of your daily schedule, and within that, keep track of larger projects you’re working on, and the tasks you need to complete to achieve them.
Break everything down into points you can cross off a list. Spend some time each morning, and at the start of each week, reviewing your to-do lists and taking inventory on what you need to get done.
Think about the resources you need to get these things done as well – in fact, keep a list for that too. Don’t let any aspect of your life go unlisted. It might sound like a little too much, but if you’re somebody who has issues keeping track of things (to the point where you end up not doing the work you need to), it’s a necessary measure to take. By doing this, you will ensure that you get your life back on schedule, and eventually learn how to deal with these things without the use of a list.
- Break down large tasks into small ones
One way people let their schedules become particularly unorganized, and mis-manage their time, is by letting themselves feel dominated by the large, imposing tasks they know they need to complete. Putting down “finish huge research project due next Monday” on a to-do list is only going to stress you out. Instead, break that down into multiple points. What do you need to do in order to get that research project done?
- go to the library
- check out books X, Y, and Z
- write up an outline
- begin the first draft
- spend a day revising
- prepare a bibliography
- …and so on.
That “huge research project” becomes less daunting when you know exactly what you need to do to finish it, and realize how each task is perfectly within your capabilities.
The way you choose to keep a to-do list depends on your lifestyle. If you work from home, you might like to settle on a whiteboard, or a calendar, a time management site, or a spreadsheet to track your schedule. If you’re someone who’s on the go often, you could carry a personal planner, or if you’re more tech savvy, there are a number of smart phone apps that let you keep to-do lists as well.
- Set deadlines for yourself
Without deadlines, you’re relying on your own time management habits to get things done, and if you’re reading this guide, chances are you’re not the best at managing your time. Don’t trust your own organizational and time management skills – give yourself an incentive to get things done, because you know you won’t do it otherwise.
The problem with setting your own deadlines, however, is that you also won’t feel the pressure that something like an employer or consequence might impose on you. The key is to make the deadline easy to meet. Don’t set an arbitrary date because you feel like you should get something done within a certain time frame. Pick the time you actually need to complete the task, taking into account all the little tasks that make up the larger one (remember what we learned about to-do lists), and figure out what time frame will be most beneficial to you.
Self-set deadlines are often missed due to laziness, procrastination, or stress. If you make your deadline beneficial, rather than stressful, and use a combination of the time management techniques discussed previously to make the task easier to manage, there will be no need to procrastinate.
Stress can be a major factor preventing you from keeping organized in your life. What’s most inconvenient about stress is that it keeps us from doing what we want, but we know that once we get certain things done, we’ll be less stressed in the first place. So how do you overcome this?
One way is to start small. All the methods for organizing your life that we’ve discussed in this guide are relative, and should be approached differently by each individual person. Cleaning up an entire office might be daunting for someone plagued with stress and anxiety, so you should start small. Re-arrange a bookshelf one day. Clean out your drawers and cabinets the next. Don’t do everything all at once if it’s going to add more stress to your life, because getting organized is about achieving just the opposite.
You can check out this course on using stress as a positive motivator, rather than a hindrance, or this course on stress management.
Get Organized Now: Overview
In a nutshell, being organized is about reducing the need to procrastinate on important tasks, reducing stress by de-cluttering your physical spaces, and managing your time better. These things are accomplished by:
- re-arranging your work space so that it’s easy to keep things orderly
- making sure the means to put things where they belong is accessible and unhindered
- keeping to-do lists for all aspects of your life
- setting deadlines for yourself that make sense
- breaking down large tasks into manageable small ones
Check out this guide on managing your priorities for more tips on staying organized in your personal life and your work life.