Disorganization can sometimes make you feel like you are on a hamster wheel. It’s not that you aren’t working hard, just the opposite. The trouble is that a lack of organization compromises your effectiveness. You can’t find the things or information that you need, and you’re constantly second-guessing yourself and rearranging your priorities.
Here are some ways to approach organization time:
Regard organization as investment
Spending time on getting organized, or learning how to organize, is a long-term investment. Once you understand how to organize effectively, and actually begin doing so, you’ll have less stress, more time and (probably) more money.
- Develop a routine
I know someone who spends an hour every Sunday night writing out and prioritizing her tasks for the week. Once she began doing this, she noticed that she actually was a lot more productive at work and around the home, because she wasn’t always trying to figure out what she needed to do next.
Set aside time each week, or even every day, for organization. Compose task lists and evaluate each one for urgency. When it comes to your personal space, such as your desk or in clutter-prone areas of your home, set aside five to fifteen minutes each day to put things back in place or throw out unneeded papers.
Use technology when possible
IBM did an email productivity study where it compared people who organized their emails into folders to those who simply used the search feature on their email program. Interestingly, the second group of people spent less time finding the correct email. People who organized an email filing system for themselves may have felt quite virtuous, but they were actually wasting time.
Of course, household items are different from email, but there may be ways that you can use technology to manage your household. Online banking and bill payment systems let you manage household accounts online, so you won’t have to keep digging through stacks of bills. Household inventory software allows you to keep track of appliance names and serial numbers, making it easy for you to look up product manuals and troubleshooting guides online rather than keeping hard copies in a filing cabinet, or in a big pile in a kitchen drawer.
Get real and select a goal
Organization should help you accomplish necessary tasks more quickly and efficiently. If you’re spending a great deal of time organizing, but not really improving matters, you’re doing it wrong.
Before you start to organize, decide what you want or need to do. For example, if your house is full of clutter, you need to first decide whether you actually have the space for all your possessions or whether you really do need get rid of some or most of your things. Once you know what you need to do, then you can decide whether you want to invest in a storage shelf system or whether you need to hold a garage sale.
Both options require organization, but involve entirely different activities. Don’t waste your time organizing toward the wrong goal.
Get outside help
If you are chronically organizing and yet remain disorganized, get some outside perspective. Make an appointment to talk to a life coach or a household organizer. These pros can help you identify blind spots and develop a realistic method of organizing your time, finances and material goods.
If this post leaves you cringing and saying “but I don’t have time for all that,” that’s a pretty good indication that you’d benefit from some organization time. If need be, drop a few of your standard activities over the next couple of days or weeks to get yourself on track. You’ll be surprised at the time that you mysteriously find once you’ve organized at least some of the chaos out of your life.