Is Getting Organized a Goal?

Posted on Feb 3 2012 - 10:00am by Joshua Zerkel

One of the perennial items on many New Year’s Resolution lists is to get more organized. With the turn of each New Year, we SWEAR that this is the year that we’re finally going to make it happen – and who knows – hopefully this will be the year that you do. But before you take action, I want to put something important on your radar first.

What I see more often than not when I work with a new client is that getting organized or increasing productivity isn’t really what they are after. It may seem like getting organized is a goal unto itself, but it’s almost never that I find clients who stick with their organizing plan simply for organizing’s sake. To get – and stay – organized, it’s critical that you get in touch with the reasons why you are motivated to get organized in the first place. Put simply, what would becoming more organized do for you?

For instance, clearing the clutter or freeing up time in your calendar, or the ever-popular “simplifying” may not be your real goal – rather, having more room for entertaining at home might be the reason “underneath” the desire to clear clutter, and having more time with your friends may be the reason why you want to free up time in your calendar. These are the things that matter to you – and thus, will keep you motivated to continue making progress towards your organizing goals.

Speaking of which, once you’ve connected with the reasons why you want to get organized or be more productive, then it’s time to get crystal-clear on the specific milestones and projects that you’ll work on. You’ll want to make your projects, the steps involved, and their outcomes, so clear in your mind that you can envision what the “after” photo will look like. For instance, organizing your home office is a very vague, nonspecific goal. Really, what does that even mean? What, specifically, would you have be more organized in your home office, and what would doing so get you?

Maybe in the final analysis of your situation, you decide the reason you want to organize your home office is so that you appear more professional when you have clients come over, and so it’s easier for you to manage paper and storage in your space which will let you get your work done more quickly. Then, the specific projects for organizing your home office might then be reducing the paper on your desk by 75%, clearing out archival items in your home office’s closet by 50% and moving them to self-storage, and creating a mail management center. Once you have these clearly defined projects, then you can start breaking them down into smaller steps that you can actually work on.

Now, it’s your turn. What are some of the reasons you want to get more organized or increase your productivity – and what are the specific projects that will help you get there?

Quick Tips

How do I decide what project to work on first?
Don’t overthink this one – it matters more that you start than it does that you picked the perfect place to do so. Choose either the project that will give you the most satisfaction, or the one that’s driving you the most crazy. If you really can’t decide, just pick a spot, any spot, and start there.

Getting organized seems overwhelming. How can I get started?
Again, it’s important that you just get started – you don’t need the perfect plan. That said, you’ll do better if you create some clear goals for what you’re trying to accomplish, and then break those goals down into actionable steps (think: verbs), and work on each of those steps one at a time.

What’s a quick tip for keeping any room clutter-free?
Put a “goes elsewhere” bin in each room. As clutter collects, drop stuff that doesn’t belong in the room in the bin. Once a week, take the bin to each room in the house and distribute stuff where it actually belongs.

How can I stay organized throughout the year?
Make sure you set aside time to regularly maintain and tweak or update your systems. Even 15 minutes one or two times a week can go a long way to making sure you stay organized.

But what if I don’t feel like it?
That’s natural. But if you really want to stay organized, it’s best to enlist some help, whether from a professional organizer or from a friend who is also working on organizing projects of his or her own. You’ll want to stay accountable to someone.

Joshua Zerkel